Monday, April 30, 2007

Bridal Bootcamp in the Toronto Star

I made it in the paper today... Working out at 6:30 am on a Monday looks like this:

Original story online here:

Bridal Bootcamp turns pain into gain for women preparing to walk down the aisle
Apr 30, 2007 04:30 AM

Life Writer

The sun is barely up over Lake Ontario, but trainer Sandra O'Brien is already busy whipping her brides-to-be into shape.

"Faster. Faster there, sister. Go. Go. Go," hollers O'Brien, decked in shades and a green camouflage shirt, whistle dangling from her neck.

O'Brien's target is Melanie Stone, who is huffing and puffing down a trail at Mississauga's Jack Darling Park, determined to lose a dress size before her June wedding.

"I really needed to do something for myself," says Stone. "Everything has been crazy with the wedding. I am also a student doing my masters part-time. You just lose yourself in the planning, the school and working full-time."

That is why two weeks ago, Stone joined Bridal Bootcamp – hyped on its website as "a major-league s.o.b. kick @$$ workout."

"After my first day, I could barely walk," says Stone, who attends bootcamp five times a week and hits the gym three times a week. "Sandra doesn't let you slack off, not for one second."

Started by Toronto personal trainer Mark Vendramini, the high-intensity program aims to get women in shape for their big day. Since it began in 2003 in a Bayview Ave. studio, the course – and business – has rapidly expanded. Franchises for the trademarked program can now be found in Toronto, Mississauga, Calgary, Winnipeg and London. A new location is expected to open in Regina this summer .

Circuit training is key in the workout, which tones your entire body. Participants spend 30 seconds or more at various stations and do as many repetitions as they can of a particular exercise. This can range from equalizer chin-ups, to military press squats, to the J. Lo hip thrust, to the wheel of pain (an ab exercise), to the Sherpa stair climb.

"Bootcamp kicks your ass over and over because it always changes and I never lay off," says Vendramini, who is known by his brides for demanding impromptu squats and man-style push-ups.

(Despite frequent and regular workouts, this reporter found the Bridal Bootcamp completely kicked her butt.)

For Irene Vilchez, who gets married on Aug. 5, it's the draw of an involved taskmaster like Vendramini that brought her to the camp.

"I needed someone to kick me into getting into shape," says Vilchez, who has lost eight pounds since she started last November. "Mark provides that with all his shouting and all that stuff – it was something I felt I needed."

Though she is the middle of preparing for her wedding and moving into a new home, she says she can't stay away from the camp.

"I want to be able to walk the aisle and have every one say, `Wow, she looks like she worked out.'"

In Ontario, more than 60,000 couples marry every year, with the average cost of a Canadian wedding ranging from $20,000 to $30,000. For many brides, the big day is as much about the vows they will take as it is about fitting into a classic, sleeveless white dress, with arms and shoulders exposed for all to see.

Though particularly concerned about their upper body, trainer O'Brien always tells the brides who come to bootcamp that at some point the dress is going to come off – so it's important to focus on the quads, butt and, essentially, the whole body.

For Cathy Ferguson, Bridal Bootcamp is not just about losing weight for her July 8 wedding. Her goal is to eventually drop 100 pounds.

That's why Ferguson, whose time is consumed with the details of her wedding, has been hitting the bridal bootcamp three times a week and the gym three more times.

So far, she has lost more than 35 pounds since she joined last October.

At her last fitting, the dressmaker had to take her wedding gown in a bit. Her fiancé, she says, is thrilled.

"He is very encouraging. He notices my measurements are definitely getting smaller," she says.

Brides, however, are not the only recruits who sign up for Bridal Bootcamp. Vendramini says the list includes single and married women.

Valerie Tih is one. She started training with Vendramini before she married and now, almost a year and a half later, she stays on.

And, from time to time, suggests her husband join her.

"Mine is too scared," she jokes. "He's like, `I don't want to humiliate myself.'"

For those who crave results, trainers say proper eating habits are a must.

That was a problem for Mariela Lopez for many years. "I have a hectic schedule. My eating habits were out of whack," she says. Now, on the advice of her bootcamp instructor, she eats every three hours so that she no longer overdoes it when she gets hungry. So far, she's lost five pounds.

"You can exercise like a dog five days a week, but if you're scarfing down fries, pop, saturated fats and little vegetables and fruits on a daily basis, don't expect to see long-term change," says O'Brien. "You will never see your newly sculpted muscles if they're hiding under a layer of fat."

Additionally, she cautions beginners to remember the importance of consistency.

"Your body didn't get in its current state overnight, it's unrealistic to expect long-term healthy changes in a very short period of time," she says.

"Getting lean and strong is not an event, it's a ongoing, ever changing process."

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