Ten-hut! It's Bridal Boot Camp

Brides get in shape for the big day

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Suzanne C. Ryan
Globe Staff / March 26, 2008

EVERETT — Katie Monkiewicz’s face glistens with sweat.

It’s been three weeks since she signed up for Bridal Survival Fit Camp, a new exercise boot camp for brides-to-be at Total Performance Sports.

To prepare for her wedding on Sept. 6, the 34-year-old Lynnfield resident now spends her Monday and Wednesday nights hoisting 10-pound dumbbells over her head, grimacing through squats and mountain climbers, and enduring stern prodding by her trainers.

‘‘You guys aren’t going to like me today!’’ Phil Rago barks as he leads a session.

The class is exhausting. The trainers, merciless. But all that matters is the goal.

‘‘I’m wearing a strapless wedding dress,’’ said Monkiewicz, an associate marketing manager at Kayem Foods Inc. in Chelsea. ‘‘I need nice collarbones and arms.’’

Boot camps are the latest fitness craze for that most motivated of recruits: a woman about to don a wedding gown in front of friends, family, and the dreaded photographer. Embarking on a diet or workout plan is not uncommon among the newly betrothed, but now gyms and trainers are offering intense, military-style group classes for brides-to-be.

Experts say the trend is fueled, in part, by weight-loss focused reality shows like ‘‘Celebrity Fit Camp’’ and ‘‘The Biggest Loser.’’ ‘‘Those shows are huge. It was just a matter of time before gyms tried to capitalize on them,’’ said Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise, a training and fitness certification group based in San Diego.

And with more women putting off marriage until their 30s or 40s, some brides-to-be may have more weight to lose or more toning to do before the wedding. And they want to do it fast. ‘‘That’s the whole point of these things,’’ said Jenny Everett a senior fitness editor at ‘‘Women’s Health’’ magazine. ‘‘These women are looking for results, quickly.’’

Whatever’s behind it, working out in a group in which everyone has the same goal — looking svelte and gorgeous on the big day — is extremely motivating, Everett said.

‘‘We’ve published a number of studies that show that people who exercise with a group are 35 percent more likely to stick with the commitment,’’ she said. ‘‘In a boot camp, there are people to talk to and distract you. You start to associate it with fun. Week to week, there are people cheering you on. If you don’t show up, they will call you and hold you accountable. If you don’t show up at spin class, nobody misses you.’’

For trainers, boot camps are easy to put together. They don’t require expensive equipment or even a gym, since some camps, like one run by New York-based personal trainer Cynthia Conde, are held outdoors in parks.

Conde has brides pulling sleds and running obstacle courses in a park in Queens. Her brides dress in military fatigues and meet four times a week with a trainer. Conde was sold on the concept after she saw her brother leave for a Marine boot camp and return eight weeks later 30 pounds lighter. She has written a book on the subject, ‘‘Bridal Bootcamp,’’ which came out in 2004, and she’s trademarked the term ‘‘Bridal Bootcamp.’’

Now she says she’s wrapping up production of a new reality TV show based on her book for a network that she can’t yet name. In the show, set to air this summer, 10 brides will compete to lose weight in exchange for a $1 million wedding, she said.

Wedding workout classes are part of the larger boot-camp fitness movement. In a national survey conducted by the American Council on Exercise, boot camps were listed by personal trainers, exercise experts, and weight management consultants as one of the leading fitness trends for 2008.

Bryant said he’s seeing prom boot camps, high school reunion boot camps, and boot camps for new moms hoping to get their pre-pregnancy body back.

While exercise is a good thing, Bryant cautions against overzealous fitness goals. ‘‘Stay within your limits,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not healthy or required that you push yourself beyond your capability.’’

For Jennifer Price, 27, it’s all about toning her arms before her June 14 wedding day. Price heard about a fitness boot camp at Yolanda’s bridal salon in Waltham from her boss at Meditech, a medical software vendor.

Yolanda’s operates six-week boot camps year-round. Three days a week 10 brides work out in the store’s basement fitness center, sometimes with their mothers, bridesmaids, and occasionally their grooms.

‘‘I was telling [my boss] that I lost 47 pounds and that I needed to tone up a little bit,’’ said Price. ‘‘She told me she does the boot camp. Now we go together. We talk about our dresses, our cakes. And I’m amazed at how toned my arms are. They were pretty flabby before.’’

Sports Club/LA in Boston runs eight-session boot camps every spring and summer. The classes include lectures on nutrition, stress reduction, and posture. The next session begins Tuesday.

Boston Athletic Club is launching two bride boot camps on April 8. This is a new offering for the downtown club. Healthworks Fitness Center for Women in Chestnut Hill is starting one April 8. Ten brides have signed on so far.

Total Performance Sports launched its first wedding boot camp in January. To date, four brides and one bridesmaid have signed up, including Charlestown resident Melissa Doherty, who’s getting married Sept. 27, and Somerville resident Kristen Callanan, who’s a bridesmaid in a wedding July 12. The rest of the class is filled each week with various club members.

On a recent evening, Doherty was feeling the pain after doing crunches on the floor while lifting an 8-pound medicine ball in her hands. ‘‘I’m exhausted,’’ she said.

Callanan was feeling punchy. When trainer Steve DiLello told the class to do modified jumping jacks by clapping their hands like a seal, she couldn’t hold back. ‘‘Steve, put your face right here,’’ she said, as she slapped her hands together.

After more work with the dumbbells, Monkiewicz was slowing down. ‘‘They’re getting heavier and heavier,’’ she said, puffing.

‘‘Do you want to look good this summer?’’ roared Rago, the trainer.

It was just the motivation she needed. ‘‘South Beach, baby!’’ Monkiewicz responded. ‘‘I’m going to South Beach for my bachelorette party. I can’t stop now.’’

Suzanne Ryan can be reached at

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