Is the Fitness Festival Trend Worth Your Time—and Money?
Let's face it: Nobody finishes out a bar crawl or a weekend at Coachella thinking, Man, I feel so great about my health and fitness goals right now! Not that letting your hair down isn't super important (it's called "balance," people), but if you're like me and would rather devote your weekend to fitness and self-care, the latest social trend might be for you.
Yep, fitness festivals are a thing.
More and more 20-somethings are attending festivals or rallies where the headliners are celebrity trainers instead of pop stars, the lineups are workouts instead of bands, and they're downing green juice instead of beer.
Over the last year, I've been the Propel Co:Labs Festival, SweatCon Rally, PoPSugar Playground, Nicole Mejia's Women Empowered Tour and Limitless: Powered by Fitplan. A lot of these events take place in multiple cities, including Miami, Chicago, LA, New York, Boston, San Francisco, and San Diego.
What I've learned from my experiences is this: Not all fitness festivals are created equal, but they can be very fun—you know, if an all-day wellness binge is your kind of thing. Allow me to break down everything you need to know before you attend your first full-day fitness event.
So, is this just a full day of working out?
Yes and no. There's typically more than one workout scheduled for the day and, depending on the event, the workouts can be anywhere from 30 minutes to a full hour. They might be spread throughout the day, or they can be a back-to-back rally of sweaty, challenging classes. There might be other wellness activities like guided meditations, motivational talks, massages, facials, and hair braiding (don't roll your eyes if you've never had someone else braid your hair—it's magical), so even when you're not working out, you're immersed in all things health.
Can I choose my workouts?
Some events have your day laid out for you and give you a schedule in advance. When I went to SweatCon, I had to pick a track of three fitness classes I wanted to take. Once that was decided, I received a schedule that told me where I needed to be and when, and I couldn't veer from my schedule. At Propel, I pre-picked my workout classes but also had the freedom to change when I arrived.
Whatever the structure is, if you have an injury or absolutely loathe a specific type of workout, make sure you're signing up for a day you'll be able to complete safely and happily. It's supposed to be fun, after all!
Oh, it's... fun?
Assuming this is your cup of tea, most of the time it will feel like one big party. And forget heading out at night—when you sign up for one of these events, you'd better be prepared to kick off first thing in the morning. You can expect to mingle with like-minded workout buffs, try free samples of healthy snacks, and walk out with some sort of swag. I'm definitely that girl that spends any free time surveying the area like a hawk for free samples or any activities I might want to return to once exercises are finished—gotta get the most bang for your buck, ya know?
And speaking of bucks:
These events aren't cheap, but if they're well structured and fun, they can definitely be worth the money. I've spent between $50 and $100 on festivals, and prices vary from city to city. But I look at it this way: Boutique fitness classes typically cost me anywhere from $35 to $40 each (gotta love New York!), and if I get to attend an event where I can take two or more classes and walk out with a swag bag, I think it's definitely worth the money.
Plus, some events have special guests that make it even more epic—Propel had Ludacris, IconaPop, and Daya perform live during the workouts this year, and PopSugar's festival involved talks with Mindy Kaling and Kate Hudson.
This sounds like it could be super clique-y...
Well, yeah. I've definitely noticed that some of the people who attend things like this are slightly more… intense. With larger events, there could be hundreds to thousands of people, so I would suggest bringing a buddy so you don't feel so overwhelmed. That being said, I have also made a few new friends along the way! Some events set you up with the same group of people all day for that very reason—our first workout at SweatCon was so intense that the entire group bonded about what the instructor had put us through.
How are the workouts, anyway?
If you're on the top of your fit game, you can definitely expect to be challenged like a regular class. But if you're new to the fitness scene, you might find yourself a little lost. Since the workouts are being taught to a lot more people than a regular class, instructors don't necessarily have the time to break down the moves or come around and help correct people's form. I've also experienced instructors having to change workouts on the spot because things got disorganized or people couldn't hear instructions.
What about food?
Don't go to these events expecting to eat the best meals of your life. While you'll get to try a lot of trendy, healthy snacks, very rarely have I had a good meal. A lot of the time, the actual meals are not free (at Propel and PopSugar, I spent almost $20 on lunch at each event), and the portions are pretty small (ugh).
The only event where I didn't have to pay for food was SweatCon—they offered salads and wraps before we headed out on our marathon of workouts. I was honestly really appreciative of that, even though I wished we had eaten after we worked out (because, salad burps).
Want to get in on the action?
Then grab a buddy and start planning your first festival trip! I found out about a lot of these events by following prominent trainers and gyms in the New York City area on Instagram and Facebook. Once I get wind of an event coming up, I usually sign up for email alerts to stay in the know. And sure, fitness festivals are near the top of the list of Most Millennial Things Ever. But if you're a total workout junkie like me, you might just end up having the time of your life.
Alexa Pipia is a social media editor in New York City, and received her master's at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. When she's not writing, you can find her honing her boxing technique or running a race. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.