Kayla Itsines Shares What Inspired Her to Launch a Post-Pregnancy Workout Program
The program is now available on the SWEAT app.
This exciting new venture has been a long time coming for the Bikini Body Guides (BBG) creator, who spoke with Shape exclusively about why she decided to launch the program now, seven months after giving birth to her first child, daughter Arna.
"I've trained a lot of women postpartum, but I felt that in order to be authentic and honest, I had to go through pregnancy and the aftermath myself to provide the right information and insight to other moms who are beginning again," says Itsines. (Related: Kayla Itsines Shares Her Go-to Pregnancy-Safe Workout)
The 12-week program, backed by a panel of obstetricians and exercise physiologists, is inspired by Itsines' own experience with pregnancy and motherhood, the trainer shares. "Having a C-section for me was hard," she says—and she's not alone. Pregnancy is hard on your body—period—but undergoing a C-section can be an especially intense experience. It requires cutting or moving the fascia and separating your abdominal muscles in order to get to the uterus (and ultimately the baby), Emily Prouse, M.D., of Metropolitan OBGYN, previously told us. When you injure these muscles, it decreases not only their strength but also their range of motion, explained Dr. Prouse. (Related: 7 Moms Share What It's Really Like to Have a C-Section)
Needless to say, once Itsines was cleared to work out post-C section, she says it felt like starting from square one.
Itsines' doctor gave her the green light to go back to the gym around 6-7 weeks postpartum (though the timing can be different for every woman). She says she remembers going in with what she thought were reasonable expectations. "I thought at the very least I'd do a brisk walk and a few bodyweight exercises for about 30 minutes," she explains.
But things didn't quite go as planned. "I vividly remember starting the treadmill and putting it to the pace of a fast walk," Itsines shares. "I realized very quickly that it was too much."
Itsines says she remembers slowing down to about 2 miles per hour and continuing her cardio from there. "My goal at that point was to just put one foot in front of the other," she admits.
That first day, Itsines stopped and called it quits after about 13 minutes of walking, she recalls. It was then she says she knew she had a long journey ahead. (Related: Kayla Itsines Shared Her First Postpartum Recovery Photo with a Powerful Message)
"I remember going back home and having a small cry," she explains. "I'd seen myself as a personal trainer and an athlete for 10 years, and now, simply putting one foot in front of the other on a treadmill was hard."
Itsines then began working closely with her physical therapists and health-care professionals to create an exercise program that worked best for her postpartum. "I had to learn how to modify exercises to suit my body," she explains. "I couldn't do anything like sit-ups or anything ab-related. It was all about building foundational and functional strength." (Related: 9 Things You Should Know About Postpartum Exercise and Probably Don't)
Itsines says her postpartum journey helped her realized that new moms everywhere could benefit from a workout program that not only helps them return to light activity and regain their strength, but that also accounts for the changes their bodies have endured as a result of pregnancy. "'Post-Pregnancy' is very specific to the postpartum mom who needs to rebuild good posture, core stability, and strengthen parts of the body that might have been weakened by pregnancy," explains the trainer.
Her new program offers two main workouts (one that targets the lower body and core, and another that targets the upper body and core), which gradually become more challenging over the course of the 12-week program. Unlike other BBG workouts (which are usually high-intensity and last 28 minutes each), these exercises aren't timed, and overall, they're much less intense, says Itsines. "Most of the workouts are built to last 15-25 minutes so that you can go at your own pace," she adds.
You can also choose from three optional workouts designed specifically to build strength on a granular level, whether that's improving upper-body posture, hip strength, or even providing lower-back relief—all of which Itsines struggled with during her own postpartum journey. These short circuits will take between 5-8 minutes each to complete, says Itsines. (Related: How Soon Can You Start Exercising After Giving Birth?)
Rest assured, Itsines created and tried every single workout from the program to ensure they're safe and effective for new moms. "The goal of this program is to be able to gain your strength in the comfort of your home," she says. "I don't feel like a lot of women, especially me, want to venture out into a gym when you have a new baby. So being able to do these exercises wherever you're comfortable is super helpful."
Above all, Itsines says her hope is that the workout program will help new moms build confidence. "Based on my own journey, after you've had a baby, you've got a lot going on and are constantly worried," she explains. "Being able to do something to take care of yourself is important." (Did you know that science says having a baby can tank your self-esteem for three years?)
And for any new moms who are still struggling to find their postpartum fitness groove, Itsines says, "just start. You feel better for it. Seeing yourself grow week by week gives you so much confidence—at least, that's what happened for me."
Of course, everyone's postpartum journey is different, Itsines points out. Regardless of what that journey might look like, though, what's most important is being gentle with yourself and listening to your body, says the trainer.
"For me, it's been a very gradual journey, and it's taken time to build up my strength and self-esteem," she shares. "It's been a tough road getting back to where I am but at the end of the day, I just really want to help women and I hope this program allows me to do that even more."