Fit for a Festival
First appeared in Telegraph Weekend
Nine years ago I lay on the grass at V-festival in Essex whilst listening to throaty Scottish rocker, Paolo Nutini, sing a jazzy tune about a pair of new shoes. Glass of Prosecco in one hand, cigarette in the other, an unplanned nap followed shortly afterwards after which I awoke in the early evening to a hangover and the mysterious loss of one shoe.
Typical festival antics? Not so much these days. Sorry, Glasto, but in the last few years a whole new kind of summer party has arrived and it’s a darn sight healthier too. All hail The Fitness Festival (no longer an oxymoron). These events are arriving in our fields and warehouses faster than you can say press up – from the exhibition style events like Be Fit (www.befitlondon.com), Fare Healthy (www.farehealthy.com), Balance Festival (www.balance-festival.com) and Les Mils Live (www.lesmills.com), to sport-specific festivals such as Jess Ennis Hill’s Vitality Move running festival (www.vitalitymove.co.uk), Edinburgh Festival of Cycling (www.edfoc.org.uk) and Cornwall’s surf and music festival, Boardmasters (http://www.boardmasters.co.uk/).
Then there’s the uber-chic yoga, music and wellness festival, Soul Circus, held in The Cotswolds. The event launched last year with 750 attendees but is due to have over 1500 when it returns in August, with Will Young headlining the Wellness area and Maxi Jazz (Faithless) DJ-ing a live set during a mass participation yoga class.
“People don’t want to drug or drink themselves stupid anymore”.
But how and why have we developed an appetite for such mixology of the holistic and hedonistic? “People don’t want to drug or drink themselves stupid anymore,” says 35-year-old Soul Circus co-founder, Ella Wroath. “They want to fill their body and soul with things that reignite and nourish them – make them feel amazing and alive.” But aren’t we also a little bored with the clean-lean revolution too? At Soul Circus you can do both and still emerge feeling better than when you arrived. “You can do yoga during the day, drink champagne in the evening then dance until 2am and then, when you get up, meditate and do yoga again.”
Clearly, there’s an appetite for such sweet summer alchemy – a kind of sui generis mass gathering that promises to leave you feeling floatier, bendier and healthier than when you arrived. Tess Clarfelt, Senior Arts Programmer at Wilderness festival, says: “Wilderness aims to give equal billing to the arts, wellbeing and gastronomy. I think people are increasingly expecting to see a holistic or wellbeing element of the festival – it provides a yin to the yang of the music and partying.”
All sound a bit too mellow? Don’t worry. This year’s adrenalin-fuelled addition to the fitness festival scene, LoveFit, is taking place in a magical Kent field at the end of this month and features the likes of Mr Motivator and DJ Jessica Skye (also the face of Nike Yoga).
The idea is to incorporate that post-workout euphoria with that of the typical music festival.
Once you’ve done a range of classes – spinning, boxing, stand-up-paddleboarding and Rambo sessions to name just a few – you can use more energy raving the night away (and yes you can drink here too). The idea is to incorporate that post-workout euphoria with that of the typical music festival, explains LoveFit founder, Lauren Bath: “Fitness is increasingly viewed as a social experience in studios which use music to create euphoria, but I still felt like there was some kind of bridge missing – that festivals were becoming more immersive and wacky yet there still wasn’t anything appealing to the wider spectrum of fitness, all the way from yoga to boxing to high-intensity bodyweight training. LoveFit brings together music and fitness into one crazy chaotic experience.”
Chaotic, crazy and euphoric? Ticks all the festival boxes for me. All the good bits, that is, without the next morning’s thumping headache. Is that even possible, I wonder? My younger self is resistant but my present-day self is grinning.
‘Just because you don’t drink and take drugs and get wasted anymore, doesn’t mean you have to be boring,’ says Soul Circus co-founder, Ella Wroath. So that’s the hangovers out of the way. Sadly the same guaranteed can’t be made for the mud. (Take your wellies, along with your trainers.)
FIVE OF THE BEST FITNESS FESTIVALS TO HIT THIS SUMMER
Love Fit: 29th-31st July, St Clere Estate, Kent. Highlights of this four day boutique music-fitness festival include volleyball, strongman, paddle boarding and various types of yoga (as if Mr Motivator wasn’t enough). Train hard, party hard. www.lovefitfestival.com
Soul Circus: 18-20th August, Elmore, The Cotwsolds. Founded last year by husband and wife team Roman and Ella Wroath (33 and 35), the magical peaceful vibe is back and this year boasts a Bamford spa with hot tub and sauna, a range of macrobiotic foods and a Moet hosted VIP area. www.soulcircus.yoga
Sweatlife: from Lululemon is back for a second time, offering classes and demonstrations from some of London’s best boutique fitness names. There’s Yoga, Running, Spinning, Boxing and CrossFit amongst other things, as well as lots of lovely fitness gear for sale – all under one roof in the Tobacco Docks of East London on 22nd July. https://thesweatlife.co.uk/
Vitality Move: Who knew that Running Festivals were so old hat that we needed a new twist on them? Olympic champion Jess Ennis-Hill, apparently, who’s teamed up with health insurance providers Vitality to create Vitality Move in Chatsworth Park (tomorrow) and Windsor (date tbc). There are 10km and 5km distances to choose from along with a one-mile flat looped course with music all the way round! http://www.vitalitymove.co.uk
Wilderness: anyone who thought living like a Hobbit in the shire looked like a dream come true, best head off to Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire from 3-6th August. Fantastic music acts meet high-end pop up restaurants, a cricket match, boating lake, hunter-gatherer cooking sessions, fly-fishing, archery, yoga, meditation and massage. There are also Wild Fitness (primal movement) sessions, daily runs for up to 200 people at 10am every morning, organised by Midnight Runners. https://www.wildernessfestival.com
– By Lucy Fry