Fitness star Kayla Itsines on training celebrities, #KaylasArmy and why she loves white sneakers

By Ally Dean

Motivation is everything when it comes to working out - which helps account for the runaway success of exercise guru Kayla Itsines, also known as Instagram's foremost fitness authority. Based in Adelaide, the 24-year-old Australian is the creator of the high-intensity training system Bikini Body Guide (BBG), which has amassed a loyal, cult-like following.

"It's so surreal. I never wanted to be famous or anything," Kayla tells Hello! I just decided to do what I love, be true to who I am, and am grateful people took notice."

TAP FOR FULL GALLERY Kayla has amassed a following in the millions. Photo: © Nick Clayton

Though success has come swiftly, it seems Kayla has been training for this job her entire life. "Living in Australia, I grew up with fitness and was encouraged to be active and play outdoors," she says, sharing memories of her original fitness idol, her dad. "Whenever we wanted to do anything fun - like go to the beach or shopping with mom - Dad would have [me and my sister] do some activity like 40 sit-ups or 100 jumping jacks. He always made it fun but he taught us to always have fitness in our daily routine."

Now at the helm of her own empire - Kayla boasts 5 million followers on Instagram (@kayla_itsines), has an eponymous line of fitness gear and recently launched an app, Sweat with Kayla - she dishes on her fitness philosophy and what life's really like behind her curated social media feed.

If someone had never heard of the Bikini Body Guide, how would you describe the workout program? The training focuses on daily 28-minute, high-intensity workouts paired with a healthy diet. It's not about crazy, punishing diets or exercising for hours a day. I want to reach women from all over the world, who have a shared goal of being fit, healthy and strong. Now BBG has grown and really become a community of women - it's so much bigger than me.

That community has grown to include celebrities. Yeah! I've been lucky to train celebrities like Candace (Cameron Bure) and Allison (Williams). I think what's really cool is they're so down to earth. Everyone I work with is really balanced. I want to train and work with real women to make them feel good - and I do! Candace had a ball, she was laughing the whole time.

You also completed a world tour, with thousands of fans (known as #KaylasArmy) from around the globe coming to work out with you. How has fame affected you? It's still really weird when people recognize me on the street, but I try to be genuine and speak to them normally - I don't think of myself as a celebrity. My family, and boyfriend Tobi [Pearce], are a really grounding force. I'm super close to my family; I see them every day, which is why I won't ever permanently move away from Adelaide. My grandparents are Greek and don't speak English - they still have no idea what I do! The first time I was in the news, they thought I was in trouble. [Laughs]

Your boyfriend Tobi is CEO of your company. How do you manage working together? We actually met at the gym and have been dating for three years; we've really been on this journey together. We work together, live together, travel together - we basically do everything together, and our relationship has evolved as the business has grown. We are both so passionate about what we are doing, it's not like we have to switch off or leave work at the office. We genuinely live and love this lifestyle.

And do you two work out together? Absolutely not! [Laughs] It's not about being competitive - even though everyone we meet wants to arm-wrestle Tobi. I developed my program to train women. We work out differently, and a lot of times men and women have different fitness goals.

Throwback to 2015 World Tour. I can't wait until I get to do this again!  www.kaylaitsines.com/app

A photo posted by Kayla Itsines (@kayla_itsines) on

So, what does a typical workout look like for you? I follow my own guides! Tobi and I developed the new app so you can customize your workouts and you're able to choose what type of resistance training you want. So you can focus on arms, abs, legs - and really tailor the training to your specific goals and progress.

And what about your workout wardrobe? I'm not precious, but I'm so tragic with fashion. Right now I'm wearing black shorts with white stripes and a grey jumper with pink stripes - but I've got really clean, white shoes on so I feel like it balances everything out. As long as I'm wearing clean white shoes, I feel like I'm in control.

What's one thing you need when working out? I always keep my hair away from my face. My hair is really thin and I kept having to adjust my ponytail mid-workout. So, now I braid my hair, but my sister Leah has to do it for me because I can't braid.

How does nutrition factor into your fitness philosophy? I hate giving people diet advice because what I like or eat may not be the best for someone else. I eat a lot of lean protein, like seafood, good fats and carbs. For example, last night I had salmon, rice asparagus and a massive side of Greek salad. I don't believe in eliminating anything from your diet, but I do avoid processed fast food.

Thousands of fans attend a group class during Kayla's world tour. Photo: © Jay McAlister

Is there a universal piece of advice you can share? Don't measure progress against someone else - focus on yourself, how you feel and how your body works. Personal progress is the best form of motivation and, ultimately, you're training to be the best version of yourself.

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