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Originally published June 22, 2012 at 12:02 PM | Page modified June 25, 2012 at 11:46 AM

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'I do' commit to be buff on the big day, brides say

In the safe space of bridal boot camp, brides can commiserate over how their soon-to-be-in-laws are driving them crazy, have panic attacks over veils and talk about wedding-induced stress.

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photographed by Benjamin Benschneider

BY THE second round of burpees, I wondered if being a bride would make them more bearable. As a non-bride, I found them excruciating. The Seattle Healthy Bride trainers told me to skip the third boot-camp circuit if I needed to, and I was tempted. Surely I didn't "need" to throw myself down into push-ups, hop forward, jump and wave my hands in the air, then repeat for 30 seconds?

But like the brides on hand, I powered through. This column was my motivation. Their motivation was more urgent: a white dress and hundreds of eyes watching them walk down an aisle.

Brides have a number of ways to slim down for their big day. Seattle teems with advocates of torturous Barre classes, intense CrossFit and hardcore spin classes. But those don't offer what some brides are eager for — a bridal buddy. In the safe space of bridal boot camp, brides can commiserate over how their soon-to-be-in-laws are driving them crazy, have panic attacks over veils and talk about wedding-induced stress.

Trainer Dillon Kreider runs Healthy Bride, which includes a nutrition component and twice-weekly nights when the brides meet before attending a regular boot-camp session. The boot-camp classes don't change much on bride nights, but sometimes there is more focus on the upper body.

"Who cares about your legs when you're wearing a dress?" Kreider says.

Ian Weinberg, another local trainer, adds a nutrition consultation in his bridal boot camp, and, as they do at Healthy Bride, the brides join the regular boot-camp sessions. "Most generally want to lose a few pounds," he says.

At Healthy Bride, the bridal therapy session may cover topics like wedding locations, cake tastings and, naturally, weight-loss apps for counting calories.

Bride Jeanie Zwick moved to Seattle a year ago. Most of her friends are scattered around the country, so it's nice to connect with other brides. Boot camp "takes my mind off the stress," she says.

Her stress has been compounded by planning a wedding in St. Louis. Eating while traveling and cake tastings have not helped her lose 10 pounds, the 28-year-old says, though she has some time before the October wedding.

After several months of training with Kreider, Christina Broat, 28, had her wedding dress taken in a size. She thinks she lost around 12 pounds, but more importantly, her body changed shape for the better. And because being a bride "is such a weird thing," it's just nice to talk to others "and be like, 'Oh, my mother-in-law!' "

Boot-camp sessions start with an eight-minute warm-up on rowing machines, stationary bikes and treadmills; then the chatting ends. Once the music is cranked up and the push-ups, single-leg hammer curls and burpees start, hard breathing and shouts of encouragement from trainer Kim Lerner replace wedding talk.

I can't remember the last time I lifted weights, but I soldiered through the circuit of eight exercises three times, even the painful push press, when we lifted weights overhead and balanced on our toes. I started to wonder if Lerner was extending the 30-second bursts. But whenever I lost motivation, I looked at the determined brides, sweating and earnest. They continued round after arduous round. I bucked up and finished those burpees.

"It's amazing," Lerner says, "the motivation a bride has."

Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at Email: Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW staff photographer.

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