For those of you who may not know, Kayla Itsines is an Australian trainer who designed the Bikini Body Guide, a 12-week workout program that incorporates resistance training workouts and cardio (both low intensity steady state, LISS, and high intensity interval training, HIIT). The workouts are known to be challenging, sweat-inducing, and just 28 minutes long. The Instagram community has grown exponentially in this past year, the app version of the guides has recently launched, and BBG girls in different cities and countries have started meeting up for workouts and brunches. It’s truly amazing what Kayla Itsines has created, and many girls who have done (or currently do) BBG agree that completing the guide has entirely changed their lives.
I finished about six months of BBG, and while I’m not doing Kayla’s program at this time, I wholeheartedly believe in the spirit of #thekaylamovement and everything that these workouts do to inspire, motivate, and unite women across the world.
I’ve gotten a bunch of questions about BBG and what I think of it, so I decided to detail my experience for you here.
Part I: HANNAH MEETS KAYLA
I initially heard about Kayla’s guides during my freshman winter at college. A close friend of mine was raving about them, and at first, I was skeptical. I didn’t believe that 28 minutes was enough time to get quality exercise in, or that the workouts would be challenging. I knew that I liked fitness, though, so I chose to give it a try. The big question I had for myself then became: would I actually be able to complete a workout guide that lasted 3 whole months?
Part II: #DEATHBYKAYLA
After Week 1 legs, I could NOT walk like a normal human being for at least five days. Nope. No way. The structure of BBG is that there are three resistance workouts each week, and they are to be done on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; LISS, such as power walking or the elliptical trainer, are recommended for the off days.
With my school schedule, I realized that it made more sense for me to do resistance on a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday rotation. Each day, I’d finish classes, take my makeup off, change into gym clothes, and head next door to the YMCA and get my workout in.
And OH MY goodness.
All of Kayla’s workouts left me out of breath, super sweaty, and always sore. They were physically hard, but even more so, mentally difficult (28 minutes has never felt so long!). Here are a few of the exercises that you’ll have to learn to love if you decide to try BBG: burpees, commandos, jump lunges, jump squats, squat clean & press, pushups, tricep dips, and straight-leg jack knives.
At times, I did feel like giving up, but I always told myself: “No — you’ve made it this far. You can keep going!”
Part III: 12 WEEKS IN THE BAG…AND THEN 12 MORE!
Some how, due to sheer will and a genuine appreciation for the efficiency & effectiveness of these workouts, I finished 12 weeks of BBG. Whew! I remember feeling like such a rock star after finishing that last burpee and hearing the timer go off.
When I got home for the summer, I decided to restart BBG from the beginning, and the workouts were not any easier. This, though, I liked — I wanted to be challenged, and BBG was the best way I knew how to add a crazy good workout into my day. I also really loved doing the guide in the summertime; with a picnic table bench to act as a step, a beach towel, and two dumbbells, I was able to do all of the workouts at home in the backyard.
Part V: TRANSFORMATION?
By now, I am sure that you’ve seen at least one jaw-dropping “before and after” photo on Instagram of a girl who did BBG for 12 (or more) weeks. The pictures are everywhere, and for some people, those images and transformation stories are what inspire them to give BBG a chance.
If you are up for a challenge and you have a positive attitude, then I 100% support you in trying out BBG. However, I don’t want you to go for it only because of the “transformation” photos that are plastered across social media. All of us eat different foods and have our own unique metabolisms; each one of us probably does the same BBG workouts a little differently. So of course, our bodies are going to change in different ways when doing this workout guide; because of this, we should not base our individual, personal fitness journeys on what we see others posting.
Furthermore, doing BBG is so, so much more than “before and after” photos — these 12 weeks are not meant to be consumed with comparisons and critiques of our own bodies. If you are in this for the physical changes, that is completely understandable, but trust me when I say that there are far more rewarding shifts that can happen when doing BBG.
This program is challenging, but it has allowed me to gain so much mental & emotional toughness, physical strength, and confidence with working out and being at the gym. Thanks to BBG, I’ve now done more burpees and commandos than I ever thought I would be able to, and I have learned to value exercise and make it a part of my daily routine.
Additionally, many of you may have read my post where I detail the lonely, confusing experience I had as a freshman at Northeastern, and I do believe that BBG helped me get through that. Having the consistency and the goal of completing the guide was always there; it kept me going, and it allowed me to work towards personal development.
So did I have a crazy “bikini” transformation after 12 weeks of doing this workout guide?
Nope, and I’m completely alright with that (for the girls that do — that’s awesome! Good for you!!). But, post-BBG, can I now do 30 pushups, 36 commandos, 15 burpees, and 10.0 miles per hour sprints? And actually enjoy doing those things? You bet I can. And these are the proud achievements that I cannot capture in a before/after picture.
Part VI: AFTER KAYLA
After completing 24 weeks of the guides, I wanted to branch out and try other types of workouts. BBG has absolutely fueled my interest in exercise, and I did not want my fitness journey to start at week 0 and simply end at week 12.
Right now, most of my gym sessions consist of lifting weights, power walking, and the Stairmaster, and I’m happy with where I’m at. Maybe I’ll go back to BBG in a few months, maybe I won’t. By then, there will possibly be a new workout guide out that I’ll want to try.
Or, maybe I’ll take a break from the gym scene and do yoga and Pilates all summer. It’s all uncharted, and I’m very okay with that — I encourage you to be, too! Your wellness journey is entirely dependent on what you and your body need at different points in time.
This is your path — no one else’s.
It’s going to be unique and filled with constant growth, and if doing BBG for 52 weeks is going to work for you and make you happy, then by all means, do that!! The pursuit of fitness is a personal path, and I encourage you to find what makes you joyful and excited. And then go eat some food. Because food.