After a couple of weeks of bad sleep and zero motivation for fitness and food preparation, the thought of joining thousands of energetic people at a wellness and fitness festival wasn’t appealing.
My old insecurities started to rise up about how would I fit in with a crowd of more than 5,000 health and fitness enthusiasts when I was struggling just to put on sports leggings and socks. I was feeling lazy – it had been one of those weeks – and the option to back out and avoid going seemed easiest and very tempting.
But since I’d embarked on a mission to push myself physically and mentally while losing weight, to get fitter and feel better, more than a year ago, I had promised I would no longer rely on motivation to do things or take the easy option when lacking enthusiasm. In the past that had resulted in me feeling unhappy and unhealthy.
I had committed to going to the festival weeks earlier because I wanted to experiment with new ways of exercising and nutrition – to see what may help me get to my goals and be healthier.
So with the sun shining brightly and clear skies I ignored my barrage of excuses and made my way towards Wellfest, which some have described as the Electric Picnic for fitness and health fans, in the gardens at Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin. On the way there and from many kilometres away I could spot festival-goers with yoga mats tucked under their arms; they looked motivated and prepared. Not owning a yoga mat was one of the weaker excuses I’d considered that morning not to go.
As I arrived at the gates and waited in the queue, the music and energy from the exercise classes was overflowing from the park, and excitement for the day ahead started to set in.
There were 17 different stages and more than 150 health and wellness experts at the event, which is described as Europe’s largest outdoor health and wellness festivals. The choices of what to do were extensive with talks, cooking demos, workshops, fitness classes and public interviews with experts.
I’d made a plan on what I thought I should do but quickly abandoned it once I got inside and decided to join whatever activity attracted me at that time.
The first exercise that caught my eye were mini-trampolines. Maybe I could bounce my lazy feelings away? Everyone was giggling and working hard in the class as I passed by. I pushed my self-conscious worries to one side, threw off my runners and joined the next Boogie Bounce class. It was 30 minutes of exhausting cardio, a lot of sweating and so much fun. I was hopeless at following the choreographed routine to music, but it didn’t matter – I was back feeling myself again and no longer feeling flat.
I wandered around the gardens for an hour, sampling foods, products and chatting. The good mood of the day was infectious. Then I spotted a climbing wall. I’d tried climbing indoors once before with much coaxing and help. Feeling brave I decided to go for it before I had the chance to think about it too much. Yes, climbing was still scary and exciting. I made it up and down without falling. Just about.
I then contemplated joining what looked like a group meditating in a giant clear bubble tent, but decided to admire their peaceful state and not interrupt. I had started the day thinking I wouldn’t move much but once I got started, I was enjoying it and wanted to keep going.
Walking back towards the entrance of the park, and tasting even more food, I joined a fast paced class of cardio and resistance. It was hot and the exercises were challenging; I was not fan of some parts and loved other bits of the workout. After, in another tent, as I listened to an athlete share the ups and downs of their career, I realised the parts I wasn’t keen on in that workout are probably the important parts I should tackle and improve, to build on my own confidence.
The day was almost over but on the main stage, a fitness instructor was holding a body combat class. From somewhere I got the energy to join the huge group to punch the air, kick, squat, lunge and jump. A great way to finish off a day that I had begun feeling so sluggish. There was so much more I could have done but I was happy to have made it to the festival and taken part.
If I had given in to my excuses and doubts about taking part in the day, I would’ve missed out on the opportunity to have a lot of fun, to sweat, listen and learn. I was grateful I’ve learned that I don’t need to do things perfectly to do them, that every effort matters.
I have previously let my weight gain and the unhealthy way I treated my body to be used as an excuse to miss out on opportunities, but thankfully, that is now in the past.
Rachel Flaherty’s column is about getting fitter and healthier
Part 1: I lost 3st and I’m stronger now
Part 2: Stuck in the weight loss plateau
Part 3: Friend called my fitness holiday a fat camp
Part 4: My plan is driving me up the walls
Part 5: It is slow and fluctuates but has stayed off
Part 6: Why are we doing this? This is terrifying
Part 7: I want to form new habits
Part 8: I gained 4lb. My fear of failure returned
Part 9: It’s time to face my nemesis – running
Part 10: Losing weight without trying
Part 11: Letting go of the shame and guilt helped
Part 12: Habits have led to weight loss
Part 13: I’ve fallen in love with running
Part 14: The mountain doesn’t care who you are
Part 15: Unhappy relationship with food and my body
Part 16: I stopped trying to be perfect
Part 17: Lunchtime workout worth the hassle?
Part 18: 35,000 steps across Dublin
Part 19: Military fitness camp
Part 20: My relationship with ‘clean eating’
Part 21: Holding on to my ‘fat’ clothes