Forever ago, back in December, I had the opportunity to meet Australian fitness guru Kayla Itsines at the Dubai Active Show. At the time I was twelve weeks into new motherhood, and Kayla herself was a couple of months ahead of me at seven months postpartum. We chatted all things fitness, with an emphasis on returning to workouts after having a baby or after a long time off.
Kayla Itsines post pregnancy fitness: The Interview
Kayla has released a specific post-pregnancy training programme to help new Mums look after themselves after birth, and the best thing about this is that it can be done in your own home, with each workout lasting less than half an hour.Finally (blame new Mum life – sorry Kayla!) I’m able to publish our chat, which was super refreshing despite my newborn sleep deprived state. It was so reassuring to talk to someone who, despite being super fit prior to and during pregnancy, faced exactly the same struggles as I did when it came to post partum strength and getting back into a routine. Beyond this interview, on a personal level it helped me so much to chat to Kayla, and I hope it helps other women in a similar position. Enjoy!
What does being active mean to you, both in terms of structured workouts and day to day life?
Being active doesn’t mean you have to do a workout. It could be cleaning the house or going to the park with your kids, or walking to the shops instead of driving; you don’t have to necessarily go to a gym to say that you’re active. In terms of structured workouts, I work out three times a week, and that’s scheduled into my calendar, and every other day I walk. In saying that, it’s not a slow walk, it’s a walk at pace.
Since having your daughter Arna, how has your own personal workout routine changed?
It’s like a journey you have to go on, particularly if you were into fitness beforehand. For me, I was a personal trainer and an athlete for nearly my whole life, so I did have to get back into fitness in some way, shape, or form. I started with my post-pregnancy programme. The approach was short workouts that were at my own pace, whether that was me being able to work out for two minutes, eight minutes or fifteen minutes; just short workouts that I had to build up in the comfort of my own home. The last thing you want to do is go to a gym when you’re post pregnancy – you just want to be at home with your baby, particularly in the early days when you’re getting to know one another.From there, I did my beginner programme, which is a low impact, low intensity programme. It took me four or five months to get back into what I’m doing now, such as high intensity bootcamps at seven months postpartum.
How are you feeling now?
I only look back and compare on strength. I don’t look back at my body because I don’t really care about what I used to look like. I do feel back to full strength, and I’m able to do the exercises that I could do prior to my pregnancy, such as box jumps and chin ups. I feel comfortable doing them, whereas in the early days post pregnancy I felt very uncomfortable even looking at those exercises.
You have a huge following on Instagram and are very much in the public eye; did you feel any pressure to ‘snap back’ (I hate that phrase!)?
I’m a trainer and I’m usually the one telling people not to think like that; that it’s important to take your time and look after your body, and to concentrate on your baby. Until you’re in that position yourself, there’s no way to fully understand exactly how it is. Your main responsibility is looking after your baby, and whilst you do also have a responsibility to take care of yourself, you’re not exactly thinking about what you should be looking like.People generally want their old body back because they remember a time when they felt confident, but it’s not actually what you looked like, it’s how you felt. You’re chasing how you used to feel, not how you used to look. If you felt all those feelings with your post-pregnancy body, you wouldn’t care.
How has your appreciation of what your body can do since having Arna?
To be honest, I felt let down by my body post-pregnancy, because I put in so much effort to be strong and to eat so well during my pregnancy. I was really disappointed by how difficult I found exercise after having Arna, and realised that I had to change my mindset and show up everyday. Eventually the feeling of disappointment became a feeling of pride that I was showing up, even though I found everything so hard.
Having a business, being a mum and working out; how on earth do you manage to fit it all in?
Routine, routine and more routine! I think you just start, and as a Mum you get into your own routine and work around your baby. Once your baby is in a routine, it becomes slightly easier and you know that at certain times they’ll be napping, so you have a chance to get things done. You just make it work and eventually it gets easier.
How does it feel to have millions of people, some of whom may be in particularly vulnerable positions, looking to you for guidance?
I think you just feel responsibility. I felt that during my IGTV series ‘Begin Again’, where I talk about what I felt and what happened as I got back into fitness post-pregnancy. You just feel a great responsibility and have to make sure you’re listening to your community and taking note of what they want and need. Although the IGTV series is centred around what happened to me, I still feel like it is helping so many women, and that’s exactly what I want to do.
If somebody was just starting out in fitness, what advice would you give them?
I tell my clients who are just starting out to find a programme that they feel comfortable with – nothing that is faddy, but something that you love and like to show up for. Get support from a friend who can hold you accountable and motivate you. If you have one, use a device to track things such as your steps or water intake. Have a music playlist that motivates you to get out of bed every day, as music can change your mood in just a few seconds. Make sure you’re in an environment that you feel comfortable in, be that a gym or at home. Often, the last thing a beginner wants to do is walk into a gym and feel intimidated.
What’s your favourite thing about the BBG community?
Everything! It’s full of supportive women, and that’s really strong here in the Middle East as well. I think it’s so important that women are able to come together and support each other.
What’s your favourite way to be active both indoors and outdoors?
In the gym, I love my signature 28-minute workouts, and outdoors I love to go for a long walk. Any activity that I can do with Arna in the stroller is what I love doing outdoors.
After a workout, what would be your go-to meal?