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Nov. 24, 2022

Olivia Park: Is your exercise working for or against you?

As a woman in her 40s (or older), do you want to learn how to exercise in a way that moves you forward but also honours your body through day-to-day fluctuations?

Olivia Park is a women's health and performance coach who helps active women lift hard and live well both in and out of the gym. She helps women find liberation from the ‘shoulds’ in fitness and the all-or-nothing mindset through purpose-driven training. And she's a deadset legend.

In this episode, Olivia shares about her own hormonal battles. And she answers questions like...

  • How has the toxicity of the fitness industry and diet culture damaged women's relationships with food and exercise?
  • How can exercise be designed from a health-first approach
  • What is LEA (low energy availability), and what are the long-term impacts on women, specifically women over 40.

Topics discussed include:

  • Exercise during perimenopause and menopause
  • How to know if your exercise is working for you, not against you
  • Creating positive change and shifting the direction of the fitness industry
  • Exercise with a health-first approach

The fitness industry is doing a disservice when the messages are ‘train harder, eat less’. So many women are doing their absolute best to follow this prescription because there’s not enough evidence to prove that there could be a different way.

We’re bombarded with sexy sounding F45 shreds and challenges and 1200 calorie diets that are going to make our lives better and finally, we will have the confidence and feel the worthiness we’re promised.

Nope. A hormonal and health shit show? Most likely, yes.

AND You need enough food to meet the demands not only of your exercise but of living. You need nutrition to support your training, your lifestyle, the stress of being a mum, an employee, an entrepreneur, a solo parent, a caregiver, a partner, a friend … all those stressors on top of training add up.

The more you buy into eating less, and exercising more, the more you are taking yourself away from what you actually desire.

Olivia Park Coaching - website
Olivia Park Coaching - Instagram
Female Health & Performance Certification
Pachinko - Netflix

Dear Menopause Episodes related to this topic
Nutritional Changes through perimenopause and beyond
Fitness, Wellness Wankery and the future of menopause care

Information on personal training with Sonya

Where to find Sonya:
Take the Midlife Quiz
Stellar Women Website

You're invited to join the We Are Stellar Women community on Facebook, a free supportive space for all women navigating the menopausal transition. Click here to join.


[00:04] Sonya: Today's conversation is with Olivia Park. Olivia describes herself as a female health and performance coach, but once you listen into this episode, you will realize she is so much more than that. Olivia works with active women all over the world, helping them strike a balance between life in and outside of the gym through purpose driven training. Strap yourself in, because this is a long episode. I always knew that it would be once Olivia and I started chatting. It's very hard to bring that train to a stop, but there is so much gold in this interview. I wanted to keep it all in there so that you had the opportunity to learn as much as possible as you can from this legend. Enjoy the conversation with Olivia Park. Olivia, thank you so much for joining me today.

[01:49] Olivia: Oh, it's an absolute pleasure to be on the podcast with you, Sonya.

[01:54] Sonya: Thank you. All right, how about we kick things off? Why don't you introduce to everybody who you are and a little bit about why you're here today.

[02:04] Olivia: So, my name is Olivia, and I'm a female health and performance coach. I am from New Zealand, as you might be able to tell from my accent, but I live in South Korea. I've been living in Asia for the last nearly eight years, and I work with women online. I have a group program, which is a strength and conditioning program, and I also work with women one on one, and that is with exercise, also nutrition. I do a lot of stuff around body image and mindset as well. Prior to being online, I was in person for many years, so I've had a lot of experience in the trenches, working with women face to face, but now, obviously living in Asia and a few changes, I am now online. I also am a part of teaching a female health and performance certification with Nadia Norman, and also we are currently running a mentorship with a bunch of amazing women who are coaches and trainers in the fitness industry, all about how to program better for women.

[03:13] Sonya: I know. And I literally did a happy dance around my office when I saw the post go out. That you and Nads had combined to do this course because it's so needed. And you two are just from my perspective, I have personal relationships with both of you, but you are by far the best people to be running these programs. And I just think it's so important that the fitness industry shifts into and I talk about this a lot on the podcast, this meeting women, where they are at and knowing how to program for them on their different stage and phase, and not just as Nadia always says, training them like little men.

[04:00] Olivia: Yeah, definitely. And one of the biggest things that's in the female health and performance certification, and also the way that we talk about programming is it has to be health first and the results will follow. But the fitness industry is built on results first, and for women across all ages, it's just not helpful. We have to take when a woman is well fed, well wretched, managing her mind, managing her stress, understanding her body image, then we can get amazing, amazing stuff done with exercise, with women, and helping them feel strong and feel well. But we have to take kind of like a different approach than the fitness industry wants us to.

