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Buff and Beautiful

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It's no secret that looking gorgeous is at the top of the very long to-do list for brides. Wedding Web sites, books and videos abound with fitness tips, weight-loss blogs and nutrition plans for the bride hoping to have a firmer physique when she walks down the aisle.

But while every bride wants to look and feel fabulous for the big day, making time to transform her body can be a challenge during the chaotic wedding preparations. One local solution is the Bridal Boot Camp program at Richmond Balance.

The bride-to-be chooses from several certified personal trainers who work with her one-on-one over a 12-week period of twice-weekly 45-minute sessions. At the initial assessment, the trainer evaluates the client's body-fat percentage, fitness level and specific fitness goals. The trainer also helps the bride examine her eating patterns and develop a balanced nutrition plan. Workouts change regularly and increase in intensity as the bride becomes stronger. (You need not be a Richmond Balance member to participate in the program, and full access to the gym is included in the fee -- see www.richmondbalance.com for more information.)

Five brides have finished boot camp since the program's inception last summer. Richmond Balance owner Michelle Logan says the graduates were pleased with the results and have continued to work with their trainers. "The biggest mark of success is that they stay on," Logan says.

Angela Bottoms, a Chesterfield County school guidance counselor who will soon begin boot camp to prepare for her July wedding, is looking forward to exercising with other brides. In addition to swapping vendor information and contact numbers, Bottoms anticipates working out with other brides as "a time to vent and release the stress of planning a wedding." During boot camp, Bottoms' trainer will develop a program customized to her goal of having a slim midsection. Another bride may be more concerned about toned shoulders, so her program would differ. Participants are encouraged to supplement their training sessions by attending group exercise classes or working out at home.

Jenny Vala, a personal trainer at Richmond Balance, says that brides preparing for their wedding day make particularly enthusiastic clients. Vala helps women set realistic goals and focus on overall health rather than weight loss. If the bride is healthier, she'll feel more beautiful and exude confidence when all eyes are on her, Vala says: "When they feel good about their body, the dress size isn't as important."

Bottoms echoes this mindset. "Most importantly [I want] to gain confidence and to feel good about my body so that on my wedding day I will appreciate the moment rather than worrying what I look like in my dress," she says.

Ideally, by completing the program, Bottoms will develop healthy habits that will last as long as the marriage does.



Fit to Tie the Knot

While not every gym offers a dedicated bridal fitness program, any qualified personal fitness trainer can help you make gains in your fitness level and achieve a satisfying loss on the scale. Look for a trainer with certification from a nationally recognized organization, such as American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise or Aerobic and Fitness Association of America. Beware of trainers who promise drastic results in a short amount of time, and make sure they are willing to work with your own goals.

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