Mr. & Mrs. Fit

Smart ways to get in shape for
the big day, and beyond

By Jamey Bradbury

Everyone wants to look great for their wedding day. Whether you’re six months or two weeks from the ceremony you can develop a fitness routine that takes you and your new spouse beyond the wedding day “wow” and into a healthy and happy lifetime together.

Decide better

“Three to six months is a relatively short time to make permanent changes to your body or your habits,” points out Kanani Rhea, a certified personal trainer with Pavitt Health and Fitness in Juneau. To make the most of those months, couples should focus on both exercise and nutrition.

As bridal dinners, bachelor/bachelorette parties and the stress of planning compound, it’s especially important to focus on making good decisions each day. So what if you eat a piece of cake at one of those pre-wedding parties? “That means you’re going to drink twice as much water as you normally would, exercise and choose healthier food options for the rest of the day,” says Ken Okonek, a certified personal trainer and general manager at Anchorage’s southside Body Renew.

Skip the scale

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what you see on the scale, but Rhea recommends setting realistic wedding-day goals that aren’t dependent on weight loss. “The scale doesn’t account for body fat percentage. If you burn five pounds of fat and gain five pounds of muscle, your body will look different, but the scale won’t reflect the change.”

Instead, set goals that are performance-related. If you’re new to working out, commit to taking a walk with your spouse every evening; gradually increase the time or intensity of your walk as you get closer to the big event. For seasoned couples, choose a tougher goal, like running one or more miles non-stop, or doing a certain number of push-ups.

Once you reach your goal, set a new one. “You should always be pushing yourself,” says Rhea. “Over time, you’ll need to ramp up the intensity to see changes in the body. And if you’re measuring your success by keeping track of your performance, that’s going to motivate you to do more.”

Start small, and stick to it

Consistency isn’t just key to reaching your goals; it’s essential to staying motivated.

“A lot of people starting out will go gung-ho,” Okonek explains. “They’ve got a wedding in six months, so they decide they’ll go to the gym five or six times a week. But that’s not realistic to maintain.”

Instead, Okonek encourages couples to make practical commitments – hitting the gym three times a week, for example, or drinking four more glasses of water each day – then be consistent. “As you get better at doing that, you can add more to your plate, so you’re progressing steadily and reaching a better goal than if you go crazy then get burned out.”

Whole-body health

As you’re setting goals, try to focus on overall health, not just on one part of your body.

“You can’t spot-reduce fat,” Okonek points out. “People want to target fat just on the stomach or their arms; you can’t. The best way to increase body fat reduction is to increase calories burned in general.”

He suggests full-body exercises and compound movements – exercises that activate several different muscle groups at one time, like squats, bent-over rows and lunges. “Those will burn the most number of calories in the least amount of time.”

For both men and women, Okonek adds, “Strength training is your best friend.” That’s because muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Okonek recommends that couples incorporate weight-lifting or body-weight strength training into their fitness routine right up to the wedding day, through the honeymoon, and into everyday life.

Have fun to keep fit

“A healthy lifestyle isn’t all or nothing; when you go on vacation, you take that lifestyle with you,” says Okonek. You can still indulge in food, drink and relaxation on your honeymoon, but exploring an exciting locale with your new spouse can also be a way for the two of you to discover fun ways to keep fit together.

Go biking or hiking, try kayaking for the first time or learn to rock climb. When you leave the honeymoon suite, you might find activities you can incorporate into your life back home. And once you return, start planning your next vacation, Okonek advises: “Vacations and anniversaries are huge motivators. You can motivate and compete with your partner, really support and encourage each other, as you work toward that next trip.”

Fit for life – together

“What’s important is establishing that you’re going to support each other, Rhea says. The competing schedules of a married couple, paired with the responsibility of eventual parenthood, can make squeezing in exercise difficult. But when a couple gives each other the time and space to take care of themselves, everyone wins.