To celebrate the publication of her new bikini-body guide, we talk to world number-one fitness influencer Kayla Itsines.
Kayla Itsines (pronounced ‘It-seen-us’) jumps up to g hug me hello as I walk * over to greet her andis all smiles, despite a serious case of jet lag. She’s in London for a few days to talk about her new book, The Bikini Body Motivation and Habits Guide (Bluebird, £16.99) but is still on South-Australian time, waking up at 3am and falling asleep at 6pm.The warm welcome is typical of the Instagram fitness megastar and personal trainer behind the ‘Sweat with Kayla’ app, who’s famed for being girl-next-door approachable, in spite of her huge following (15 million social media followers and counting). As she folds her tiny frame (she’s 164cm tall and 52 kg) into the armchair opposite mine, she notices my snow boots and remarks that they’re just what she needs to keep warm in wintry London.
Kayla’s never seen snow before and yesterday went for a walk in the white stuff for the first time. ‘My feet got wet! I was expecting it to be soft and powdery – not icy,’ she exclaims. She confesses she hates the cold and is dressed in an outfit (grey marl leggings and matching three-quarter-sleeved top) that would be perfect in her native Adelaide.Appropriate footwear aside, Kayla is very excited to be in London as part of her whistle-stop world tour. ‘I’d never travelled before I launched my workouts and started doing the Bikini Body Guide bootcamps [free workout sessions that attract thousands of devoted BBG followers], so this is such fun!’At just 26, Kayla is at the top of her game. Forbes recently ranked her world number-one fitness influencer and her hugely popular app ‘Sweat with Kayla’ was the most-downloaded fitness app in 2019. Her appeal extends beyond the screen; her stadium tours sell out in hours and her recipe compendium The Bikini Body 28-Day Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Guide (Bluebird, £18.99) has become a bestseller in hardback.
The Bikini Body 28-Day Healthy Eating Photo Gallery
Incredibly, her fitness empire began by chance; it was a conversation the then- teenaged Kayla had with her younger cousin that sparked the idea to log her personal training clients’ body transformations on Instagram. What started off as charting the progress of a handful of gym clients quickly grew into hundreds, then thousands of women approaching Kayla for advice and tips on how to shape up.Along with her boyfriend and business partner Tobi Pearce, Kayla devised a training plan based on plyometric exercises and circuit training that could be followed at home. The ebook was a massive success and customers’ posted their resulting body transformations on Kayla’s Instagram page, netting her thousands more followers. The Bikini Body Guide soon followed, along with millions of loyal fans who sometimes refer to themselves as Kayla’s Army.Along with every set of ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos posted on Kayla’s Instagram page is a story, often highly emotional, of a journey from body dissatisfaction to body confidence and happiness. Scrolling through, you see that the women who post them have often been through challenging times but claim to have found strength, both physical and emotional, by following Kayla’s workouts and nutritional plans and, crucially, with the support of the wider BBG community, who encourage and motivate each other along the way. Which brings us neatly onto Kayla’s latest publication…
Tell us about your new book The Bîînî Body Motivation and Habits Guide
‘It aims to educate readers about habits – how they’re formed and ways to get around bad habits by analysing triggers. It’s about how, as women, we can change our mindsets to better help us stay motivated through our health and fitness journey. Plus, there’s a 28-day meal plan and 200 simple, tasty recipes.’
What’s the secret to body confidence?
‘Education. Realising that the most beautiful person you can think of is not necessarily the most aesthetically beautiful person; they are beautiful because they are beautiful on the inside Realising that helps us a lot with our self-confidence.’
You’re rated the world’s top fitness influencer. What do you consider to be the secret of your success?
‘I guess it’s me being real and realistic with my followers, simplifying everything for them, uncluttering all the confusion in the health and fitness industry and providing a safe place for them to be in and a community of women who really support each other. I advertise and showcase the success of other women rather than my own success. I’ve stayed true to what I am – a personal trainer! I’m not in another field or advertising anything other than health and fitness, my app and my book.’
What does it feel like to see the huge growth in fitness influencers?
‘I think it’s great; if you’re able to positively impact someone’s life and draw them into health and fitness and help them stick to their goals, then it’s fantastic.’
Do you think you’ve helped inspire the movement?
Yes, definitely. But it’s not necessarily me it’s the amazing BBG communities all over the world who inspire each other.’
How do you handle the pressure of being so successful and the workload involved?
Because I exercise regularly and eat well, find my stress levels are naturally low. I work with my partner, who is CEO of the company, which is fun, and I get to stay in the gym and create workout content, which is awesome. I genuinely love what I do, which is being a personal trainer, and m so happy I get to travel the world.’
What’s a typical day in your life?
‘I get up early in the morning, cook breakfast for Tobi and myself, then take my dogs to the park so they can run around. Then I’ll go into the office and have meetings with my team, and work on content creation. I work out in the gym at 2pm every day; I often train with my two friends and my uncle. I also see my grandparents every day, usually for coffee and cake, as they live one minute away from me. In the afternoon, it’s more content creation then home to cook dinner. I’m asleep by 10.30pm. I don’t have a very glam lifestyle and I don’t drink alcohol or go out partying.’
KAYLA’S WORKOUT REGİME
3X A WEEK: Warm up with five minutes of walking; five minutes of skipping, a 28-minute workout then a stretch session.4 X A WEEK: Walk For 30 minutes at 6 kph (4mph) on the treadmill (while watching TV shows).
