Don’t Let Stress Mess with Final Exam Success

In honor of finals week, let’s take a “stress test” together and see if you are mentally prepared.

Q. 1  Stress hormones make you better, faster, stronger and ready to take a big test.

A) True

B) False

C) Maybe

Q. 2  The best way to study for final exams is to pull an “all-nighter” the night before.

A) True

B) False

C) Maybe

Q. 3  When it comes to studying effectively, it helps if you can sit down for four hours straight.

A) True

B) False

C) Maybe

Q. 4 While studying, it is best to use the vending machines as a convenient source of nutrition.

A) True

B) False

C) Maybe

How do you think you scored?  Did you ace your test?

Let’s begin with Q. 1.  The answer is C) Maybe.  It is true that Epinephrine and Cortisol, the stress hormones, will help mobilize fuels for energy during times of stress.  You will notice your heart racing, your blood pressure rising, your breathing increasing, and you feel like you are ready for anything!  That works great in a fight or flight scenario when you need energy in a hurry.  It’s not ideal when you need to focus on a two-hour exam.

Over the long haul, if you are constantly under stress, the body does not appreciate the megadoses of ready-to-go energy.  Constant stress affects the quality and quantity of your sleep, it reduces immune function, raises your blood pressure and puts your heart under a great deal of stress.  And most importantly, it affects your ability to concentrate.  Ah yes. We need that brain for test taking.  And did I mention that chronic stress affects memory?

Q. 2.  The answer to this question is an unequivocal “false.”  Final answer.  If you have not studied up until this point, don’t bother.  The full night of sleep will better prepare you to think logically and make smart decisions, even if you are a little shaky on the details.  Rest is more valuable to you at this point.  Fatigue will simply add to your exam stress and debilitate your brain. Maybe next semester you will set up a study plan.  Contact the GCC Counseling Department if you need help!

Q. 3.  FALSE!!! You don’t have to sit down to study!  If you sit for four hours straight, your brain will not stay on task for you.  And if you experience back pain, then you will likely make it worse.  Movement is key to keeping the brain focused. In fact, regular physical activity like walking, cycling or swimming will not only help you clear your head, but it will dissolve those nasty stress hormones that are affecting your ability to think clearly.  There are a myriad of reasons why exercise is good for you.  Think of it as preventative medicine for diseases of inactivity: heart disease, some cancers, back pain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and mental health issues.

Visit the Fitness & Wellness department and discover ways to stay active during your finals week prep.  Check out the state-of-the-art campus Fitness Center and the variety of group fitness classes like Zumba, Yoga, Pilates, Cycling, Weight Training and Self Defense.  And if you just love fitness and want to make a career out of it, why not try out our Exercise Science and Personal Training programs.

Q. 4. False again!  Unless the machine is dispensing fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains, walk away.  Just walk away!  Just like you should have a study plan in place, so should you have an eating plan!  Pack your grains, fruits and veggies for snacking in between meals.  Don’t let four hours go by without fueling up!  At exactly four hours, the brain chemicals will direct you to the nearest source of sugar.  Don’t let this happen to you!  Douse those sugar cravings with a sliced apple dipped in protein packed peanut butter at least an hour before the impending crash.  Chew on raisins and nuts, a half a bagel with almond butter, celery and hummus, carrot sticks, and don’t forget to bring your water bottle.  You can refill it for nada at any of the water refill stations on campus.  Put down the soda and energy drinks and remind yourself that you can get the sugar from fruit, the fluid from water, and the energy boost from the regularly scheduled fitness plan.  Your racing heart will thank you.

So, did you ace your stress test or did you learn something new to boost your chances of success on exam day?  Either way, don’t let stress mess with YOUR final exam stress!  On test day, be sure to eat a wholesome breakfast that will stay with you.  Be confident that you have done the work.  Focus on your breathing and envision the air entering and exiting your body.  Now your brain is ready for success!

