Reading Nikki’s answers back, I felt a little girl crush creeping on. When you get to the question about what a day in her life looks like, and learn what “POWER HOUR” is, you will understand what I mean. But maybe what I am crushing on the most is that Nikki, or ActivelyRees to the BBG community, is just another everyday mum living her best, most active life, and subsequently inspiring others in her wake.
We first came across Nikki Rees some year or so ago, when the Queen of the Bikini Body Guide, Kayla Itsines (who has since regretted calling it that as there is no one type of bikini body), shared Nikki’s astonishing before and after photo. Now, onto week 65 of BBG and ticking over 140,000 Instagram followers, Nikki has embraced daily life as a mother-of-2 and her at-home workouts. A devotee to the BBG community, she is inspiring a legion of other mums to discover the power of believing in their goals, pre or post bub.
From inspiring her local community in Cardiff, to co-ordinating BBG meet-ups, Nikki is on a mission to prove that while yes, weight-loss is a result of living actively, you can get fit physically and mentally without joining a gym – all you need is an exercise mat, a living room and at least 30 minutes a day. Nikki is a true testament to the attitude of today’s modern woman, and as a mum, she will be the first to tell you that it hasn’t been easy, but she’ll also be the first to remind you its well worth it.
Read on to hear Nikki’s honest answers and learn what it’s really like to be a BBG girl through and through…
What was your game changing moment that ignited your desire to create a healthy change?
To put it bluntly, it was a fight to the death with a pair of spanx. The weekend before I started Kayla Itsines BBG was my sister’s birthday. She had organised a night out to a high end London restaurant for a small group of couples. James and I were to be the only non Londoners, so I was determined not to look frumpy or mumsy. I bought a beautiful, bright, figure hugging dress and convinced myself that (4 months after giving birth) this was exactly what needed. I thought, if I could squeeze my post baby body in to this dress, I would feel good about myself. So, I got a spray tan, I painted my nails, I blew out my hair and I armed myself with a pair of super strength tummy control Spanx.
That night at dinner was the most uncomfortable I have ever felt. My breastfeeding boobs were bursting uncontrollably out of the top of the dress; and my Spanx had rolled down, forcing my tummy to bulge out of the front, back and sides of my super tight dress. I spent the entire night, sat at the dinner table with my coat on, too embarrassed to take it off. It was then and there that I told myself I would never spend another night in a pair of Spanx and I would never ever hinge all my emotions and my ability to feel good about myself, on a dress. The day after I returned home to Cardiff I did my first home workout, and I haven’t stopped since. Granted it’s not the most profound beginning, but it was the moment I realised ‘I can live better than this’.
What has discovering BBG mean’t to you?
Oh my goodness, it means so many things to me. It’s all going to sound really cheesy and over the top but I mean every single word. It’s changed my life. I used to have no real expectations for myself, no personal goals. As a stay-at-home mum, I think I was just used to accepting everything the way it was and never saw myself as something to invest in. I LOVE my role as a mum, but there are no promotions in homemaking, the pride comes from seeing your children do well, not yourself. So sometimes the motivation to invest in yourself can be hard to find, even seem a little unnecessary. By doing BBG (just at home) with every improvement I felt successful, more confident, and I thrived off that sense of achievement.
I learned how in control of my mind and body I could be, which actually felt really powerful. I was choosing my body, my health, my lifestyle for myself, rather than just accepting what was right in front of me. It made health and fitness accessible, fuss-free and easy for me to get my head around.
For me especially, the Bikini Body Guide, with its worldwide community that supports you, and the self confidence it inspires in you, is the power to re-imaging your life at any time, any age and any skill level. It showed me that goals and dreams are one and the same, and the joy actually comes from chasing them rather than achieving them.
A lot of new mums can feel inadequate and self-conscious about working out – what’s your advice to them?
This was exactly me! Some days this is still me. When I started out I couldn’t do one sit up, I couldn’t skip, I couldn’t do more than 3 burpees and I couldn’t even step up on to a box without losing my balance. I thought I looked silly being postpartum and in gym kit. I had no stamina, I felt very inadequate; like I was failing before I even really got started.
