wedding prep plan Part 2: exercise


I'd be lying if I said I enjoy exercising.

There are so many things I'd rather do than watch the seconds tick by while on the treadmill. It's usually during those torturous cardio sessions when I typically find myself acknowledging those things. I never think "Ooooh! Would you look at the time?!" and marvel at how quickly time passes while exercising like I do sometimes when answering emails, watching a movie or chatting with a girlfriend over lunch. I wish it happened that way, but it just doesn't.

I'm not one of the lucky few who don't have to worry about what they eat or if they exercise so I have to make a very concentrated effort to "Just Do It." The hardest part is stepping away from work and making the time. Lately, however, I've definitely been putting in the extra effort. A typical week looks like this:

Sunday: 7 mile walk
Monday: 1 hour free weights with personal trainer, 30 minutes cardio, 1 hour pilates class
Tuesday: off
Wednesday: 1 hour free weights with personal trainer, 30 minutes cardio
Thursday: 3.5 mile walk, 1 hour kickboxing class
Friday: 2 mile walk, 1 hour cardio sculpt class
Saturday: 90 minutes cardio

Getting the right pair of shoes to support your body for all of those activities is crucial. I highly recommend visiting a specialty sports shoe store that can watch you walk and properly fit you with the best shoe for your body. My feet pronate a bit, so the knowledgeable staff at Maine Running Company matched me with Brooks' Adrenaline shoe ($99). I love these sneakers! I used to wear Superfeet insoles, but these sneakers are constructed to correct the pronation.

Another tip: If you can, buy a pair for the gym only (to stay dry and dirt-free) and a second pair to wear all the time. I find when I have my sneakers on during the day (even tho they aren't as cute as flats), I am more likely to take a longer walk at lunch with Dakota or park farther away and walk at a parking lot, for instance.

(all pictures taken by J)

It's said that you need to do at least 200 minutes of heavy cardio a week to lose weight. I've managed to meet, and sometimes exceed, that goal combining machines (treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, step climber) and classes (kickboxing, boot camp). But gosh, it's really hard. Getting to the gym is the hardest part, I think. Once I am there, and inspired by all the energy and effort of those around me, I'm ok. I belong to World Gym ($250/annually) and am grateful for the televisions on each piece of cardio equipment. The other day I laughed at myself when I realized I was listening to music, watching an HGTV marathon AND thumbing through the newspaper while on the stationary bike. Could I have used any other distractions?! :) We have a NordicTrack elliptical machine at our house, helpful for those days when I just don't want to make the drive and would rather workout in my pjs. :) It has an iPod attachment, or I use a Bose SoundDock to rock out to a playlist from my iPhone (yes, I like Top 40 music best).

Despite my dislike of cardio, I do love walking. Getting outside in the fresh air is a peaceful escape and a perfect way to start the day. It's also a treasured opportunity to take Dakota with me and spend some time together (until she spots a squirrel and tries to take flight).

We're lucky to live near a paved walking/biking path, The Greenbelt Walkway part of the Eastern Trail, that winds through woods and fields and ends at a lighthouse on the water. We've made that 7-mile trek a Sunday tradition (map below, our route marked in blue). During the week, Dakota and I walk the 3.5 mile path around the Back Cove or the Eastern Prom Trail near the studio. Check out other local trails on the Portland Trails website, The best perk of walking? It's free!

personal training: Not long after I moved to Maine (gasp) nearly 5 years ago, I discovered the local personal training studio Body of Work, close enough to walk to from where I was living at the time. Since then, I have been working out with Cindy (and sometimes Dan) twice a week in both individual, partner or group training sessions. I've never liked using the machines or free weights at the gym, so the small, friendly environment of Body of Work works for me. The staff has become like family, and I am accountable to someone other than myself to get my workouts in. It's an investment, but one that I really feel is worth it ($50/hour. They also offer classes including bridal boot camp, massage and Gyrokinesis).

Lifting weights has really helped my core strength and I am able to see the direct benefits when photographing weddings. My body doesn't tire as easily, my arms and legs feel strong for bending throughout the day, and I am less fatigued from schlepping my 35 lb camera bag at the end of the day. Lately J has joined me in our morning sessions. He plays basketball three times a week, but has never spent much time pumping iron. :) I think it's been an exciting discovery for J, too, to recognize how his game has improved from core and resistance training.

This is the Body of Work studio in South Portland, comprised of training, group fitness and cardio rooms.

And this is Cindy, who has successfully pushed my physical limits and my own mind blocks if I don't think I can do it. During our one hour sessions, she moves me through a variety of exercises designed to strengthen my core, back, arms, chest and legs. Here, working our abs, we locked our feet together and leaned backwards for crunches passing the medicine ball back and forth when we came back up.

Having someone watch your form can make a huge difference in the effects of the exercise. Learn how to do chest flies on a stability ball here.

Bicep curls on a Bosu ball (you can also do these balancing on one foot). Learn how here.

