Every bride wants to feel confident and dazzling on her big day. And for some, that might mean dropping down a few dress sizes before it’s time to walk down the aisle.
If you fall into this category, before you get started with any new exercise program (including this one) first make sure to consult your doctor, and second, keep in mind that a safe and effective approach to weight loss rounds out to losing about one or two pounds per week.
If you’re serious about reaching your goal, make sure to give yourself enough time based on that rate. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds you’ll need anywhere from about five to 10 weeks. Also keep in mind that weight loss rates are very different among individuals, so it’s a good idea to give yourself a little bit of extra leeway by tacking on an extra week or two to your plan.
Additionally (and you likely already know this), remember that in order to see results you’ll also need to maintain a nutritious diet, and depending on your goals and current eating habits you may also need to reduce your calorie intake.
Finally, other lifestyle factors you’ll want to focus on that can help enhance your results include consistently getting enough sleep, regularly drinking enough water and, as best you can, keeping your stress levels to a minimum.
All that said, here’s your ultimate exercise guide to getting in shape for your big day.
Your Plan of Attack
Aim to exercise at least five days per week. According to exercise guidelines from The American College of Sports Medicine, you should incorporate a strength training workout that includes one to three sets of eight to 10 exercises performed for eight to 12 repetitions each two to three times per week.
For cardio, aim for 40 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity activity four or more times per week or 20 to 35 minutes of high-intensity activity three or more times per week.
Examples of two different weekly schedules, that each include one rest day for recovery and one low-intensity day for active recovery, are outlined below.
Weekly Workout Schedule Example 1
Weekly Workout Schedule Example 2
A few things to keep in mind:
- High-intensity workouts tend to yield better results, especially for weight and fat loss. If you can monitor your heart rate while working out, research has shown that reaching about 75 percent of your maximum heart rate is best for burning fat. Plus, high-intensity exercise also provides the benefit of encouraging your body to burn calories at an elevated rate even after you finish working out.
- You can rearrange these workout schedules to meet your individual needs, but when you’re working out at higher intensities, it’s important to allow for adequate recovery time between workouts (at least 24 hours). This will help prevent injuries and overtraining and ensure that your body is prepared to handle your next intense workout.
- You’ll want to make sure that you’re eating adequately both before and after each of your workouts. (See below for pre- and post-workout nutrition guidelines.)
Depending on how long your program will last, you’ll likely want to consider a periodization approach to your workout plan (or at least the strength training portion of it), which means you’ll vary the intensity of your workouts from week to week. This may help you avoid hitting a plateau in your progress.
Your cardio workouts can involve any type of aerobic exercise like running, biking, swimming or rowing. Check out the resources below for some examples and ideas.
- Exercise Anywhere: Pure Cardio Intervals
- 4 Underrated Cardio Activities That Blast Fat Fast
- 20-Minute At-Home HIIT Workout (Cardio + Strength)
- A Simple Guide to High-Intensity Interval Training
- The 10 Best Cardio Workouts for People Who Hate Running
Strength Training Guide
If you’re a beginner, first start with our intro to strength training resources:
Then, if you need ideas for some muscle-building moves, check out the following pages:
- 5 Upper-Body Exercises for Leaner, Stronger Arms
- Arms & Abs: Ultimate Upper Body Workout
- 5 Exercises for Killer Abs
- Strength Training Moves For A Full-Body Makeover
- High-Intensity, Equipment-Free Exercises You Can Do Anywhere (Cardio + Strength)
- 5 Key Moves for Stronger Legs
- The Best and Worst Ab Exercises
Your Nutrition Guide
What you eat before a workout depends on when it will take place. If you’re working out first thing in the morning, you may not need to eat anything before hand, but if you’re particularly hungry or have a high-intensity workout scheduled it’s a good idea to eat a small snack that contains carbohydrates, like a piece of fruit.
If your workout takes place at any other time of the day, either make sure your last meal was eaten at least an hour before hand so that your body has time to digest, or if you’re last meal was more than four hours before the start of your workout, you should eat a small snack that combines carbohydrates and protein, like plain Greek yogurt mixed with fresh fruit.
If you won’t be eating a full meal within about 30 minutes of your cardio workout, you’ll want to re-fuel afterwards with a small carb-protein combo snack, like a banana with peanut butter or an apple and a handful of almonds. You especially want to make sure that you refuel and rehydrate within 30 minutes of finishing a high-intensity workout.
The same approach applies to your strength training workouts as well, but you’ll want to make sure you consume a little bit more protein following those sessions. If you won’t be eating a full meal within at least 30 minutes of the workout, refuel with a small protein-rich snack like tuna with whole wheat crackers or a low-sugar protein shake.
For additional nutrition resources see:
Energy-Boosting Superfoods: What to Eat Before and After Exercise
Workout Recovery: How Soon Should You Eat After Intense Exercise?
Final Words of Advice
No matter what your goal is, exercise is an important component of any fitness program. But most of your time is spent outside of the gym, and it’s where you spend the majority of your time that your decisions and choices count the most.
When it comes to getting in shape consistency is always key. In order to see improvements, we have to consistently integrate the habits that will help us reach the desired outcome into our everyday lives.
In other words, if you want to see results it’s important to work at all of the different factors that play a role in supporting your success.
So, when you’re not at the gym, make sure to focus on your nutrition, your hydration, your sleep habits, moving more in general on a daily basis and managing your stress levels in order to achieve optimal results.