She laughs about it now, but it rattled the usually hyper-fit, energetic personal trainer. After years of saying ‘hell, yes!’, her body simply said ‘yeah, nah’. And it wasn’t the first time Kayla’s athletic body had surprised her since falling pregnant with Arna, who’s now an adorably chubby-cheeked seven-month-old. Pregnancy had been a wild ride of morning sickness, headaches and extreme lethargy. Recovery from the caesarean – a major surgery – required bed rest. And now she was back to square one in the gym, too.
“It was a real confidence shock,” Kayla admits. “Being a trainer for 10 years and then you walk into the gym and you feel like a complete beginner because you’ve never given birth before and you’ve never had this type of surgery before… you’re apprehensive and you just don’t know! It’s the unknown.”
We’re only 12 minutes into our phone call when Kayla shares this story, making me feel like I’m catching up with a mate, not the Kayla Itsines, creator of the viral BBG ebooks, multimillionaire co-founder (with fiancé Tobi Pearce) of fitness app Sweat and arguably the world’s most influential PT. She talks rapid-fire fast and I get the impression that ‘Kayla time’ is similar to ‘Beyoncé time’ – that is, she’s the kind of efficient high achiever who manages to squeeze more out of 24 hours than the rest of us. But, having a baby has forced her to take her sneaker off the pedal. After that anti-climactic treadmill workout, she committed to taking her fitness reboot slow and steady, working with a physio to ensure she eased back in safely.
“I was willing to wait and that was probably my superpower,” Kayla says, “because I was able to recover really, really well and heal really well”.
It shows – or rather, it doesn’t. A couple of weeks before I call her in Adelaide, Kayla had raced to Sydney for our photoshoot, her first since having Arna (and her first heart-wrenching trip away from bub). “She didn’t even know I was gone,” Kayla groans. Posing on a windswept beach, the 28-year-old looks her regular strong, toned self – if you didn’t know she’d recently been pregnant, you’d never guess.
Cue outrage: when Kayla posted one of her signature mirror selfies in a crop top and bike shorts on Instagram a couple of months after giving birth, the backlash was swift.
“These kind of pictures are exactly the kind that makes women hate their bodies,” one commenter sniped. Yes, that’s right, Kayla was shamed for bouncing back too quickly – ironic, given her slow approach.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” she says diplomatically, then laughs. “I loved [how] the articles that came out after that were like, ‘You’ve got to remember, Kayla’s a trainer and, you know, this is her job.’ What you start with is a bit of muscle memory, which is my job, because this is my life and my body.”
But like so many posts on Instagram, that one selfie didn’t tell the whole story, she explains.
“I was back into training after six weeks and there was a journey. I'd put on 14, 15 kilos, so it wasn’t like I put on nothing!” she adds, a little exasperated. “I put on the weight and I am working hard... I have worked really hard.”
Read our full chat with Kayla – including how motherhood has changed her for the better – in the December issue of Women's Health, on sale now. You can find out more about Sweat here or head to www.kaylaitsines.com.