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Are Bridal Bootcamps Worth It?

Brides-to-be are budgeting more time and money for fitness than ever — and it's not just because they want to get skinny for the big day.

Welcome to Fitness Week! All week long we'll be posting stories about fitness, with a distinctly Fashionista spin.

Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? Planning a wedding is stressful. Not only are you about to make a lifelong commitment to another human, you also have a seemingly endless list of details about the ceremony to straighten out, family drama to deal with and — perhaps the most taxing of all — you need to find the perfect dress. As if that’s not enough pressure for you, add in the fact that your wedding will likely be the most photographed day of your life, and pictures of you wearing said dress will be hanging in your home for posterity — and thanks to social media, all over the Internet for everyone you've ever met to see.

That being said, it’s not surprising that many women decide to amp up their workout routines in the months leading up to their big day. As someone who frequents boutique fitness studios around New York City (and as someone who’s getting married in a matter of weeks) I have noticed the intensity with which many brides-to-be train to get wedding-ready. But, despite my initial suspicions, the main objective isn't to simply "get skinny" as quickly as possible. Through talking with trainers and brides alike, it seems that amplifying your exercise routine before your wedding can actually be just the kick you need to start your new married life on a healthier — and happier — foot.

Sure, looking good in your wedding dress and toning your muscles is certainly a goal for the majority of brides who sign up for a training program, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Having an outlet to channel the stress of planning is one of the biggest factors that keeps women coming back to class four to six times a week. A recent bride I spoke with, who's a fashion editor at a New York-based magazine, can attest to this. "I got to direct my anxiety towards something proactive every single day — I was working toward a goal, and it really helped," she explains.

Classes like SoulCycle and Barry's Bootcamp — which are both very popular among brides-to-be — have loud music and a party-like atmosphere that can help students get out of their own heads and take a bit of time to focus on themselves. "My pre-wedding training was for my mind more than for my body," a newlywed fashion PR director in New York tells me. "I did Physique 57 and I noticed immediate results, but running in Central Park during the last few weeks really helped me to clear my mind."

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When it comes to the physical aspect of the training, it's common that brides push themselves to the limit, but for the most part, they should be making a commitment to a gradual lifestyle change that they can sustain in the long-term. "The biggest mistake a bride can make is choosing a program that's vanity driven — just wanting to get as skinny as possible," says Rachel Piskin, co-founder of New York-based studio ChaiseFitness. She notes that her clients are fitness and health-minded to begin with, so many of them don't come in with unrealistic weight loss goals. The main target is often to define and lengthen certain muscles, which is something that can be achieved in as little as three months. "We try to motivate brides to work out in a healthy way, and in a way that you can maintain after the wedding," Piskin says. "You want to feel like your best self, but also that this can be your new self." 

Even if a bride is already active, it's easy to cave into the pressure of wanting maximum results, possibly leading to injury or an unhealthy routine. "It's important to note that sometimes brides overdo it, but it's one day of your life, so you should do it to be healthier overall," says Jenn Seracuse, director of FLEXPilates at FLEX Studios in New York. "When you have a wedding coming up, you have to be realistic about your fitness level at that moment. It is realistic to start [training] a bit sooner and then bump it up gradually."

Training with such frequency can be a huge blow to your bank account — the studios mentioned here begin at around $30 per class — which is why many brides budget for their workouts in the planning process. Though many don't drop their exercise routines completely after the wedding, they scale back significantly, as it's hard to justify spending so much cash to stay fit. However, the results can be life-changing: "For most people who do it, it’s hard to live with yourself if you see that you can achieve those results and not keep at it," says Joey Gonzalez, co-owner of Barry's Bootcamp. In addition to wanting to maintain the body that they've created, women try to keep a consistent routine post-wedding because of the energy it gives them, as well as sense of community they've built within their respective studios.

At the core, brides want to look like the best versions of themselves on their wedding days, and focusing on fitness in the months prior can help them build a glow from the inside and out. The goal isn't to look skinny, but rather, to look strong and healthy, and to go into the next chapter of your life in fighting form. "I knew if I didn’t feel my best, I wouldn’t enjoy the day as much as I wanted to," the fashion editor says. "I felt good. I'm sure I could have lost a few more pounds, but it really didn’t matter." Yes, the pictures are forever, but if all goes according to plan, so is your new spouse. And he or she probably doesn't want you to change one bit.