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How trainer Kayla Itsines inspired millions to transform their bodies – and lives

by Brooke Sassman /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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Kayla Itsines was a newly certified personal trainer six months into her first job when her boss left and said, "you're in charge". At the time, the 24-year-old fitness guru from Adelaide, Australia just wanted to help people — and with that, shaped her passion into a career.

"There’s nothing more rewarding. I know that sounds really corny but when I was younger, like three, I wanted to mow people’s lawns to make their lawns look nice," Itsines told TODAY.com. "I wanted to be a hairdresser and my mom was like, "why do you want to do that?" and I was like "because I like making people feel good."

That love of making people feel good translated into a business. First at a "women's only" personal training center in Adelaide, later offering mobile sessions and eventually, teaching in her own studio.

After conducting some research and adjusting workouts to match the concerns of her clients, Itsines began building her presence on social platforms. She used Instagram and Twitter to share healthy eating ideas, training tips and the progress of those she's worked with.

But what caught the eye of most followers were the transformation photos— in just 12 weeks, clients were seeing noticeable results. Social media became a way to share that success in a community of like-minded women.

"It’s a fantastic way for girls to come together, be a team and motivate and empower each other," Itsines said.

Her Bikini Body Guides, which are broken down into two, 12-week programs are full of exercises and circuits compatible for any body type.

She recommends working out three days a week, 28 minutes each day. During off days, take a walk or stretch and don't forget to rest at least once a week. Weights are introduced into the second guide, and workouts can be reused by modifying certain exercises. Itsines said clients have used the guides for as many as two years and still continue to see improvements.

The transformation that Itsines has observed in new moms has made the largest impact on her career.

"I know a lot of them feel like they’ve ruined their body and I want to get rid of that. You haven’t ruined your bodies. Your body is new, it’s a new canvas," she told TODAY.com. "Once you’ve had a baby, it’s all new and it’s still beautiful. I want women to be able to work out and feel amazing about their body."

Sometimes having a child makes it harder to find time for the gym, but Itsines is helping moms achieve results right in their own homes. Not having weights isn't a reason to worry, either. She says that a simple substitute, (even a gallon of milk in each hand!) will get the job done.

Speaking of food, don't make any dramatic changes to your daily eating habits.

"Make sure you include carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Don’t cut anything out because you will lose motivation. When you can’t sustain something, you will lose motivation," she said. "We want girls to eat healthy, we want girls to exercise and have a maintainable, sustainable lifestyle."

The visible results are just secondary to how she hopes it'll change the way women perceive body image across the world. Her World Tour Bootcamp, in which she hopes to make a global impact, was entirely sold out in New York City.

"What I’m trying to with this world tour bootcamp is bring confidence, strength and community building. I'm trying to teach women it doesn’t matter what you look like, it matters what you feel like. I’m trying to get rid of that [body image stigma]— that’s the biggest concern with women," she said.

The World Tour Bootcamp has also helped a lot of her fans connect to one another. A little while back, a fan started "The Kayla Movement", which prompted meetups where girls would perform the guides together. "The Kayla Movement" eventually turned into "Kayla's Army", that being just a portion of the 3.1 million Instagram followers she has.

The fame and large following have been exciting, but also a huge adjustment for Kayla.

"To come from such a small town and be able to train so many girls is just incredible. Having more followers on social media than actually live where you live is just— that’s just mind blowing for me."

It's been encouraging for her to watch the numbers grow. The ability to create a community of girls that inspire one another— it's something she never wants to stop because of the bond they've formed.

"People who inspire me are my family, my girls that do the guides, my friends and my dad," Itsines said. "To see all of these women around the world that are like “you inspire me so much” I’m like, “YOU inspire ME”.

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