We talked with Katya Gorbacheva in December, 2019.
👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
My name is Katya. I am a Russian powerlifter (just for fun) and a bodybuilder (for fun and competing!). Grew up watching dad and his friends throw some iron around, and since I came to the US to study engineering at Duke, gym has always been a place of decompression for me.
Years went by, I’ve found myself helping a girlfriend after girlfriend learn the ropes about the weight room, get unafraid of lifting heavy, get stronger, and shed some fat as a result.
A few years after college, a career of construction manager wasn’t fulfilling enough, and gym remained the temple where I felt like myself – unlike any other place… So, I reached out to one of the bodybuilders I’ve admired – Sam Shorkey and worked with her to prepare for a bodybuilding show.
Got certified with as a personal trainer along the way, which helped my competition prep immensely. I’ve launched TotalBodyLab – my own coaching company that focuses on educating women on traditional weightlifting bodybuilding and body re-composition via exercise!
After having won seven awards in my two first shows, I’ve decided to take a long off-season, decompress and release an app to coach online since some of my friends who lived in the UK, Russia, and Germany were interested in training as well.
2019 NPC Atlantic Coast Classic (Wilmington, NC)
- True Novice Bikini Class B – 1st Place
- Junior Bikini Class C – 3rd Place
- Open Bikini – 5th Place
2019 OCB Colonial Open (Williamsburg, VA)
- Bikini Overall – 1st place
- Bikini Open C – 2nd place
- Bikini Novice A – 1st place
- Bikini Debut – 2nd place
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
My powerlifting coach and I have an NDA agreement for 2019 improvement season and competition prep training, but below is general idea of my workout splits.
Yes, I have moved away from a bodybuilding coach to an IPF, USAPL National powerlifting coach and competitor because I have missed training with heavier weight and more dedicated strength building rather than only looking strong.
There is just something empowering when you can deadlift twice your weight, you know? ???? I have also missed periodization (having heavy and light weeks with varying accessory lifts), which most bodybuilders don’t include.
Not sure I’ll compete in 2019 since online coaching and speaking at local events (VegFests around North Carolina) takes up so much of my time, but we shall see!
I’m starting to be coached by Lee Ann Thompson (OCB Figure PRO) too starting January.
My typical routine:
- Sunday – Bench press, biceps, triceps
- Monday – incline chest, shoulders and back
- Tuesday – squat, hamstrings and shoulders
- Wednesday – off
- Thursday – Shoulders, glutes and legs
- Friday – Deadlift and whole posterior chain – hamstrings, glutes, calves
- Saturday – off!
Cardio post workout and dog walking/jogging on top of that daily.
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
After having graduated Duke with a B.S. in civil engineering, a certificate in Architecture, and a year’s worth of thesis research on effects of earthquakes on different types of building structures, working in commercial construction management, and attempting to launch a startup, I’ve learnt that the easier I am on myself – the more I get done.
Otherwise, I end up over-stressing, not sleeping and being anxious or depressed and procrastinating as a result. Maybe, that’s not the advice you’d expect, but on the days I remind myself, it’s going to be okay REGARDLESS if I sleep another hour, or turn laptop off after 9pm – more work magically gets done, and the process is enjoyable.
Regardless – whether it’s lifting, writing, coaching or anything else! Making time for myself has always been a problem.
The fact I love helping busy women get strong and look forward to see every single client of mine doesn’t help ???? So, I’ve started writing “to not do” lists – things that would be amazing to work on, but aren’t IMMEDIATE burning pains if incomplete. Things like posting on social media, making new fancy recipes to share with the newsletter subscribers, polishing the website SEO, etc.
If we’re talking pushing harder in training – having a coach, or an experienced lifting buddy helps a ton. Having something to listen or read to during cardio saved my day. When Sam used to coach me, I used to listen to her podcasts, which helped bear through fasted cardio.
The biggest challenge after having left a very good job cold turkey was – just being afraid I won’t make enough to sustain myself.
I try to provide more value via writing useful articles on the blog and Instagram, organizing ‘a free weekly office hour” in our gym where anyone can come and ask questions, and speaking at local events.
This train takes a little time to get rolling, but once it catches momentum – the effort to “be out there” for the people who need my help is minimal. So, acquiring new clients and retaining existing ones is not a problem!
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
It hasn’t been a year since I’ve launched TotalBodyLab, but the online coaching has grown so much I’m thinking of hiring more *hopefully female, hopefully vegan* trainers in the spring… if you know anyone interested or worth talking to – please email [email protected]!
Bodybuilding is just for fun, so I may compete or not – depending on how demanding coaching is going to pan out to be. The main goal is – to expand and be able to help more women be unafraid of the gym, learn the foundation of proper lifting techniques, feel strong, badass and empowered!
