Kayla Itsines is the most influential fitness star in the world.
Her “Bikini Body Guides” (BBG) and BBG Stronger programs — made even more popular with the new SWEAT app, created by her partner Tobi Pearce — have resulted in over seven million Instagram followers, a best-selling book, and a community of committed fit-fanatics following her regime.
And she’s only 26.
Business Insider met Itsines, who’s Australian, on her most recent visit to London.
We learned how she and Pearce built her world-famous fitness empire — and what an average day looks like for the global health symbol.
Scroll down to see a day in the life of Kayla Itsines.
Spoiler — there’s a lot of 5 a.m. starts.
This is 26-year-old Australian Kayla Itsines, the most influential fitness star in the world.
In April, she came out on top of Forbes’ list of the world’s top social media influencers in the fitness world.
She was born in Adelaide, where she still lives. She told Business Insider that as soon as she could hold a ball, she started playing basketball. “I played all through school and ended up finishing and becoming a basketball coach,” she said.
“I did go to uni and I started teaching, and at the same time I thought personal training would be good to study as well,” she said. So, she became a personal trainer. “I said to my parents, ‘I might take a year off because I just love personal training. I’ll go back to uni, I promise.’ But I didn’t go back. It was the ultimate job.'”
As she trained clients — working what she called “insane hours” — she would upload their progress photos on Instagram. “I was just using the platform as a way to store my client transformations,” she said. “Women started following from there.”
Women across the country were asking Itsines to train them, so her partner and business partner, Tobi Pearce, suggested she create e-books for them. She released 28-day diet and fitness plans for paying customers, followed by an app called Sweat with Kayla.
Her concept 28-minute workouts, and a flexible yet healthy diet. “Because it was 28 minutes it picked up quite quickly,” she said. “People were like ‘Oh wow, I don’t have to work out for hours and hours.'”
She calls her plan the “Bikini Body Guides,” a name inspired by a client who told Itsines she “wanted to feel confident in a bikini.” However, the community created the #BBG hash tag on their own. “As the girls purchased the program they started the hashtag BBG,” she said. “I thought, ‘That’s kind of cool.'”
“Bikini Body Guides is about the mindset around what bikini body means,” she added. “It isn’t this sort of body, it’s about confidence behind it. That’s how the program really took off and women loved it because it was about them getting stronger internally then externally.”
“You won’t find any professional photos of me in a bikini because it wasn’t about that.”
Now, Itsines has a more than seven-million-strong Instagram following — and she and Pearce are at the helm of one of the most dedicated fitness communities in the world.
She has filled stadiums on global tours…
…And in 2016, she published a best-selling book.
She’s graced the odd magazine cover, too.
Most days, Itsines is up at 6 a.m. If she has a client first thing — which she often still does — it’s even earlier. “I’ll go to the gym and set up the circuit,” she said. “I like everything to be perfect and sanitised and clean and the floors mopped for them, so I’ll go in an hour before and make sure everything’s good and the music’s on, so when they walk in there’s a bit of a vibe.”
“I like getting up early. And going to bed early. I’m like a grandma,” she said. “I feel like if I get up too late, for example if I get up at 10 a.m. (if I’m very sick or something, for what [other] reason I would get up at 10?), it’s lunchtime in two hours. That would throw off my whole body clock because I want to have breakfast.”
She has something small to eat before training her morning client, but as a “creature of habit” she has the same breakfast afterwards, usually at a cafe — two pieces of bread, two or three scrambled eggs, chilli kale, and a green tea — followed by Turkish coffee.
All the while she’s saving transformations from Instagram that she wants to post on her page. She then heads to the office to do a bit of content creation, or goes to the “warehouse,” the gym where the team create photos and videos.
Lunch is often sushi.
She usually works out in the afternoon, once she’s eaten two or three times, “just because I feel like I’ve got a little more energy,” she said. However, she said it’s different for everyone. “There’s no perfect time to work out. Especially with mums, I always say whenever you can fit it in, fit it in. There’s no better time.”
