I first heard about Kayla Itsines and her Bikini Body Guide (BBG) in July 2017. My friend who’d had her second child not long before posted on Facebook that she was starting the workout plan to get back into shape, and I was intrigued.
For the longest time, I felt like I was stuck in my postpartum fitness journey and needed something to get me back into gear—a goal, a plan, a commitment. I read the comments on my friend’s post and saw that several other women had experienced great results with BBG.
But I wasn’t ready to go all in just yet. I did plenty of research first, reading various online reviews and looking at lots of before-and-after photos on Instagram. I longed to have an “after” photo, to look and feel more like my old self again. I was sick of stepping on the scale and seeing that the same extra 10 pounds were still there. I was sick of trying on my pre-baby jeans “just in case” and finding that they weren’t even close to slipping over my thighs, let alone buttoning at the waist. I thought back to the hard things I’ve done in my life, like running five marathons and traveling the world alone for three months, and knew it was time to take on something hard again—and that I could succeed.
I looked through the details of the 12-week plan and felt pretty intimidated. At the time, I couldn’t do a single pushup, let alone all the variations of pushups that the plan calls for in the later weeks.
But the workouts were only 28 minutes long—four blocks of 7-minute efforts. The idea of completing three workouts a week for 12 weeks sounded like a huge effort, but thinking of it as just one 28-minute workout at a time? That felt doable.
I tried the very first workout one evening and thought I was going to die. I think it was the burpees.
But I had no doubt it was an awesome, effective workout. I was sweaty and breathless during, and sore after. I was finally all in.
We went on vacation at the end of July, and then started the plan for real in August, when Evie was 16 months old. Aaron decided to do it with me, which really helped me stay motivated and committed. There were so many times when I wanted to flake on a workout, but didn’t because he was there, ready to go. And I’m sure I coerced him into completing a few of the workouts that he didn’t really want to do, either. We worked out in our home office/gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, just like the plan prescribes, after Evie went to sleep for the night. I think I only missed three workouts out of 36, due to illness.
That’s not to say I did all the exercises perfectly. Some exercises were too hard for me to do at all (like triceps dips with legs up on a chair), so I modified them as needed (regular triceps dips with feet on the floor). I certainly did a lot of pushups on my knees. Better to do modified exercises than not do them at all! “Perfect” is the enemy of “good"—and "good” will still get you results.
You can easily do BBG at a gym if you belong to one, or at home like we did with some basic equipment.
1. Jump rope: I had to buy one, since I hadn’t jumped rope since my school days, but there are so many for $10 or less! This one has great reviews.
3. Weight bench: an essential for any home gym! This one is a reasonable price. You could also just use a sturdy regular bench or ottoman (you’ll be both lying down and stepping up on it for different exercises).
4. Step: I have this one. Evie loves jumping off it, so it doubles as toddler amusement.
5. Medicine ball: I borrowed an 8-pound ball from a friend to complete the first round of BBG, then got this 15-pound ball for Christmas. It’s almost a little TOO heavy! 10-12 pounds seems like a happy medium.
The guide also calls for a second weight bench (who has an extra one lying around, really?) and a Bosu ball, but I just made do without those. I used a sturdy chair instead of the second bench, and just did the moves that called for a Bosu ball… without a Bosu ball. 🙂
Of course, you also need the Bikini Body Guide itself. Kayla Itsines offers the eBook version for about $50 USD, which I think is totally worth it—especially when you compare that price to 12 weeks of classes at a gym, or 36 sessions with a personal trainer. (It’s worth noting that rather than 36 different workouts, BBG is made up of 18 workouts repeated twice: the workouts in week one are repeated in week three, weeks two and four are the same, etc.).
Of course, you don’t get the inherent motivation that a class or personal trainer provides—that has to come from you. I suggest recruiting a friend or partner to commit to the plan with you so you can keep each other motivated.
Kayla also has an app called Sweat that offers a short free trial, then charges $19.99 per month for continued use. If you want access to a lot more workouts, instructional videos, etc., this may be the route for you. I haven’t tried it myself, as the original BBG plan is more than adequate for my needs.
Back to that: BBG also calls for two to five days per week of low-intensity steady-state cardio, like walking, but I ran two to three times per week when I completed the plan last year. Since I’m currently unable to run, I’m now walking.
There’s also a separate 12-week eating plan ($50), but I had no interest in it. I’ve learned over the years that sticking fairly close to a Paleo way of eating works for me in terms of shedding extra pounds and feeling my best, so last year I did that Monday through Friday and was more lenient (but didn’t go nuts) on the weekends. I also tracked all my food using the free My Fitness Pal app, as I needed help adjusting my portion sizes and snacking habits since I was no longer pregnant or nursing. Two years of “eating for two,” plus several years of training for marathons, had gotten me in the habit of eating quite a bit more than a person should if they’re trying to lose a few pounds.
Tracking my food was certainly eye-opening and key to jumpstarting my weight loss after being stagnant for so long. I was not super-restrictive with calories, though, and always made sure to eat if I was hungry—even if that meant going over my allotted calories for the day.
After 12 weeks of BBG workouts and watching what I ate, I lost 7.5 pounds, gained visible muscle tone and finally fit into my pre-baby jeans! Most importantly, I felt so much stronger and like I was in control of my body again. When I looked in the mirror, I recognized myself—not as the exact same person as I was before I had Evie, but as a person who went through many changes to bring a new little person into the world, and then worked her way back to fitness.
Finally, I had my “after” photos, and I shared them with the world via Instagram, even though my “after” certainly wasn’t (and will never be) perfect. But I was proud of my progress, and wanted to share it—and maybe inspire others who were thinking about working on their fitness, too.
A few weeks later, I woke up to a bunch of Instagram notifications and realized Kayla had shared my progress photos on her official account, which had somewhere around 8 million followers at the time. If I was a little nervous to share my photos with a few hundred followers on my account, imagine how I felt when I knew MILLIONS of people would see them! I steeled myself for nasty comments galore. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost all of them were positive, and the only one that wasn’t was just kind of neutral (“I don’t see a difference” or something like that—and someone called that person out, ha!). So, yay for a supportive BBG community!
I was so pumped about my results that I wanted to start BBG all over again, as many people do. Some women I follow on Instagram have done BBG back-to-back for YEARS. But as 2018 rolled around, I realized three days of BBG per week just wasn’t compatible with the amount of running I needed to do to train for the Orcas Island 25K and other races I had on my calendar. For a while, I dropped down to two days of BBG (arms and abs only, to save my legs for running), and then just tried to fit it in whenever I could as I ramped up with marathon training.
Now that I’m sidelined from running, I’m five weeks into another round of BBG and feeling good—definitely getting stronger again! I haven’t been as diligent with healthy eating as I should to see major results, but I’m fine with that since I’m still at a happy weight where I fit comfortably into my clothes. Once things start feeling too tight, then I know I need to pay more attention to my eating. I’ve definitely had to adjust the kinds of things I’m eating and my portion sizes now that I’m not marathon training or running at all. I do miss the food freedom I enjoyed when I just automatically burned everything off thanks to my training schedule! I’m looking forward to that again someday. 🙂
Anyway, I hope this has been helpful if you’ve been thinking about trying BBG! I’m not the greatest at sticking to workout programs, but I think this one is really worthwhile and effective if you give it your best shot.
P.S. I have no affiliation with BBG, but the links to gym equipment are Amazon affiliate links.
Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.