Why I stopped Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Program

by Khushboo on March 9, 2015

So in my last recap, I mentioned that I was in a two minds about the Kayla Itsines 12-Week Bikini Body Program.  Although I was still enjoying the workouts at the end of Week 8, I was so ready to be d-o-n-e.  After plenty of thinking and discussion with a few friends & my sister, I decided to put the program on hold…at least for now.  I did manage to get through Week 9 and while in the past, I would’ve felt amazing for powering through, that was far from the case.  I felt exhausted and my body was constantly sore…and not the kind of sore that strangely makes you happy.  I could feel my body burning out and mentally I wasn’t far from that either i.e. by Week 9, I started to dread each upcoming workout & felt guilty every time I contemplated skipping a planned session.  My sugar cravings suddenly started to escalate & despite the workout intensity and keeping an eye on my diet, I stopped seeing any kind of physical results.  

Turkey Avocado & Egg White Wrap with Steamed Spinach

Turkey, Avocado & Egg White Wrap with Steamed Spinach

From past experience & research, I knew these signs all pointed in one direction: elevated cortisol levels i.e. the hormone that our adrenal glands release in response to stress.  While exercise is certainly a great stress relief, it also acts as a physical stressor on the body. Without realising it, I had been putting increasing amounts of stress on my body to the point where each workout made me less healthy, both physically and mentally.  Looking back, I can’t say I’m surprised- the last time I took a full week off exercise and really allowed my body to rest was over 8 months ago.  

Post-Yoga Green Smoothie: 1 cup unsweetened almond milk + 1 cup raw spinach + 1 frozen banana

Post-Yoga Green Smoothie: 1 cup unsweetened almond milk + 1 cup raw spinach + 1 frozen banana

While part of me initially felt like a quitter for not wo-manning up & finishing the 12 weeks, I know doing so would do me no favors. Although good health & weight loss are both often associated with diet & exercise, these 2 components are hardly effective if cortisol levels are outta whack.  A little stress is normal and good, and we all have it.  BUT it’s your body’s ability to recover that matters, and if you’re not resting and eating well and continue in stress mode for extended periods of time, it’s only a recipe for burnout because your body doesn’t have the ability to recuperate.  So for next few weeks, I’m focusing on just taking care of my body’s needs and making sure it’s adequately-rested.  That means plenty of sleep, low-intensity workouts including walks, yoga & swims & proper nutrition i.e. eating whole, real foods most of the time and not sweating about the not-so-real foods that occasionally happen …basically minimizing any kind of stress on my body.

The most divine apple crumble at Table (Mumbai)

The most divine apple crumble at Table (Mumbai)

Despite this world of abundance that we live in, less truly is more sometimes.   Although low activity levels is often a sign of laziness, proper rest is just as important as the workout itself when it comes to seeing results & reaping the all-round benefits of exercise…and that means realizing when you need to respect your body by giving it some much-needed R&R.  It’s taken me a long while to realize that but what I can say- better later than never! 

For a more elaborate explanation on the effect of stress on the body, check out a post I wrote earlier on the topic over here.

Have you ever experienced exercise burnout?

What kind of workouts are you currently doing?

Related posts:

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Arman @ thebigmansworld March 9, 2015 at 2:39 pm

OH YES.

I literally haven’t followed a workout program in so long because I was so burnt out from it and actually dreaded it- So a good 2-3 months now with only weekends. Glad you realised it and made the wise choice- Cortisol is no joke!

Reply

Khushboo March 10, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Coritsol is a bitch..basically ;)!

Reply

Letizia@thefitlabel March 9, 2015 at 3:16 pm

I think it’s great that you were able to listen to your body and do what is best for you. Sometimes we have to let go of perfectionism and accept that we don’t HAVE to finish every program we start!

I experienced exercise burnout basically all last summer and fall. I was running long distances with lots of hills (20-30km trails) PLUS following Strong Curves from Bret Contreras. I felt horrible, I was constantly hungry and my performances were worsening. I quit the program and took a break from running. Now I am still continuing to take it easy: not running, doing yoga and not following a set strength training program. And guess what? I am in way better shape now! So I definitely agree that sometimes less is more 😉

Reply

Khushboo March 10, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience, Letizia and I’m glad you are in a god place with workouts and seeing results again!

Reply

Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets March 9, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Good for you my friend, for having the wisdom to see what was going on and the courage to walk away from it. I probably would have finished and been miserable as a result. Or maybe I wouldn’t have even tried since I would have guessed the inevitable crash.

This is why fad fitness programs and diets don’t hold much water for me. They’re just a band aid, while the real deal, the sustainable bit has more to do with getting to the root cause of the weight gain, dealing with it, and then eating well and exercising some. Slow and steady is much better in this case and certainly more long lasting.

Enjoy the rest period. You definitely deserve it.

Reply

Khushboo March 10, 2015 at 12:09 pm

I should’ve known better- sustainable changes always come out on top!!

Reply

Erin@BeetsPerMinute March 9, 2015 at 4:37 pm

I have totally experienced something similar. Sometimes we really have to let our bodies override the need to push through something we’re not feeling. Plus, sounds like you did pretty damn well at it anyway! 🙂

Reply

Khushboo March 10, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Thanks so much Erin! Hope you took a time-out too 🙂

Reply

Linda @ The Fitty March 9, 2015 at 6:05 pm

I’m (GASP) quitting insanity for 10 days straight!

I feel you.

Reply

Khushboo March 10, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Awesome- listen to your body and I’m sure you will come back with a bang!

Reply

Jen @ Bagels to Broccoli March 9, 2015 at 6:15 pm

Good for you for listening to your body!!

Reply

Khushboo March 10, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Thanks Jen!

Reply

Tara @ Sweat like a Pig March 9, 2015 at 6:41 pm

Yay! I’m glad you chose to stop that ridiculous program 😛

Reply

Khushboo March 10, 2015 at 12:11 pm

HAHA! Who knows- you might see her in Australia!

Reply

Parita @ myinnershakti March 9, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Glad you’re listening to your body and your mind and doing what’s right for you! Smart decision! Stress, in all forms, wreaks havoc on our bodies and I’m glad you’re stopping now!

Reply

Khushboo March 10, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Thanks, P!

Reply

Amanda @ .running with spoons. March 9, 2015 at 8:41 pm

I was super interested to read your thoughts on Kayla Itsines program because I’ve been hearing a lot of negative things about it lately. I’m glad you decided to stop and listen to what your body is telling you instead.

I’ve definitely been there with the burnout and adrenal fatigue. It got to the point where I actually started putting on weight because of how elevated my cortisol levels were from too much exercise and not enough nutrition. I feel like a lot of people overestimate how much exercise we actually need to be healthy and see results.. It kind of breaks my heart to see people feeling guilty for taking 2 rest days a week 😕

Reply

Khushboo March 10, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Gah it’s absolutely crazy how much of an impact stress can make! And I totally agree with you about the rest day front- it’s almost sad that killing yourself 5-6 days a week at the gym has turned into some people’s “norm”!

Reply

Liz @ I Heart Vegetables March 9, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Good for you for listening to your body and knowing what you needed! I know it can feel like “giving up” but really, you’re doing what’s best!

Reply

Khushboo March 10, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Thanks for your support, Liz 🙂

Reply

Chelsea @ Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen March 10, 2015 at 4:29 am

I’m glad you’re doing what’s right for you! I think I definitely experienced exercise burnout in the past, which is why I’ve been in such a huge phase of doing more low intensity workouts for the past 1-2 years. I’m actually finding it hard to build up the motivation to incorporate the occasional high intensity exercise, which I know I should because it’s so good for heart health.

Reply

Khushboo March 10, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Thanks Chelsea! I wouldn’t worry so much about doing high-intensity workouts if your heart’s (no pun intended ;)) not into it….walking alone is SO beneficial for heart health!

Reply

Shashi @ RunninSrilankan March 10, 2015 at 2:29 pm

9I gotta giv you big props Khushboo, for recognizing what your body needed and giving it a break – I have such a hard time doing that. The more I am stressed, the more I run and workout and then end up injured but still-foolishly – try to power through – this post is well timed – I have had a crazy. crazy week and have been trying futilely to tame it with running and P90X and it hasn’t been working – I got injured doing a one arm balance pushup – and in all my many times of doing P90X – that’s never happened before! I am resting today! Thanks for being my voice of reason! xx

Reply

Khushboo March 11, 2015 at 9:47 am

Thanks so much Shashi- hope you enjoy your well-deserved rest :)!

Reply

Emma @ Em-powered Wellness March 10, 2015 at 9:55 pm

Good for you girl for recognizing that the program was no longer working for you and deciding to take care of yourself. I am currently doing the strong curves workout routine and loving it, but I have tried some programs in the past that have left me feeling too drained and sore to continue.

Reply

Khushboo March 11, 2015 at 9:47 am

I haven’t heard about Strong Curves- what does the program entail?

Reply

Emma @ Em-powered Wellness March 11, 2015 at 10:26 pm

Basically a weight training routine designed for women that’s about building a booty haha. But I like it because it has helped a lot with my low back pain and I have been able to increase strength, especially in deadlifts and squats.

Reply

Khushboo March 12, 2015 at 10:13 am

Awesome, Emma- I’m glad you are feeling good on the program :)!

Reply

Nikhita March 10, 2015 at 10:20 pm

I AM SO PROUD OF YOU! I also had that thing of making myself exhausted trying to force myself to workouts I had no energy for…waking up at obscene hours that too! now i know how much i need to rest and take care of myself, and many times I go to the workouts i FEEL like doing instead..like going to yoga instead of hardcore Physique 57. I now work out cause I want to, not when I have to and it helps so much!

i had no idea about cortisol making you THAT hungry and craving sugar – it’s funny because I take about 2 rest days a week, but people go hard all 7 days as well..SO glad you realized what worked for you!

