We met Libby Babet on the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk early on a Monday morning. She had just finished teaching an online fitness class, rushed home to pick up her 21 month old daughter, Izzy, and effortlessly posed for our photoshoot (in between breastfeeds) before dashing off to make daycare drop off and host another class. Libby lives life in the fast lane, but she has the energy to keep up. Libby Babet is the epitome of her brand, The Upbeat.
Can you tell us how your new baby, The Upbeat, was born?
That one was a child born of passion indeed! The Upbeat is a complete reimagining of my first female centric fitness and wellbeing business, BUF Girls, which I started in Bondi more than ten years ago now. It was a concept I’d outgrown, both as a trainer and creatively, especially once I became a mama and realised I wasn’t exactly in the “girl” category anymore!
I’m so lit up by what our brand stands for now and the unique experience it delivers – it’s the first of its kind in Australia, now delivered both in studio and online , merging all aspects of fitness, from functional strength, to mat-based, Pilates-style toning, to creative bodyweight flows and athletic interval training, as well as the super fun dance-cardio style of workouts we’ve become quite well known for.
Honestly, it’s so fun and I always wake up excited to get started. I love, love, LOVE watching the way younger women in their 20s walk in telling me they’ve never enjoyed fitness and are nervous, and then leave saying it was the funnest thing they’ve ever done and watching them blossom as they walk in that door again and again. I love the way time-poor mums walk in looking a little exhausted and walk out bouncing and smiling, full of endorphins and radiating happiness.
You certainly aren’t a one trick mama, can you tell us a little about your other babies/businesses?
I do have just a few businesses, but they’re all quite aligned. I co-own a few snack food brands (Beauty Food and Chief Bar), which were created because I was so incredibly frustrated trying to find healthy packaged snacks – even most ‘natural’, ‘organic’, or ‘healthy’ products were stacked with fructose-loaded dried fruit, artificial sweeteners, artificial proteins, or other unhealthy fillers like vegetable oils and I just couldn’t find anything I was happy recommending to my communities.
Beauty Food was formulated just for busy mums and is a super healthy and delicious collagen cookie-like snack that’s full of all the right things, like healthy fats and well-sourced collagen that can support everything from a healthy glow to calming your nervous system, birth recovery and breastfeeding.
Oh and I’m still a working journalist and presenter. And a mum. The juggle is freakin’ REAL I tell you! Last year I sold my first gym concept, Agoga, because it was just one ‘baby’ too many once Izzy came along.
We love watching the evolution of your brands, have you always had a clear vision of where you want to end up or do you fancy things more ad Lib? (bad pun intended)
Oh thank you! I’d say I’ve had a clear vision of who I want to help and why, but that each business journey has emerged not from a plan but firmly from a feeling, and then a very-quickly-doing! I always say I’m just a bit of a RASCAL, a term I made up to describe my style of entrepreneurialism to other people who ask me about starting their own concepts. I’m definitely not the perfect business operator or manager but what allows me to move forward is that I’m very comfortable with taking Risk, I take Action quickly once I’m clear on where I’m going, I’m Solution-oriented so I don’t mind problems or figuring out a way around them, I’m very Customer-centric, so I’m cool with adjusting or shifting a concept that just isn’t working for the people that matter, I have a ‘let’s go’ Attitude so I don’t sit down in the dumps when issues come up and I’m always, always Learning on the go, happy to launch with an imperfect product or service and keep adjusting it. This has helped me do more, not always successfully, but gaining clarity and refining along the way.
“I encourage women to see the year following the birth of their baby as a rehab process, not a race back to where they were. It’s really so major what happens to your body.”
Inspiring females to have fun with fitness is clearly important to you. Do you feel you have a responsibility to help change the idea of fitness and beauty for women?
The fitness industry has this bad habit of focusing on negative words… things like “weight”, “loss”, “die-t”, “less” and “calories”, “tough” or “hard work”, “effort” and the truth is, the human mind gets really confused by these concepts and wants to rebel against it. Tell your body your goal is “loss” and when you get there, it will try and help you out by “gaining back” what you’ve lost, and you end up in this crazy cycle. I feel I have a responsibility to show women a different path. For me, fitness is empowerment and fun and happiness and connection with yourself and others. It’s uplifting and defining and energetic and puts you in a really positive mental state. It’s a habit and an outing!
I also feel that I have a responsibility to educate women on the basics of great nutrition, so they can stay healthy and happy effortlessly. It’s not as complicated as people make it, unless you have a health complication of course.
Choose mostly traditional foods that roamed or grew on the earth, with minimal ingredients that you recognise, and make most of those veggies and fruits. Avoid vegetable and seed oils that can create inflammation and that our bodies don’t love to burn for fuel (things like sunflower, canola, hydrogenated oils, etc – google The Hateful 8 oils if curious) and include more traditional fats like olive oil, pure butter and ghee, avocado, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, well sourced meats if you eat them.
Enjoy whole grains, but don’t overdo them because they crowd out more nutrient-packed foods. Enjoy a little sugar, but not too much and don’t think for a second that artificial sugars are a ‘healthier’ option, they are super confusing for your body. Importantly, learn to love nutritious foods that energise and nourish your body. Look forward to them, repeat over and over to yourself as a mantra how much you enjoy them and the amazing things they do for your body.
What does the future of fitness/wellness look like to you?
The whole Covid-19 situation has forced a serious amount of innovation in the fitness industry. I’ve loved watching trainers adapt and innovate, and I think there will be a merging of interactive online/offline experiences moving forward. We’re now live-streaming and have built an On Demand App which launches on the App Store this week, and it’ll mean more flexibility for busy women to get their workouts in. For mums especially, this is a win! I’m not sure what the next step in fitness is, there’s been so much change in the past few months and I think we all need to take a breath and see which direction the flowers blossom in.