[04:48] Sonya: Yeah, 100%. And that leads us beautifully into the first little topic that I'd like us to talk about today, which is you are in a really quite special position to actually be teaching a lot of this stuff. You have such a strong personal story around your own experience with the fitness industry from a personal perspective, not a career perspective. And the unhealthy relationship that you developed with your food and exercise, which resulted in some hormonal battles for you. Would you mind sharing a little bit about that with us?

[05:23] Olivia: Yeah, so it's a very long, many years go into this story, but basically for many years I competed in Bodybuilding and then I competed in CrossFit. And over that time, especially with bodybuilding, I developed a pretty unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. There was a lot of foundational stuff that was built on, though, for how I was as a child and my relationship with my body when I was younger and things like that. But it really came to a head when I started doing bodybuilding. And for many years I didn't have a period, so I would say absolutely about twelve years, I didn't have a period, but I think it would probably be longer than that because I was on the pill. And that's a whole other thing of the contraceptive pill and what that actually masks for us as women and what we can learn about ourselves. And I was just in a really unhealthy place for a long time. And my belief about my body and who I thought that I needed to be in the fitness industry, as a fitness professional, as a coach. What I thought I needed to look like, the performance metrics that I thought I needed to have, were the things that really kept me stuck in a place of being really unhealthy. And this is where I really think that the fitness industry doesn't have women's best interests at heart most of the time because there is this idea that we need to look a certain way whether we are a professional in the industry or not. And that should be what we are pursuing and it keeps us stuck in really unhealthy places sometimes. So I got to a point though, where I realized that a lot of what I was teaching with female health and performance I was not living. And before we started recording, I mentioned this, that integrity is really important to me around this stuff. And I realized that I was completely out of alignment with what I was teaching to my clients and what I expected of my clients in terms of how they approached food and exercise and understanding their body image and their health. And I was doing the complete opposite and that then led to more shame of like okay, I'm teaching this stuff but I'm not living this. So I am just kind of like in the shame spiral. And also my health was just suffering along with having hypothalinic a man arrea, which is a missing period for three months or more come a host of physical things. My hair falling out, my nails breaking. Obviously infertile my performance was just I was working so hard in the gym, I wasn't getting stronger, I wasn't getting fitter because I didn't have the sex hormones to actually support making adaptation in the gym. So I was working harder. I was working harder and harder and harder. And I think that there are a lot of women listening to this that can probably relate to that in a different context in those perimenopausal years where there are changes happening with their body and that feels out of control and so they work harder and harder and harder with no result. So I was kind of stuck in that place until I realized that this was just not who I wanted to be as a coach and as a human. That putting my health last for essentially other people because I had to maintain a certain physique or something.

[09:24] Sonya: So it was all about external validation and the competitiveness side of what you were doing as well.

[09:30] Olivia: Yeah, but it was interesting because I never wanted people to be commenting on my body. So that made me extremely uncomfortable if people actually acknowledged my body or commented on it or commented on my performance or anything like that. So it was an external thing but it was also just deep, deep insecurities of my worth. And so I decided that I needed to get healthy. And so in order to do that, I had to pull back on exercise and I had to eat more and I had to intentionally gain weight. So this process went over a few years because there was a lot of mental stuff that I needed to do to actually do the practical things of eating more, exercising less. I had to work on the internal staff to get to a place to be able to do that. But I did and I gained weight and I pulled back and that was really hard for me as a fitness professional. And I eventually got my period back, which was amazing. And a couple of months later I got pregnant and my son is now seven months old. So I really see my son as a byproduct of my health, my mental health around body image and place in the industry and stuff like that and women's health. And so it's been a really amazing process. And through all of those years of going through healing from Hypothalamic a Maria, it actually meant that by going through pregnancy and postpartum has been, and I'm careful to say here, but relatively easy because of all of the work that I've done on understanding myself. And so I could really be in that process of change that comes with creating a human and especially around how you feel about the look of your body and your body changing.

