Flick to her ex­clu­sive work­out

Women's Health (UK) - - CONTENTS - AMELIA JEAN JONES words IAN HAR­RI­SON pho­tog­ra­phy

Stick her in a photo shoot and Kayla Itsines is a pro. As per­fectly tanned as she is toned, the 26-year-old fit­ness VIP knows her best an­gles and, as she bounces around in front of the cam­era, she works them to their full po­ten­tial. When the pho­tog­ra­pher calls time, the glar­ing set lights are dimmed and we set­tle down to chat on the sofa – Kayla re­lax­ing in a grey hoody with her legs folded up be­neath her. Cards on the ta­ble: I ex­pected our in­ter­view to be a pol­ished, well-re­hearsed (and prepped for me­dia) recital of bland half-truths in an­swer to my ques­tions. A finely tuned script steer­ing well clear of any of the po­ten­tially dodgy is­sues that are slowly ris­ing to the sur­face in the In­sta-world of well­ness. My mis­take – I’d never met Kayla be­fore.


‘The first time I walked into the weights room, af­ter I’d al­ready had a hor­ri­ble day, I just felt so in­tim­i­dated that I started cry­ing,’ she re­veals. The can­did ad­mis­sion is all the more sur­pris­ing when you con­sider Kayla has in­spired mil­lions among her army of fol­low­ers to start lift­ing. ‘I just didn’t have the con­fi­dence to go in there on my own and do my work­out – it was over­whelm­ing. That’s ex­actly why I want to help other women feel con­fi­dent enough to hit the weights rack, do their thing and feel great about their bod­ies. Think about it: we’re ca­pa­ble of bear­ing chil­dren, so with the right at­ti­tude and self-as­sur­ance, pump­ing iron shouldn’t be much of a prob­lem!’ It’s this cri­sis of con­fi­dence that led Kayla to launch Bikini Body Guide Stronger, a ver­sion of her orig­i­nal Bikini Body Guide (BBG) work­out plan – which fo­cused on short, sharp ses­sions of body-weight train­ing that women could do eas­ily at home – but adding com­mon weights-room ma­chines to the mix. ‘They’re 30-minute work­outs, each based around a dif­fer­ent weight ma­chine you’ll find in an ev­ery­day gym. I in­clude a video tu­to­rial of each move so you know ex­actly what it should look like, a kit list so you know if you need to set up your dumb­ells or mat next to the ma­chine, and playlists cu­rated spe­cially to power you through those moves.’ All that’s miss­ing is Kayla stand­ing there in the flesh. The work­outs will be avail­able on an­other new project of Kayla’s – an app called Sweat, for which Kayla has teamed up with yoga guru Sjana Elise Earp and em­pow­er­ment and post-preg­nancy train­ing ex­pert Kelsey Wells. It’s a one-stop well­ness shop of guided work­outs, recipes and more. ‘The idea is to pick and choose be­tween the three work­out dis­ci­plines – weight train­ing, yoga and


