Kayla Itsines is very much the modern-day fitness star. She is a one-woman fitness empire with an app and a website, where you can sign up for her virtual exercise program, as well as books and a range of branded products to her name. The fact that she’s not afraid to share the less-than-glamorous aspects of life has endeared her even more to fans and followers. Indeed, when people began complimenting her hair, she revealed that she wears a clip-in ponytail because her hair is short and thin as a result of the female-pattern baldness that runs in her family. She also often talks openly about suffering from anxiety.
In the flesh, she looks perfect, but I discover just how down to earth and open she is as we chat about the habits that are the key to better health for the new year.
Put yourself first (for a change).
“I train a lot of mums and what I find is women often put themselves right at the bottom of their priority list. Above them come their kids, jobs, husbands, running their home, their parents, and so on. Taking time out to focus on your health and fitness may feel indulgent, but while it’s great to care for others, you should value yourself – and your wellbeing – above everything else. If you regularly run out the door in the morning on an empty stomach (except for a coffee), skip the gym, and don’t eat right, you’re going to become exhausted and no longer able to care for others as well.”
Start small (and be realistic).
“Every January, most of us make this big, vague resolution without any real idea of how we’re going to get there. We say we’re going to get fit, or save money. But how? And what does ‘get fit’ mean? Do you want to lose a little weight, run a marathon, or train for a 5K? Once that’s clear, how are you going to do it? Are you going to join a gym? If so, when are you planning on going? Are you going to start walking more? When? Don’t put it off; women tell me they’ll get fit when their kids are older, or when their job is less busy. But there will never be enough time or a good time, so just work with the time you have. Even ten minutes on the treadmill, or doing one of my workouts, or going for a walk every day helps.
Be realistic and think small tweaks rather than big goals: take a walk when you usually drive, try a new workout, eat a healthier cereal, or go to bed earlier. These are more likely to become second-nature habits. And remember that, if you make the same mistakes, you’ll get the same results. Make new habits and you’ll get new results.”
Write it down.
“I used to bite my nails when I felt stressed and eat a block of chocolate when I had my period, so I started writing that down and then I’d also write down a good alternative. Do the same with your own triggers, which may be eating something sugary when you’re stressed or having wine after a bad day. My own trigger came from my mum; when she had her period, she’d eat chocolate and unwittingly taught me to do the same. But chocolate doesn’t help period pain and the sugar spikes actually make it worse.
Recognize your trigger and stop yourself when you’re searching the cupboards for a snack or pouring yourself wine. Realize that it’s just a plaster for the real problem, like stress, boredom, or tiredness, and solve it another way. It doesn’t have to be a walk either; it can be reading a book, phoning a friend, or getting an early night.”
Sort out your sleep.
“If you go to bed late and wake up tired, you’ll be chasing your tail all day, skipping exercise, and craving all the wrong foods. Forming a better bedtime routine is one of the best things you can do to help your daytime habits stick. Firstly, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Put your phone on the other side of the room so you have to get up and go to it in the morning. Have breakfast at the same time and, if you can, go for a short walk. You may be exhausted and not want to do it for the first week, but by the second it will become a new habit. Before long, you’ll be bouncing out of bed in the mornings.”