Fitfest was a one-day fitness festival held at The Oxford Academy in East Oxford, styling itself as “Oxford’s largest fitness and wellness festival”. After buying your ticket, you can select from a variety of talks, cooking demonstrations, and fitness and yoga sessions. My choices were –
Intuitive eating and intuitive exercise with Leah McClean
This was an informative and straightforward introduction to intuitive eating, nicely presented. This was nothing I hadn’t heard before but I appreciate that Fitfest is presenting an alternative to the more weight loss focussed content I was expecting.
Raw Diva Commercial Dance Class with Jenny
This was a fun session – more like an actual dance class than a fitness session, but still a reasonable calorie burn and a good laugh. We worked through a complicated short routine with a lot of repetitions, so people did mainly get it in the end. Quite challenging on the choreography, but not on the cardio.
Boxercise with Sarah
This was my least favourite session (and my lowest calorie burn) of the day. It was very old school workout (lot of burpees, suicide runs etc) and there was mandatory partner work throughout, which I hate and is alienating if you don’t come with a friend (I didn’t). It’s fun to hit things with the pads obviously but there wasn’t really enough of that to make the burpees worthwhile.
For lunch, there was a small selection of stalls including local favourites Pho and, surprisingly, a cocktail bar from Dirty Bones. This area was all outside, which was fine when I went for lunch but really wouldn’t have been if I’d gone an hour or two later. As you’d expect there was a decent selection of healthy options and vegan and vegetarian things. I was expecting a bit of a wider selection, including more stuff I hadn’t tried and a lot more green juices on offer, but what there was all looked tasty and fresh. I went for a very delicious bbq pulled jackfruit sandwich from Green Box, which was salty and satisfying. Exactly the kind of thing I’d like to eat at a festival, but probably not really substantial enough for the activity I did that day.
How I Turned my Passion into a Career using Social Media with Food Fitness Flora
This was an interesting and fairly informative talk from a fitness influencer. There was some really great content around influencing as a business, particularly about pricing and audience engagement and growth. However, speaking to a few people afterwards, it was clear they were frustrated about how little she factored luck into the process (and looking really good in a sports bra). Pretty obviously, the strategies that worked on Instagram ten years ago won’t still work now, and that fact felt a bit skimmed over.
Sh’Bam with Sabine
My favourite session of the day, this is a dance workout from the Les Mills stable. It gave the highest calorie burn of the day at 477 calories in 45 minutes and was also the most fun. A very charismatic instructor with choreography pitched just complicated enough to keep you interested (and distracted from how hard you’re working) but not too hard for most people to grasp. My only criticism with this session (as with a couple of the others) is that there was very extensive photography from the organisers, which really got in the way at times and made it feel more like being in a fitness-themed photo shoot than taking a class. I would definitely do this class again but in a normal, no-photos-allowed gym.
This session, which involved doing basic aerobics, but in moon boots, felt very silly and weird but gave a surprisingly high-calorie burn for something that really didn’t feel that intense – but according to my Fitbit, I spent 70% of the time in my cardio heart rate. It just felt like I was dicking about in toy boots really. I certainly wouldn’t make this a regular thing (the boots were a bit uncomfortable and my lower back didn’t like it) but as a one-off, I’m glad I had a go, it was a laugh.
Cocktail Making Masterclass with Dirty Bones
Slightly slapdash but really great fun. This session included two cocktails per person, which you made and consumed. We made a classic mojito and a Dirty Bones special called the Mutt’s Nuts. I enjoyed playing with the cocktail equipment a lot, and two full cocktails is a generous offering (slightly alarmingly generous at 4pm when you’ve just done four hours of cardio, to be honest!). There were also some slightly weird elements – the venue was unavoidably a school food tech room, which cut down on the glamour somewhat, and the demonstrator missed out one of the ingredients when he was demonstrating one of the cocktails, which is not that impressive. Still, this was a favourite session, and I remembered how and made a mojito the next day.
This was overall a fun day for anyone interested in fitness and wellness, and who wants to try a load of gym classes. It would have been much more fun with a friend, and also perhaps in a different venue – there was a very clear sense of being in a school, and it was hard to find the class venues (I got lost several times and the helpers never seemed to know where I was meant to be).
There was a very decent and balanced selection of sessions, though without VIP booking, your chances of getting on everything you wanted seemed a bit slim. There were a lot of sessions I wanted to attend that were sold out – and paying £45 for the VIP access looked like a bit of a rip off (you seemed to just get a free salad and a tote bag full of leaflets as well as your priority booking). At £20 for a day ticket, the day is reasonable value for money – you can easily pay up to £10 for these sessions individually, and there are eight sessions included in the day. That said, would you choose to go to eight gym sessions in a day? It might be nice to see a more pay-as-you-go option of £5 per session.
Eight hours felt like a very long time for me to be milling about in a school on my own, doing star jumps, but I’d consider coming back if a friend wanted to go or I could just drop in for a session or two. For me, this was a fun day out, but not a standout event.
We attended as guests of FitFest Oxford