At this point, every fitness-aficionado with a smart phone has heard of workout-legend Kayla Itsines. At only 26-years-old, this Australian woman has gathered over 8 million Instagram followers over the course of five years by uploading workout videos to the platform, creating an e-book titled The Bikini Body 28-Day Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Guide: 200 Recipes and Weekly Menus to Kick Start Your Journey, giving world-tours and selling out stadiums, and launching the fitness app "Sweat" alongside Insta-famous trainers Sjana Elise and Kelsy Wells.
Kayla's BBG (Bikini Body Guide) program has attracted millions of devoted fans and her popularity continues to grow. HOLA!'s sister brand HELLO Dubai recently sat down with the fitness guru to talk about how she accidentally launched her career, her thoughts on cheat days and why she'll never create a similar body guide for men.
VIEW GALLERY Kayla Itsines is an Australian personal fitness trainer Photo: Instagram/kayla_itsines
HELLO: How did you start out in this field?
"I got quite stressed out thinking of careers as I didn’t know what I wanted to do and felt a lot of pressure. I told my mom I wanted to do something in the sports field, as I always into sport so thought maybe personal training."
But how did you start off?
"Small, with my sister’s friends from netball. I trained them using my own style at a women-only centre. When people used to see me, they’d comment on how tough it seemed; I didn’t know what was hard and what wasn’t hard. My clients would say: “This is ridiculously tough. You need to ease up.” I’d reply: “No, this is the way I train. I want you to feel like you’re working hard.” At the gym they’d be doing simple exercises and I would really push them from the first session."
How did the Kayla fitness cult kick off?
"I built a following in Adelaide, where I’m from. Then my 12-year-old cousin told me to download this app called Instagram. She told me that I could upload my favorite photos onto it – but I didn’t know that anyone could follow you. I had all my clients’ bodies on my account... I wasn’t thinking about what I was putting out there. My cousin asked me if I was ever going to respond to the people who had reached out to me. I was so embarrassed! I had to apologize to all my clients, but luckily they thought it was funny."
What was the plan?
"It grew organically. There wasn’t a plan. I released a PDF file of my routine as people kept asking for it and that was the impetus behind the BBG program. In 2014 I used Paint to make a picture of a cartoon girl holding a dumbbell saying: “Ebook out now." I deleted it as I was so embarrassed about it, but I wish I hadn’t. Then came the app..."
Is it hard to keep regimented when traveling?
"I find people who know the place in the areas I am going to and get to know where is good to eat and workout. Obviously the jet lag kills you, so for a few days your body is out. But once this becomes your lifestyle, it sticks. You land and you immediately think: “OK, I need to walk. I need to workout. Where are the healthy food places?” It is part of your life."
What’s the first thing you think of when you get to a new place?
"I need to find good food and the gym. I need a good bath and I need to go to bed."
Do you workout every day?
"Imagine doing this seven days a week! I would get injured. I do it three days, maybe four. Then I walk every day of the week except for one. That one day I do nothing. I am really realistic. People see me and my body and the way I workout and they think it must be so hard. That I must workout daily and be on a perpetual diet. No! I am Greek! I eat bread, rice, fruit – I eat everything. I have a balanced diet. I am completely 100 per cent normal. I don’t have a chef or anything like that."
Do you believe in cheat days?
"No. When we got here, we went to the hotel buffet. They had great desserts. I took a plateful; did not feel bad at all. I am experiencing a new culture and am going to try its food. I generally eat healthily so when I have a fruitcake with my grandma – that’s time with my grandma – I don’t think: “Oh I need to go for a forty minute walk after this.” You shouldn’t think of food that way. Food is good. It brings people together!"
What’s your view on supplements?
"I don’t take them. I’ve put protein powders in my smoothies but I don’t think it is necessary. You can eat enough protein as a woman. I don’t think you need to take pre-workout supplements either. Good food is enough."
VIEW GALLERY Kayla doesn't believe in cheat days, instead she eats what she wants without feeling bad Photo: Instagram/kayla_itsines
Do you have a target demographic?
"When we first started, I was 21. I was young and naïve. We thought our target market was 16 to 30. Then the mums started getting involved, and now it’s very popular with 30-45-year-olds. So now it’s 16-50! Then there are some ladies who are even older – we call them BBG Grandmas – like Suzy Faye, who is a 68-year-old bus driver. Age is literally just a number now."
Won’t BBW work as a HIIT session for men?
"I will not do it for men because I would not know how to train a guy. To be completely honest I find it intimidating. I am very hands on when training my girls – I’ll move them and adjust them. I am a woman. I know how they think. I know what they secretly think. I know what they eat and how they eat and what they say they eat. I know women!"
Did you have a moment when you realized that you’d made it?
"Yes I did. When we did our first world tour in London. We didn’t think anyone was going to show up. I had to wait behind these closed doors and I could hear women’s voices but I had no idea how many people had turned up. I thought I would be really embarrassed and there would be just twenty people there after we had hyped it up so much. The doors opened and there were two thousand girls. My team literally started crying. I couldn’t breathe. The energy was incredible. I was a blubbering mess I was so overwhelmed."