Feature Article - November 2006
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An Exercise In Creativity

Fitness programs that lead the pack

By Stacy St. Clair

Here comes the bride

Today's most successful fitness programs cater to specific groups. Some target seniors and kids. Others go after moms and their tots. In 2001, trainer Cynthia Conde designed a program for an underserved but extremely motivated group: brides-to-be.

"I created it after a woman came to me and asked for help," she said. "She was 210 pounds, and she wouldn't set a date for the wedding until she lost some weight. I ended up taking her down to 118 in a little over a year."

Conde started the woman out on basic weight-training programming, but soon found she needed to take it a step further. She thought of her brother who was overweight when he entered the military but returned from boot camp with a new, impressive physique.

Whatever he did there worked. Conde wanted to emulate the take-no-prisoners attitude the U.S. Armed Forces promote during basic training.

"I learned the military has a quicker, more efficient way of working out," she said. "It was a great way for me to keep my clients there when I combined my training with military training. I just needed to modify some exercises so they're less stressful. But it's a really effective, really cool, fun workout."

Her plan quickly evolved into Bridal Bootcamp, a total-fitness program that has taken root across the country. It incorporates stretching, abdominal work, aerobics and strength training in streamlined, 30-minute workouts designed to shape and tighten every muscle group. In addition to the physical assistance, the program gives participants advice on nutrition and wellness. The program typically lasts 12 weeks, with a different focus each week to stave off boredom. However, Conde encourages the newly betrothed to get cracking at least six months before the big day.

Brides-to-be can opt for either one-on-one training or group classes. Most prefer the group exercise, Conde said, because it gives them a chance to socialize, trade wedding tips and offer one another encouragement. Not surprisingly, dress sizes are often the hot topic of conversation.

"Women love to talk while they exercise, and they develop this bond and support each other because they're all going through one of the most important experiences in their lives together," Conde said. "This really gets the best results for brides."

The program clearly has struck a chord among a particular niche. It's not just brides who seek Conde's help. Bridesmaids, mothers-of-the-bride and mothers-of-the-groom have all come to Conde in hopes of having a trimmer, firmer body on that special day.

Even women who don't have weddings on the horizon have turned to the program because of its quick results and catchy name. Conde has fielded inquiries from all over the country.

"I also get a lot of phone calls from women that are in shape but just bored with their routines," said Conde, whose personal training and nutrition consulting company is based out of Gold's Gyms in Astoria and Woodside, N.Y.

The program's popularity has led to classes all over the country, including 10 different New York locations. It also has produced a book, "Bridal Bootcamp: Look Fabulous on Your Big Day." The net result has been a fresh, successful program that found a way to engage an untapped segment of the fitness-seeking population.

"I have created a niche market in the bridal fitness industry," Conde said. "There's no one more motivated than a bride-to-be."