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The Popular Workout Program That Actually Worked For Me Post-Baby

Those before-and-afters Aussie fitness queen Kayla Itsines posts on Instagram are hard to ignore. It’s so easy to flip past cheesy “Get hard fast” ads in magazines for products like Hydroxycut or whatever latest nonsense a celebrity is peddling, but are there real women—some of them even moms like me—showing what the Bikini Body program did for them? In a relatively-short-but-not-unrealistic amount of time?

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Photograph by Instagram

After reading about her in a winter issue of People, I was curious—especially since I was seven months postpartum and in five months would be going on a beach vacation. What could Bikini Body do for me, a working mom of two who didn’t want to buy into a subscription diet regime or join a new special kind of gym or dedicate more than 30 minutes a day to exercise?

In short, I'm 22 weeks into the program and I’m a believer.

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I don’t know if my body would be selected as portraying the perfect “after,” but I’ve seen and felt the difference, even without going all-in. My main takeaway is that Bikini Body is a solid exercise plan that “real people” can do without getting all sucked into the whole Instagram culture of it all. Here are the bullet points of why it worked for me and could work for you:

  • A Bikini Body circuit is, without rests, 28 minutes long, and there are only about 3 a week (sometimes one more if you're up for the challenge.) While some workouts feel much harder than others, saying "It's only 28 minutes" or "It's only a 7-minute circuit" made it easy for me to stick with it.

  • While I'd say I was in pretty good shape going into the program, the workouts aren't something you need to be an expert in—because the circuits are time-based, you can go as slow as you need (within reason.)

  • Bikini Body doesn't require a ton of equipment or supplemental purchases beyond the guides themselves. I already owned a good variety of weights (you probably only need a 5 lb and 8 lb. set) but I never purchased a step or a Bosu or step or kettlebell. Most of the time I just improvised (used the couch as a step or the coffee table for dips) or made do without (squat jumps on the floor instead of the bench are still better than nothing.)

  • You can do Bikini Body at home, which I did, while watching TV, without even bothering to put my shoes on.

  • This program doesn't require a special diet. You could go all in and get diet tips and recipes from Itsines, but I felt confident in my own diet choices and didn't care to reinvent the wheel.

  • Bikini Body is relatively adaptable—you can shuffle the workouts around as needed. I'm currently doing a partial version of the second guide as my strength training workouts as I train for a half marathon and still find it effective.

  • You can make Bikini Body as personal or as public as you'd like it to be. I did take progress photos on my phone but never had the guts to share them on Instagram or elsewhere, and that's fine. I still like seeing the before and after photos on Itsines' feed but I didn't join any BB communities or follow anybody else on Instagram, but if you like a lot of support, it's there for the taking.

After about six weeks of the plan, I indeed observed a noticeable physical transformation, most especially in my abs, which was to be expected, but in the size and shape of my legs as well, which I thought were pretty much immutable. This was when I felt motivated to improve my diet, because it seemed like a shame to do all that strengthening and toning only to hide it beneath some extra cocktails and tortilla chips. I didn't do anything extreme, just cut down on sugar and weekday drinking and tried to eat more pro-protein, produce and happy/healthy fats.

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I got a lot of feedback from people who noticed the difference in my shape, which was flattering but is always a weird and bittersweet thing to process. But more importantly, I got positive reinforcement from my own body. I feel much more physically capable than I have in a long time, not just to power through a tough exercise class, but to dance and jump around with my preschooler and throw my chubby one-year-old in the air.

In the end, I did put on a bikini for my beach vacation, but I plan on keeping the program up through the summer and beyond. As any parent knows, looks are one thing but physical strength, endurance and health are way more important.

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