How to get in shape for your summer wedding fast!

A weekly exercise plan to ensure you look your best in time for your special day.

woman exercise on bike at gym

Photo, Getty Images.

I’ve written in the past that you shouldn’t try to lose weight or get in shape for a single occasion like a vacation or a high school reunion. Instead, I’ve always advocated embracing exercise and healthy eating for the long-term because it encourages your fitness to naturally fall in line. I believe that if you focus on learning to love the journey and on healthy behaviours instead of outcomes, things like fat loss and improved body composition basically take care of themselves.

But his is your wedding we’re talking about so some rules may need some breaking. It’s a special day, and chances are you’re extra motivated to look your best. So let’s use that motivation wisely.

Using it wisely doesn’t mean dramatic shifts in lifestyle right out of the gate. I realize that if you’re not currently active, and don’t have the greatest diet, then changing this is hard. That’s why I want you to start thinking about it now rather than trying some crazy rapid weight loss program a few weeks before you walk down the aisle. Slow and steady is the way to go.

Here is a reasonable way to approach this for someone who isn’t active, and doesn’t have the greatest diet.

The next two to three weeks
If you’re sedentary, I want you to do two things during this time:

1. Start walking
Keep it brisk and as long and as frequent as you can comfortably handle (so you’re not in pain the next day). Do this as often as you can, preferably in the morning.

2. Start planning
If you want accelerated weight loss this is going to take effort, and you need to consider some intense aerobic activities such as running, cycling and fitness classes to burn calories. You might also consider intense weightlifting and/or Pilates to sculpt your leaner frame.

Getting help with your training is also a good idea. There are so many trainers, running clinics and classes that you should take advantage of because training builds confidence and competence, which will make you gung-ho about exercise.

Don’t expect to lose much (if any) weight during this phase. The ads you see promising you can lose a pound a day are a scam.

It’s time to start implementing the exercise plan and doing more planning. Here are your two goals for this month:

1. Start your exercise plan
You need to focus on learning to love the journey or you’ll never last until your big day. Push beyond your comfort zone — the walking should have toughened you up a little if you were a complete couch potato — but the goal isn’t to collapse in pain from exertion after your workout. Stiffness equals yes. Agony equals no.

2. Get your food under control
I still don’t want you worrying too much about changing your diet just yet, because trying to change too much at once is a recipe for failure. Just start thinking about how you’re going to cut junk, eat healthier, plan meals and not eat out. Remember, no crash diets! If you feel stuck, don’t worry, we’ve got some great meal-planning ideas for you.

Read more: Get meal plans and daily workouts with our 28-day shape-up plan >

1. Build up your intensity
You can follow the same workout plan, but start gently pushing for that wall. Start embracing intense effort as something to feel good about, not dread.

2. Start your diet plan
You’ve still got time to see major results and this is where the fat loss is going to happen. Forget the scale and just work on doing what you know is right. The exercise is going to strengthen your will to resist those food cravings and to make wise choices. This is the key to success.

If your wedding isn’t until August, follow the same routine as July until the big day. Push your intensity up again and be sure to cut out excesses like alcohol, sugar and mindless snacking whenever possible.

After the big day
Do you really want to go through all this effort just to gain the weight back the instant your wedding’s over? This plan is healthy, achievable and sustainable so there’s no reason you can’t keep it up. What was the point if all you do is go back to weighing more than when you started?

Post-wedding you can relax a little and focus on enjoying your new healthy lifestyle. You can set a new goal like deciding you’re going to look even better and be even healthier for your first anniversary.

Good luck, both with the fitness and the nuptials!

James S. Fell, MBA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary. He writes the column “In-Your-Face Fitness” for the Los Angeles Times and consults with clients on strategic planning for fitness and health. Get a free metabolism report here.

-Article originally published February 2012.