[11:34] Sonya: Yeah. I'm interested to know you touched on this a little bit earlier about we can draw the parallels in many ways between what you experienced and what I definitely the conversations I have with women that are in their perimenopausal. And it tends to be more the perimenopausal years that this starts happening, where their body does start changing, their hormones are shifting and fluctuating, and as a result, their body shape starts to change and their go to for that is I need to lose weight. And then to lose weight, I need to go to the gym. It's a process that I think everybody goes through and so they end up at a gym and then often they fall into the cycle of what you were saying, where it's like eatless, work harder, but not actually get any results. And the frustration for the woman that comes as a result of that. How do you feel that the fitness industry has really perpetuated this toxic culture?

[12:38] Olivia: Oh man, there are so many different ways that I could so many different avenues that I could go with this. Well, first of all, everything that we're seeing, it's like if you gain weight, you are doing everything wrong. That is the worst possible thing that you could do as a woman is gain weight, which straightaway puts into our head that we're doing things wrong. Right. It eliminates our ability to be curious about what's actually going on. It eliminates our ability to actually look at the context of what might be going on in our life for why that might be happening. But we just said it's bad. And so the urgency comes in that like, okay, I need to do something. And the fitness industry tells us that hard and hectic and more and dying on the floor is the thing that's going to make everything better. But what it doesn't see is women as individuals and especially women in midlife when there is so much going on and women are wearing a million different hats and their relationship with exercise may have changed. So what can often happen with women around this time is that there's children, there's also work, there's looking after elderly parents, the sandwich years of doing all of these things and their own self care kind of like takes the back burner. And often exercise is the thing that goes amiss straight away. That's the thing that is the first thing to go. So a part of this is that there are many women that actually stop exercising because there's so much going on and then from there it's a lot harder to get back into exercise. And so there's that frustration there and so there's also urgency that comes with that. So I think that that's one thing is that we need to be having this conversation of how we can keep women in exercise throughout those years. And so with that comes how can we make it as accessible as possible, how can we relieve the pressure and the urgency. And I think a lot of that comes with the education of understanding what is actually happening with their body, looking at body image as well. I think it's a really important thing that doesn't have enough air time when we're talking about these transitional years as well. And also basic education around sleep, hygiene, nutrition, just actual movement, like movement versus exercise and the need for both and also managing the mind. You know, it's like straight away we think, okay, the antidote to how I'm feeling and the antidote to my body changing is to eat less and exercise more. But we need to first come back to the fundamental things. And this is where this ties into what I was saying about health first, results. Second is that are we actually looking at the baseline things we need to do to feel well first, because unless we've got those things in check, then there's other things are not going to work. Because as women, if we're thinking about a hierarchy of how we can actually get results in the gym, the bottom and you've seen this before, Sonya, we talk about this in the female health and performance. Sir and I talk about it all the time is when we're thinking about the hierarchy of getting results, we think about that pyramid, right? We've got like a pyramid shape and on the bottom is our mental health and how we're thinking about ourselves. Above that is sleep and stress and movement. So movement, not exercise, intentional exercise. About that we've got nutrition and about that we've got exercise, intentional exercise. So you can see that, and this might seem weird because I'm a fitness professional, so shouldn't I be talking about exercise is the most important thing? Absolutely not. Because how we're thinking about exercise is going to contribute to how we action out exercise. So if we're coming to from a place of urgency and I'm not good enough, my body is a problem, then we're going to be going for things that are probably not going to serve us best. It was a boss.

[17:07] Sonya: That was great. That was brilliant. And it really reminds me, I interviewed Kath Barry recently, and Cath is a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, and she recently wrote a textbook for her peers because she found that there was no information available for practitioners to treat women beyond 49. I think it was that kind of traditional Chinese medicine breaks life up into seven year chunks, and it kind of finished at 49. And she was like, well, hang on a second, I've got all these clients coming to me that are now over that, but there's no guidance from their kind of historical background on how to treat women in that face. So she and a bunch of her peers have actually written a textbook, but in our conversation, she talked about the four legs of a chair, basically, which are the pillars of health, and they are exercise, which included movement, as well as that intentional exercise, nutrition, sleep and stress management. And they really are the foundation. And they are the four things that I talk about the most with my clients as well, both within my gym and when I'm talking on the stellar woman platform. Because I truly believe that unless we address those things together equally, there's no point adding anything else onto the mix first.

[18:36] Olivia: So there was actually I wish that I had it up. I'll have to have a look at it when we finish. But there's actually been a bunch of studies, a study done that is looking at a bunch of studies for how we can sustain fat loss. And the most important thing is that there were eight things that came out of this that people were doing that was meaning that we could. So this is kind of like generic for all kind of people, but it does come back to the basic kind of thing, and that is eating protein, cooking meals at home, sleep, exercise, drinking water, fruit and vegetables and a couple of other ones. And it's just like, okay, this huge thing came out. It's still the basics. And even though women who are going through transition and there's a lot going on internally, we have to start there because often we're going to these like, people on Instagram that are claiming that they're hormone coaches and all of these kind of things. It's like we have to start with the basics as humans, which spans across women who are in their adolescent years and then, you know, in their twenty s and their thirty s and their forty s, fifty s, it's still the same. We have to start with those basics and then we can start to get more nuance with what is going on with individuals.

[20:12] Sonya: Yeah, exactly. And I feel very strongly that for a woman in her 40s so she's going to be perimenopausal whether she recognizes it or not, whether she's got any noticeable symptoms or not that the changes are happening. It's the perfect time to start putting all of those building blocks in place, those foundational things that everything you've just mentioned, and I'm going to add one more to it that I think is super important and that is a healthy sex life, whether that is with a partner or by yourself, that future proofs you for. You know, we literally are in our midlife. People live to 100 very often these days. So if you've spent your twenty s and your 30s having your children perhaps partying and maybe treating your body more like a nightclub than the temple that it could be, come back to everything in your forty s and use this opportunity to really future proof your body for the 40 or 50 years that you could still have ahead of you.

[21:20] Olivia: Yeah, and I mean that's the thing is that if we have daughters or young girls in our life, we have the opportunity to teach them about the importance of this stuff, of future proofing our bodies. So starting to lift weights at a young age, and I'm not saying there's obviously a process that we go through and progression with that, but lifting weights in your 20s, unpacking your relationship with food and developing a good relationship with food, these kinds of things can be so helpful for us to transition through perimenopause and into menopause. But it's hard. We don't think about these things. And even us now, we get so caught up in just thinking about our present selves, which can often be the most unhelpful thing. But when we develop this relationship with our past self, our present and our future self, we can create a really beautiful harmony. And when it comes to food and exercise, to nourish and nurture and support perimenopause, then we do have to think about our future self.

[22:39] Sonya: Yes. You put that so much more beautifully than I did. Thank you. Now, one of the things that I wanted us to get the opportunity to talk about and this is a little bit of an industry technical term I'm going to use. But you are here to make this easier for everybody to understand, because it's something I come across in both my clients in the gym and the women that I speak to when it comes to my stellar woman platform, and that is low energy availability. And I'd really love if you could take a little bit of time to just kind of explain how an active woman in her menopausal transition can go about ensuring that she has enough energy available to support her body through everything that it needs to be doing.

[23:28] Olivia: Yeah, so this is a really tricky one, because, first of all, low energy availability is when we have limited energy available to support the normal bodily functions. Once energy is expended through exercise. So if we don't have enough energy to support enough energy coming in, then there are systems in our body that can start to break down and make us feel less well. And what's interesting about low energy availability is that a lot of the symptoms of this are also symptoms of perimenopause. And so it can be a really hard thing. And then if we are in this mentality of like, I have to eat less because my body is changing, then we can feed into low energy availability more and then we stay kind of like stuck in the cycle. And so that's what going back to what we were saying about those fundamental things of nutrition, is actually making sure that you're eating enough is one of the most important things for women in all phases of her life. And that can actually, again, support perimenopausal symptoms. But it's hard because we think, oh my gosh, my body is changing, I need to eat less. And so that is part of that cycle that we get into. So a really basic way to understand this is that it's kind of like, you know, when your phone goes on low battery and do you have an iPhone?

[25:13] Sonya: Yes.