My advice based purely on my own experience is this:
- You wont feel self conscious if you are supported by like minded women all working towards the same goals. If you are working out from home finding the motivation from within your own four walls is near impossible. There is none. But by using online fitness communities such as the #bbgcommuinty on Facebook and Instagram, it provides camaraderie and makes valuable resources readily available to you. I definitely found confidence from talking to women and mums all over the world who were all struggling to fit their workouts in, dealing with babies who weren’t sleeping, hating burpees as much as I did. It was the most uplifting and motivating feeling; posting a sweaty selfie on IG to say I had actually done a workout and then being cheered on and congratulated by an army of women who wanted to see me succeed. It’s pretty heart warming stuff and it’s not lost on me how much I personally have to thank them for.
- Small achievable goals, every single day. Don’t focus on changing your life, or changing your body for that holiday in 6 months time. Most possible results won’t come quick enough to keep you motivated. You need to set yourself up for immediate success. Success that you can feel proud of every day. Success is addictive and breeds confidence. Feeling proud of reaching your daily goals will very quickly see you smashing weekly goals and in turn add up to those major milestones. These daily challenges that you win everyday, will soon become the habits that make it a lifestyle and not a diet or quick fix.
- It’s MORE than OK to be a beginner and quite frankly, fitness doesn’t care. The brilliance of fitness is that it actually makes us all equal. You might feel inadequate doing push-ups on your knees when the person next to you is banging them out on their toes twice as fast. But in terms of the good it is doing for your body the impact is just the same. So long as you are working out to your maximum effort, you are getting just as effective a workout as the guy across the room doing push-ups for the Olympics. Do your best (at any level) and you will get the best results, regardless if the exercise is for beginners or for experts.
What is the most important message you want to share with other mums like you?
That getting fit from working out at home is realistic. It’s achievable, affordable and most importantly completely sustainable. Fitness is not an exclusive club that requires a gym membership, or a big budget. You don’t need lots of equipment or lots of free time. You don’t have to be in your twenties, or have a perfect body. I want mums like me to know, that doing a 30 minute work out at home is worthwhile, it can fit in with their all ready jam packed lives, and it will produce amazing results.
How do you manage to workout with your little ones running around?
With a little creativity and a lot of patience. I realised pretty early on that waiting for the perfect opportunity to workout was setting me up for nothing but failure. So now I just go with the flow. I am not in charge of my fitness schedule, my baby is. I figure the happier and more content she is, the more likely she is to sleep well or to play nicely while I grab a quick workout. After trying out everything I now tend to workout when she’s awake as she’s’ not a reliable napper. So usually, I set up my equipment the night before and lay out my activewear before I go to bed. Then in the morning, Maddie and I get up and dressed, go down stairs and I workout while she’s next to me drinking her milk and watching tellytubbies. I can normally squeeze in 30 mins resistance training quite easily, if I change her activity every ten mins or so and chat to her as I workout. (You will usually hear me chanting the numbers of the reps out loud in silly voices purely for my one year olds entertainment). If for some reason she’s not happy, I’ll just stop and do the other half at the next opportunity. Working out with kids becomes much easier when you realise that these sessions don’t have to be perfect, that two 15 min workouts count just as much as 30 continuous minutes and that doing ‘something’ will always be better than doing nothing.
Why do you think it’s so important for women, and mums in particular, to empower each other? The BBG community is an absolute testament to this, right?
Yes! Exactly! It’s so important for women to empower each other. Especially for the mums. Our bodies have been through the wreckage of childbirth, we have less time for ourselves than ever before and we are so busy trying to make sure brand new little people grow up feeling confident, secure, and capable of anything, that sometimes our own sense of value and importance can be diminished in the process. Mums are trying to be everything to everyone. Great mothers, great wives, great friends, great employees and without a little support, a little nudge, or a gentle reminder, we can sometimes forget to be great to ourselves. Being part of a support network such as the BBG community, you feel understood, you grow in confidence. As friends and cheerleaders with common goals, they help you uncover your own potential and then push you on to fulfil it. I’m a better version of myself because of these amazing women and they are the driving force from the way my life was, to the way it is now. They say Great things happen when women support each other and it’s true.
