With four months until The Gown goes on, HB's Rachael Wheeler geared up for her wedding day with a serious fitness overhaul from Level Gym in Singapore...
I'm a very 'middle of the road' kind of girl when it comes to exercise in Singapore. I wasn't someone who did particularly well in PE at school, so I didn't bother with teams, I had the standard 'fat stage' at University and, as I got older, I joined a gym to see off the extra pounds and maintain a UK size 10-12.
But there's something about getting engaged that drives you towards wanting to look 'next level' great. Perhaps I needed to justify my designer dress, perhaps it's the loss of control over social media snaps, perhaps it's the expectant crowd, or perhaps I simply want to look my best for my future husband (the feminist in me barfs at the latter point).
Either way, landing a diamond ring drove me towards researching, finding and signing up to the best personal training gym in town; Level Gym. I needed someone to work some serious magic on the parts of my dress that would be flaunted the most - my arms, waist and tum - and I didn't know where to start on my own. Call me a wuss, but I also wanted to find a friendly, approachable gym (no judgemental beefcakes!) with lovely facilities (shampoo AND conditioner, please!) in a handy location. Level is a personal training-only gym, so it's beautifully spacious, you never feel 'on show' and the atmosphere is friendly and supportive.
I was fortunate enough to train with Level's founder Alex Salihin, who understood my quest and promised to make my bridal bod the best it could be in ten one-on-one sessions. Given that I was pretty familiar with cardio (with my regular exercise involving running and spinning), I was told that my personal training sessions would be based largely around weights.
As a newbie, I feared that lifting weights meant bulking up, but Alex assured me that it was the best way to slim down and firm up. He then pointed out a gorgeous female trainer at the gym who specialised in weight lifting; she was teeny tiny!
An assessment of my ability to squat, lunge and pick something up essentially revealed that I needed to start from the beginning and learn how to use my body more like a sportsperson. Fifteen years behind schedule, I was finally going to become a PE extraordinaire!
During my sessions, I learned heaps about how to engage the right muscles in order to execute an exercise, and completing the moves in a controlled and 'proper' manner. This enabled me to target the important areas and avoid injury (smashing out dozens of exercises in a row might look cool, but you risk working the wrong muscles or causing damage).
Why do I think personal training is worth paying a little more for? During one of my first circuits, Alex asked me to lift a 25kg bar clean above my head. I managed to wobble it somewhere around my ears before he saved me. Alex then showed me precisely how to lift it; explaining each step, which muscles I should mentally tune into, how to do a little jump for momentum, and the exact angle at which I should lock my arms. I ruddy did it on the second attempt, didn't I?!
Learning how to A) use the strength I didn't know existed and B) use exercise equipment properly blew my fitness routine wide open. I could confidently walk past the cardio section and up to a scary exercise contraption at the gym and start working out without shame! (I also became that irritating gym bunny who started offering their mates tips during bootcamp. Sorry, guys.)
To achieve the results I was looking for - a tight tummy, a defined back and smaller arms - Alex created lots of inventive weight-lifting circuits for me to get stuck into. Level isn't big on 'standard exercising' (there's no running machine in their studio, woohoo!) - they have millions of creative solutions to work the body in different ways every time you go along. They also plan the session ahead of time to ensure that your routine is varied - a little floor work, a little weights, a little cardio and a lotta laughs.
It's amazing how personal trainers can assess exactly what you can handle and drive your body forwards; after each session, my target areas were whipped and I was obliterated to a whole new level. Yet Alex never pushed me past the point of pain/failure and I was always left with enough energy to trot off to work. While feeling incredibly smug and ready for my gown, I might add!
After sweating it out at Level twice a week, where was my figure five weeks later? Leaner and tighter are the words that I would probably use. I'll admit that I didn’t embark upon a huge diet (the wedding is still four months away - there's no way that I can diet for that long!), so I didn't drop heaps of weight, but my shape definitely changed.
Personal training wasn't just about the immediate effects for me. It was about discovering what I can actually do with my figure and learning how to get there. With four months to go, I know exactly how to continue refining my waist, back and arms for my posh frock - while creating fun, new workouts (whether at the gym or in the living room!). Plus I've totally fallen in love with my new-found strength, and really enjoyed learning how much my body can actually do.
My next steps? Sign up for another stint of Level sessions in the eight weeks before the big day, and actually stick to a diet. Gulp.