[25:13] Olivia: And it will come up and it will say, do you want to switch to low power mode? So it wants to conserve energy. And so our body does that as well. So when we are in a state of low energy availability, those systems start to shut down, those non essential systems so that we can continue to survive. So for example, with me, with a man, Aria, for all of those years, I didn't have a period because my fertility was not an essential system for me to survive. And so it shut down. And so we see this in different systems in our body, like our skeletal system, with the way that our bones function, we can talk about it more, our endocrine system, not just a period, but there are other things that actually go on as well. Our neural and psychological systems as well. It down rate down, regulates our hunger and fullness curses, a lot of things that actually go on when we're essentially just not eating enough. And this can happen intentionally or unintentionally. So if we are intentionally not eating enough, that can come from diet culture, from the fitness industry. We can be reducing calorie intake, calorie restriction, we can be over exercising without adequate calories coming in. And I say overexercising. And it's important to say here that you could be a woman who is going to the gym or exercising like two to three times a week and still be over exercising because you're not bringing in enough energy. There's no kind of like ticking off of what that looks like. Right? That's very individual. It could be like clean eating and being in that place of feeling like you have to be clean eating and so removing certain things from your diet. It could also be medication that could be causing weight loss. If we're thinking about how this can happen unintentionally, and I think that this happens for a lot of women through midlife is like we've talked about the upswing of training, so doing more because there is an urgency there and not eating enough to actually support that. It can be just being really busy, forgetting to have breakfast, just forgetting to eat, not being organized with food, not thinking ahead, not preparing. It could be eliminating food. Groups like carbohydrates are bad, so I'm going to stop eating carbohydrates. There could be an elimination of food because there are gut disturbances. But often when we are in a state of low energy availability that contributes to gut disturbances. So that's kind of like a really tricky cycle that you can get into and just like influences from other people, social media and stuff like that. So there are many ways that we can dip into this. It's kind of a difficult one to sort of unravel.

[28:30] Sonya: Yeah. And it's really interesting when we talk about how similar the I want to say symptoms, but I don't feel that's necessarily the right word. The indications or the indicators that you are perhaps dipping into low energy availability can be very similar to the indicators that you're perimenopausal. It can be such a minefield of stuff that is going on for women in their forty s to really try and identify what it actually is that they need to be addressing to feel better. But I think as you've said, if we bring it right back to those basics of the movement, intentional exercise and getting curious about am I doing too much or am I not doing enough? And obviously there's a balance there that needs to be found. And the nutrition again, is it enough, is it too much? Another balance that needs to be found and then the stress management and the sleep. And sleep I find a really challenging one to speak about because sleep disturbances during perimenopause and the menopausal transition are very hard to manage for a lot of women. And I find I get frustrated when certain sectors say well, you just need to be looking at good sleep hygiene, get to bed at the right time and sleep in the right temperature room and turn off your screens before you go to bed type of thing for a woman that is going through her perimenopausal or menopausal. And I would imagine that perhaps even if it's low energy availability that's causing the same thing. There are actually other factors that need to be addressed as well. Like we talked about them with nutrition and protein and I know from my personal experience, which you actually helped me with a lot was increasing the amount of protein that I was eating had a huge impact on my quality and quantity of sleep.

[30:45] Olivia: And, you know, the sleep thing, again, this like messy kind of thing of perimenopause symptoms and low energy availability is that if you're waking up in the middle of the night, I mean, that's a symptom of perimenopause, right? But that is also a symptom of cortisol. And that can be a symptom of not eating enough. It gets so mucky. And so that's where really making sure that when it comes to nutrition, it's hard because it's so when we're thinking about, okay, how do I know if I'm actually eating enough? Because this is a really hard thing. If I'm feeling like this in my body, I feel like I'm gaining weight or I feel like I am eating too much. And maybe also there could be stuff tied up in this with disordered eating behaviors as well because I'm feeling stressed, I'm binging at night, I'm overeating, so I can't possibly be under eating. But all of that can be a symptom of stress. Inability to selfregulate, inability to emotionally regulate, to understand what you're actually the needs that are not getting met in your life, and also as a way to just kind of manage psychological stress that is going on, whether that is like your kids aren't listening to you. You're not feeling hurt by your husband. You had a really stressful day at work, you know, or that you did miss breakfast. And then you come home and you're actually just hungry. You know, like symptom of actually not eating enough is the binging and restricting that can go on in your life. So when it comes to understanding if you are actually eating enough, if you are in your perimenopausal years and you are still menstruating, then looking at that, obviously and tracking what is going on, because if it is missing for three months or more, then that could be an issue. And if you're not at the stage where that should have gone by now, maybe that will be dependent on.

[33:02] Sonya: Your.

[33:02] Olivia: Mother and genetics and stuff like that. But that's something to look at, obviously, if you're not adapting to exercise and if you're not recovering from exercise, that can be a symptom of low energy availability. So if you've got like if you're injured a lot, if you're sick a lot often like, oh my gosh, my words.

[33:27] Sonya: Respiratory.

[33:29] Olivia: Respiratory. Oh, my goodness, respiratory stuff. Colds infections, you know, stress fractures, obviously, that keep reoccurring. You know, things like that are a red flag for maybe not getting enough energy in gut disturbances, like I mentioned before. So the gut, your gut permeability when things are getting through the gut, that shouldn't be that comes from actually not eating enough sleep like we talked about, if you're waking up and you're hungry or if you're waking up in the night and. You can't get back to sleep as well. I mean, that could also be something that's going on, changes that's really hard, obviously perimenopause that's going to be happening. But obviously that's something to kind of track. There's some kind of specific things that you can look at maybe that can be kind of detached from those perimenopausal symptoms that I just shared that might be a little helpful.

[34:32] Sonya: Yeah. And I think, really, the biggest takeaway from all of this is that if a woman is experiencing changes to her periods, to her moods, to her sleep, if there's a whole heap of stuff going on and you really are not sure why. Your first port of call should always be a visit to your primary carer to have that conversation and to get them to investigate what's going on so that you can then, with that information, move forward with what are the next right steps for you?

[35:10] Olivia: Yeah, absolutely. And I think also is that when it comes to exercise and going back to what we were talking about before, of the potential to feel stressed about a changing body and to feel like I need to be doing, I need to be going doing more, I need to go harder, I need to eat less. Seeking out people in the fitness industry that are not going to perpetuate that and that are going to ask you questions that are female specific and female phase specific as well, like asking you about your age, are you actually experiencing symptoms, what does that feel like for you? What does that look like for you so that they can understand you? And that can still be true in a group setting or one on one. But seeking out people that are actually going to see you as a woman who's going through this change and give you prescribed exercise is actually going to support that. And that's going to also help you to understand that it doesn't have to be going really, really hard because that might not be helpful. Because again, coming back to remember what life is like in this phase of like, you might be going through all of these changes, but you're also probably working children, like looking after people. We have to take into account your physiological load, which is everything that's going on outside of exercise in order to have exercise that actually matches that. So that we are taking that health first approach to get results first.

[36:52] Sonya: Yeah. Beautiful. I love that. Now, one thing I did want to come back to you on, because I think while I have you here is a great topic for us to also dip into and that is the importance of strength training, specifically on bone health. And you talked about a little bit with the low energy availability, bone density can be something that reduces as a result. I bang on a lot about the importance of doing strength and resistancebased training to prevent ostepenos, gaporosis, all of those sort of things. Can you give us a little bit more of the you're so beautiful at putting the science into everyday language of insight into things that can a impact your bone density and be the things that can be done to improve your bone density.

[37:48] Olivia: Yeah. Okay. So when it comes to from the perspective of like what we've been talking about with low energy availability, basically if we're not eating enough and we are doing exercise, we need our body to work with us to actually recover. So if we're not eating enough, then we and we're not sleeping that we might not be getting the growth hormone that comes, you know, overnight to help us recover, to help us build muscle. And if we are not eating enough, that can also impact our bones as well. So our skeleton system so osteoblasts in the bone. So I'm kind of going to be using words here. So osteoblasts are cells that build bone and osteoclasts help reabsorb the bone. And both of these cells work together to build and reshape and model our skeleton. And when we're not actually eating enough and we don't have the hormones and this can also happen with pyramidopause and those symptoms and the fluctuations with hormones when they start to down regulate, then we can have issues with how the system works and then we can experience more stress fractures later on in life. And so we also know from research that falls prevention for women is one of the most important things that we need to be considering when it comes to exercise for women because that is one of the major reasons for death with women as they age is full. So we need to be doing strength training. We need to have strong bones to help prevent that later on in life. So again, that's a conversation of future you and we need to be eating enough to actually support our ability to do that as well.

[40:03] Sonya: Yeah. And from an exercise perspective, I think sometimes it's easy for us to throw around the terms strength and resistance training. But what does that kind of look like? Perhaps for a woman that maybe has been a cardio queen all of her life and has done nothing but run marathons and train on the treadmill, what exercises and where I get curious with this is, and I will happily say I'm nowhere near as educated on this as you are. The difference between, let's say, going into a gym and lifting three kilo. Dumbbells. Versus going into the gym and progressively building to a point where you're lifting 50 kilos. Or a yoga class or a Pilates class. Can you kind of talk us through the differences from a physiological point of view with those different styles of resistance and strength?