I actually don't know the technical term for this... it's a "woodchopping" diagonal motion from shoulder down toward opposite foot to work the arms, obliques and legs.

My favorite exercise: overhead triceps press with rope. See how here.

classes: boot camp, hot yoga, Zumba, cardio sculpt, pilates, kickboxing
If you follow me on Twitter, you're likely familiar with the potpourri of classes I have tried, searching for an alternative to cardio machines. In December, I signed up for a 6 week, 3 days/week OUTSIDE bootcamp for women at 5:30a!! The class clearly tested more than just my motivation, but proved to me that anything is possible. It helped jumpstart the fitness program I outlined above, and also taught me to listen to my body. Unlike one-on-one personal training, a boot camp class environment does not allow for individual attention (heck, it was dark out so seeing in general was sometimes a problem!). During a cold, rainy track session, I pushed myself too hard and am still suffering from an injury to my left foot from impact.

I also tried hot vinyasa yoga at Portland Power Yoga (90 minute, 90+ degree flow yoga), Zumba (Latin inspired dance aerobics), cardio sculpt (cardio drills combined with strength training using weights and a balance ball), pilates (mellow mat strength training) and kickboxing. While all the classes were fun to try and challenged me in different ways, I am most drawn to kickboxing at Lifestyle Fitness in Portland and Scarborough. I have taken this class off and on for the last several years and love the adrenaline rush I get from such a physical class. I can do 100 push-ups, sit-ups and surprise myself with the energy I get from a knock-me-flat workout.

If you're searching for a class, I recommend that you experiment to find what works best for you and your lifestyle, too. I know a lot of people who love Zumba or who are die-hard yogis. That's not my preference, and that's ok.

My rules of exercise:
1. Stretch. When working out (or even just because), be sure to spend 10 minutes stretching. I have noticed huge benefits from stretching my lower back, in particular, not just before/after working out but on wedding days and anytime my back feels tight. See my favorite stretch here.

2. Learn your limits. I have a tender elbow and knee from lugging my heavy photo equipment. I've learned ways to avoid putting excess pressure on those parts and that I need to ice both after photographing a wedding or exercising. If something is bothering you, pay attention.

3. Seek further help. If you have a particular pain that stretching alone does not help, explore seeing a chiropractor or acupuncturist. I've seen both and am amazed at how balanced I feel from both practices.

4. Stay away from the scale. If you want to weigh yourself, first thing in the morning after you pee is the best time to get an accurate reading. For me, the scale has not budged much lately and became a daily buzz kill. But just yesterday, I was amazed as I was fitting into size 4 tops and size 6 skirts while shopping for honeymoon clothes. The scale doesn't report muscle toning, so for me, I'll let my wardrobe gauge my success.

5. Get plenty of sleep. Many reports tell us that not getting a solid 8 hours of sleep a night may lead to weight gain. With a dog who likes to sleep under the covers and a fiance who keeps later hours than myself, 8 uninterrupted hours is unheard of. I'm guilty of taking Nyquil in the past, tho tea and magnesium work just as well to calm my mind into dreams.

All this talk of exercise is making me feel guilty for spending most of the day at the computer! The reality is, of course, that we're busy people. Finding time for exercise takes just as much effort as shopping and preparing the right foods to fuel your body, not to mention all of the other daily responsibilities of life. Our bodies deserve just as much attention as our families and our jobs; striking the right balance is a never-ending challenge. But you know, as much as I hate doing it I love the after effects of exercise. When a workout is over, I feel like I can take on the world!

Part 1 (eating)
Part 3 (beauty) and Part 4 (balance) to come!


  1. This is great! I especially like the screenshot of your song list...I'm always looking for good ideas. My challenge when I'm walking the pooch is to walk fast enough to really feel like I'm getting a workout!

  2. Emilie, You really look great! And once again, you have motivated me. I can't wait for the next two posts - beauty and balance! Many thanks for your inspirational posts.

  3. Jessica11:11 AM

    Emilie~ you look fabulous! Must feel good (especially when clothes shopping) to know all your hard work is paying off ;) Thanks for sharing all your tips and hope you had a happy birthday!

  4. Emilie, Thanks for the post. I have to agree with what you have to say and commend you for being so committed. I have been a bit of a gym rat since college, it helps me with stress. but, I just started working with a trainer at the end of last year. What a difference it makes. I go 3 times a week and I've seen a huge difference in a lot of stuff but especially my posture. Also helps me for when I'm lugging all my camera gear. Keep up the good work.

  5. Anonymous11:38 AM

    So inspiring, thanks for letting us have a peek into your journey!!

  6. Hard work = paying off, GIRL!! I am now in "It's-been-one-year-since-the-baby-and-my-jeans-sorta-fit" MODE. Meaning, back to exercise or a muffin top is heading my way. It's hard to make time for it but it's a must. GO GO GO!

  7. Emilie, I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't like to exercise. I started going to the gym a week ago (hehe) and every day when I'm on the elliptical I wonder if I'll ever like it or if its just going to be something that I make myself do. You look great! All that hard work has paid off!


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