Q&A with Trainer Kate Georgiadis

Mar 31, 2024

Get ready to meet the incredible fitness trainer, Kate Georgiadis! We couldn’t be more thrilled to introduce her to you. In this exclusive interview, Kate dives deep into the world of weightlifting and sheds light on the amazing health benefits it offers women. But that’s not all! She also provides invaluable advice for women going through menopause, guiding them on how to stay strong and resilient during this phase of life. And as a cherry on top, Kate generously shares her specially designed workout plan for women in menopause. Don’t miss out on this exciting Q&A where you’ll discover all the secrets to a healthier and stronger you!

Is it important for women to lift weights in addition to cardio workouts?

Yes! I could go on forever about this! It’s so exciting to see more women embracing weightlifting. I mean, it’s not just about getting stronger or having a toned body – even though those are awesome perks, right? Weightlifting is a game-changer for our health. It’s super important for bone health, especially for us ladies, since we’re more prone to osteoporosis. Plus, who doesn’t love the idea of a faster metabolism from building muscle? More muscle means burning more calories, even at rest.

We can also talk about posture and injury prevention. Lifting weights strengthens your entire body and those poor core and back muscles, making you less prone to annoying aches and pains. I’ve had many clients who came in with lower back or knee pain, and we strengthened them through targeted strength training, which not only alleviated their discomfort but also enhanced their overall functionality and mobility. It’s truly transformative to see how building strength can turn around chronic issues and improve quality of life, but it’s not just physical, it’s a mental game-changer too. It’s something that I talk about a lot in my practice, and that I have personally experienced. There is this incredible mental and energy boost you get from lifting. Right after the workout, but also in general. Weightlifting has been shown to improve mental health by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression!

Credit: justdushawn

What about combining weightlifting and cardio? Should we? Should we not? Which one comes first?

Absolutely! Combining weightlifting with cardio is like striking gold in fitness. It’s all about creating that perfect balance for a well-rounded body composition. By integrating both, you’re not only working towards building lean muscle, but also enhancing fat loss. This blend is key for sculpting your body the way you envision it. Now, when it comes to which should come first, it really depends on your goals. If your main focus is to build strength and muscle mass, it’s often recommended to start with weightlifting. This way, you have more energy to put into lifting heavier weights, which is crucial for muscle growth. Plus, you won’t be fatigued from cardio, so you can really focus on your form and get the most out of your strength training.

On the other hand, if your primary goal is to improve cardiovascular fitness or burn fat, you might want to start with cardio. Doing cardio first, especially if it’s high intensity, can rev up your metabolism, and you’ll continue burning calories during your weightlifting session. But it’s not just about the order. It’s about how you blend these two. Consistency is key. You can alternate days between cardio and weightlifting or even combine them in the same session if that works for you. The point is to find a rhythm that aligns with your personal fitness goals, keeps you motivated, and fits your lifestyle. I just want to point out that this combination becomes even more crucial as we age. It’s not just about looking good; it’s about maintaining our strength, independence, and overall health. So, keep lifting, keep moving, and find that sweet spot where weightlifting meets cardio. It’s your journey, and how you blend these elements can make a world of difference in reaching your fitness goals.

How quickly can women expect to gain muscle, what factors influence this process, and how often should we strength train?

That’s an excellent question, and I’m thrilled to address it! The journey of muscle gain in women is unique and fascinating. When we talk about the rate of muscle growth, it’s influenced by several factors. Genetics play a role, of course. Some women might naturally build muscle more quickly due to their genetic makeup. Hormonal balances are also key. They can influence how quickly you see changes in your muscle tone and size. And then there’s metabolism – everyone’s body processes food and exercise differently, affecting how muscle is built. In terms of numbers, the research suggests that intermediate female lifters might see a gain of about 0.3 to 0.4 pounds of muscle per month, while advanced lifters could gain around 0.1 to 0.2 pounds per month. This might sound modest, but I am mentioning it so you can set realistic expectations about your body composition goals and also understand how important
consistency is in that process.

Credit: justdushawn

Now, let’s talk frequency. How often should women strength train?

The general recommendation is 2 to 4 times per week. This allows you to stimulate muscle growth effectively, while also having enough time for recovery, which is crucial for muscle repair and growth. I
usually tell my clients to start with twice a week, stay consistent with it, and build up from there. Remember, the focus should be on consistent, progressive training rather than rapid, intense bursts. That way, you should start feeling the changes within the first month and start seeing changes within the first 6-8 weeks. It’s about the long-term journey, embracing the strength you gain and how it makes you feel. Think of it as nurturing your body, empowering yourself with each session, and celebrating the small victories along the way.

Many women aim for long, lean muscles and believe certain exercises can specifically achieve this look. Can you clarify this common misconception and explain what actually influences muscle shape and length?

The concept of ‘long, lean muscles’ through exercise is a common misconception in exercise physiology. Muscle growth from strength training involves cellular changes in the muscles. This process, known as hypertrophy, occurs when muscle fibers experience microtrauma during strength training, prompting satellite cells to repair and enlarge these fibers. The process requires proper nutrition, especially protein, to support muscle repair and growth. While muscle length can change temporarily during exercise as muscles contract and relax, the permanent length of muscle fibers is largely determined by genetics and your anatomical structure.

The misconception that certain exercises can create ‘longer’ muscles is a misunderstanding of how muscles adapt to strength training. In reality, what often occurs is a more toned appearance, but the actual length of the muscle fibers remains genetically predetermined. As I mentioned earlier, that “toned” physique will come from a combination of strength training, cardio, nutrition, and lymphatic health, which our amazing experts will talk about later on as well.

Credit: justdushawn

What does ‘Bulking Up’ really mean in the context of women’s strength training? I know many women are scared of getting “bulky.”

When women refer to “bulking up” in strength training, they’re often talking about increasing muscle mass in a way that leads to a more muscular and pronounced physique. This term is often used in the context of bodybuilding or strength training and can sometimes carry a connotation of gaining more muscle than some women might desire for their personal aesthetic goals. Here are a few key aspects of what “bulking up” typically involves: increased Muscle Size, caloric surplus, protein intake (Protein is the building block of muscle), dialed-in training regimen (focusing on progressive overload), rest and recovery (this time allows muscles to repair and grow stronger).

It’s important to note that even with all these factors in place, women generally gain muscle at a slower rate than men due to lower testosterone levels. This means the actual appearance of ‘bulking up’ might not be as pronounced as some might fear. Sometimes, a bulky look might result from a lack of muscle definition rather than muscle gain per se or because muscle gain is often accompanied by some fat gain, which is a normal part of the process. Understanding these factors helps set realistic expectations for muscle growth and body composition changes. It’s important to focus on personal progress and adapt training and nutritional strategies to your unique body and goals.

Tips for working out on your period/phases

The menstrual cycle significantly influences training performance among female athletes, yet research often overlooks the specific effects of hormonal fluctuations on women. As a strength and conditioning coach, I’ve explored contemporary studies to offer strategies for tailoring your training to the menstrual cycle’s phases, aiming for optimal performance and recovery. Your menstrual cycle encompasses several phases, each affecting your training differently. During menstruation, lower energy levels signal a time for recovery. Light exercise, a diet rich in iron and vitamin C, and stress management can support this phase. The follicular phase sees a rise in estrogen, enhancing energy and making it ideal for high-intensity workouts and a carb-rich diet to leverage increased insulin sensitivity.

Ovulation elevates estrogen to its peak, boosting energy and social desires, but raising the risk of tendon injuries. It’s a time for balanced exercise and carb intake to support estrogen metabolism. The early luteal phase shifts focus inward as progesterone rises, suggesting lower-intensity exercises and a diet with more fats. In the late luteal phase, potential PMS symptoms call for reduced workout intensity and mood-stabilizing foods rich in tryptophan and seeds to support progesterone. It is important to remember these are guidelines rather than strict rules. Individual experiences vary, and not everyone will need to significantly adjust their routine. These insights are meant to empower you with knowledge and allow for adjustments based on your body’s signals. The goal is to foster education and flexibility, ensuring you make informed choices for your health and training at any cycle stage.

Credit: justdushawn

What happens to our bodies as we age, and what proactive steps can we take to enhance our well being and vitality throughout the years?

As we journey through life, our bodies undergo transformations that can affect our health, vitality, and appearance. Aging is a natural process, but how we age is within our power to influence. Today, I want to talk to you about embracing these changes with grace and strength, focusing particularly on the pivotal role of strength training in maintaining our vigor and wellness. As we age, hormonal shifts, particularly around menopause, usher in a new phase of life. These shifts can impact our mood, bone density, and heart health. It’s a time when our bones start to thin, our metabolism slows, and maintaining muscle mass becomes a bit more challenging.

But here’s the good news: strength training can be our greatest ally in combating these changes. Strength training is not just about building muscle; it’s about creating a foundation for a healthy, vibrant life. As muscle mass decreases, a condition known as sarcopenia sets in, affecting our balance, metabolism, and overall physical function. But lifting weights, using resistance bands, or engaging in body-weight exercises can turn the tide.

Here’s why:

  • Preventing Muscle Mass Decrease: Regular strength training helps maintain and even
    increase muscle mass. This not only keeps you looking toned but also supports your
    metabolism, helping you manage your weight more effectively.
  • Boosting Bone Density: Engaging in weight-bearing exercises applies stress to your
    bones, stimulating them to increase in density. This is crucial for preventing osteoporosis,
    a condition that makes bones fragile and more prone to fractures.
  • Enhancing Metabolic Rate: Muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest. Strength
    training increases muscle mass, boosting basal metabolic rate, making it easier to
    maintain a healthy weight and avoid obesity-related diseases.
  • Supporting Cardiovascular Health: Strength training improves cardiovascular health
    by reducing blood pressure, improving lipid profiles, and increasing insulin sensitivity.
    It’s a powerful tool in our arsenal against heart disease.