If you enjoyed this article, let me know your thoughts for future health and fitness articles!  Contact me at




Planning for a Career in Personal Training


Personal Training Session

In a recent article, Eric Cressey, fitness enthusiast and owner of Cressey Performance, advocates that students take a thoughtful and planned approach when considering whether to enter the field of Personal Training.  The Personal Training program at Glendale Community College follows Cressey’s advice, preparing students to make that well-informed decision.

Here are Cressey’s top five recommendations:

1. Go observe a few current fitness professionals who are successful in their crafts. Ask questions and get a feel for whether this is a good fit for you before you jump into the deep-end, quitting your job and investing all sorts of cash in a career change.

EXS101, the first course in the GCC Personal Training Program, gives students an opportunity to explore career options in the field and meet people working in the industry.  During an internship requirement students 80-240 hours working alongside the experts.

2. Wait a year to get a certification. What?  Huh?  This is supposed to come first, right?  Wrong.  Getting a certification without any background experience makes you a liability, not a professional.  Every penny you spend in that first year should be on books, DVDs, seminars, and travel to go observe other coaches/trainers in action.  And, you should be taking advantage of all the free resources there are for you to get educated online.  Don’t ignore fitness industry business resources, either; they aren’t taught with certifications or degrees, but are tremendously important.

Prior to obtaining certification, GCC students can complete one of three certificate programs or earn an associate’s degree. These programs give you a solid exercise science background and hands-on experience working with clients before you take the national certification exam. After completing these programs you’ll be more employable, and a better resource for your clients.

3. Get an internship. This is an extension of #1 – and it still comes before getting a certification.  You need to log at least three months of 40-hour weeks somewhere learning your craft and paying your dues.  Get a feel for whether you could see yourself doing this long-term.

Obviously, this is a concern because it would require you to quit your job, so you’d need to save up for this period.  However, you would be amazed at how many interns are hired by facilities after their internship period is over (all our “hires” at Cressey Performance have been former interns).  And, most facilities will pay for your certification and CPR/AED training, and some will even give you a continuing education stipends on top of it.

We agree. That’s why the internship is an integral part of the educational plan at GCC.  The Personal Trainer Certificate internship requires  80 contact hours, and it does not have to be done in a 40-hour week. The Associate’s Degree internship is 240 contact hours, but can be divided up between semesters if necessary.

4. Get a certification. Yes, it is step 4.  Frankly, I don’t really care what certification you get because none of them really wow me, but then again, I have a hard time justifying an undergraduate exercise science degree for $100, let alone $200,000.  If I was 18 today, I’d save all that money, get an internship, and spend the cash on loads of books/DVDs – and taking selective courses (gross anatomy, kinesiology and biomechanics). Most jobs will require it even if it is just a small foot in the door.

The certificate or an associate’s degree from Glendale Community College will prepare you to be a successful trainer.  You’ll need an NCCA-accredited personal trainer certification to get any job in the field. If you want to increase your earning potential, consider higher education – a bachelor’s, master’s, or a PhD. Whatever your goal, GCC is the perfect launch pad for the rest of your educational plans.

5. Pay your dues. There is no way around it.  You aren’t magically going to have a full client roster on your first day of a job; you have to start somewhere.  I can promise you that you will be better off with the background you’ve created with steps 1-4.

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the importance of accumulating 10,000 hours in order to become an expert in one’s field.  There are only 8,760 hours in a year – and even if you assume 60-hour work-weeks, it’s still going to take over three years to get to that 10,000-hour mark.

Be the best intern you can be – and absorb all the learning possible. Work at a fitness center front desk so you become familiar with the needs of customers and clients. Volunteer in your community. Give presentations.  Go to high schools.  Go to church groups. Go to health fairs. Practice, practice, practice.  Your years of experience will become another major selling point when you apply for that dream job!

