What happens when an online fitfam plans an IRL reunion? Well for starters, waitlists. And if you're part of Aussie fitfluencer Kayla Itsines' sweat squad (numbering nearly nine million), that overflow queue can grow to as many as 200-plus people. One of the perks of writing for a wellness site, however, is occasionally getting to skip the line to exclusive events in order to report back to your readers. (Insert praise hands emoji.) That's how I found myself waking up extra early on a recent Saturday, slipping into my last clean workout outfit, and heading over to Adelante Studios in New York City for the official January BBG NYC Facebook group meet-up, just in time for the 8:30 a.m. check in.
Although the very first BBG gathering was in Florida in July 2015, the concept really took off once the NYC chapter was established. "I decided to host one in August 2015 with five other friends because we were all missing the June bootcamp so much and just wanted to hang out again," says Mariam Chubinidze, who founded the NYC BBG Facebook group with Carolina Wikstrom. "Like 20 to 30 girls came, and it was so much fun."
Since then, BBG meet-ups have gone global: There are more than 70 Facebook groups throughout the world (in Madrid, Copenhagen, and more)—with NYC totaling 400 people, while Los Angeles has over 1,400. And although Itsines isn't coordinating the get-togethers, she does give them shout-outs on her site, has popped into a few, and even sends BBG swag (like a towel or jump rope) for attendees to take home.
Scroll down to see what it's *really* like inside a BBG meet-up.
Get ready to go from strangers to BFFs, faster than a HIIT workout
Shockingly, I made my very first friend on the elevator ride up to the studio. For someone like me, who still has a lot of trouble with the whole "working the room" thing, this felt like an early morning win. All in all, there were over 50 BBGers present at the free hangout, but Wikstrom told me that an additional 200 people were on the waitlist.
As person after person eagerly asked me about my BBG journey, it became evident why these events are so in-demand: Toning workouts and a network of amazing ladies is too good a combo to pass on. Chubinidze and Wikstrom are both living proof of the powerful connection created by this fit Facebook community.
Before a bootcamp in 2015, Chubinidze decided to join a bunch of fellow BBG girls for a pre-sweat coffee. "I remember walking up to this group of happy, smiling girls feeling [surprisingly] welcomed. It’s funny because one of my best friends today was also in this group, but we both were super shy and didn’t meet until I moved back from Amsterdam in February of 2016," she says. Nowadays, they're BFFs.
All in all, there were over 50 BBGers in present, but Wikstrom told me that an additional 200 people were on the waitlist.
Wikstrom says BBG had a similar effect on growing her own social network: "When I moved to New York City, I didn’t really know anyone, and it was through the BBG meet-ups that I met my closest friends. That's why I love hosting [them]. It gives the girls in our community a safe and judgment-free zone where they can work out and meet others going through the same journey," she says.
Every gathering involves a group sweat sesh. In the 30 minutes before the actual workout started, several attendees shared stories with me of meeting fellow BBGers, online, offline, and even randomly at their local gym. Most stories ended with some variation on the phrase, "And now she's my best friend!" Some of them only see each other once a month at these meet-ups. Others hadn't ever met IRL before that day (including two Italian girls living in NYC who'd become fast friends through the Facebook group and were connecting for the first time offline that day. There were all young women (mainly in their 20s and early 30s) whose backgrounds run the gamut, but all shared one thing in common: a ride-or-die sense of loyalty to Itsines and her fitness philosophy.
"When I moved to NYC I didn’t really know anyone, and it was through the BBG meet-ups that I met my closest friends in the city."—Wikstrom
Once I'd introduced myself to about 10 of the nicest people I'd ever met, it was time for the workout to begin (which was, of course, straight from Itsines' fitness app played over speakers). And TBH, I found it pretty challenging. My day-to-day workouts include a mix of hot yoga and running, so switching my routine up with Itsine's HIIT sequences left my body feeling shaky after each 30-second exercise. But about 45-minutes later, it was a wrap and everyone exchanged a round of hugs and high fives.
The fun wasn't quite over yet though. Before leaving, we snapped about three dozen pictures (because pics or it didn't happen), drank kombucha, and stashed some vegan cookies in our bags for later. As I rolled up my yoga mat, the only thing I could think was, Wow. I feel so great. Walking away post-sweat with about five new friends in my contact list felt like a pretty epic way to kick off the weekend.
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