My wedding workout diary

About a month after exclaiming a shocked, teary-eyed “yes!” to my kneeling boyfriend, my excitement for our wedding began to morph into intimidation, as more and more to-dos crept onto my list. Flowers, first dance, food service — things I had never considered before suddenly felt critical, and with my deep-rooted indecisive ways, it bogged me down.

As stressed as I felt, though, there was one no-brainer: who I would train with. I had been following Sopearin Yos’s every move on social media for months, following along as he trained his clients — who include an encouraging proportion of models and fitness pros — in his Toronto condo gym.

Wedding day prep is so much more than ordering flowers, as this bride-to-be writes. Hitting the gym might also be on your to-do list.
Wedding day prep is so much more than ordering flowers, as this bride-to-be writes. Hitting the gym might also be on your to-do list.

I was particularly fascinated by his complex, inventive moves: standard side planks taken to the next level on a Bosu ball while lifting a weighted disc, curtsy lunges made more difficult with shoulder presses in between, resistance bands added to, well, basically every exercise.

One day, as wedding-planning stresses were mounting to an all-time high, he posted that he was finally opening his own studio, Common Ground, at a spot halfway between my home and my office. Can you say “fate”?

I nervously sent Yos a message and set up a consultation. Considering that most of his clients have six-packs, I imagined that he’d be intense, maybe militant, but was quickly relieved to learn his training philosophy: “I take more of a laid-back approach,” Yos told me. “If you’re someone who works long hours, it’s not sustainable to wake up at 5 every morning and work out. You have to work healthy changes into your lifestyle.” Bless.

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For my own healthy changes, we made a manageable schedule of two training sessions per week with supplementary spin classes and jogs on my own time. For brides, Yos finds having a set schedule works best. “Every bride that has had success with me has made a plan that they can stick to,” he said.

Here’s how I did in the first month of my wedding workout plan:

The goal

The first month is all about putting good habits in place and building a solid foundation. “At the beginning, we do a lot of rehab stuff to get muscle imbalances out and fix any kinks,” Yos explains.

The plan

Our schedule sees more of an upper-body focus on Tuesdays and lower body on Thursdays, but as per Yos’s full-body technique, each session pulls in a bit of everything. After a mini-assessment (a few squats, push-ups, pulls and a plank), Yos quickly spots that my hips are tight and my trapezius muscles (the ones on top of your shoulders) have a tendency to hunch forward. Stretching and mobility moves are key to making sure I don’t injure myself.

The typical session involves three to four rounds of five moves, each performed with 15 to 20 repetitions (this is considered to be “high reps,” which Yos loves for building lean muscle). The moves themselves vary greatly, using nearly every piece of equipment in the boutique-sized studio (dumbbells, kettlebells, TRX straps, medicine balls, stability balls, a squat rack, chin-up bar, and more).

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For my part, I decide to eliminate junk food, alcohol, grains and most dairy, and make sure to mix in two additional workouts per week, typically spinning, boxing or a group run. I also recommitted to my foam roller, making time for regular (usually painful) stretching sessions before bed.

How I did

It didn’t take long for me to realize that my diet needed more changes than I expected — it wasn’t just about eating the right things, but eating enough of them. When my schedule gets busy, I tend to skip meals, which was the case during my first leg session with Yos.

We were doing weighted glute bridges, which involves lying face-up in a bridge position, with my legs bent at 90 degrees, feet on the ground, shoulders on a tall block and a heavy barbell across my thighs. I was meant to raise and lower my hips 30 times to make my butt muscles burn, but after the first nine, my thighs gave out. Yos cut down the reps and spotted me to help me finish, but I felt weak the rest of the session and thus firmly committed to always eating something (in a pinch, a banana or a Larabar) before heading to the studio.

Throughout the month, no two days were alike (except in that they were always mega sweaty), as Yos constantly thought of new variations on classics such as squats, lunges and deadlifts. Even the cardio (which Yos decided to amp up even in month one because I had a decent base of fitness prior to our program) was somewhat fun, with sprints turned into a game of chasing thrown pylons, or racing crouched-down while squeezing a block between my thighs. It made the workouts fly by — before I knew it, we’d be wrapping up with a round of rehab to keep my shoulders and hips in check.

That extra TLC paid off: For the first two weeks, nearly every shoulder exercise would cause my traps and neck to tense up, but with Yos’s physio-inspired rehab moves and on-the-fly modifications during normal moves, I started to actually feel the burn in my upper back and strengthen the area. Being able to do a move properly, without feeling injured like I usually do, makes me even more motivated to keep improving.

How I feel

With the intense workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I spent the better part of my weeks feeling that tender post-workout muscle ache, which I quickly grew to love because it serves as a constant reminder that I’ve accomplished something difficult. Plus, of course, physically the ache was paying off, too — a signal my body is repairing my muscles and making them stronger. While curling dumbbells toward my chest — with a resistance band to make it harder, of course — during my fourth week, I noticed a little ridge on the outside of my arm. A baby bicep!

Those small changes became more obvious when I compared my day 30 photo to day one. I was hesitant to take a “before” photo, but Yos said that it would help me keep track of my progress and offer motivation throughout, even if I just kept it to myself — and he was right. When I saw how my waist had shrunk, shoulders had become more defined and butt had lifted ever so slightly, I was surprised to see the difference.

That same week, I had my first wedding-dress fitting and felt completely at ease in my gown. There was no subconscious reflex to suck in or stand a certain way, just that sense of confidence that comes from putting yourself first.