Natalie Thomas, Us' deputy news editor, is hitting the gym with Buff Brides author Sue Fleming (Katie Holmes was a devotee prior to marrying Tom Cruise!) before saying "I Do" to her beau of three years, Zach Friedman, on May 30. Check her weekly blog -- with step-by-step workout plans, diet details and photos -- on UsMagazine.com every Thursday.
Ouch! Everything is sore. And with each step, I am reminded of the pain. Washing my hair was even a struggle (raising my battered arms hurt!)! That's right, I had my first workout with Ms. Buff herself, Sue Fleming, and she kicked my butt!
Some of you gave me flack for saying I need to lose some weight. And, I hear you. I do. At 5'6" tall, I'm 127 pounds. If I said I want to lose a whole person or channel Lindsay Lohan, I would question myself! But, to reiterate, I want to drop a few pounds -- five to 10 -- and tone up. I have a realistic goal and am going about it in a healthy way. I’ve had the experience of being both in great shape and falling completely off the wagon (hello carb-loading college days!), and I feel my best when I'm fit. Those extra few pounds and lack of exercise make me feel lethargic, moody and tired. And when I'm feeling that way, I make bad decisions: Large cheese pizza? Check. Two cupcakes instead of one? Check. I also want to clarify that all of this hard work is not just for one day. My wedding dress is the incentive, the dangling carrot, if you will, but I plan to continue past my "I dos." I want this to be a lifestyle change, not a temporary one.
I have to admit, I was nervous for the first workout. It was like meeting my teacher for the first time at the beginning of the school year. How tough would she be? How much "homework" would I have? This time I don't have my dad's notes to get me out of gym class. But Sue was lovely, she listened to my goals and really seemed to understand what I want to achieve and how to get me there. However, let's be clear, she's no shrinking violet. She pushed me to my limits and then some. She actually said she heard me whimpering!
Sue had me doing what she calls "functional training." This includes multi-move exercises that also target the core (think push ups on a balance ball and squats with hand weights). She believes you have to make the core stronger in order to build a better body. Functional training incorporates many muscle groups and, apparently, a strong core is essential to that kind of work.
As she says: "Anyone can lift a weight, however, most people lack stability, balance and overall body strength. Functional training will tie all of these important components together for optimal results. Yes, brides want great arms but that won't happen if we don't have those other essential components in place."
I started with a 5-minute warm up to get my heart rate up. Sue had me do a mini-spin class on the stationary bike (but you can warm up with whatever you choose: the elliptical, power walking outside, running in place, jump rope -- anything to get you moving). I was doing intervals, lifting my butt every 30 seconds. I started seated, pedaling for 30 seconds and then kicked up the level (whatever feels like a challenge to you without overdoing it -- everyone has their own tolerance) on the bike and raised my butt so I was in the air, balancing and pedaling at the same time for 30 seconds, then back down for 30 seconds and back up, alternating for 5 minutes total.
It sounds like a short period of time and a relatively easy session, doesn’t it? It wasn’t. I was cooked before we even really began! I then moved on to the multi-move exercises that I mentioned earlier. I did these back-to-back (to keep my heart rate up) for 50 minutes straight. Sue’s whole approach is that anyone should be able to do these, anywhere. So there’s not a lot of equipment involved. Just a few hand weights, some bands and a stability ball is all you need. I did 12 reps of everything, 2 to 3 times. So I would do 12 lunges while holding 8-lb. weights (do whatever weight -- or no weight -- you can handle and work up to it), then I moved on to the next exercise (crunches on the stability ball for 12 reps, leg lifts holding 8-lb. dumbbells and so on) and completed one whole circuit before I went back to the beginning and started with the lunges for another 12 reps and continued the cycle. I ended with stretching for five minutes. It was quite the workout!
Afterwards, I felt sick. Really sick. Like toss my cookies sick. I swear I thought I was getting the flu but it never came. Sue assures me this is natural for some. I shocked my body to such an extent (no more Top Chef marathons on Sundays -- instead I'm in boot camp!) that it went into defense mode. She also promises this won't happen every time and it will be easier from here on out. I'm holding her to that!
But even after one session and all my ailments, I'm hooked! My tender thighs and achy arms tell me that I'm doing something good for myself. I'm taking time out of the day to, ultimately, feel better. And no matter how much I dread the exercise while doing it (and sometimes even curse sweet Sue under my breath!), I'm thrilled when it's over not just because the torture has subsided but because I am on my way, one session at a time, to becoming a buff bride!
**Check back next Thursday for a step-by-step workout plan (with video!) from Sue.
Read Natalie's previous blog entries: