First and foremost, before you start any exercise program, you need to have had a physical and a clean bill of health within the last year. Once you get the OK from your doctor, you should be ready to start a gradual exercise program.
The hardest part about exercising is getting started. Everyone has a hundred excuses not to work out, including brides-to-be-and I've heard them all! Preparing for your wedding is time-consuming, but don't make that an excuse for not exercising. The time to start exercising was yesterday, but I'm willing to give you a break. The time to start is now, today, not next Monday! Don't think, "I'll do it later," because later never happens! Suck it up, put on your workout clothes, and get going! I tell my clients, "If it were easy, everybody would be doing it." Exercise is not easy; it's a commitment-just like planning a wedding. You wouldn't shortchange yourself on the cake and flowers, so why even think about shortchanging your own body? I always remind brides-to-be that the cake and flowers are forgotten after the wedding is over. But how many people leave their wedding picture on the mantel for the rest of their lives? If anything, that should be motivation enough! Who wants to look at her wedding picture year after year and regret not being in shape or even not feeling her best?
That's the beauty of this book. It focuses on simple, effective workouts that can be done in your own home. Most of the workouts outlined in the following pages can be completed, start to finish, in only an hour. That's all it takes! If you can, find a friend, a bridesmaid, your maid of honor-anyone who is willing to work out with you and motivate you-and do the program together. Brides often ask me, "When is the best time of day to work out?" There's a simple answer: The best time to work out is any time when you will actually do it. Try to schedule your workouts during the most convenient time of the day. If you have a busy schedule (as most of us do!), you must create the time. This book is not magic; you must make the commitment to work out consistently. Consistency yields positive results. I recommend working out at least three times a week; irregular training will take much more time to achieve results.
Most of all, make your training sessions fun! Wear exercise clothing that makes you feel good, even if you are training in the privacy of your own home. Put away the bulky leg warmers you haven't worn since 1987 and break out the sports bra! Reinforce feeling well by wearing something that makes you feel good!
The average American watches 12 to 15 hours of TV a week. Do you think on your wedding day you'll regret having missed another Friends rerun? Or will you wish you'd taken the time to get your arms looking like Jennifer Aniston's?
Incorporating exercise into your daily life should be a priority, whether you are getting married or not. Exercise affects your mood and will also increase your energy level. Again, schedule exercise into your day at a time when it's convenient for you, but don't procrastinate!
Don't bite off more than you can chew. Most brides-to-be who start working out get frustrated early on because they try to do too much at the start. If the day after exercising you are so sore and achy that you can hardly move, you started at a level you weren't prepared for physically. More is not better when it comes to starting an exercise program. Feel good about your workouts, and don't expect your body to do something it can't.
The exercises described in Part II are designed to be done at home and in a limited workout space. I find that most of my clients lose motivation if they try to go to a public gym. Most of them have trouble just getting out the door! A simple workout that could be done in an hour becomes a two-hour ordeal. Getting to the gym, parking, and waiting in line to use the equipment can be frustrating and time-consuming! Most people don't have a lot of time to waste, and that is why the Buff Brides workouts are effective; they are simple and quick, and people stick with them!
With minimal equipment, you can sculpt, tone, and strengthen every major muscle group to improve the body areas emphasized by the type of wedding gown you have chosen. This book is geared to the bride-to-be who wants to save time, see results, and feel comfortable in her own home. Although this book focuses on strength training, I have also outlined some cardiovascular exercises that are crucial for a balanced workout. Stretching is another important part of your routine and should be done regularly to maintain and improve flexibility.CREATING A HOME GYM:
SIMPLE ITEMS YOU WILL NEED TO BEGIN
YOUR STRENGTHENING PROGRAM
Creating a home gym can be very inexpensive. Of course, there are hundreds of expensive gadgets you can purchase. However, I am recommending what I feel is useful and will get the job done. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get into "bridal shape." Save the energy you'd spend on shopping for equipment and channel it into feeling good about your workouts and the positive results they will yield.Dumbbells
Dumbbells come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. They also come in various prices. Think about it: a set of 3-pound dumbbells that costs $12 weighs the same as a set of 3-pound dumbbells that costs $25! Don't be fooled by fancy labels or advertisements. If you feel you'll be more inclined to use the more expensive dumbbells, go for them. But the cheaper models will do just as well.
Depending on your level of strength, start off with three to four sets of dumbbells, increasing in weight. Beginners should start off with 3-, 5-, and 10-pound dumbbells. Intermediate and more advanced brides-to-be should start off with heavier weights: 5-, 10-, and 12- or 15-pound dumbbells.
I am an advocate of free weights because you can't "cheat" as much as you can when using machines. Let me explain: machines make things easier for you, as they direct your movement patterns. Free weights allow you to train each muscle group separately; your dominant side can't do all the work. Sometimes while you are using a machine, your dominant or stronger side will compensate for your weaker side when you start to get tired.An Exercise Ball
An exercise ball is an excellent addition to your home gym. Traditionally, exercise balls were used by rehabilitation and physical therapy patients. Today they can be found in almost every gym. An exercise ball strengthens your core muscle group, the abdominal muscles and muscles of the lower back. These important muscles stabilize your body. Think of your body as a wheel. Your core is the hub of the wheel; your arms and legs are the spokes. If your core is weak, it will be difficult to strengthen other parts of your body. Often, people arch their back or release their abdominals when performing an exercise. This is usually a result of weak core strength. Many people compensate for this lack of strength by using their hip flexor muscles when performing abdominal exercises. The exercise ball strengthens the abdominals through a full range of motion without using the hip flexor muscles.
Core strength is important in developing and improving overall muscular strength. The exercise ball is especially useful for people with lower back pain because the ball supports the back muscles during the exercises.
An exercise ball usually comes with a pump. This allows you to inflate and deflate it quickly for easy storage. An exercise ball can also be used in place of a weight bench, which is especially useful for small apartments or workout areas. I recommend a 65-centimeter ball for the exercises in this book.
I highly recommend purchasing a step for your home gym. Steps are inexpensive and provide a good cardiovascular workout as well as defining and toning the muscle groups of the lower body. Their lengths vary; I recommend anything from 28 inches to 43 inches. Lower lengths are great for small spaces.Ankle Weights
Ankle weights can intensify your workout. They are worn around the ankle, usually attached by Velcro or clips. Some ankle weights have cylindrical weights that can be removed or added. I recommend these; as you get stronger, you will be able to adapt and not get stuck with a pair of weights you can't use. Ankle weights are relatively inexpensive, about $15 to $35.An Exercise Mat
Unless your exercise space is carpeted, an exercise mat is a must, especially for a space with a hard floor. An exercise mat gives you the needed cushion for many of the stretches and strength training exercises outlined in this book. Mats are easy to store and are cheap, about $10.
Many of the exercises outlined in this book can be done with an exercise ball. However, if you have the space and money, a weight bench can be a good addition to your home gym. While a ball allows you to strengthen your core as well as other muscle groups, a bench will add variety to your workout. You could spend months picking out a bench, as they vary in size and price. Keep it simple! A good, sturdy bench can be purchased for $60 to $75. Some sporting goods stores offer a package deal if you purchase both dumbbells and a bench.
Shop around; a used bench can shave dollars off the price and be just as good as a new one! Many people sell their old ones, so look in your local newspaper classified ads. You might also try a used-gym equipment store. Make sure that the legs are stable and the padding is in good shape.
Stretching is an integral piece of the getting-into-shape puzzle. Stretching improves your range of motion, and flexible muscles are less prone to suffering from soreness and injury. Increased flexibility enables you to get through everyday life much more easily. Well-stretched muscles appear leaner, and your posture improves. (Good posture should be on every bride's mind as she walks down the wedding aisle.)
Your body should be warm before you stretch. Try stretching a rubber band after it's been in the freezer all night! Your muscles need to wake up and warm up. A common mistake is jumping out of bed and starting a stretching routine. I recommend warming up for about 5 to 10 minutes before stretching. A warm-up can be very simple: jumping rope, running in place, or doing jumping jacks.
Stretching should be pain-free. Stretch to the point of mild discomfort or gentle tension, and don't forget to breathe! Your breathing should be slow, rhythmic, and under control. If you are bending forward on a stretch, exhale. Don't hold your breath while stretching. Also, keep your stretches slow and steady. Don't bounce! With a regular stretching routine, you will be able to reach and bend progressively farther.
Finally, stretching after a workout is just as important as stretching beforehand. When you're done with your exercise routine, cool down and stretch! Make sure to stretch the muscles that were utilized in your workout.
Simple, Effective Stretches
Stand up straight with one hand on a support in front of you. Bend one leg back, holding the top of your foot. Keeping your knees together, bring your heel to your butt. Hold for 12 to 15 seconds, then repeat with the other leg. Do each leg twice.
Lie flat on your back on an exercise mat or carpeted floor. Lift your left leg up perpendicular to the floor. Your right leg should be flat on the floor. Interlock your hands behind your left knee, pulling your leg toward your chest. Pull to where you feel a stretch in your left hamstring. Hold for 15 seconds then repeat with the opposite leg.CALF STRETCHES
Standing, lean forward and place both hands on a wall or support in front of you. Keep one leg slightly bent and step back with the other leg, pushing your heel to the ground. Try to keep your heel down in order to benefit from this stretch. Hold for 12 to 15 seconds, then repeat. Do each calf twice.BUTT STRETCHES
Lie on your back with both feet flat on the floor. Cross your left leg over your right, above the knee. Grab your right leg behind your thigh (hamstring area) and pull both legs toward you until you feel the stretch in the left side of your butt. Hold for 20 seconds, then cross your legs the other way and stretch.LOWER BACK/HIP/
Start in a standing position, feet shoulder width apart. Your feet should be pointed forward. Keeping your knees slightly bent, slowly bend forward from the hips. Let your arms and neck relax. Go to the point where you feel a slight stretch and hold for 12 to 15 seconds. To the count of four, return to the starting position. Repeat.CHEST/SHOULDER STRETCHES
Standing, place your feet shoulder width apart. Don't lock your knees. Clasp your hands behind your back and lift your arms behind you. Keep your back straight. Hold for 12 to 15 seconds and repeat.TRICEPS STRETCHES
Standing, place your arms overhead and hold the elbow of one arm with the hand of the other arm. Gently pull the elbow behind your head, feeling a stretch in the triceps. Breathe slowly, holding for 15 seconds. Switch arms and repeat. Do each arm twice.
SHOULDERS/MIDDLE OF UPPER BACK STRETCHES
Standing without locking your knees, gently pull your elbow across your chest toward your opposite shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds, then repeat with the other elbow. Do each side twice.
Sitting on the floor, place your feet together so your heels are facing each other. Grab your ankles with your hands and lean forward slowly. Breathe slowly, holding the stretch for 15 seconds. Relax and then repeat.
Excerpted from Buff Brides by Sue Fleming. Copyright © 2002 by Sue Fleming. Excerpted by permission of Villard, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.