The life mantra you live by?
“Fight for the fairytale – it does exist” (and if it doesn’t, a life chasing your dreams is far better than a life spent believing they could never come true.)
Your fail-proof dinner time meal that even the kids will love…
Home made chicken burritos. We put all the ingredients such as brown rice, peppers, pinto beans and guacamole in little bowls on the table and everyone can fill up their own wrap. It’s a great way to smuggle beans and veggies into a fun meal for the kids (plus if I want a lighter meal, I can make mine without the wholemeal wrap as tasty burrito bowl instead).
You’ve got 24 hours in a day – what does it look like from when you wake up to when you go to sleep?
Oh no! The funny thing is I have the least instagram worthy life you can imagine. Its far from fit and fabulous and like all regular life mums – its filled with endless piles of laundry and collecting dirty dishes from various rooms in the house.
The mornings are definitely the most hectic…
6.30am Maddie usually wakes, we have a cuddle in bed and then get up and dressed. I make her milk and a small healthy snack, get James a coffee and pack up his meal prepped lunch
7.15am Hopefully I’ll be working out and then I rush to drag my eldest son ( he’s 11) out of bed and I’m into the shower by 7.45am
8.45am I pack Charlie off to school and James off to work and then Maddie and I have our breakfast around 9am
9.30am If I’m really luck Maddie will have a short nap and that’s when I assess the damage ( aka how messy is the house, which room is the worst and how feasible is it to have a cup of tea and scroll through instagram before I start any of it)
10am-12pm Baby playtime – Maddie tries to colour on everything except the piece of paper she’s meant to use and I ignore all the house work I haven’t done.
1-2pm Maddie and I walk the dog (we have a husky called Loki) and we run any errands we have to do, such as go to the post office or local shop
2-3pm Maddie should have a sleep here especially if she didn’t in the morning, so I take the opportunity to answer emails and check on my social media accounts
3.30pm Collect Charlie from school
4pm Afternoon snack, and panic attack. When I realise I’ve still done no housework
5pm-6pm Dinner time and bath time for the Maddie. Then down stairs for her evening bottle and get ready for the power hour
6pm-7pm THE POWER HOUR, don’t ask me why, but this hour every day is where the magic happens. Maddie settles with the bed time hour on Cbeebies and drinks her milk and this is when I cheat clean the house before James gets home from work. Dirty dishes get collected and thrown in the dishwasher. I quickly hang out the washing so it makes the house smell clean. I make the bed in my bedroom so the room looks semi tidy. I sweep the floors, throw some chicken in the oven and marvel at my own productiveness as James walks through the door to an almost organised house. I guess I work best under pressure!
7pm Bedtime for Maddie and dinner time for me, Charlie and James just after
8pm-10pm Hopefully the dishwasher gets switched on and then I usually use these last few hours for blogging and planning. I will respond to comments on my blog or plan my next article. I will write my to do list for the next day (usually full of all the things I didn’t do the day before). If I have a workout planned for the morning I will set up for it now and I will spend some time catching up with my friends on Instagram – I normally do all of this from the comfort of my bed and with the ‘real housewives of orange county’ on in the background
10.30pm Devices down, TV off and sleep
The must-have equipment to a no-excuses at home workout?
An exercise mat, a pair of dumbbells and a skipping rope.
Fave activewear pieces to wear…
Anything that can take me from my workout to the school gates. Monochrome leggings and supportive shape enhancing bras are my go-to. I can just throw a vest on and be ready to leave the house. I live in my activewear so it has to be able to go everywhere with me.
If you could power workout, then brunch with someone (other than Kayla Itsines) who would it be, and why?
Davina McCall. She’s a mum of 3 who seems to have it all together. She’s super fit in her 40s and looks amazing. She balances family, fitness and career, and looks like she’s having a great time doing it. If we met up, I’d want her to put me through one of her workouts and then I’d want her to tell me what her secret to having it all is. I also love that her fitness empire is very much focused on people being able to workout from home in short sessions that fit in around tight schedules and busy families. We would definitely have lots to talk about!