Reply

Khushboo March 11, 2015 at 9:48 am

Thanks so much, Nikhita :)! Glad tot had that you are giving your body some rest :)! And yes about cortisol & sugar cravings- it’s crazy how much of an effect stress can have on our bodies!

Reply

Honey, What's Cooking? March 11, 2015 at 2:57 am

haven’t tried that workout, but glad you were honest. right now i have a trainer once a week, and then i do her exercises twice a week on my own. i hit the gym once a week and do cardio. kinda need to put on some weight and i’m focused on weight training. 🙂

Reply

Khushboo March 11, 2015 at 9:49 am

Have you increased your quantity of food to help with the weight gain? Hope the numbers are going up :)!

Reply

Sam @ Better With Sprinkles March 11, 2015 at 7:05 am

Good for you for listening to your body! I’ve definitely felt the exercise burnout before, and I’ve found that pushing through it does make things worse. I’m a little worried about experiencing the same thing with half marathon training, but we’ll have to wait and see how it goes.

Reply

Khushboo March 11, 2015 at 9:51 am

I feel like because you are already aware about exercise burnout, you’ll be that much more cautious to ensure that you don’t experience it during half marathon training. Just remember that it’s always okay to take a step back if your body needs it.

Reply

Charlotte @ Commitness to Fitness March 11, 2015 at 6:36 pm

It’s so funny that even after long lull’s in the blog world I come back and you’ve read my mind. I’m actually in the midst of a week off from exercise bc my body just hasnt been responding like I know it can/should. I was thinking “am I eating too much salt? sugar?” but no I think it’s the cortisol — glad you’re listening to your body and not forcing something thats not a good fit!

Reply

Khushboo March 12, 2015 at 10:12 am

Thanks Charlotte and I’m glad to see you giving your body the rest that it seems to need 😀

Reply

Angela @ HonestlyAngela March 12, 2015 at 9:02 am

This was such a good reminder for me- thanks khushboo! I have definitely placed too much stress on my body from working out and not eating enough in the past. Lately i haven’t been enjoying my workouts as much as usual and I’ve been feeling really tired. I am training for a half marathon right now, but maybe I need to take it a bit easier!

Reply

Khushboo March 12, 2015 at 10:16 am

Maybe take a few days to mentally recharge you? I am sure your body will appreciate the rest too :)!

Reply

Ashley @ A Lady Goes West March 14, 2015 at 2:11 am

Good for you for listening to your body’s signals. That’s not always easy to do. I know I am guilty of doing too many stressful high-impact workouts each week, and even though I take rest days, sometimes I wonder if I should pull back with more low-impact days. I’m really impressed that you identified what your body needed and went with it. Feel better and find something else to do to get moving at a lesser level for a bit. 🙂 Happy Friday, K!

Reply

Khushboo March 14, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Thanks for your support, Ashley! It might be worth throwing in a couple of extra rest days every so often and see how your body responds?

Reply

Cat March 14, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Ok – you are so wise. I could not relate more to this – going full throttle into a training plan, loving it and then… wanting to binge eat my way through a pack of Mars Bars and not be able to use the stairs. It’s crazy! Basically what I’ve learnt is that my body can’t handle that much exercise – I honestly was not the fittest kid and I probably will never be the fittest adult – I have to do what’s right for ME. If that means adjusting or taking a break in the ‘grand training plan’ so be it. Yes, I do hate the ‘quitter’ feeling but it’s way better to be a quitter than a sucker who can’t get out of bed in the morning because of training too much! #rantover

Reply

Khushboo January 28, 2016 at 12:32 pm

I know I’m late to comment back but I love what you wrote here, Cat! There’s nothing ‘quitter’ about listening to your body. You rather take a time-out sooner rather than later and when your body is ready, you can wean yourself back into workouts that leave you feeling energised.

Reply

JackE April 28, 2016 at 7:08 pm

I did Kayla Itsine’s workouts for 3 months (minus the HIIT because my body just can’t and with my own food recipes – I was lenient with my diet, as I didn’t need to lose weight) and I definitely saw progress. I was already 106 pounds when I started, but I was okay with gaining weight in muscle- I wanted some ab definition! Like you mentioned, I became obsessive with the workouts and would feel guilty for missing one. There was no time in my life for working out twice a day, and I was constantly thinking about scheduling my exercises! Unfortunately, I did not know about chronic stress or cortisol. If I had known what I was doing to my body, I would have stopped.

Doing this program, I stopped having a period (hypothalamic ammenorrhea) AND I triggered chronic lyme disease which apparently has been dormant in my system for years. I have now been trying to get my body back for the past 8 months.

Reply

Khushboo April 28, 2016 at 7:24 pm

Thanks for your input JackE! I’m sorry to hear you experienced negative side effects from doing the Bikini Body program and really hope you are on the mend. Are you currently working out? From my own research, 2 biggies for getting cortisol levels under control and also regularising menstruation include avoiding any strenuous activity while also increasing your caloric intake. While it might lead to weight gain, it’s only temporary and easily reversible once you get your hormones under control. Of course do consult with your doctor before making any changes. I wish you all the best in your journey towards better health.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: