Wondering what the principles are behind a successful fitness program? The answers are simple, according to John McNamara, PhD, program director for the online Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Movement Science degree at St. Francis College.

We sat down with him to learn how an exercise science degree from St. Francis College can help you lay a solid foundation for a career as a trainer, coach, health educator, exercise physiologist, or more.

Dr. McNamara is a tenured professor who received his doctorate in kinesiology from Temple University in Philadelphia and bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Alberta, Canada. He is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). He is also a Level One Certified Olympic Weightlifting Coach with USAW and a Certified Physical Best Health Fitness Specialist with SHAPE. His areas of research include training theory, flexible nonlinear periodization, and exercise program design.

Helping Athletes Perform at Their Peak

Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and Movement at St Francis CollegeBy learning exercise science, you can help teach athletes to perform at their peak, with extensive knowledge surrounding everything from exercise physiology to sport performance training.

Part of learning this knowledge is dispelling myths that many athletes and coaches might believe.

“A lot of these old coaches will say, ‘no pain, no gain, you have to fight through it.’ The science shows that if you follow that, you’re eventually going to overtrain and it’s eventually going to lead to injury,” Dr. McNamara said. “There’s so much scientific evidence that shows that you will perform much better 一 in artistic movement like dance, or basketball, soccer, or other professional sports. You will perform so much better by not training as hard as you can every day.”

From a scientific perspective, Dr. McNamara said, athletes perform better by allowing themselves more recovery time and by varying the intensity of their workouts.

“A long time ago, the Europeans were winning all the medals and the Americans weren’t winning any, and they were trying to figure out why. The Americans were training hard every day, as hard as they could, and they realized that everybody who’s winning a gold medal had never trained as hard as they could every day,” McNamara said. “They had what was called flexible nonlinear periodization, and that’s when you have some days when you work really hard, some days when you’re going really easy, some days when you’re medium intensity, and you mix it up like that so your body doesn’t get pounded into a state where it suffers from overtraining.”

McNamara said that often it’s a lack of this knowledge that leads to overtraining and subsequent injury.

“Most of the time, they just don’t know. They just say, ‘I have to be the best. I have to train as hard as I can. That’s what everybody tells me, so that’s what I’ll do,’” he said. “Usually it has nothing to do with the athlete. Often times it has nothing to do with the dance instructor, or it has nothing to do with the coach. It’s just a simple fact that they don’t happen to have the knowledge.”

Learn How to Navigate the World of Health

A degree in exercise science allows you to not only improve the health and fitness of elite athletes, but also the health of everyday people. With the wellness market having boomed in recent years, it can be challenging for most people to navigate.

Dr. McNamara said that many people think they have to try new supplements, new exercise equipment, new workout programs, or new gyms in order to reach their fitness goals.

“We study all of that scientifically, and there’s really nothing that’s a magic bullet,” says Dr. McNamara. “People get caught up because they see an advertisement, and they don’t have ten years of university study on how the body works to be able to judge it. So they say, ‘These vitamins sound like a good thing, I should probably take them because this sounds healthy to me.’”

“There are basically three things you need to do if you want to be at your best,” McNamara said. “It’s the simplest thing in the world. You need to get eight hours of sleep; everything revolves around your recovery. The second is that you need to eat healthy. The third is just to exercise in the right way.”

McNamara said that many supplements that are advertised can actually be harmful for the body, and vitamins that boast a percentage well over the recommended daily value can be toxic.

“I have a lot of people in my weight training class that come up to me and say, ‘I feel sick. I don’t feel good. I’ve been taking these supplements.’ The first thing I say is to stop taking the supplements and see if you feel better,” McNamara said. “They stop taking it and they feel better, and I say don’t waste your money on that stuff. The science shows it doesn’t work. It’s not regulated, and there’s a million other reasons why you shouldn’t take it.”

It’s impossible, he said, to expect the public to know the things that are very commonplace in an exercise science program like St. Francis College Brooklyn. With social media and digital marketing especially, it can be tough for people to figure out what is based on science, and what is simply unfounded.

“It’s up to me, and it’s up to exercise science programs, to train people that can then help other people,” McNamara said.

Interested in an Exercise Science Education?

Our Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Movement Science will prepare you for your future career and give you the necessary knowledge to succeed in the field of exercise science. With up to 77% transfer credit available from previous education, work experience, military service, and specialized training, you may already be halfway there to completing your degree.


About St. Francis College

For 160 years, St. Francis has provided an affordable and quality education to all students. We strongly believe that the quest for knowledge was not to be an end in itself, but a quest to live more authentically within oneself and morally within the world community.

When you enroll in our online program, you receive the same level of commitment and quality of education. If you’re interested in pursuing exercise and health with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Movement Science, contact one of our Enrollment Specialists to learn more.