On Friday I made the journey from Exmouth to St Albans in order to visit my friend Lucy. It was slightly daunting to make the journey in little Clarisse Clio as I’ve not done much driving around big scary London before, but I arrived safe and sound in time to go for a delicious dinner and have a good old catch up over some Prosecco!
The main event of our catch up weekend was Balance Festival. Being a personal trainer, Lucy and her friend Emma had booked to go and kindly invited me along. I hadn’t even heard of it, but when I saw the website I realised it was a pretty big event in the fitness world, with the likes of Shona Vertue, Clean Eating Alice, The Food Medic and of course, Girlgains co-founder and Adidas ambassador Zanna Van Dijk, all being in attendance.
The festival was focused on my two favourite things: food and fitness. That, coupled with my fitness blogger idols front lining the event, I bit Lucy’s hand off to come too! There were loads of London-based fitness classes offering taster sessions, but when I tried to book in to classes with Lucy and Emma, 2 of the 3 were sold out. I booked into Barry’s Bootcamp with them at 1:30, but still had to find two other classes to amuse myself with while they did Boom Cycle and F45. This actually worked out pretty well as I booked into an Xtend Barre 20 minute taster and the main event – a Zanna vs Shona workout showdown!
Arriving at the festival we got a free tote bag which was great, and then had about 40 minutes to potter before we were all due in our first classes. There were loads of food stalls offering free samples of their products, which were enjoyed by all! Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a tall, blonde, seriously athletic looking figure…it was Zanna! I’ve never met a celebrity before but this was the closest I’ve got! It felt so surreal to see someone in real life that I’ve only ever seen photos and watched videos of. Zanna is someone I’ve looked up to for a long time now, I love her attitude to health and fitness and leading a healthy, happy lifestyle. Myself and Emma were kind of starstruck. Lucy on the other hand, is not on social media, so actually had no idea who Zanna (or anyone else) was!
Emma and I stood around for a few minutes waiting for the perfect opportunity before I finally struck up the courage to go and say hi! Zanna was lovely, exactly the same as you see her on social media which was awesome. We got a photo and it finally sunk in that I would actually be working out with her later!!
We then headed downstairs to where Boom Cycle, Barry’s Bootcamp and Xtend Barre were all located. We parted ways and I trotted off to, what I thought was going to be, a nice warm up session.
I do a weekly adult ballet class for fun, so Xtend Barre appealed to me greatly. I understood it to be a mix of pilates and ballet, and naively thought it would be a gentle start to the day. I was wrong. The session was relatively fast paced moving between positions, followed by a great deal of holding ballet positions such as pliés and then pulsing in them! Talk about feeling the burn!
Growing up having a fitness instructor for a Mum, I spent a great deal of my childhood sitting at the back of a studio watching her teach aerobics (I say sitting, I mean getting in the store cupboard and building forts out of the various bits of exercise equipment) yet I’d never actually participated in a class in this format before. I found it so much fun, especially with the dance element involved. I really felt I was using muscles in a new way and enjoyed doing moves I’d never done before.
After a quick break it was time for my second class, the workout with Zanna and Shona. I was so excited. I arrived early so was quite near the front of the queue and therefore got a great spot in the class right near the stage. It was so surreal to have them both lead the workout – which was super sweaty by the way! It was a bunch of bodyweight exercises sandwiched between some mindfulness, accompanied by a live DJ! Okay so my description doesn’t make it sound all that thrilling but it was so much fun. Whilst one person lead a section of the workout, the other moved around the room making sure everyone was doing it correctly and giving tips. We even got a free Brita water bottle!
Another quick break and it was time for Barry’s Bootcamp! We were all pretty knackered by then but looking forward to doing a workout together. Unfortunately we had to split between treadmills and floorspace and we didn’t get to be near each other. The style of the class wasn’t my favourite; half of the class were doing various things on treadmills whilst the other half were performing floor exercises with dumbbells. To be honest I felt that going from being still to sprinting on a treadmill within a matter of minutes wasn’t particularly good for the body, and Emma and Lucy found that some of the floor exercises actually hurt their backs etc. It was also sold to us as a half hour class but we were done before that. I’m sure that in their own studio, with a proper class length incorporating a warm up and cool down, it’s a good class. It’s just a shame that on the day it felt a bit unfocussed and I didn’t feel I got much from it.
When we were done we were all rather hungry so bought some snacks! I got some delicious banana bread from Pollen and Grace which was delicious! Basically it was healthy banana bread and you got to choose your toppings. I went for greek yogurt, cherry compote, hazelnuts and of course, Pip and Nut peanut butter!
Emma said there was a talk about nutrition she’d like to hear at 3pm so we headed to listen. We walked to where we’d seen live cooking demos happening earlier and it was pretty packed with people, so we thought that was where the talk was being held. We squidged only a bench and waited…and waited. It passed 3pm and people were still turning up, in fact it had actually got crazy busy. Then I remembered that Zanna, Alice, Hazel and Steph were doing a cooking demo at 3:20 and realised that we’d accidentally managed to bag a great spot to watch!
I couldn’t quite believe it: I’d not even heard of this festival until a few weeks ago and I actually ended up spending a fantastic day with friends, meeting one of my idols and now I was watching even more of them giving a cooking demo and answering audience questions right in front of me!
Once we were done at the talk, we were all super hungry! After all the working out we’d done, and surviving off merely snacks (albeit delicious ones) we were definitely in need of a good meal! We headed for The Mae Deli, one of the restaurants opened by food blogger Ella Mills (née Woodward) of Deliciously Ella. Seems we had a blogger-theme to the day! I’ve only been once before but I love the way you can make up a bowl of delicious food for less than a tenner. Of course we also shared some of the healthy cakes on offer too!
I’m aware this post has gotten rather long so I shall save my adventures of the following day for the next one! I hope Balance Festival returns next year and if so, I highly recommend you go! Next time I’d be tempted to make a weekend of it as it was so packed with fitness classes, talks and way more food than we could eat (or had time to eat) in one day – so I’d love to have more time there.
Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Have you ever been to a similar event before?