Disclaimer: This post is a genuine and honest opinion. I know it might offend any of Kayla’s army that read this. Please don’t throw your foam rollers at me, I only wanted to give my true thoughts. I’m all for sisters doing it for themselves, but this version just isn’t for me.
Ever since September of last year, I’ve been on a fitness hype. I’ve done it in the past, but it’s never lasted this long. Perhaps because this year, I have a goal: I’m doing a half marathon in Amsterdam in October. Worse, is that I actually do have to do it because I’ve told everyone and been quite smug about it. Nevertheless, I’m very excited about this revolution in my life. I sleep better, I look better and walking feels better. Things are starting to stop jiggling. I feel strong and if I need to run for the bus – no problem, cya later (although this isn’t entirely true because I’d need a sports bra.) So, I’ve now been following fitness Instagrams and blogs, not really to copy them verbatim but more out of having a new interest, a new intrigue about what really is the best way to squat. When I was working for a magazine I went to a press event, run by a personal trainer who put us through his paces. Five minutes of frog squatting later (ahhh – so that’s it) I was wishing I’d done an internship at…well, the beach. Or somewhere where you lie down all day. (Is there a job like that?)
But it didn’t put me off. Because somewhere, in between that session and last week, I went COMPLETELY MAD and signed up for a Kayla Itsines Bootcamp. If you don’t know who she is, then you’ve been living under…somewhere having a nice, normal life probably. For she has abs that make you want to crawl under your duvet and never come out. Or, head straight down to the gym, which is probably the reaction she’s hoping for. She’s 22 (excuse me whilst I throw up and reconsider my life choices), ripped from head to toe and has taken over Instagram in no time at all – seriously, she has 3.1 million followers. Every day, girls from all over the world are following her Bikini Body Guide, hashtagging themselves senseless with #BBG #SweatWithKayla #TheKaylaMovement. She is practically the fitness version of Kim Kardashian. The entire phenomenon has brought about an internal dilemma within me that I’ve been struggling with for a while now: is fitness just a trend? I know it’s always existed, but now more than ever, it’s cool to be hot.
And it’s exactly this that made me sign up; I didn’t just want to get abs. I wanted to get them from her, to see her in real life and the frenzy that she whips up – the event sold out in 39 minutes. It did not disappoint. Kensington Olympia was stuffed with girls, some with abs in little crop tops, some in lycra and others in full body suits. Although the atmosphere was electric, filled with buzz about what was about to happen as we all took our place on our various mats/towels, I couldn’t help but feel intimidated. Competitive. Even bitchy, as I eyed up the women around me with scrutiny. Don’t get me wrong, it did also inspire me. Motivate me. But if I’m brutally honest, those weren’t my initial feelings. But perhaps that says more about me than anyone else.
We were all riled up by her personal trainer boyfriend, saying that Kayla had just texted him to ask us “who runs the world?”, with about as much enthusiasm as an air hostess asking Kate Moss if she wants another drink. Plus, the only man in the room was sat beside me and looked very confused. When Kayla eventually came out (forty minutes late) she lived up to her photos. She looked better in real life. Except when you looked close, she was wearing false eyelashes and layers of make-up, which I don’t recommend doing whilst working out. This was the first hint that she wasn’t here to “get your sweat on!”; she was here to perform.
The actual workout was 45 minutes long and don’t get me wrong, it was hard. There’s a reason she looks like her and I look like me. Throughout we were asked to “do it for your team!” meaning the bunch of strangers around the room, but you could tell every girl was thinking “urr…no, I’m doing it for my two week trip to Spain next month”. The whole point of her brand is that it’s meant to make us feel like a group, a supportive team of girls who want to help each other up. But the truth is, it didn’t make me want to help someone else up. Because I could barely get myself off the floor.
After it finished, she huddled us all together to the stage to take pictures: the first selfie with my new cult. Then, they threw out free merch. This, is where I found myself floating up out of my body and becoming The Worst Person Alive. I ditched my friend, threw myself into the crowd and jumped up and down trying to grab a free water bottle. When one did come my way, I reached up…and SNATCHED IT OUT OF SOMEONE’S HAND. I’m going straight to Hell. I didn’t even recognise this person I suddenly became; I was victim to the atmosphere. I probably would’ve trampled someone for one. As I rushed over to my friend with glee, she gave me a look that said “…what happened to you in there?” But then I watched her go through the same transformation. She also got one and we walked away slightly scathed, but chuffed. We were all fawning over our leader, waiting to receive praise, the next rule to follow and over the moon if we could just get a glimpse of her tanned, Australian skin. What had just happened?
Meanwhile, the savvier girls had formed a queue all the way round Olympia hall, to get a photo with Kayla. If you used the hashtag, you had the chance of winning a free Kayla watch. Throughout the workout, if you worked “really hard!” then you might be picked to get a free foam roller, or towel. From start to finish, it was endless marketing.
They say that exercise is addictive – but what were we really addicted to? I left with an uncomfortable feeling, not knowing whether what I’d just seen was really great or actually quite sad…but if her product makes the world healthier, happier – does it even matter? The increase in consciousness about what we put into our bodies, as well as making ourselves move more, is unarguably a positive step forward. Whatever you think of her, she’s 22 and has a global, thriving business making girls stronger and fitter which I really respect her for. But the rise of ‘social media stars’ meant her girl power message was lost on me at her London boot camp. I love social media as much as the next sister, but I can’t deny that the session made me feel strange about our online existence and our need to gravitate towards those who dominate it.
I’m aware this post seems conflicting – precisely because I can see both sides of the gym towel when it comes to online fitness trends. I did do exercise on a Saturday and get a free water bottle, but I just know how the session made me feel. It seems that Kayla does actually run the world – but despite all my training, I just don’t think I can keep up with her.
Image courtesy of fit friend Liz Sheldon