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The wedding workout countdown

Maybe it’s all the photos that will be taken and framed forever. Maybe it’s the honeymoon bathing suit. Or maybe it’s the idea that a wedding day marks the start of a new chapter in life, and being the best version of you is the most valuable gift you can give yourself and your partner as you walk forward together.

Whatever the reason, after the date is set and details start flying, many brides (and grooms) add lose a few pounds to their wedding to-do lists.

Justin Draper, owner of Jada Blitz Training and Balanced Body, a meal prep service in Williamsville, has been training both competitive natural body builders and regular people since 2006. In that time, he’s worked with plenty of brides to improve their fitness through one-on-one personal training, group classes, nutrition counseling and lots of genuine encouragement.

Draper says that realistic expectations for slimming down and toning up totally depend on each individual person’s body and schedule — but the sooner you start, the better your results will be. He shared some ideas for what’s possible in the months leading up to the big day.

If you have 12 months…

You can make pretty big changes. A year is plenty of time to gradually overhaul your body and lifestyle for long-term health and fitness without getting overwhelmed. Losing no more than 1 ½ pounds per week is a good target — it’s enough to slim down but not lose muscle or be unhealthy.

Ease into it. Draper recommends spending the first few months working to boost metabolism — the body’s ability to turn food into energy. Start to improve your diet by identifying a nutrition plan based on macronutrients in food (protein, fat, carbs), ideally one that’s sustainable but flexible with plenty of variety.

Begin a regular exercise program three times a week with a focus on resistance and weight training with some cardio mixed in. Work with a trainer if you can, at least at the beginning, to come up with a smart, long-term plan and then check in periodically to see how it’s going. With this much time, the majority of your workouts can be group classes or visits to the gym on your own.

Draper looks at the year in three-month segments and kicks things up a notch at each interval — adding one more day of exercise, making another sizable change to food, and upping intensity and weights. Keep it fun and positive, whether that means including a bike ride or hike on the weekends or spending time being active with friends. This long-term focus on health does more than drop numbers on the scale.

“Learning how to stick to an exercise and nutrition plan builds the endurance and discipline you need to get through long days of working, life, and planning a wedding on top of all of it,” he says. “It’ll help you manage stress and sleep, which will make it easier to manage the rest of it.”

If you have 6 months…

There’s still enough time to see results, but you might need to be a little more proactive and on top of things than if you had the full year. It’s still wise to start slow with regular exercise, increasing frequency and intensity over shorter phases (every one or two months).

Nutrition should be a little stricter to begin with, too, with fewer cheat days and more careful planning. Draper says it’s not a bad idea to consider a food-prep service for six months, even if it’s just for the meals you struggle with (work lunches, weeknight dinners) — they’re a cost-efficient way to take the time and guesswork out of planning and cooking, leaving time for wedding tasks and workouts.

If you have 3 months…

Hope is not lost — you can still have an impact on your body’s appearance, but the changes will be subtler given the truncated time frame. One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll likely have had your final dress fitting, so losing a ton of weight quickly is not only potentially unhealthy, it’ll mean your dress won’t fit. If you plan on shrinking yourself by significant inches, talk to your seamstress ahead of time to avoid expensive rush alterations. If she says go for it, Draper suggests more high-intensity cardio and cutting calories to make the fastest changes to body composition.

If that beaded bodice has to stay put, you can cater strength training to tone areas highlighted by the cut of your dress — like an open back or bare shoulders. Doing something is always better than doing nothing, Draper says, when it comes to diet and exercise, even in the short term.

“Even just a few months of focusing on eating healthy and challenging yourself at the gym will help you feel better — your skin glows, you build confidence, and that translates to how you carry yourself down the aisle,” he says.

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