I certainly think there is a LOT of space for improvement and removing confusion for new mums looking to regain their strength and feel healthy and as energised as possible right after birth, and this is an area I feel I now understand very well, but haven’t had the time to create much movement in yet. For me, this is an area I’d like to make waves in… eventually!
Motherhood is … Evolution.
I have changed so so much since becoming a mum. I’m more patient, more grounded, less demanding of life, and also more willing to say goodbye to things and people who just aren’t working as part of the fabric of our life.
Becoming a mum has made me more patient, helped me check my ego and zero in on what’s important. It’s challenged me and made me more empathetic. It’s frustrated me and expanded my heart and confused me and then helped me refocus again.
Truly, motherhood has been a rebirth and I just love it so much! This morning I was lying in bed, Izzy curled up close to me (I tried and tried to sleep train her and then realised we both just really want to cuddle up together and now go to bed together at 8:30pm each night in my bed … c’est la vie!) and I just thought, this is happiness. This is what it means to live and to love. And motherhood is as full of those moments as it is testing ones!
Can you share a little about your journey into motherhood with us?
I had a health blip in my 20s, crazy high blood pressure that was really uncontrollable, which needed a LOT of medication. I lost my cycle for over a decade after that. No matter what I did it didn’t want to come back. I worked tirelessly on restoring my fertility and when it finally arrived, it was like a miracle – I bled for the first time in November, the next month I didn’t and thought it must have just been random, but I was pregnant with Izzy! It was so surreal, and to be honest after so long without a cycle, I was sure the pregnancy wouldn’t go to term! But it did, and she arrived, and there’s not a day goes by that I don’t recognise the miracle in that.
Patience. Persistence. Going with the flow. Pause. That women often put far too much pressure into having the perfect birth when really, it’s just a moment in time and it’s every day after that which is the big deal.
It also shone a light on the feelings and pressures associated with a speedy recovery after birth. I encourage women to see the year following the birth of their baby as a rehab process, not a race back to where they were. It’s really so major what happens to your body, and it requires persistence and patience to regain your strength. Approach it with curiosity and patience.
Has your relationship with your body changed since having Izzy and has it changed the way you think about training?
I’m definitely a better trainer having gone through the pregnancy, birth, recovery and motherhood journey myself. I’m more aware of the needs of the confused new mama and the busy veteran mama, of the body changes that happen and the realities of time pressure. Of the desperately needed energy injection and self-care time. When a mum walks into my class, I give that little bit extra, hoping she’ll walk out feeling that little bit more upbeat.
As for my relationship with my own body… it’s never been better. During the pregnancy and postnatal period, I really really missed my old strength and fitness and physical capability. I guess this was amplified for me because of what I do for a career and how much I love it. These days, I can honestly say the number of thoughts I give to how my body looks are minimal, but the focus I have on keeping it healthy and strong is incredible and I have never loved eating well and embracing the opportunity for movement so much.
I now see my body as a wonderful place for my soul to live, a vehicle that helps me enjoy life and also sustains and grows new life… how cool!
“I’d encourage women to learn to love doing what’s right for their bodies. Get moving and use the word ‘movement’ in place of ‘exercise’ because it really opens up your options.”
You appear to have endless energy, are there any tips you can share for staying vital?
I have a lot of energy for life, I admit. I think it’s all in your head. Let’s be honest, there is a lot of suffering and challenge in life, for everyone, some much more so than others. The key is looking for the gift and the lessons, acknowledging when change needs to happen and taking action, and always remembering to look for the love in your relationships, not the negative. There will always be times when things aren’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean things are messed up. I also think that old saying, ‘lever let the sun set on an argument’ is really important. When your relationships are strong, life is a lot easier.
When it comes to your health, I’d encourage women to learn to love doing what’s right for their bodies. Get moving and use the word ‘movement’ in place of ‘exercise’ because it really opens up your options and walking, playing, dancing, stretching and swimming/surfing are seriously underrated as forms of exercise. Enjoy eating a variety of healthy food, eat the rainbow, don’t rely too much on alcohol and caffeine and beige, sugary foods, they’re fun but they’re addictive.
Do you have any advice for women starting back on their fitness journey after giving birth?
Go and see a womens physio, I love Women In Focus or The Pelvic Floor Clinic, they are incredible at empowering women with exactly what to do as they rehabilitate their bodies. And do look at that process as rehab. Walk a lot, get out in nature, clear your head, eat a lot of fresh food. Connect connect connect.
How do you take care of your skin?
I’m pretty simple – I use a product called Blush Off to cleanse my skin with nothing but water, I use a serum and skin oil from Esmi Skin Minerals and every now and again I get a Blueberry Peel from The Clinic (I also love their micellar cleanse on the go product called The Cleansing Pad). I use Bare Minerals Pro mineral powder and a little bronzer (I rotate colours from Mecca with the seasons), and sometimes a little mineral blush and highlighter from Adorn Cosmetics, an Aussie brand I love. I don’t think I even own any mascara these days.
What is your favourite active wear brand?
Quote I live by…
My greatest hope for my daughter is…
That she embraces life. In all its mess and glory. That she is content and feels free to follow her heart. That she has adventures and follows her passions. That she’s true to who she is and compassionate to others, and doesn’t sweat the small stuff. That she sees everyone as equals and every choice people make as right for them.
Photography Airlie Walsh
WORKOUT WITH LIBBY