If you are getting married, I suspect that October is no longer synonymous with ‘Oktoberfest’ in your dictionary, but it becomes the month to indulge yourself in ‘all things wedding’ – wedding fairs, bridal shows and exhibitions are taking over big cities such as Birmingham, London, Manchester, to provide you with inspiration (and plenty of temptation to splurge out) for planning your Big Day.
Whilst you are on the hunt for the traditional must-haves, you may also be thinking about this being the right time to get into shape for your wedding photo-shoot. Naturally, you want to look your best, because at the end of the day, those pictures will serve as your most treasured mementoes capturing the story of your Big Day, perhaps for many generations to come.
If you have been a reader of my blog for a whole, you know that personally, I believe that having a chiselled and fit body is not just about the way you look – it is a state of mind; a way of feeling confident and feeling good about who you are. I think this is especially important when it comes to life-defining moments. When you know you look great and feel really good in your skin, it will certainly shine through in those wedding pictures, and the stories you will be telling your loved ones when you walk down memory lane together after the wedding.
In this article, I am going to equip you with 7 fool proof principles to help you cut through all the BS that is out there (ranging from one week accelerated wedding diets, to 4 week bridal bootcamps, to liposuction, and God knows what else) and help you get where you want to be. I deliberately did not say that I will be telling you exactly what to do – and the reason for this is that different things work for different people, and I do not believe in a ‘one-size fits all’ approach or an ‘exact science’. If you are after something more personalised, something that is specifically tailored to YOU, I would prefer to work with you on a one on one basis, contact me for more info.
If you are ready to have all eyes on you as you walk down the aisle, please read on!
Start by Setting Goals
It is a no-brainer, really. Be clear about what you want to achieve, right from the start, this will give you a sense of direction and purpose to your ‘shape up’ journey. However, unfortunately, things can easily backfire, if you do not think things through properly. I recommend that you use the traditional ‘SMART’ formula to set yourself up for a good start.
Below is an example what SMART goal setting might look like if let’s say that you want to lose weight before your wedding, which is 3 months away:-
Specific – You want to drop 2 dress sizes (assume that this equals to 12 kgs, and becoming a size x).
Measurable -You could use an old pair of jeans that you used to fit in when you were that size. Taking full body pictures regularly can also help illustrate your progress. Do not get too obsessed using the scales, as our weight constantly fluctuates throughout the day and if you are adding muscle, it weighs more than body fat due to its density. So trust the mirror and the photos to look for the definition that is starting to show on your body.
Achievable – You have got 3 months until the wedding; this means you would need to lose about 1 kg per week until the day of the wedding. This sounds doable and safe, as per NHS guidelines.
Realistic/relevant – I would be slightly worried if you only weighed 48kgs and you would be looking to lose 12kgs, which is 25% of your total body weight and would certainly tip you into a very unhealthy weight range. Also, if you decided that you would embark on this fitness regime 3 weeks instead of 3 months before your Big day, aiming to lose 12 kgs during that time is likely setting yourself up for failure.
Time-bound – Have a time frame for completing your goals. I would say the earlier you can put your workout plan into effect, the safer and more efficient this journey will be, especially if you are looking to lose lots of weight and really tone up. All you need is some basic maths skills to work out approximately how much time it will take to lose all that weight, in a healthy way. You may also need to factor in timeframes for requesting wedding dress alterations as your dress size will change, and there may be times you may not be able to work out (e.g. due to unexpected illness), so leaving some wiggle room is always a good idea.
Don’t waste your time on fads
To start with, whatever fitness programme you choose to follow, if the results it promises sound too good to be true, it usually is too good to be true. In order to see results, you need to put the hard work in, consistently. There are NO shortcuts – so forget about magic weight loss pills, slimming TeaTox drinks, the muscle toning belt you can put around your waist, promising to give you 6 packs whilst you are watching the telly from the comfort of your armchair. These are of course just a few examples of all the fads that are out there. However, the good news is that you can learn to play smart, and being smart always pays off – and this is what this article is about: to get the maximum results out of the time and effort you invest in.
