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Fit to be a bride Get that toned look and shed a few pounds so you look your best on that special day.

Jennifer Schueler has until May 27. The same for Lorraine Schueler. Norine Bushen is looking at June 9. Mary Lynne Cole? She's circled August 11.

They call it their countdown to gown.

All four women -- two brides-to-be, one mother of the bride and a mother of the groom -- have started their respective bridal boot camps. Whether it be formally, with the help of a personal trainer, or the informal support shared during rounds on a fitness circuit, their goal is to get buff for their walk down the aisle.

"Most brides are seeking a toned look, not a muscular look," said fitness trainer Michelle Mullen. "They want to show off their back and arms. But for the honeymoon, it's flat stomach, and slim hips and thighs because most couples go to warm places. It doesn't hurt to lift and sculpt the butt as well."

Whether you have weeks or months before your wedding, you can set realistic and measureable goals that will make a difference in the way you look and feel on that very important day. To help you, we've asked several women -- fitness trainers and trainees -- how they are faring in their wedding workouts. We've also compiled a list of resources that will help you to become a buff bride. Take heart, you are not alone. On average, 2.4 million women in this country marry each year.

>On the circuit

Jennifer Schueler, 24, is a substitute teacher in Amherst. With her wedding day in less than two months, this fun-loving bride-to-be is sweating over yet another detail -- her arms.

"I really just want to be able to fit in my wedding gown because I know photographers take pictures from every single angle, and not every single angle is attractive," said Schueler. "But I'm really targeting my arms. My dress has tiny straps. The butt and legs are hidden, but those arms."

Currently, Schueler and two members of her bridal party, mother Lorraine and bridesmaid Jill Westcott, are navigating the 30-minute fitness circuit of Curves, a fitness club chain for women. The circuit includes aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching -- and plenty of chatting. Around this time of year, it is not uncommon for topics of conversation to switch from caterers to the best Internet sites for finding a bridal dress.

"There are a lot of moms here who are planning their daughters' weddings," said Cole, 42, who is planning a reception at the Central Terminal. "Talking makes the time go faster. Even losing just 15 pounds would be good for me. This kind of exercise is also a great stress reliever."

Keeping motivated is key to success in any wedding workout, with women scheduling three to four fitness visits each week. Mother-of-the-bride Lorraine Schueler has one more reason to shape up.

"It wouldn't hurt for me to lose a couple of pounds," she said. "I'm turning 50 this year, and I have to say that normally I would have gone a size larger in the dress I bought."

Daughter Jennifer bought her gown "off the rack," so she did not have a size choice.

"At that point, I had to fit into it," Jennifer said. "Now, I can already zip it up myself. We all keep each other motivated. My mom, too. She's my little Curves buddy."

>Fit and pampered

Talk about necessity and invention. When personal trainer Mullen was getting married, she devised her own workout schedule, creating a specific program that targeted her shoulders and back.

"My wedding dress was strapless and I didn't want to look fat," Mullen explained. "Two years later my girlfriend was getting married and she couldn't find anyone specifically to meet her needs."

"The Fit and Pampered Bride" (www.flexfit.wny.com) was born. The 12-week program provides nutritional guidance, support and -- for two hours each week, the services of a fitness trainer who supervises your custom-made workout. Warning: Homework is required. Not only does the bride need resistance training, but aerobic exercise and diet modification will help maximize results.

"Three additional hours may be added in small bits," Mullen said. "They don't necessarily have to be 60 minutes at a time: 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there can be scheduled into busy lifestyles. Because everyone's lifestyle is so hectic and busy, it's impossible to carve out 60 minutes at once.

"We also encourage 10,000 steps a day walking program," Mullen added. "That's equivalent to five miles. The idea is that the moment you wake up, you make small changes in your day-to-day lifestyle that encourages you to be more active."

Kelly Scanlon, 26, of Kenmore was married in October 2006. After her 12-week wedding workout, she lost two inches all around her body. Her pants size dropped from 16 to 10, and her wedding dress -- featuring a corset back that allowed for weight loss/or gain -- was one or two sizes too big.

"For me, it was the weight training, said Scanlon. "That brought it up to the next level, and definitely brought the inches down."

Spa packages, including mini-facials or massages, are also offered with Mullen's 12-week package, as well as the day-before manicure and pedicure -- not to mention custom-fit tooth whitening trays. The cost is $145 per week, but adjustments can be made including a six-week version that includes personal training alone.

>Become a Gym Rat

Norine Bushen always was a tomboy, so now -- sweating while gulping water and catching her breath after performing 96 squats -- it's hard to believe this woman is not gym savvy.

"I used to eat huge amounts," said Bushen, 51. "I have now decided to eat very small amounts and I'm trying to make better choices. This morning I got up and had fruit. On the way here I ate a Special K protein bar so I would have energy to work out. When I get done, I'll probably have a protein shake at home with blueberries and raspberries and a banana."

Impressive, but what motivated this school bus driver from Hamburg to get off her seat and into a gym -- almost every day, every week since Feb. 17?

The June wedding of her 30-year-old son.

"I can't stop," she said. "It's like an addiction. I try to pace myself. I asked my husband when I would stop hurting. He said it will come. It isn't a bad hurt. The first session was very hard, and the next day I went to work and I could hardly walk. My jeans are getting loose. My bra isn't biting me anymore. I can feel it everywhere."

Fitness trainer Judi Donner works out of Gold's Gym in Hamburg. She designed the exercise program that for Bushen has become a life-transforming routine.

"You could tell she was a hard worker," Donner said. "She's committed, and that's what it takes: commitment and consistency and the will. You have to want it. So many people come to the gym and think I'm going to do it for them."

Bushen has not bought her dress yet. She figures she has some pounds to lose, creating more of a chance to fit in her dream size 10. Before she became a gym rat, she wore size 1 4/1 6.

"My son is a semiprofessional football player for the Gladiators," she added. "He motivates me. I've been such a deadbeat for the last 10 years. He's happy, and I feel great. My blood pressure went from 16 0/9 0 to 12 0/8 0."

e-mail: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com

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