Balance Festival: The Lowdown
I’ve had my reservations about fitness ‘festivals’ for some time. I only tend to go to trade shows when I’ve somehow managed to get my hands on a deal for free tickets, or have gone along as a plus one. It can be good fun to amble around interesting stalls, get some inspiration and try lots of food. Inevitably you end up getting pulled into buying something you don’t really need (magic mops, truffle oil etc...just me?!) and going home with very tired feet.
You might think therefore that a fitness trade show would be right up my street but to be honest, I don’t really get the point of them. As someone already in the scene (oh my God, did I just write that...), I don’t feel like I’m going to go along and be particularly inspired by…what, some new fitness craze or a new cereal bar? The problem is, I don’t feel like there is anything new at these shows to see and it’s the same old faces offering a discount on peanut butter, and there’s only so many samples of coconut water or juice you can try before you get a bit fatigued by the whole thing. And although there’s nothing really wrong with walking around among the protein powder and sports bras, do you really need to pay £25 for the privilege? You could just hang out at Whole Foods then go to your gym for free.
I avoided April’s Be:Fit Festival for this very reason, and heard mixed reviews. Lots of women working up a sweat for hours in a confined space, bouncing around in their high end lycra with a face full of makeup…I worried that wouldn't be enjoyable and I'd just feel like part of a big money spin. However, by the time Balance Festival came around, I’d softened a bit. (Unlike Be:Fit, there were no classes included and these were another £6-£12 extra (for classes from only 20 minutes) which I thought was a bit steep.) I admit though, I was won over by the location (Brick Lane – East London is my ends and I thought this might be a slightly cooler affair in the lofty Truman Brewery than the usual exhibition space), and then when I thought about the cost of a single class at most places in London (Barry's, 1Rebel etc.), this actually seemed reasonable value in a weird way.
Lured by the chance to meet Zanna, who I’ve been following on social media for yonks, I went along with Tatiana and we signed up to a 50 minute class. Ever the bargain hunter, Tats and I made it our mission to work the festival making it earn our ticket money. Free samples? Yes please. Full size juice and discounts on stuff we love? Yep. A free pair of £45 racing Speedo googles just for signing up to a mailing list? Yey!
The general vibe (relaxed, light, airy and ‘cool’), the fact that there was space to move around and the stalls on offer have a thumbs up from me. However, I found the clothes stalls a little lacking and was hoping there would be more demos for new gear, innovative products or upcoming classes. If you weren’t booked into a class it looked like you weren’t getting in, however, I heard at Be:Fit that people were queuing for an hour before talks and classes, and I didn’t see any of that going on. I read a review by Roslyn about Be:Fit where she questioned the accessibility of such festivals and I see her point of view. I wondered where the This Girl Can stalls were, and the running/obstacle/triathlon races trying to get people to sign up to new events? Where were the chances to try out a new type of reformer machine or TRX method?
That aside, and as some positives, the class we went to was kiiiiilllleeeerrr. Great space, well organised, sick live DJ and really well lead by Zanna and Shona. I loved the use of resistance bands in the 50 min HIIT session and the free water bottles. Zanna joked she didn’t want us to be able to walk afterwards and I can honestly say I don’t think my glutes have ever felt so isolated! I was absolutely broken the next day!
In all, I’m glad we went. It was a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon with a like-minded friend and we enjoyed a great workout and lots of freebies for around £30, catching bits of talks and loving the workout. It would be nice to see the likes of Balance and Be:Fit engaging with some third parties designed to target women (and men!) new to a certain sport and showing them the ropes – I for example would have loved to have attended a first timers tri talk, or heard some info about how to get into open water swimming. Maybe next time Balance Fest?!