Play to Your Advantages
You have more chance to succeed if you focus on developing your natural gifts, instead of wanting to change your fundamental body type through exercise. Your focus should be getting the best out of what God gave ya’.
Your body type stays with you your whole life and no amount of exercise or any specific workout can significantly change it; only enhance it. So for example, if a fitness programme promises you to have an amazing hourglass figure like Beyonce’s by the end, and your natural body type is ‘apple’, you will be in for some disappointment.
Your body type is mainly defined by your skeletal structure, as well as your muscle and fat distribution. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, however the general consensus is that there are 4 main types: apple, pear, rectangle, hourglass, inverted triangle. Get familiar with your natural body type:-
Dress to Impress
The other time you need to think about your body type is when it comes to choosing your wedding dress: try to emphasize your natural advantages and settle for one which will highlight the parts you love the most – perhaps a killer booty, gorgeous long legs, a muscular back? I am sure there must be something you are especially fond of. (If in doubt, ask you fiance!)
For example, I have a small chest, so when choosing my dress, a deep cut neckline was not an option, but I love my toned arms and my slim waist; and I am quite tall. So I settled for a shoulderless, figure-hugging mermaid style dress with a high sweetheart neckline (and padded bras). Even years after the wedding, I still can’t part with that dress!
Prepare to Push Yourself Hard
No matter how beneficial Yoga, Pilates, or Thai Chi classes can be, they are not going to help you tone up noticeably or help you lose much weight. Don’t get me wrong, they have their place in an effective fitness plan, and have their value because they help you enhance your flexibility, mobility and fine-tune the smaller muscles. However, for noticeable results, your focus should be on workouts which significantly elevate your heart rate, keeping you within or close to your ‘maximum effort’ zone. By continually fatiguing your muscles, you kick your metabolism into higher gear, and you become an effective ‘fat burning machine’. This revving up continues throughout the day, because it can take up to 72 hours for your metabolism to reset and you burn calories all that time. Yay!
Another piece of great news is that you do not have to spend loads of time exercising in one go if you follow this principle; doing brief, but intense, intermittent bouts of exercise 4- 5 times a week will do the job perfectly. I can recommend the following which are fantastic for improving cardiovascular health, respiratory endurance, muscle tone, as well as metabolic function:-
- Doing interval runs outdoors or on the treadmill: check out training plans on the Runnersworld website.
- Spinning classes: Boomcycle, Psycle, Les Mills, triathlon style etc.
- Tabata and high intensity interval training gym classes: Shaun T’s Insanity (also available as home-workout), CrossFit, Kettlercise (also available as home-workout), Les Mills’ GRIT, British Military Fitness, general bootcamp classes.
- Same style as above, but in a home workout version: The Body Coach, Nike Training Club mobile phone app, BodyRock TV, Zuzka Light
If you would also like to focus on muscle definition, head to the weight room and work with heavier weights. Yes, you heard that right! Unfortunately, many women are afraid to lift heavy weights because they are afraid of getting bulky, and looking ‘manly’. The bottom line is that women do not have the same hormone profile as men, and therefore cannot gain enough lean mass to look too bulky. It takes figure competitors tremendous effort to look that muscular, and this is not a state they can maintain very long outside competitions, because of the sheer scale of sacrifices and hard work that needs to go into creating that look.
If you are new to the world of lifting weights, I can recommend Girls Gone Strong and their flagship training programme called ‘The Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training’. I also used to do Les Mills Body Pump classes which are an awesome workout.
Ultimately, you need to pick the form of exercise that works best for you and what is accessible to you. Let’s face it, if you hate cycling, you are not going to keep up with going to spinning classes, but you may enjoy a sweaty bootcamp class instead.
One final word – try to mix things up as much as possible, so you do not end up doing the same thing over and over again. This will help you avoid boredom, injury and burnout; and provide your body with the continuous stimuli and challenge it needs to get into shape.
Swap Dieting to a Low Carb/High Protein Meal Plan
Do stop thinking about dieting and give your body the nutrients and calories it needs. Vigorous dieting is a path which only leads downhill – if you live in a calorie deficit because your exercise level is too high and your food intake is too low, your metabolism will interpret this that it must slow down all functioning to conserve energy, and this is the opposite of what you want to achieve!
Instead, start a low carb/high protein diet using high quality sources of food. A lot of people carry excess weight or are unable to shed the final pounds, because their diet is too high in carbs. If you follow this principle, you can change your body’s preferred fuel source from mainly carbs to protein and fat stores, so basically you make your body burn fat for fuel. Secondly, it takes more energy for your body to digest protein and turn it into fuel (this is called the ‘thermogenic effect of digestion’), so you burn more calories just by eating the right things. How cool is that? Thirdly, protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer, so you will feel less tempted to graze inbetween meals. And last, but not least, protein helps you recover quicker from the harder workouts so you can effectively move forward with your chosen exercise plan, and workout at a higher intensity.
My favourite high protein recipe books are The Body Coach series, Fitter Food, and Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Superfood. I also tend to rely on occasional personalised nutrition coaching at the gym I go to, when I am working towards a particular fitness goal.
Don’t Count on Motivation; Create Effective Habits Instead
When I first started going to the gym, I can clearly remember this motto on their wall which has etched into my brain forever: ‘Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going’. I can personally testify to this being true – when motivation runs dry, and ‘life gets in the way’, all you have left to hold onto are the habits you have built.
Unfortunately, habits do take time to embed. Some clever scientists worked out that it takes 66 days (!) before a new behaviour becomes automatic. So here are some tips for how you can create effective habits and make them stick:-
- Plan your workouts ahead. Schedule your workouts into your calendar, stick it on the fridge, on your fiance’s forehead, just do whatever works for you. Make these non-negotiable and try to fit them around other commitments, this may mean setting the alarm clock for a bit earlier on certain days.
- Get your workouts out of the way first thing in the morning. This has been a real game changer for me personally – I have a very busy and stressful job and by the end of the day, all I want is to put my feet up and chill out of the sofa; whereas if I start my day with running or working out, I do not only function a lot better during the day, but this also removes the possibility of procrastinating or skipping my workout altogether later in the day.
- Get into meal planning mode. Use the weekend to think about what meals you are going to cook during the week, what ingredients you will need to buy and when you are able to make these meals. Sunday afternoons are great for food prepping if you are especially busy during weekdays to make meals.
- Find your tribe i.e. like-minded people with similar goals, for added motivation and challenge. Connect and share your experiences and progress on social media, cheer each other on, whether it is starting a visual diary, a blog, an Instagram page etc. It is fun, and who knows, you may end up being a role model for someone else?
- Gradually build things up by setting smaller goals initially. Try not get carried away, as you do not want to get injured or burn out and find yourself back on square number one, having to sit out the next couple of weeks!
I hope you have found this article helpful and interesting. I have actually left the best bit to the very end as the ‘icing on the cake’… If you live in the High Wycombe area, there is now a special 10 DAY FREE TRIAL at the gym I go to, The Fitness Experts. offering a variety of fun and high energy bootcamps to help you lose fat and tone up fast. This is coupled with expert, personalised nutritional advice that comes at no extra cost. I highly recommend this gym, otherwise I would not be shouting out so loud about them! I have written an article about my experiences, if you are interested in finding out more about what you are getting yourself into. If this has convinced you, to grab this special offer before the spaces fill up, visit their website to register. Please remember to mention my name ‘Timea’ if you decide to take the plunge and sign up for the trial, or even take out membership 🙂