Ladies, incorporating strength training into your routine doesn’t mean you need to lift heavy weights like a bodybuilder (unless you want to, which is also fantastic!). It means integrating activities that challenge your muscles into your lifestyle two to three times a week. Whether you use resistance bands, do body-weight exercises, or lift weights, the key is consistency and progression. Strength training benefits extend beyond physical health. It boosts mood, improves mental health, and enhances an overall sense of well-being. Feeling strong and capable is empowering, and this empowerment spills over into other areas of life.

While focusing on strength training, let’s not forget the importance of a balanced diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein, which supports muscle growth and bone health. Regular health screenings, maintaining social connections, and engaging in activities that challenge your brain are all part of a holistic approach to aging well. Aging is an inevitable part of life, but how we age is largely up to us. Strength training, alongside a healthy lifestyle, is a powerful way to preserve our health, vitality and independence. Let’s embrace our strength, ladies, and age not just gracefully but powerfully.

Credit: justdushawn

How can I stay strong during Menopause?

Navigating menopause requires resilience, understanding, and a proactive approach to wellness. It’s a phase marked by significant changes, both physically and emotionally, but staying strong during menopause is entirely achievable with the right strategies. Here’s how you can support yourself through this transition with a personal yet professional and friendly approach. Strength training appears to be a cornerstone in maintaining vitality during menopause. As estrogen levels decline, the risk of muscle mass and bone density loss increases. Resistance exercises not only help preserve muscle but also support bone health and boost metabolic rate. Feeling strong is empowering, and strength training provides both physical and emotional boosts during a time when you might need them the most. Staying active shouldn’t stop at strength training. Cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, cycling, swimming, or dancing, benefits heart health and helps in weight management. Moreover, it can alleviate some menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and improve sleep, making it a key component of a holistic menopause strategy.

Equally important is nutrition. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins provides the necessary nutrients to manage menopausal symptoms and maintain health. Calcium and vitamin D are crucial for bone strength, so it is wise to incorporate dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified foods. Additionally, phytoestrogens found in soy products can offer a natural hormone balance, easing the transition. Managing stress is also vital. Fluctuating hormones can wreak havoc on emotions, making stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises invaluable tools for maintaining emotional equilibrium. These practices not only help reduce stress, but also enhance overall well-being, making them essential during menopause. Hydration is another aspect that cannot be overlooked. Hot flashes, a common symptom of menopause, can lead to increased sweating and, consequently, dehydration. Ensuring adequate fluid intake, particularly water, is essential. Herbal teas can also be a soothing way to stay hydrated while potentially easing menopausal symptoms. Quality sleep becomes even more critical during menopause, as night sweats and other symptoms can disrupt sleep patterns. Good sleep hygiene practices—such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleeping environment, and avoiding stimulants before bedtime can help improve sleep quality.

Seeking support plays a crucial role in navigating menopause with strength. Whether it’s from healthcare providers, family, friends, or support groups, having a network to share experiences and tips with can make a significant difference. Menopause is a shared journey for many, and there’s comfort and strength in the community. For some, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be a consideration to manage severe symptoms and protect against osteoporosis. It’s a path that requires careful deliberation and discussions with healthcare providers to weigh the benefits and risks.

Menopause is a natural stage of life, signifying a transition rather than an end. With strength training, a balanced diet, cardiovascular exercise, stress management, proper hydration, quality sleep, support networks, and informed healthcare decisions, navigating menopause with strength and grace is not just possible—it’s within reach. This holistic approach ensures that you can embrace this phase with confidence, vitality, and a sense of empowerment.

Template workout plan for Women in Menopause

Strength Training: (3-4 Days per Week)

Day 1: Lower Body

  • Squats: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Leg Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Leg extensions: 3 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Calf Raises: 3 sets of 15-20 reps

Day 2: Upper Body

  • Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Bicep Curls: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Cable Tricep Extensions: 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Day 3: Core and Stability

  • Planks: 3 sets of 30-60 seconds
  • Side Planks: 3 sets of 30-60 seconds
  • Bird Dogs: 3 sets of 15 reps per side
  • Stability Ball Hamstring Curls: 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Day 4 (Optional): Full Body

  • Kettlebell Swings: 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Dumbbell Thrusters: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Step-Ups: 3 sets of 10 reps per leg
  • Pull-Ups or Assisted Pull-Ups: 3 sets of as many reps as possible

Cardiovascular Exercise: (2-3 Days per Week)

  • Incorporating cardiovascular exercise helps improve heart health, manage weight, and enhance endurance. It’s also beneficial for mood and overall well-being. Choose activities you enjoy, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing. Aim for moderate intensity, where you can talk but not sing, for at least 30 minutes.

Flexibility and Balance Training: (2-3 Days per Week)

  • Flexibility and balance exercises are essential for preventing falls, improving mobility, and reducing the risk of injury. Yoga or Pilates classes can be particularly beneficial, offering strength, flexibility, and balance training in one session.

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