Basic Training

200010132-001Is anything more cliché than the oft-derided bridal boot camp? With five weeks to go before her first fitting, Blythe Copeland sweats through three local sessions and discovers the real question: Does anything work better?

Underneath Yolanda’s in Waltham sits a well-kept secret: the wedding megastore’s 200-member sports club, complete with a pool, steam room, and eight-week bridal boot camp program. On a Tuesday in September, I’m halfway through the latter, sandwiched between five women—oddly, none of whom are getting married—pumping hot pink and purple 5-pound weights to the beat of ’90s-era Jock Jams. Evidently, Yolanda’s signature princess-worthy service stops above ground; down here it’s all sadistic step aerobics, crunches, and curls. I’m sweating (and, ok, swearing) profusely, reminding myself every other sit-up that I volunteered to test Boston’s best wedding workouts—my own ceremony is just three months away.

Less than 24 hours later, despite aching abs, I’m at Healthworks in Brookline, strapped to the city’s only “gravity” machine. Trainer Sarah Boller is leading me and a half-dozen others through the women-only gym’s Blushing Brides program: four weeks of circuit training, weightlifting, and balance exercises created to tone all-important areas like shoulders and upper arms. As we push and pull our body weight around, I barely break a sweat. Two days later, though, I’m in agony, and my stomach feels firmer.

While the group mentality has its benefits—watching other brides get buff is good motivation, and I admit to loving Yolanda’s kitschy camaraderie—going solo has its perks, too. In Fitcorp’s 15-session Down the Aisle program, there’s only one person working out: me. That means no hiding in the back of the room or faking it with too-light weights. It also means personalized workouts that target each bride-to-be’s trouble spots. Mine are triceps, waist, and midriff, so trainer Corinne Donovan schedules once-a-week, hour-long sessions of spinning, running, and medicine-ball exercises. She also sends me e-mail encouragement (“Stay away from your editor’s candy drawer!”) and lends me resistance bands to use while on out-of-town assignments.

In six weeks, I lose 12 pounds and noticeable inches from my middle, my dress is nearly two sizes too big, and I’ve stopped indulging at the candy drawer (well, almost). Where I used to dismiss bridal boot camp as just another wedding industry gimmick, I now reply with a resounding “Hooah!”

[sidebar]Yolanda’s, 355 Waverly Oaks Rd., Waltham, 781-398-1023,; Healthworks, 920 Commonwealth Ave., Brookline, 617-731-3030,; Fitcorp, Prudential Center, Boston, 617-262-2050, Additional bridal fitness programs are offered at the Sports Club/LA, 4 Avery St., Boston, 617-375-8200,; and Boston Sports Club, multiple locations, 800-301-1231,