Kayla Itsines review: Kelsey Wells SELF program for post-pregnancy women

During the course of my pregnancy I gained 35kg, adding the equivalent of nearly 50% of my body weight at the time. Part of this was due to the fact that I suddenly wasn’t able to eat salad or veggies – as soon as I fell pregnant they made me feel sick. The main reason, however, was due to my emotional eating while I tried to cope with the stress of work and wrapping my head around how much my life was about to change.

I never enjoyed the extra weight, and it took a huge toll on my self confidence.

Once our baby, Luca, was born and I hit 6 weeks post partum, I wanted to focus on losing the excess weight. I didn’t want to jump to any extreme dieting – I just wanted to eat well and start to ease back into exercise again. I really enjoy working out, it’s a stress outlet for me. When I’m running or working out my mind stops racing, and I find a sense of peace. It’s hugely important to me.


I had tried walking with Luca, but it was far from simple and came with its own challenges:

  • Luca won’t fall asleep in the pram
  • Trying to time the walk was extremely difficult. It had to be at a time of day where it wasn’t too hot or in full sun, wasn’t when he needed a feed, and wasn’t too tired (otherwise he would just cry the whole walk, not very peaceful)
  • I was still joined by my son. As much as I love him, walking with him wasn’t providing the “me” time I was craving

I started to look into what my options were.

Considerations for exercising post-pregnancy

Before rushing into some exercise, I did my due diligence. I saw a women’s health physio so she could check my body to make sure it was ready. What she found was that as I’d had an emergency c section instead of delivering naturally it meant that I didn’t have any pelvic floor damage. I did have 2cm of abdominal separation, also known as diastasis recti, which was relatively minor; some women I had spoken to had up to 10cm! My physio determined that I would be fine to work out, but not to isolate my abs – no sit ups, planks etc. As long as I was holding my abs tight to ensure proper form during other exercises I was fine to go.

And of course, don’t go too hard too early.

(On an exciting note, I’m writing this at the 9 week point and just saw my ob gyn last week – there’s no separation anymore. Wahoo!)

My requirements for an exercise program

Knowing that I wasn’t going to get the results I wanted from spontaneous bouts of walking around the block I started researching programs.

My requirements were:

  • I wanted to be able to do it from home – with a newborn baby I needed to be able to attend to his needs at the drop of a hat if required
  • It needed to be cheap – I’m on maternity leave at the moment, so our income is a lot less than usual
  • Proven results – I wanted to know the program worked and not just the newest thing on the block
  • Easy to follow and portable – being able to have an app on my phone that I could follow during workouts etc would be ideal, I didn’t want to be sitting in front of a computer
  • No equipment – I don’t have dumb bells or kettle bells at home. I’m limited to TRX (hanging straps), exercise straps and a fitball. If the program mainly used body weights that would be perfect, especially since the extra weight meant I had more body weight to use than ever!

What I didn’t mind so much about was the food side – my husband takes care of our meals and other than my pregnancy aversions, we generally eat pretty well. Meat and veg, the odd pasta thrown in. I just needed to cut out the unnecessary junk food – bye bye sweets!

Long story short after researching what was out there I settled on the Kayla Itsines program. I had read about Kelsey Well’s program that had newly been added for post partum women, which excited me. My friend had previously done the BBG version and had great results, so I knew it worked.

What the program includes

The program is just under $20 a month, which I think is a pretty great price. For that, it includes:

  • Access to workouts, including resistance and recovery. Cardio you’re expected to do on your own but still track within the app
  • A weekly meal plan
  • Ability to track your progress through a photo journal and weight tracking
  • Access to an online community

Below I’ve provided my thoughts in more detail on the good and the bad, and how I fared.

Click here to view the app on the iTunes app store

The good:

  • I was in control of how difficult the workouts were. Each workout is 28 minutes long, made up of four rounds of 7mins. You have to complete the exercises as many times as you can in that 7 minutes. No matter your exercise level, the workouts are hard. The first few workouts I tried to do were difficult, and I felt sore the next day (in a good way). If I was fitter, I would complete more circuits and therefore it would never get “easy”. Of course, you can always add weights to increase the difficulty if you prefer that method.
  • The food looks yum. The meal plans that I looked at for the week all had some incredibly yummy foods listed! You can tick off the ingredients list as you do your shopping too, which is handy.
  • The tool to take progress photos was really cool. It has a body outline so that you can make sure you’re taking consistently sized photos for before/after comparison
  • You can choose your own workout calendar, or use a suggested one instead.
  • Each day you’re encouraged to track your water and steps (beyond workouts). You can adjust your steps goal as required.
  • Proven results – there’s a huge cult following for the program online with impressive transformation photos
  • I’ve discovered there’s an apple watch app, which I didn’t trial with the workouts. I had an initial look on my watch though and it does seem promising.

What needs improvement

I had quite a few recommendations for improvement, so I’ve broken them up into sections. A lot of these come from my experience in participating in other programs, including the Michelle Bridges’ 12 Weeks Body Transformation (12WBT), and the Goodlife 12 week challenge.

The workouts

Sweat app by Kayla Itsines - workouts

  • The cardio exercises means you have to get out – you can’t do them at home. For a mother this is difficult if you don’t have a willing partner, friend or family member, or a creche. If you don’t have a specific place to go to this can be a challenge on days where the weather isn’t playing nice. If you take the baby for a walk for the exercise, this carries its own stressful challenges (as mentioned at the start of this post).
  • If you use the app to track a walk for your cardio session, it doesn’t use GPS. While this might seem relatively minor, if you put yourself into the shoes of a mother, the easiest way to achieve this exercise is going for a walk with the baby in the pram. The app tracks steps and distance, but unless you’ve got your phone strapped to your arm in an arm band the app just becomes a glorified stopwatch. Having the phone in a pocket in your pram won’t track any stats other than the time. I’m a stats nerd, so this was really disappointing for me.
  • For the resistance workouts there were no voice commands, which meant you have to look at your phone to see what the next exercise was. This can be a bit jarring and interrupt the flow of your workout. For the exercises with a time limit, there was no count down in the app. You had to look at the app to check the time, and then remember to look again to see how long left. When you’re doing something that’s difficult you’re trying to focus on getting through, not trying to strain to see your phone to look at the time.
  • If you did a cardio workout one day separate to the app but forgot to put it in, too bad. You can’t back date a workout, or select a different day on the calendar to enter it.
  • Surprise equipment – there’s no way to toggle on/off equipment. One workout required a band for hamstring curls, which luckily I had at home. I couldn’t see how to find an alternative if I didn’t have the bands. Looking on the forums it seems this is a common issue.

Sweat app by Kayla Itsines - forums

Tracking progress

  • I want to be able to track my body measurements. I’m extremely familiar with the challenges of weight loss, and I know how easy it is to become disheartened. If I can’t see progress in a photo from week-to-week, and the scales haven’t changed, it’s going to become easy to convince myself it’s not working. However I may have lost centimetres that week from something that doesn’t show on the photo – for example around my arms. Standing straight on to the camera won’t show that. Having the (optional) ability to track more metrics would be wonderful.

Nutrition

Sweat app by Kayla Itsines - meal plan

  • There was no option to toggle on/off breastfeeding, so the nutritional plan didn’t change accordingly. If you’re breastfeeding your nutritional needs change, including calories and the foods you need to be concerned with. The biggest fear for breastfeeding women is doing something that may affect our supply and ability to feed our babies. Likewise for those that aren’t breastfeeding won’t need the extra calories. Breastfeeding is a sensitive topic as well so shouldn’t be assumed by default. Turning this option on/off and adjusting the plans because of it would be a welcome addition.
  • There was no ability to increase the water goal. This ties in with the toggle for breastfeeding again. If you’re breastfeeding you need to be drinking more water than usual, and it would be nice to be able to reflect this.
  • No leftovers. I’m extremely lucky my husband cooks for me, otherwise I’d be in all sorts of trouble. We have a freezer full of prepared meals ready for me to reheat. With newborns you’re extremely time poor, so every shortcut means less stress. It would be nice for the plans to cook up extra portions at night, with the leftovers being used for lunch the following day. It would also have a nice effect on the budget as well, instead of buying a lot of ingredients that are potentially used only once.
  • You can’t edit the food plan. If you don’t want a particular meal you can’t swap it. For example I don’t eat seafood, so I couldn’t swap it out for an alternative. There’s no easy way to search for replacement recipes either. I’m that person that hates to cook, so the more obstructions there are in my way to finding something to make the more likely I am to give up and go for an easy option (which may not always be the healthiest). If you knew you were going out for one night a week as well, there’s no way to remove a meal from the list, so you have to manually go and check out what ingredients are on the list and remember to remove them from the shopping list.
  • There’s no “print friendly” shopping list – very minor pick but it would be nice to be able to print out the shopping list. This means you can hand write any edits (see the previous point) as well as add any additional things you require for the household, other family members etc.

Random bugs

  • Once you hit your daily step goal, you get congratulation notifications over and over during the day. One day I got the first one, 6mins later another, and 4mins later another one. It finally stopped, then another day it kept going. I’ve since turned my notifications off for the app.

How I fared

Well, long story short I’m not following the program anymore after two weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the program works, it just didn’t work for me.

  • I couldn’t work out at home. Hearing the baby grizzle brought on all sorts of mum guilt, even though my husband was looking after the baby. I tried to go outside so I couldn’t hear the baby and instead was rewarded with kisses from my new work out partner, my dog. I had to physically leave the house by myself, and thankfully have a husband who takes care of the baby while I go.
  • The combination of a gym membership and the app was too expensive for me. I’ve sent the link to this post to the support team at kaylaitsines.com, so if they’re willing to gift a subscription so I can follow the program at the gym and post ongoing blog updates on my progress I’d love it (gotta ask right?)
  • The nutrition planning was too difficult. If they added the features mentioned above they would solve my issues completely.

I’d love to hear from anyone that has tried this program, or any of the Kayla Itsines programs for that matter.

If there are any updates from the support team, I’ll be sure to include them here as well.

Disclaimer – I did NOT receive any gifted products or services for this review. This is not a sponsored review.

Let me know your thoughts!