One of my favorite things lately has been recently – working with Russian women who have moved to the US. There is a huge expat community where I live, most of whom work in academia, research and IT.
Most are young mothers and grew up doing some sports competitively (one of my clients is a Europe Karate champion! and a mother of three). Now my fellow countrymen have access to robust coaching like what most of them are used to from growing up!
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
Having friends in PT and recovery-related industries really helps. My Duke engineering school friends – Ivonna and Gaby of Fathom AI have created a personalized recovery app and wearable for athletes.
The app is an artificial intelligence technology which learns what PT your body needs after intense training and prescribes the amount + techniques of foam rolling, myofascial release, icing and more.
Helping them beta test the last version of the wearable has improved my running form, relieve lower back pain and hip flexor tightness.
They have kindly offered a $100 off for Bulk Hackers readers who’d like to get a PRO version of the app. There is a free version of the app as well, available on IOS and Android.
Most of the injuries I’ve seen clients and friends who actively train get were NOT in the gym. Trying to remind myself and clients that picking up heavy grocery bags, active playing with kids, partner dancing, moving furniture and rowdy holiday parties are where we need to pay extra attention to how our bodies move and not forget to warm up + stretch!
Since I went vegan in spring 2017, my recovery and sleep have also improved quite a bit. One of the reasons I went vegan was – high LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which dropped to a 1/3 of that value weeks after the transition.
I definitely enjoy feeling more energetic on a plant based diet than ever before, and am now in a better shape physically than I’ve ever been.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I try to eat whole food plant-based, with minimal oils and processed foods. After past history of eating disorders, I find that if diet is restricted to NO oil/processed/animal products, I start craving what’s “forbidden”, so I allow myself to cheat about once a month.
It typically ends up being some vegan pastries/ice cream, or sushi. I’ve been 95% whole food plant based for almost three years now.
Outside the dining table – I seek vegan clothing and home products, reduce waste and support local vegan businesses for ethical and environmental reasons.
I take a B 12 complex (if you don’t eat animal products, or are over 50, please make sure you take it!), vitamins C, D, CleanMachine Ahi Flower oil and CleanMachine Cell Block 80, cycle taking amino acids and creatine. Links for some of my favorite products are in this blog
I drink green/yellow/black tea and coffee pre workout, especially now that I have brought a ton of medium roast (higher caffeine levels) from Costa Rica and can drink it black ???? If coffee is not available, or I’m traveling I drink ½ can of Bang Energy Drink. It doesn’t have sugar, has some amino acids and is available at most groceries/gas stations.
Tracking with MyFitnessPal when on prep and try to use portion control tracing using the size of my hand off season. Meal prepping has become a time-saving habit, which keeps my calories/macros in check off season as well.
Right now (pre season), my daily calories are around 2100, and I track some days just to make sure I get enough protein and don’t overeat too much. I travel quite a bit, so making portable protein-packed snacks saves my day. Here are some favorites:
- High protein TVP granola;
- My signature seitan;
- Russian-style pierogi;
- High protein caramel chocolate *spinach* muffins.
I eat approximately the same foods all year, thing is – when I’m in prep, creativity to make delicious macro friendly vegan recipes comes in! Like the *spinach* muffin recipe above. That’s how the blog was born ???? Off-season I may use real sugar vs. stevia and eat more nuts, seeds + have a glass of wine every now and then – that’s probably the main difference.
After the last competition season, I’ve used a recovery diet approach and put on body fat pretty quickly, which allowed to build strength and grow in the gym.
I also wasn’t planning on competing ever again, and here we are five months later when I’m strong and happy, but crave a new challenge again.
Doubt I’ll be happy staying lean all year because I’ve been training powerlifting style for most of my life, and don’t like to stress about food too much!
Growing up in a patriarchal conservative environment back in Russia has brought an unhealthy connection of self value and appearance, which I’m finally working to separate from! A woman can be beautiful at 20% body fat! Or any other number, as long as she feels so and is healthy.
I have a “refeed” about once a week when in prep, and off season – pretty much whenever I feel like (2-3 meals/week). Noticed, that when there is an “off day” from work and lifting – mental relaxation and decompression is incomparable with an edible reward…
We’re animals, yes, but have a capacity to treat ourselves in many other ways – potlucks and hiking with friends, board game nights, painting, writing, massage, date with a favorite book, or just sleeping more…
I also don’t like the word “cheat meal” because it has a negative connotation ???? Say “treat” or “refeed” instead! You’re not cheating on anyone or anything by having some more carbs every on occasion!