low-in­ten­sity core train­ing – and life­style el­e­ments to find a regime that’s right for you,’ ex­plains Kayla. ‘No two bod­ies are the same – it’s time we start recog­nis­ing that.’ Some might ques­tion why Kayla’s cho­sen to stick with the term ‘bikini body’ for this new ven­ture, es­pe­cially given the back­lash fol­low­ing that Pro­tein World ad­vert last year. She ar­gues it’s a con­scious choice. ‘I’m re­claim­ing it. A bikini body is a body in a bikini – it doesn’t mat­ter who you are.’ Kayla seems to be do­ing her best to dis­tance her­self from the mes­sage put out by air­brushed bill­boards and fil­tered celebri­ties, in­stead fo­cus­ing on the re­al­ity of fit­ness and the dif­fer­ence it can make to your life. ‘The dig­i­tal age is so vis­ual that some­times we can for­get what’s re­ally im­por­tant,’ she says. ‘Some­times I’ll post be­fore-and-af­ter photos of some­one who’s had a re­ally pow­er­ful jour­ney to over­come ill­ness, drug ad­dic­tion or obe­sity, and neg­a­tive com­ments pour in say­ing they looked bet­ter be­fore. But telling some­one they’re too skinny or that they have too much mus­cle is just as hurt­ful as sham­ing them for be­ing over­weight.’ When talk turns to Kayla’s fol­low­ers – the mil­lions of women who pore over her feeds and fol­low her ad­vice re­li­giously – the re­spon­si­bil­ity she shoul­ders, and emo­tion she feels, is real. ‘Yes, BBG Stronger re­flects my fit­ness jour­ney, but the app and my so­cial feeds are about the com­mu­nity, and it’s taken mil­lions of women to build that,’ she ex­plains. ‘I use my feed to en­cour­age my fans to fol­low each other, share sto­ries and mo­ti­vate each other. When my com­mu­nity flour­ishes, so do I – I’m a gen­uine part of it.’ So strong is the con­nec­tion she feels with her fol­low­ers that the in­spi­ra­tional, up­beat events she hosts around the world can ac­tu­ally have a sur­pris­ing ef­fect on her own mood. ‘When I do a boot­camp with 4,000 ladies and see them smil­ing and laugh­ing, it has the op­po­site ef­fect on me and leaves me feel­ing re­ally down,’ she says. Why? ‘Be­cause while they’re happy now, there’s so much emo­tion re­sult­ing from past sto­ries where they’ve hated their bod­ies or felt their lives were empty… I just wish I’d been there to help them when it was that tough. I take on a lot emo­tion­ally, but en­cour­ag­ing my fol­low­ers to be there for each other helps that be­come more man­age­able. If I can’t be there for them per­son­ally, then there are 30 women who can be. It’s like a huge emo­tional safety net.’ For some­one who’s built a re­ported £35 mil­lion em­pire from burpees and lunges, self-es­teem and men­tal health seem to be shap­ing Kayla’s cur­rent agenda more than good ol’ ex­er­cise. ‘I be­lieve a fo­cus on the brain is the next fron­tier of fit­ness,’ she says. ‘I’m not say­ing men­tal health is­sues can be “fixed” through phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, but I’ve watched my clients un­dergo trans­for­ma­tions in their minds as well as their bod­ies. It’s all part of the jour­ney,’ says Kayla. ‘It’s about boost­ing ev­ery­day hap­pi­ness.’ Part of what makes Kayla so en­dear­ing is how happy she is in her own skin. Hav­ing shared images of her own stretch marks and re­vealed her strug­gle with fe­male-pat­tern bald­ness (see page 91 for more about this con­di­tion), she be­lieves in to­tal trans­parency. ‘Th­ese things make me self-con­scious, just as they would any­one else, but fo­cus­ing on be­ing healthy and happy is more im­por­tant than hang-ups you can’t con­trol.’ And it isn’t just in front of the mir­ror that Kayla joins the rest of us in the self-con­fi­dence strug­gle. Team­ing up with Sjana for Sweat led her to dip her toe into the world of yoga. And she’s the first to ad­mit it’s hard. ‘I un­der­es­ti­mated yoga,’ she says. ‘It’s a lot more chal­leng­ing than I ex­pected. I en­vis­aged breath­ing and chant­ing on the mat for an hour, but the flex­i­bil­ity it de­mands of you was a wake-up call for my body.’ But isn’t leav­ing your com­fort zone im­por­tant? ‘You need to push your­self to find what mo­ti­vates you to keep fit. You’ll never re­gret a work­out, so be brave and try some­thing new. It’s why I of­fer my boot­camps free of charge – peo­ple can have a go and, even if they don’t en­joy it, they’re in­tro­duced to like-minded peo­ple who can hope­fully in­tro­duce them to some­thing they will love.’ Her ea­ger­ness to in­ter­act with her fans – al­most as just an­other woman in her own com­mu­nity – can some­times tip her work/life bal­ance too much to­wards work. ‘I tell my fol­low­ers to find bal­ance, so I’m learn­ing to prac­tise what I preach. I’m so in­vested in the com­mu­nity that some­times it’s dif­fi­cult to ig­nore the emails, stop scrolling through my feed and just put down my phone to re­ally fo­cus on Tobi [Pearce – her boyfriend and busi­ness part­ner] sit­ting next to me at the din­ner ta­ble.’ So is a dig­i­tal detox on the cards? ‘Ab­so­lutely not!’ she squeals. ‘I just need to learn to fil­ter the noise and have a cut-off point in the evening, but turn­ing off my phone for a long pe­riod of time would feel like aban­don­ment. Some­times I feel like throw­ing my phone into the ocean, but so­cial me­dia is the thing that started my suc­cess and it will hope­fully help me long into the fu­ture. That’s not some­thing you turn your back on.’ The girl’s not for­get­ting her roots. And for those who find that time spent scrolling through end­less self­ies can leave them feel­ing down on them­selves? ‘Think what you’d have to of­fer if ev­ery­one around you were blind­folded. That’s the stuff you should be nur­tur­ing, not how your ass is go­ing to look with a cer­tain fil­ter.’ And if you can do both? Then you’re win­ning.

Look­ing ship­shape

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