Her favourite workout is anything involving weights. “I love doing plow exercises — jump training mixed in with weight exercises,” she said. “So for example I’d do a lat pulldown then go do some broad jump burpees, or a seated row then some jump squats.”
After she’s done working, she’ll see her family, including her parents and her sister, Leah. Leah is a health food blogger with more than 370,000 followers of her own.
She’ll walk her dog, Junior…
…then spend time with Toni and cook them dinner. “That’s a normal day,” she said.
Dinner is something like pasta, a roast dinner, or a home-made pizza, all of which she cooks at home. “I grew up in a Greek family, so there was always a home-cooked meal whenever we could,” she said. “I’m just used to having things that fuel my body and eat whatever I feel like. It’s not about counting calories, because what a way to live.”
“I love all food. I would never avoid anything, [other than] things that make me feel sick — like extreme amounts of milk, because I was lactose intolerant as a child. I don’t know if you really ever grow out of that. I’m still lactose sensitive.”
“Obviously [avoid] things that are super deep-fried and aren’t healthy for you, but if you’re having them as a dessert as a once-off, you’ve just got to live life. That’s what I’m trying to teach women. Everyone’s like ‘What’s the quickest way? What’s the one thing we should avoid?’ There’s not one anything. You’re living life. You should be out living life.”
The one thing she doesn’t have is alcohol. She recently spoke out about how she hasn’t had a drink in six years because she “never really liked the taste, the way it made me feel, or any of the experiences I had associated with it.”
As far as the one food she couldn’t live without? “My grandma’s food,” she said. “God forbid anything happens to that woman because I can’t live without any of her food. It sounds gross, but she makes this thing called fish soup, like minestrone soup but it has fish in it, and it’s so beautiful. She just makes all the traditional Greek food and it’s the best thing ever. I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Here’s her family’s Christmas meal.
Before bed, she takes a shower and takes time to stretch. “Because of my training and my day, and my schedules flying in and out, I find that if my body is tight I’m constantly uncomfortable,” she said. “At night when you’re tossing and turning and you can’t get comfortable, it’s because your body’s tight. If you just take a second, step out of bed, do a few stretches, you’ll feel so much better.”
Bedtime is 9.30 p.m. sharp. “I get so angry at Tobi if he gets home from the gym heaps late and starts making noise,” Itsines joked. “I’m like, ‘You need to go to sleep right now.'”
This is all when Itsines isn’t travelling, of course, and she’s on the go often. She visited Business Insider while she was in London.
Despite her crazy schedule, her relationship with Tobi seems to work well. “Both Tobi and I love the gym, we both go — I go at 2 p.m., he goes at 7 p.m., I have dinner ready at 6 p.m.. We’re very organised. We’re really understanding — Tobi works crazy hours, I work crazy hours. [At the moment] I’ve been away for two weeks. We’re really understanding of that.”
Tobi is a driving force behind the business. As CEO of The Bikini Body Training Company and CEO and founder of SWEAT — a newly-launched app which features Itsines, and her programs, among other trainers — he has helped her work on her brand and guides every step of the way.
SWEAT expands the type of workouts women can do to include the likes of yoga, weights, and post-pregnancy exercise. “Women love changing it up,” Itsines said. “With the launch of SWEAT there’s BBG — which you can do any time, anywhere — and there’s BBG Stronger, which you can do in the gym.”
Itsines credits her success to a number of things — one being the fact that she “set hard limits” before setting out, one being “not sexualise myself to sell a product, or to sell a program, or to sell anything.”
She added that a focus on community is what makes BBG stand out. “We were one of the first people to have that big huge community aspect,” she said.
“We made the product not about one particular person, being me — what that person eats, what that person wears, where that person lives — which is what a lot of people find bloggers do. [That’s fantastic], their lives are incredible…but we didn’t do that. We made it about the success of women and showcasing their journeys.”
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