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Goin’ to the Chapel? Better Go to the Gym! : The Wedding Workout Trend

Women who want to shape up quickly in time for their nuptials are creating a new market in fitness: “boot camp brides”

The dress was perfect. Jeannie Giordano of New York City had bought a stunning wedding gown on E-bay, but when she took it to a seamstress to be fitted, she was advised to lose five pounds before the next fitting.

“I was already a member of New York Sports Club but had gotten lazy,” she says. “A few days after my first fitting I received a coupon in the mail for a family membership at my gym. As a result, my fiancé joined NYSC, too, and now we are going to the gym together. With a clear goal in mind, I am really motivated!”

The fitness world has seen a steady rise in the number of savvy brides like Giordano who use their impending nuptials as a motivator for getting—and staying--in great shape. Personal trainer Tracy Effinger, author of the best-selling The Wedding Workout: Look and Feel Fabulous on Your Special Day (McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books, 2001), says that about 25-33% of her clients are brides-to-be, a percentage that has grown in the last few years. She believes the burgeoning interest in bridal fitness reflects our culture’s recent obsession with weddings and marriage.

Bridal fitness experts agree that the ideal time period for starting a workout plan is six months prior to the wedding. But what if you’ve waited til the very last minute?

Anna Ostashevskaya-Gohstand shares these tips:

• If you’ve waited till the last minute and don’t think you can realistically reach your fitness goals, focus on the physical features you feel good about (long legs, graceful neck, beautiful skin, impressive bust line). Everyone has good features!
• Be aware of your posture and gait: stand tall and proud and carry yourself lightly
• Lower your sodium intake prior to the wedding to minimize water retention
• Take great care of your skin. Get a facial and use a self-tanner. A glowing complexion makes up for a lot of other so-called flaws

“You see all these reality TV shows depicting marriage and engagement and romance as a glamorous thing, and you’re always seeing these big celebrity weddings in magazines and on TV. People need to believe in something, and for a lot of people, marriage is that something.”

Bonne Marano, creator of the Crunch Fitness Bridal Survival program and the wedding fitness site Fit to be Tied Online, has also seen the number of bridal clients increasing lately.

“When I started my site about two years ago, I would get an average of 2,500 visitors a month. Today I get anywhere from 7,500-10,000 visitors a month and I answer about 25 questions a month from brides all over the country.”

While a well-heeled wife-to-be can invest in the services of a good personal trainer, budget-conscious brides are buying up guides like Effinger’s, as well as Sue Fleming’s Buff Brides: The Complete Guide to Getting in Shape and Looking Great for Your Wedding Day (Random House/Villard, 2002), and Robyn Flipse’s The Wedding Dress Diet: Lose Weight and Look Great on Your Wedding Day and Beyond (Main Street Books, 2000). Meanwhile, the Discovery Channel is currently filming a ten-episode series based on Fleming’s book that will track the success of twenty women as they get in shape for their walk down the aisle.

More expensive than a book, but less expensive than a year with a personal trainer, is Crunch’s above-mentioned Bridal Survival program, now being offered in New York, which includes interval boot camp-style classes targeting the muscle groups that wedding gowns tend to accentuate: arms, back, shoulders, hips, abs. Classes are designed around popular dress styles: strapless, open back, halter, and sheath. The Bridal Survival program also includes 16 personal training sessions and a Cardio Striptease bachelorette party.

The shorter-term fitness regimens offered in these popular books and gym programs are not that different from traditional workouts. They all encourage cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and some stretching and flexibility work. But the added benefit comes from being designed by women, former brides themselves, who viscerally recall the challenge of trying to get into shape while juggling all the myriad details of wedding planning. All of the programs address the emotional needs of the jittery bride-to-be, providing stress management tactics and homespun advice.

Personal trainer Anna Ostashevskaya-Gohstand will even help a client pick out her dress.

“I'm not a tailor or fashion designer, of course, so the decision is entirely up to the bride, but I can provide recommendations related to body shape. Looking at the dress helps a trainer find out which areas are important to sculpt.”

Such personal involvement from the trainers is typical of the bridal fitness scene.

“I was drawn to this specific population after my own wedding, eight years ago,“ says Marano, “I had hired a trainer, and even with my company discount I spent almost $2,500.00. I didn’t include this in my bridal budget, and I wondered how many other brides did the same thing, so I created a site where women could go for guidance at a fraction of the cost.”

Marano’s site features hundreds of wedding-fitness articles, a new workout every month designed by top trainers, and weekly email support from Marano herself, who answers all fitness questions e-mailed to her within 48 hours.

Do the brides stick with their programs after their big day?

Ostashevskaya-Gohstand is blunt: “They don’t. And they can’t. Express training is intense, time-consuming, goal oriented–like boot camp, or an athlete training for an event. You can’t keep that up.”

Effinger partially agrees. “I’d say it’s 50/50 between the ones who stay with their fitness routine after the wedding, and the ones who don’t. But I try to emphasize to my clients, and in my book, that if you’re getting married, you really need to feel like you’ve accomplished some things on your own. Fitness is one important way to feel that sense of accomplishment. So I really encourage people to stick with it after the wedding day.”