Festival fitness is not something that I would recommend.
It takes a whole lot of other muscles and spirit to get through a festival in comparison to running a marathon. Both are long distance exercises but both demand quite different abilities. Running a marathon is an exercise in outright exhaustion and going to a festival is one that is an exercise in outright tiredness.
This weekend I tackled festival fitness when I visited the Download festival for a one day stint. Now Download is a heavy metal festival which ain’t my cup of tea in the first place, but I love the people who go to rock festivals (they adore their music and don’t spend all there time milling around posing and chatting at the front of the crowd) and my mate Si was going too, so it was a great excuse just to see him and have a few beers. Now only one day I hear you cry, well one day I would venture is just as hard work as a full three day stint.
I’ve done my fair share of long festival weekends – see my old site at http://www.0tter.com for an idea of what I mean – I’m actually missing Glastonbury for the first time since 1997 this year. I know how tiring a weekend is and how long it can take to recover. The difference however between a one day and three day one is that at a festival weekend you have all your gear onsite with you and it’s only a half hour march away should you fancy a kip or a rest. Also at Glastonbury they’re much more tailored for weekend excursions, Download despite being a full weekend only caters for passing trade, there’s no tea tents or chill out tents, the tents at Download are all three hundred miles per hour and full of goblins and the like. What you have to do at Download is go prepared, so you have to carry everything on you that you might need in a day, this year I came prepared with a little rucksack with lots of clothes and stuff in there to get through the day. I normally find rucksacks on festival goers a bit cheesie and I’ve avoided them over the years, but after Download last year I realised what a useful thing they were to the one day festival goer.What a good move it was to carry everything on my back, the weather was nice in spots but mostly it was cold and windy (strange for a festival I’d not had that combination before) with a couple of really heavy deluges of rain. By five in the afternoon I was wearing all the clothes I’d brought with me, cutty off black combats, thermal underneath, t-shirt, thermal top, hiking socks, rain top and woolly hat and I was still cold. The funny side was asking people we met if they had clothes I could wear and thinking about going to the merchandise stand and asking about the tog ratings of band logo merchandise.
Anyway we got through, Si and I survived, Ben disappeared looking rather wretched and James went all limp around about the start of Maiden but he had a second wind during the set. Apart from the fifteen hours stood in a field you have to contend with getting there and getting back. Getting there wasn’t so bad, straight in a taxi and a long walk (thanks Albatross tosser taxi driver who dropped us off a mile from the site) and a long queue and then onsite. Getting back was terrible, around forty minutes to get off site, another forty to get on the bus, a sleepy bus ride then a half hour wait for a taxi. You could tell we were knackered as we both went straight to bed and missed out on the metallers gathered at the bar in the hotel.
The thing about this is just how tiring it is and is there any way you can prepare for it all. I’m on Tuesday now and I’ve only just been able to gather my strength to start doing some work. I’m on my first week break from work since Christmas and my plans were to get lots of things done. I did wander up to see my daughter for father’s day and I managed to get through a day of keeping her entertained when I felt like death (thanks Anna) but that’s all about I’ve managed to do since then.
My biggest mistake was starting to smoke again before and during the festival. I knew I would, but that knowing I would is just the excuse an addict needs to start smoking again. I reckon that smoking really drains the life out of you and now despite not having a fag since Sunday evening, I’m still suffering and my lungs hurt and I have a nasty little cough after chaining around 80 ciggies at the festival.
My advice for a good day festival are:
- Don’t smoke if you’ve given up smoking – that’s a bit of personal advice there.
- Don’t drink so sodding much the night before the festival
- Have a good time on site and drink as much as you like but if you want to tone it down then have a soft drink for every two pints. Better still if you can manage it don’t drink at all.
- Wear big bugger outdoor boots (you can get lightweight ones with lots of ventilation now) unless it really looks as though it’s going to be good weather and if it is going to be good then still wear big boots. I love my paraboots they’re great for all weathers, put some comfy socks on and they’re great too if anyone stands on your toes in a crowd, also good ankle support if you tend to have weak ankles. Don’t do what I did and wash them in the dishwasher though as I found the soles fell off at the next festival I went to.
- Pack a bag, the biggest I would take would be 18 litres, any bigger and it starts to get in the way, try to put in:
- Lot and lots of clothes – thermal undies are good and despite having to strip off to put them on they can still look oddly cool under certain clothing depending upon colour choices. Orange under black can look uber. Big socks if you’re not already wearing them. A hoody is always very welcome on a cold day, try to get a thick one though, no-one will notice when it’s cold or wet and fashion goes out of the window in inclement weather. When it’s a deluge folk tend to wear a lot of professional hiking gear when the weather turns bad, so a trip to the camping store could be in order.
- Sun lotion and after sun
- Paracetamol or Ibuprofen but don’t lose count of how many and when you have them.
- Water if they’ll let you take fluids in (rare that they will), bottled water is always available but it can be a bit expensive.
- A sun hat and a warm woolly hat.
- Wet weather gear, make it stout stuff, none of this cheap packsize macs, you’d be surprised what rain can be like when you’re just sat out. Rainproof trousers are good too but can be a bit of menace to get on.
- Rennies are great if you get a bit of a hiccup or acid attack
- You can take some loo roll just in case it’s all gone from the portaloos
- A mat to sit on is really useful
- A camera – I usually pack that on a belt though.
- Spare cash should you lose your main stash of cash – don’t put all your eggs in one basket
- Medicine and stuff that you might need, contact lens fluid, inhalers etc.
- A lineup calendar
- A torch – well maybe not – I find that they never get used
- Spare battery for phone
- Gloves – I forgot them this year and I found out just how cold a pair of wet hands can get in the cold
- ID just in case you’re found snoozing in a puddle
- Eat when you need to eat, I tend to forget to eat and when it catches up with you then it can be too late and you’ll feel terrible.
- Not tried this but some carb packing – as one would do before a race – might be a good idea the night before. Try stuffing your face in the hotel the night before, this year I had sweets in the car on the way down and didn’t have my afternoon meal and then drank a gallon in the bar. Perhaps I’ll try this out next year.
- Try some energy drinks.
- Maybe try to get out a tiny bit earlier than everyone else, I reckon a five minute head start and you could knock an hour off the journey home should you be using public transport.
The whole thing was worth it for the one moment just before the main set. The crowd started murmoring and then this broke into a roar as a Spitfire dived in low and thundered over the crowd to an enormous roar. It then swung around and dived over the main stage where at that moment Iron Maiden set off pyrotechnics and the stage exploded. It really was a hair on the back of the neck standing up moment, fantastic, that’s just about as good as it gets and Bruce was amazing for on old bloke and the band ticked all the Heavy Rockkkkk cliche boxes, guitarist crossovers being mine and Si’s favourites.
Anyway make sure to turn the volume up really high to get the full impression.
Festival fitness, it’s about being prepared.