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
The realization that I can create instead of consuming keeps blowing my mind and inspiring on its own. When I worked as a construction manager, I used to come home after a long shift + gym and just want to consume – eat, watch YouTube and Netflix.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, her TED talks and interviews have helped realize that ANYONE can create.
Famous authors, celebrity athletes, successful businessmen are not special. They’re made out of the same meat as everyone else, put the pants on and brush their teeth the same way.
The only thing that’s different – the amount they try, fail, try again, refuse to settle for mediocrity, and the level of readiness to catch a fleeing opportunity by its tail.
Luck and surrounding circumstances matter too, of course, but in my opinion and experience – a lot less than most people think.
I came to the US with one suitcase and a student visa in 2011, clueless what to do with life. Was devastated that after trying to work in different areas of commercial construction – which I ruthlessly pursued, it just wasn’t my thing.
Doesn’t feel good to start from scratch at 27. But it’s okay – I’ve tried, I’ve failed. Learnt along the way. Trying again now.
If you are stuck in a job you hate feeling like you’re a part of someone else’s master plan, and need a magic kick in the butt to finally do something great with your life – read Linchpin by Seth Godin.
“How not to become an enemy to your own child” – is a wonderful book about relationships between children and parents by A. Maximov.
I read it hoping to weed out some insecurities, which potentially rooted from upbringing, and have found that we communicate with most of our friends, coworkers, clients – using similar patterns to parent-child communication…
We patronize, preach, act snobbish and disrespectful… and there are many more effective ways to communicate and bond. A. Maximov helps learn those.
Favorite podcast – UnLadyLike. A feminist podcast with amazing guests from all over the world which shakes patriarchy upside down and provides insightful history lessons.
John Goodman’s newsletter has amazing content for personal trainers and experienced lifters, and his articles about orthopedic correction are wonderful.
From Russian bodybuilders, I follow Ekaterina Lapteva IFBB Bikini PRO, Stanislav Lindover – Europe Classic BodyBuilding Champion, and Dr. Yegorov, a weight lifter and practicing therapist.
MUSIC! If any Zed’s Dead, Rezz, RL Grime, Kaskade, Crystal Method, PUP or Pornofilmy are playing – lifting is going to be so much easier ???? My workout spotify playlist here: TotalBodyLab Workout. Mainly – house, breakbeat techno, and punk.
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
Get a coach ???? Just kidding… I think it’s mostly mindset and setting some REASONABLE goals. That means – not too hard, not too easy, and definitely taking life into account (weddings, travel, holidays, etc.)
Yes, you can shoot for the moon, but trust me, showing up to every potluck with Tupperware or missing out on a bachelorette party because you’ve got a show coming up and didn’t plan any diet breaks – sucks. You lift and eat to live, not the other way around. I try to keep the same mentality for things outside the gym too ????
Have a dog? Plan your cardio outside so you can spend time with a pup. Have kids? Play tag to make up a new active game. Love team sports? Get off the cardio machine for a soccer or volleyball game with friends!
Yes, closer to show date controlled environments, such as treadmills, stair masters, elliptical and row machines are all useful, but for the rest of the year – why miss out on life if you have an option not to? Just use your creativity!
Also, there’s nothing wrong with seeking help – at any level. I have a lifting coach now (well, he is a powerlifter, and I’m a bodybuilder, so we symbiotically coach each other) – even though I kind of grew up around the gym with my father being really into it.
Sometimes we don’t notice small things that a fresh set of eyes will, and that makes a world of a difference in your progress. On top of that, I have a nutrition coach, sales coach, photographer, marketing manager and a psychologist.
Don’t be afraid to outsource… If doing a task by yourself would be too expensive based on how much time you’ll spend on the learning curve, it’s worth just paying for whatever the service you need to get it done ASAP sometimes.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
Depending on how soon this is published ???? I’m typically full for in person coaching, but can always chat to see if someone is a good fit for my online programs, the wait list, or a referral. Email [email protected] with “need coaching” in the title, and let’s chat!
If you’re local to Raleigh-Durham area, we can meet in person, but my online clients have more success because of the holistic approach
I use to build their exercise, recovery and nutrition programs and steadily progress. I’m used to work with busy mothers and women who are looking to build strength, improve their posture and take more control over how their body looks and moves.
All programs are custom – some clients love the gym, others work and exercise at home, others travel a lot… None of which is an excuse not to get a stellar workout in ????
So, if you’re done with excuses and are ready to get stronger, or need help transitioning to a whole food plant based diet (OR BOTH!) – shoot me a message on Instagram or email!
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
Totalbodylab.com – website, inspirational psychology, training and recipe blogs.
Instagram: @gorbachevae – stories are the main channel (for now)
Monthly newsletter typically has a couple new recipes, workout ideas, local events news and seasonal discounts.