With 9.6 million followers on Instagram, Kayla Itsines is undisputedly the world's most influential fitness trainer. Together with her fiancé Tobi Pearce, she started a 28-minute workout programme called Bikini Body Guide (BBG) which has since expanded into BBG 2.0, and two gym-based programmes BBG Stronger and BBG Stronger 2.0 in her Sweat app.
Kayla is set to headline the 2018 edition of FitnessFest on May 19 – so we catch her for a quick chat on finding the time and motivation to work out, her breakfast routine and, err, forming a photo line in the toilet.
Hey Kayla, it’s your first time in Singapore. Where have you been the past 2 days?
I have no idea. [laughs] I just got taken to malls and different places – it’s all so beautiful.
I think we can all agree that Bikini Body Guide (BBG) is wildly popular. When you first started it, did you expect it to explode the way it has?
So this is what people don’t understand – I didn’t just start with Instagram. I was a personal trainer first, in 2009, and I only started my Instagram account to store my client transformation photos. Because my little cousin told me to do it. So I started putting these photos of my clients, photos and videos of myself – and I had no idea how Instagram worked. My little cousin was like, “You better reply to those people in your account, it’s rude to not reply!”
I’m not going to say we got lucky or that it suddenly boomed. We, meaning Tobi and I, worked really hard to create the BBG programme and the Sweat app. In the past four years, we’ve worked really hard to bring something really special for women.
What sets the 28-minute BBG programme apart from all other fitness plans out there?
The community. We have the largest female fitness community in the world. And even though my Instagram page is call @kayla_itsines, I don’t make it all about me and my lifestyle. It’s about different food, different places in the worlds, different bodies and client transformation photos. On that last point, 10 years ago, we didn’t tend to see women succeed but now we do. It’s a nice shift.
You’re obviously a busy woman. How do you find the time and motivation to stay fit? Do you do your BBG programme?
Yes, I do my own programme. I know I look like it but I’m not one of those people who wake up and go “Yay, I’m going to the gym today!”. I want to go to the gym, know what I’m doing, do it and get out – which is why we designed Sweat app the way it is. When you open the app, it shows you a video of me doing the exercises, the equipment needed and the music. You just click start and go. Once the 28 minutes is up and the siren goes, I stretch and I leave. Done. It’s only just 3 or 4 times a week.
Okay, but what do you do when you reaaally have no motivation to work out?
Sometimes I walk on the treadmill while watching Netflix. On days that I really have no motivation, I set it to 4km/hr – which you know is a really slow walk but I don’t care – and walk for 30 minutes. But it’s better than nothing. When you get off, you still feel your legs. But at least you’ve done something.
So tell us a little bit about your personal life, Tobi is your fiancé and co-founder of Sweat – how does that work?
I don’t know if you’ve ever worked with your partner but it’s good. He has my best interests. Tobi will never turn around and be like “You’re fired.” He can’t quite fire me, can he? [laughs]
Ok so tell us, what’s your breakfast routine? What do you eat?
Well, what you should be eating and what I eat is different. Everyone’s different, that’s why I said that. There are 2 things that I like to eat in the morning. First, it’s 2 pieces of toast drizzled with olive oil, slices of tomatoes, anchovies and basil. Another breakfast that I like is 2 eggs, scrambled and well done because I don’t like uncooked eggs, on 2 pieces of toast with chilli kale and avocado.
Here’s some Singaporean breakfast dishes – roti prata, chwee kueh and kaya toast. Thoughts?
On roti prata: This is nice. Did you say some people eat it with sugar?
On chwee kueh: I love this! [takes another bite]
On kaya toast: I’ve heard it’s filled with butter, is that right? This tastes like cake to me! Not my favourite, unfortunately.
Last question, how excited are you for FitnessFest tomorrow?
I’m so excited for tomorrow! Firstly, because I’ve never been to Singapore. Also because people have literally stopped me in the streets and were the nicest people ever. So yesterday I went to a bathroom in a shopping centre, bumped into some BBG girls who wanted a photo and got a little line going [laughs]. That was so cute. I’m from Adelaide and that never happens back home.
Join in Kayla Itsines' bootcamp at FitnessFest 2018, happening at Marina Bay Sands on May 19 from 9am to 9pm.