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Swapping Girlsí Night Out for a Workout


JUST after 2 p.m. on a September Saturday, the heavy drinking began at Alyson Luckís bachelorette party.


"Iím already in pain," said Ms. Luck, 29, wearing a veil and a white sash that read "Sexy Little Bride."

This was no bacchanalian bender. The bride-to-be and eight friends were partying at Flywheel Sports studio in the Flatiron district, downing half-liter bottles of water as they bellied up to the barre for an hourlong workout that mixed Pilates, dance and weights. After a final stretch, to the sounds of "Chapel of Love," the crew refueled with sips of Champagne (MoŽt) and bite-size cupcakes. Then they headed out for manicures, pedicures and sushi.

Dancing on tables used to be the only activity remotely resembling exercise at a bachelorette party. Not now. The pre-wedding rite has taken to the gym ó and the stationary bike, the yoga studio, even the 10K road race. During prime wedding season, April to October, Exhale Spaís Midtown branch alone hosts an average of four bachelorette parties a month (cost: $675 to $1,200) for its signature Core Fusion workout, a barre-based blend of weights, interval training and stretching.

Itís not just New Yorkers: the Los Angeles-based company Yoga for Weddings (slogan: "Bringing the Deep Breath to the Big Day") offers private 90-minute classes, with a focus on "heart-opening poses" like the Cobra, for brides-to-be and their pals in nine United States cities (cost: $500). Innerlight Center for Yoga and Meditation in Middletown, R.I., started offering $200-an-hour bachelorette parties last year; already demand this year has tripled, said Kim Chandler, the centerís director.

Sometimes the exertion is a prelude to the more typical excess, or as a way of sweating it out the morning after. But often, it reflects shifting priorities among a new generation of brides.

"People are getting married a little bit older, and they know who they are more and thatís reflected in the bachelorette parties," said Christi Masi, a personal trainer in Seattle whoís worked with hundreds of brides as "chief exercise officer" of the Healthy Bride boot camps.

Some women choose what Casey Fremont Crowe, a recent bride, called "the more productive" option, partly so as not to undo efforts to slim down before the wedding.

"When youíre trying to be really fit and lose weight, you really are thinking of it as every day counts, so why not make working out part of the celebration?" said Ms. Crowe, 27, whose May 21 party included a session at SoulCycle, the boutique stationary-cycling company, with locations in Manhattan, the Hamptons and Scarsdale, N.Y.

Ms. Croweís festivities also included massages, a scavenger hunt ó and a boozy dinner. "Because of the class, none of us felt too bad about what we ate or drank," she said. Still, she rose at dawn on her July 16 wedding day to attend one last 7 a.m. class at SoulCycle before slipping into her "unforgiving" silk sheath dress with chiffon overlay.

Caitlin Boyle, who as a bridesmaid helped plan her friend Nicole Saundersís bachelorette party, said Ms. Saundersís love of running even dictated the eventís date: Sept. 17, to coincide with a Charlotte, N.C., 10k race called Hit the Brixx.

"If we hadnít been able to run, Iím sure we wouldíve gone to a hot-yoga class to celebrate," said Ms. Boyle, 27, who gave the runaway bride, 30, a veil and pink-and-purple puff-painted tank top to wear during the race. "I think itís important to honor the bride and her interests."

(Fellow runners joined the celebration, yelling encouragement like "Hey, bride! Itís all downhill from here" on the courseís hills.)

The bride and her training regime may call the shots, alcoholic or otherwise, at the party, but the friends usually are not complaining about the enforced workout.

"All of my friends love to work out and feel fit," said Ms. Crowe, who regularly meets them at SoulCycle. Lara Kalayjian, who attended Ms. Luckís party at Flywheel, is the one credited with (and sometimes blamed for) introducing the bride to the workout this summer. "Itís changed my life," she said. "And itís more fun with friends."

"Often we will recognize two-thirds of the guests as regulars," said Jay Galluzzo, the president of Flywheel, which has seven studios and had its first request from a bride within a month of its March 2010 opening in New York. (Included in the wedding-themed playlist the studio offers is Bruno Marsís "Marry You," Madonnaís "Like a Virgin" and the Proclaimersí "Letís Get Married.")

Though men occupy 40 percent of the Flywheel bikes, it seems bridegrooms are less keen on virtuous last-night-of-freedom rites: The recently opened Chicago branch will host the companyís first bachelor party in November. Few of Emily Hamillís friends had tried Core Fusion, when she requested it for her Santa Monica, Calif., bachelorette party. "But they said theyíd do whatever I wanted, and it ended up being a great bonding experience," said Ms. Hamill, 29, a Houston event planner.

"You tend to do the same things with your friends, and this gave us all a different perspective and something new to talk about." An example: One friend, a newbie who managed to execute the moves with ease, revealed she practiced yoga every night.

"Iíd known her for five years, and I never knew that," Ms. Hamill said.

She paused. "And because I wasnít drunk, I could actually remember it."




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