Believe it or not, global fitness phenomenon Kayla Itsines is just like every other girl
A star is born
We're talking about a woman with 9.6 million followers...
You tend to meet all kinds of people on Instagram — some for the better, unfortunately some for the worse. That said, there's a cognoscenti of every kind helming a certain influence, attracting their own hoard. Whether it's fashionistas, hypebeasts, beauty junkies, foodies, yogis, girls who exude #fitspo, girls who #lift, even Internet trolls like @beigecardigan have a cult following (myself included).
Global fitness phenomenon Kayla Itsines falls under one of these categories, but don't call her an influencer. That's not why she's on Instagram. Upon closer inspection, Itsines' feed isn't nauseatingly picturesque or obsessively uniformed; instead, it is a mishmash of goofy mirror selfies, relatable life quotes and body transformation pictures from her followers. None of that #pursuepretty aesthetic, she even has honest captions.
Like millions of women out there, I stumbled onto her groundbreaking program, Bikini Body Guide (BBG) years ago, and questioned how this woman my age was even real. Instagram's ability to forge stars in the making, is almost like a millennial's equivalent to a television. After a few months of calculative stalking, it's hard to see them as ordinary people like you and me. Instead, they become personalities to admire and put on a pedestal.
"I don't wake up in the morning feeling excited to exercise. The goal is to get [in the gym] and out as soon as I can."
Last Friday (at a meet and greet with Kayla Itsines ahead of her bootcamp at FitnessFest 2018 by AIA), that bubble permeated for me. It wasn't because Itsines wasn't an inspiration, because she was. The 27-year-old emerged lean and sculpted, radiant and efferverscent — looking every bit like her online persona. It was when Itsines declared: "I don't wake up in the morning feeling excited to exercise. The goal is to get [in the gym] and out as soon as I can."
That's when I realised the woman wasn't a freak of nature; she was a woman, who simply worked hard at what she was good at. Sounds just like the rest of us.
BBG workouts weren't the only thing that propelled Itsines' success. It was her app, Sweat (birthed in 2016) that went above and beyond, superseding the reach of her previous PDF workouts, and even generated more revenue than any other fitness app in 2016. That was also the same year when Time named Itsines one of the 30 most influential people on the Internet. Currently, she has 9.6 million followers on Instagram.
"I'm not a fitness influencer. I'm a personal trainer, I have clients," the Australian entrepreneur clarified during our casual chat. On her overreaching influence, Itsines is impervious to it being all about herself but instead, she credits it to the social media tool. "I love Instagram because it's a tool that I am able to connect women all over the world and bring bootcamps on an international reach. Especially coming from a place like Adelaide; most people will be like where in America is that?"
I definitely know where Adelaide is, and we're thrilled to have you here in Singapore. How are you liking it so far? So yesterday I tried walking around Gardens by the Bay. I know it sounds really bad but it just got too hot, and I was just like, "I can't, I actually can't do this." I was boiling.
Sounds just about right for Singapore. How long are you in town for? I leave Saturday night, after my bootcamp at Fitness Fest. Then I'm going back to Los Angeles for a few days to celebrate my birthday with my family. It's on Monday, and then I'm flying on Tuesday to San Francisco, then to New York. All for boot camps.
"I didn't start Instagram to become a fitness influencer. Not that I have a problem with that, but I am a personal trainer."
Is there a special training you do before you conduct these life changing boot camps? No, because I train all season. I walk six times a week, train four times week, so there's no "training" that goes into it and no diet that goes into it. I just get on stage and do what I do everyday, which is personal training. So I'm not an influencer, I didn't start Instagram to become a fitness influencer. Not that I have a problem with that, but I am a personal trainer.
"I don't have an editing team or a film team so it's just me putting my phone not even on a tripod, I usually lean it against a dumbbell."
We’re all dying to know this. What does a typical day look like for Kayla Itsines? In Adelaide, if I have nothing to do, I will get up early and walk on the treadmill for half an hour and watch Netflix. Blacklist is my favourite show. I will walk on the treadmill and have breakfast. Every morning at 9am, I’ll get my grandparents coffee and then I will go about my day. Whether it’s an appointment or content creation — which is when I film videos that you see on Instagram.
And I do them on request, so if people want an arm workout or leg workout video, I will film like 20 videos in a day and edit them because I do everything myself. I don't have an editing team or a film team so it's just me putting my phone not even on a tripod, I usually lean it against a dumbbell. Then at 3pm, my grandparents and I have coffee again. Then I will buy food, fresh produce from the store everyday for dinner. That’s about it. I don't go out, I don't drink alcohol, I am really boring. My lifestyle is really good for me.
Do you actually consciously pay attention to what you eat? No. Because I grew up in a family that never talked about weight and never talked about their body. For instance, in the morning I'll have two pieces of toast with avocado; for lunch, I'll have pasta with some homemade red sauce. I'll have stuffed vegetables with rice for dinner. I'll always have a salad with everything. I guess I always ate super healthy food without realising that it was healthy, so I just go through my days trying to repeat what I had when I was younger. I never feel guilty when I eat, I always know what I am eating, and I don't choose unhealthy options.
Ideally, what should we eat after a workout? After a workout, I don't drink protein shakes. That came from the bodybuilding industry and now it's filtered down to the masses. Unless you are working to look a certain way or train a certain way, then you don't need it. Fruit juices and bananas are good after a workout. And then a healthy big dinner like an easy roast of a chicken with some veggies.
Onto your favourite workouts, what do you think is the most effective exercise that anybody can easily incorporate into their everyday lives? Definitely burpees. It works everything — your arms, your legs, your core and your coordination. It’s an all-rounded good exercise but it’s just so hard. An easier alternative would be walking. You can either go fast-paced on a treadmill or you can go slow and watch Netflix at the same time.
Tell us more about Sweat. What’s so special about it? Well, firstly because it is targeted for women. It’s a 28-minute workout, comprising of different options so you can switch up your routines. There's "BBG stronger", where it has a bit of power, it also has post-pregnancy and yoga, which are the main things that women want to do. The fact that it makes your life easy whenever you click on the app or the website, you can easily find your equipment. It has Apple music integration, dietary tips, your progress tracking, it literally has everything. It has what women want. We did all this by listening to the comments. The only reason we made the app was because everyone kept asking for it.
How do you feel about impacting and transforming millions of women out there? I feel amazing. It feels so good. It doesn’t feel real when it is on Instagram, but when you get to go on things like touring, that’s when I actually get to see the girls. I would have never ever got into the position that I am today without Instagram, or without social media. And I have the most supportive community in the entire world.