I’d like to hear your questions or stories about your personal training educational experience. Reach me at:

Louise So
Personal Trainer Program Director

The Magic Pill

The Magic Pill

I have some advice for you about how to live longer, feel happier, look fabulous, and beat the odds.

You have to take a magic pill.

You should take it on a regular basis, and you have to take it for a lifetime.

This magic pill comes in all shapes and sizes.

You can take a large pill every other day, a small pill daily, or a tiny pill twice a day.

It is a good idea to track how often you take it, and the size of the pill, because it is cool to look back at your progress and see the miraculous changes that are taking place in your life.

You should choose your pill based on how you feel.  Some days you will feel ready for a challenge, and some days you may just want to go with the flow.  Either way, there is a pill for you!

This pill has multiple roles, so don’t be surprised if you see lots of great things happening at once.

If you have high blood pressure, it may start dropping to healthier levels.  If you have high cholesterol, you may notice that your good cholesterol (HDL) is improving.  If you have Type 2 diabetes, you may notice that your blood sugar levels beginning to normalize.

If you have gradually gained weight from being sedentary for a number of years, you may notice your body fat melting away.  If you have been down in the dumps for quite some time, the sunshine may begin to flow from you again.

If you have had no energy to do everyday chores, you may suddenly find yourself bouncing off the walls.  If you have had problems sleeping at night, you may notice that you fall asleep quickly and have a deeper and more restorative sleep.

You are probably thinking “I already take seven different pills for all of my ailments.  Why would I need one more?”

What if you only had to take one pill and it had no adverse side effects?  Would you take it?

Well you can.

Exercise is medicine.  Try it!


What’s Your Medicine?

May is Exercise is Medicine Month. I’m so excited to have another reason to tout the benefits of being physically active.

I believe exercise is better than medicine because there are only positive side effects. You can reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer and stroke, and make a dent in obesity risk too!

The hardest part for most is making the first move from the sofa or office chair. Once you get moving, the benefits begin to appear. The body immediately starts producing endorphins, the happy hormones, that give you that feeling of exhilaration. The long-term effects include a healthier, more efficient heart, improved endurance, and a better overall quality of life.

You may not be ready for the suggested goal of 150 minutes per week. That’s okay! Do what feels good for now. Do something you enjoy. And find a friend to join you.

Check in with your doctor and see if your cholesterol, triglycerides and blood-sugar levels are within the ideal range. Tell your doctor about Exercise is Medicine.

Exercise is Medicine is a joint effort, that began in 2009, between the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Medical Association (AMA). The goal is to have physicians check on patients’ physical activity and exercise participation as an important part of their overall treatment plan.

Doctors would hopefully motivate their patients to seek out a fitness professional to help get them started on a safe and effective path to lifelong exercise.

How many minutes of exercise did you do today? I challenge you to examine your daily doses of exercise during the month of May. You may be surprised at your health outcomes!

Personal Trainers Trending in 2013

Well, it looks like it’s cool to be smart! The number-one fitness trend for 2013 on the ACSM annual survey is Educated, Certified and Experienced Fitness Professionals.

If you are not already signed up for one of the fitness certification programs at Glendale Community College, now is a great time!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a faster than average job growth rate for fitness professionals (24% thru 2020).


Get Certified!

All of the best trainers are certified. Some have multiple certifications that include specialized training. If you are new to this field, you should plan to get certified. Spend some time reviewing the national fitness organizations before you commit.

If you want to get hired by the best employers, prepare to show a minimum of a community college certification along with your national certification.

At Glendale Community College, you can get multiple certificates of completion in personal training, nutrition and group fitness, as well as an Associate of Applied Science in Strength, Nutrition, and Personal Training.

These programs are a great way to prepare to take a national certification exam. The field of fitness and wellness does not have one specific certifying agency.

We encourage students to get certified through organizations that are accredited with the National Commission on Certifying Agencies (NCCA). These include what we call “the big four”: American Council on Exercise (ACE), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).