What’s the favourite part of your job?
‘Doing the bootcamp tours and meeting the BBG women. After every bootcamp, I always stay and try to meet every woman who has attended.’
What’s your favourite way to work out?
‘I like weight training mixed with HIIT. For example, doing a leg press followed by jump squats. I keep my heart rate up but I also love weights because of how strong they make me.
’Do you have any favourite foods?
‘I love Greek food like gyros (slices of seasoned ground meat in pitta bread); my grandmother’s pasta topped with homemade red sauce; and olive oil, sliced boiled eggs, tomatoes and olives on toast.How do you unwind?‘By exercising at a slower pace, such as walking to clear my head or doing a long stretch session. Or watching TV – I’m watching Riverdale a murder-mystery set in a school] at the moment. Tobi and I often sit in bed and watch TV and have a cup of tea.I also love spending time with my family- we often have family dinners, which are my favourite thing.’
Do you ever splurge?
‘I love Greek cakes – my favourite is kataifi [almond and walnut pastry in syrup].’
What would you do if you weren’t an influencer?
‘I’d be a teacher – I love kids and teaching. Or a cleaner – I find cleaning therapeutic.’
Do you have any future projects?
‘More workout releases and more of me around the world!’
What are your health and fitness secrets?
‘Walking is fantastic way to exercise and clear your mind. I take greens powder, turmeric and apple cider vinegar every morning to bolster my gut health.’
1 wholemeal pitta bread, cut into wedges Oil spray 1 celery stalk, chopped k medium cucumber, diced 1 small handful baby spinach leaves 170g firm tofu, cut into 2cm cubes or 100g tinned tuna in springwater, drained 30g reduced-salt, low-fat feta cheese, crumbled 1 small handful fresh mint Sea salt and ground black pepper Watercress, to garnish.
1 tsp white vinegar 1 tsp Dijon mustard Sea salt, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 200C(180C fan/gas 6) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Lay the pitta wedges in a single layer on the lined tray and spray lightly with oil. Bake for 5 minutes or until they begin to colour. Turn the wedges over and bake for a further 5-8 minutes or until both sides are lightly coloured, then set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, to make the dressing whisk the vinegar, mustard, salt and 2 teaspoons of water together in a small bowl and set aside.
4. Place the celery, cucumber, spinach, tofu ortuna, feta, pitta crisps and half the mint in a mixing bowl. Drizzle over the dressing,season with salt and pepper, ıf desired, and toss gently
5. To serve, place the salad iri a serving bowl. Sprinkle of watercress and remaining mint.
PRAWN & VEGETABLE ASIAN OMELETTE
Sliced 90g pak choi, chopped 1 small handful bean sprouts 2 large eggs 60 ml semi-skimmed milk ktsp fish sauce Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste 10g low-fat cheddar cheese, grated 1 tbsp oyster sauce 1 spring onion, thinly sliced k fresh red chilli, seeds removed and thinly sliced 1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh coriander 10g roasted peanuts, roughly chopped, to serve
1. Lightly spray a non-stick frying pan with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Cook the prawns for 2-3 minutes or until they’re pink. Transfer to a plate and set aside to rest.
2. Reheat the non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, pepper and pak choi and cook for 3-4 minutes or until tender-crisp. Add the bean sprouts and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
3. Whisk the eggs, milk and fish sauce together in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
4. Lightly spray the non-stick frying pan with oil and heat over medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and swirl to cover the base of the pan. Cook for 1 -2 minutes or until the egg starts to set and the underside is golden in colour. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sprinkle over the cheese, prawns and vegetable mixture. Cook for 1 minute or until the egg is golden and set. Fold in half and transfer to a serving plate.
5. Whisk the oyster sauce and 1 tablespoon of warm water together in a small bowl.
6. To serve, top the prawn and vegetable omelette with the spring onion, chilli and coriander. Drizzle over the oyster sauce and garnish with the peanuts.
PISTACHIO-CRUSTED SALMON WITH ZESTY QUINOA
20g unsalted pistachio kernels, chopped 20g Panko bread crumbs squeeze of lemon juice, to taste 2 tsp Dijon mustard k tsp honey Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste 85g salmon fillet, skin removed, Oil spray.
60g quinoa 45g tenderstem broccoli, ends trimmed 5 asparagus spears, ends trimmed % small fennel bulb, thinly sliced 1 small handful baby spinach leaves 2 k tbsp chopped fresh dill 2 tsp capers, rinsed Pinch of ground cumin Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan/gas 6) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Combine the pistachios, bread crumbs, lemon juice, mustard and honey in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Spread the mixture evenly over the top of the salmon fillet, pressing lightly to adhere.
3. Place the salmon fillet on the lined tray and spray lightly with oil spray. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Transfer to a plate and set aside to rest for 2 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, to make the zesty quinoa, bring the quinoa and 160 ml of water to the boil in a small saucepan over a high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10-12 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender.
5. Meanwhile, add 5 cm of water to a saucepan and insert a steamer basket. Cover with a lid and bring the water to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. Add the tenderstem broccoli and asparagus and steam, covered, for 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp.
6. Place the quinoa, tenderstem broccoli, asparagus, fennel, spinach, dill, capers, cumin, lemon zest and juice in a mixing bowl and toss gently to combine
7. To serve, place the quinoa mixture on a serving plate and top with the pistachio- crusted salmon.
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