Mariska Breland, owner of Fuse Pilates, shares how to get ready for your wedding and keep your stress level low.

Exercising regularly can help combat pre-wedding stress. Photograph courtesy of Fuse Pilates.

Fuse Pilates owner Mariska Breland spends her days at the Dupont Circle studio working to make people both more fit and more relaxed. In a business where, she says, “sometimes it feels like half the people who come in have on engagement rings,” this can be a challenge, because wedding planning often causes emotions to run high.

In order for your wedding day to be a joyful occasion, Breland—who tied the knot in 2009—advises that relaxation can be just as important as slim, toned biceps or the buns of your dreams. To help with both, she has created a list of suggestions, exercise-related and otherwise, to keep brides calm as they prepare for the big day.

Six Months in Advance:

At this point, Breland says, you’ve probably already purchased your dress, so why not tailor your workouts to match? “Shoulders showing? Do extra work to define your deltoids. Cap sleeve? Triceps. Backless? Upper back. Fit-to-flare or mermaid? Abs!” she says.

Equally important: Start making good posture a habit. “Slouching over a computer is a (sad) sign of the modern woman,” she tells us, and standing straight up can feel like a lot of work. Her suggestion: Start building the muscles in your upper back long before your wedding, so that by the time you have to take hundreds of pictures and stand in front of a crowd, good posture feels natural.

Also, make sure to carve out at least 15 minutes for yourself each day to read your favorite magazine, take a bath, go for a walk, or do anything that you enjoy and that has nothing to do with planning your wedding.

Finally, remember that although working out can be an important part of your preparation, trying to dive into a strenuous routine you’re not prepared for can do more harm than good and bring you extra stress. You have plenty of time to get more fit, so ease into an exercise routine and fill it with things you enjoy, not just things you’ve heard work miracles, Breland says.

Three Months In Advance:

It’s time to practice relaxing. Breland suggests long, deep breaths (always through your nose, not your mouth), which can help bring your blood pressure down. Try inhaling for a count of five, holding for a count of three, and exhaling for a count of eight. The counting brings a level of mindfulness to your breathing, while the long inhales and longer exhales help remove toxins from the body and slow your heart rate. “Your body can’t tell the difference between ‘I’m stressed because I’m having a bad day at work’ and ‘I’m stressed because a bear is attacking me,’” Breland explains—and quick, shallow breaths only increase your body’s level of panic.

On Your Wedding Day:

Bust out some pushups or tricep dips to get the blood flowing through your muscles and make them look more toned for your photos. Exercise also produces endorphins (as does consuming chocolate, by the way), which can lighten your mood.

Remember your posture. You’ve spent months making it natural, but be conscious of it when the cameras turn on you, Breland cautions, recalling the horror of discovering her own terrible posture in her recent wedding photos.

Finally, breathe with your nose, not your mouth or your shoulders. Oftentimes people lift their shoulders when they inhale, and this can make for an awkward pose in front of the camera and for an increased feeling of nervousness. Make sure to relax your shoulders and jaw as you breathe, to help release tension and create a smile that conveys your real level of excitement.

Breland’s tips will make for a more comfortable, more relaxed bride—and some seriously great wedding photos.

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