[41:02] Olivia: So we need to be overloading our body. So I've talked a lot about kind of like stress and how we need to manage stress and stuff like that. There is good stress and there is bad stress. And when we overload our body with a weight, it means that we are causing a good stress in our body to actually make an adaptation. And then from there we can get stronger. So we want to be doing exercise that is actually overloading our body progressively in order to actually get stronger. Otherwise we kind of we're doing work, but we're not actually getting the benefit of that work. So there is a purpose to everything. So Pilates has an important place, yoga has an important place, using three kg. Dumbbells has an important place. But when it comes to actually getting stronger, we have to overload our body somehow. And if we are going to so yoga, doing body weight training like that can overload your body. It depends where you're kind of coming from. But there has to be progression to keep going, to keep going. So if you're going into the gym and you're lifting three kg dumbbells, that might give you a progression for a while until it doesn't. So there needs to be some kind of system in place, a program, someone helping you, continuing to overload so that you are getting that good stress to get stronger. Because the worst thing that a woman can do is actually be going into the gym, making the effort and actually not putting that good stress on her body and so just kind of spinning her wheels and then getting really frustrated and then maybe giving up. And there's a lot of time and effort that's going into that. So following a program or having someone help you where you are progressively putting stress on your body. And so that could look like three kg for two weeks and then trying four kg and then trying five kg, six kg. And we can do this in a host of different ways, but that is the main thing, is that we need to stress our body and progressively overload over time in order to get stronger. So that's kind of the question that you need to ask yourself.

[43:39] Sonya: Yeah, perfect. And I love that answer so much. Thank you very much for delving into that with me.

[43:45] Olivia: I will say though, something that does kind of grind my gears a little bit in this space when we're talking about strength training for women in this phase of life. Is the are you allowed to swear on here?

[44:01] Sonya: Oh, yeah, it's encouraged, actually.

[44:05] Olivia: Is that phrase lift heavy ****? Because I feel like and I'm sure that you've heard that before.

[44:13] Sonya: Yeah, and you know what, I'm actually going to admit I say it as well, but it's cool.

[44:18] Olivia: I mean, I think it's a very exciting thing. Like it gets women like, yeah, let's go, come on, this is awesome. But I also think that it can represent first of all, I think it can scare women lifted weights before and they're like, oh my gosh, this is a little bit maybe aggressive for me.

[44:38] Sonya: Intimidating as well.

[44:40] Olivia: Yeah, because I think lifting heavy ****, we might think a woman doing like a deadlift or like back squats and like really heavy weight. Right. So that's the first thing, is that I think that it can be intimidating for women. And if we think about women in midlife, what is one of the most fundamental things? It is like getting women doing resistance training and doing intentional exercise. And if that is the antidote, then that is kind of, I feel too niche and isn't expansive enough for the different kind of women that are in this phase. And don't get me wrong, like, you know that I am one to lift heavy ****.

[45:22] Sonya: I was thinking, when do I say that? And I think I do tend to say about myself, like if somebody says to me like, you know, what's your favorite thing to do in the gym? Might say lift heavy ****. That's what I do. But I don't think it's a turn of phrase that I would use with clients or potential new clients ever, or for any woman that was experimenting with what she should be doing to change up her exercise. But it's definitely a term that I'm familiar with and one that I use when I refer it to myself. But I can definitely see where if somebody was not in that world, it could be really definitely an intimidating term.

[46:00] Olivia: Yeah. And the other thing with that is that our ability again, I keep coming back to this idea of understanding our physiological load as women in midlife. Because when we have, like I've said before, you know, when we have got stresses going on outside of the gym and then we have in our head, I need to go in the gym and lift heavy **** and go hard, then we can actually be working against ourselves. And so our ability and you know, this, Sony, this is something that I talk about all the time. Our ability to self regulate and understand what heavy is relative to us each day, which is going to take into account what our day has looked like, what our stress looks like, how we're actually feeling like. How did we sleep? Are we having a day where it's just like I am just feeling like absolute ****. How do we selfregulate with that? Because the more that we can meet ourselves where we're at with the kind of exercise that we're doing, the more our body is going to work with us.

[47:05] Sonya: Sorry, I'm just going to say while you're saying that, I think that yes, we also need to find, and you touched on this before, trainers that will meet you where you're at, that will ask you those questions when you come in for a training session. If you walk into the gym and you're dragging your feet and your energy is just completely depleted, and they give you 50 burpees and 60 pull ups and around a deadlift. They are not the right trainer for you at that phase of your life.

[47:36] Olivia: Yeah, understanding that's the thing. I mean, the fitness industry is there's a lot of younger guys, there's a lot of younger women that maybe don't have the understanding of female physiology, first of all, and also how to have those conversations and communicate with women who are in this phase of life and ask the right questions and adapt and change accordingly. And there are some amazing, amazing people out there like yourself, who are working with women specifically in this time of life. And I also have many clients that are in this time of life as well. And having someone that is going to be compassionate for how you might be feeling, I think is just so important to have the right exercise prescription, but also to help you have self compassion for yourself with how you might be feeling.

[48:34] Sonya: Yeah, I love that so much. And I think this is a great place for me to one of the things I'd like to do is to give you the opportunity to talk about the different ways that women and also personal trainers can work with you because you do so much wonderful work with Nadia. So why don't you give yourself a little spiel on all the amazing ways and I'll be completely honest here. Olivia is my strength and conditioning coach. We work in an online capacity and have done for, oh, gosh, a while now. Can't remember, but yeah, go ahead, tell us how women can reach out to you, how they can learn from you, and also, if anybody is listening that's in the industry, how they can learn from you and Nadia as well.

[49:16] Olivia: Thank you. So, for me, I usually hang out on Instagram, so my handle is Olivia Park coach. And I sort of share bits and pieces there and write content and so on. And I have a group strength and conditioning program which is for women, semi individualized called Grit and Grace. And there are some incredible women in there who not some, all of them are. And I also work with women one on one. And so you can contact me through Instagram or my website. And with Nadia, we do the Women's Health and Program Design mentorship so that's the coaches and trainers who are working with women and also I'm part of Nadia's B, now have a performance certification, which is a wonderful course that helps trainers and coaches better work with women in all capacities.

[50:13] Sonya: Yes. Which I have also done. And it was actually my introduction to you, now that I think about it, but also was what really changed my approach to how I train my clients now, how I speak to my clients, how I program for my clients. It literally changed my business. And, yeah, it's an incredible course. Olivia let's wrap up by asking the question I know everyone has been waiting to hear, even though we've given away so much gold already. What are you listening to, watching or reading right now that is bringing you joy?

[50:47] Olivia: Well, watching when I get a chance, Sonya, which is rare, but it's like I'm getting little snippets is Pachenko, which is on Apple. Have you read the book Pachenko?

[51:00] Sonya: No.

[51:01] Olivia: Oh, I think, Sonya, because you and I talk a little bit about books, and we do. If you haven't read Pachenko, do. That would be a summer reading one for you. And I've done a series on Apple, so I'm sort of getting through that. And it's about Korea, Japan, which is always interesting to me because I live in Korea. What I'm reading at the moment, I actually just finished Last night Seeing Other People by Diana Reid, which was very, very, very good. Beautiful writing. And what I'm listening to, I'm just trying to think what podcast I might be listening to right now. I'm always listening to something to do with strength and conditioning. I'm a real nerd around that stuff, and I just love listening to anything to do with that.

[51:57] Sonya: But you know what I want to know, actually, I've just given myself another question. What music are you listening to right now? Because this is another area that I find fascinating about you, is your choice of music.

[52:09] Olivia: One day I could be listening to 90s rock, and then the next day I'm listening to quite hectic drum and bass.

[52:19] Sonya: Hip hop in there as well. Don't forget the hip hop.

[52:21] Olivia: There's always a lot of hip hop. Yes. My husband actually just acquired a new record player and he's collecting records, so we've been listening to lots of different bits and pieces. I think there's Bob Marley there at the moment. So definitely a massive music fan that you and I have talked about a lot as well.

[52:38] Sonya: We have music and books. I think other than strength and conditioning.

[52:43] Olivia: Music and books is just like, my dream conversation, so it's great.

[52:50] Sonya: Olivia, thank you so much for your time today. I'm super excited to share this conversation with everyone. I know that it's a topic that's close to my heart. It's a topic I talk a lot about with women, but you just have such a beautiful way of bringing it all together and making it so easy to understand. And thank you for sharing your journey as well through your own hormonal battles. And it has been a pleasure having you as a guest on Dear Menopause.

[53:15] Olivia: It's such an honor. Thank you so much. And I've loved this conversation so much.

[53:22] Sonya: Thank you for listening today. I am so grateful to have these conversations with incredible women and experts, and I'm grateful that you chose to hit play on this episode of Dear Menopause. If you have a minute of time today, please leave a rating or a review I would love to hear from you because you are my biggest driver for doing this work. If this chat went way too fast for you and you want more, head over to Au podcast for the show Notes. And while you're there, take my Midlife quiz to see why it feels like Midlife is messing with you. Your head.