The phrase “festival season” means different things to different people. For a lucky few, it’s a chance to see Beyoncé make music history. Some take it as the best time to break out their best flower crowns. I’ve personally always thought Coachella sounded more dehydrating than fun. But a fitness festival, on the other hand, is a concept I can get behind.
While weekends of music, alcohol, and questionable choices aren’t going anywhere, what has changed is the amount of young people willing to spend time and money on boutique fitness. Savvy entrepreneurs have used that as an opportunity, programming weekends of fitness in the same way we’re used to seeing a DJ lineup. Offers range from international events like Wanderlust Festival to local weekends like Nantucket Yoga Festival. Some fitness festivals offer a full itinerary of various workout classes, often taught by celebrity instructors. Others mix live music with workout offerings. All of them promise a healthier vibe than a weekend of boozing and sweating in the desert.
Until recently, the entirety of my knowledge of fitness festivals came from photos I’d seen on Instagram, so when I was invited to visit Los Angeles for the first W Hotels Wake Up Call festival, I jumped at the chance. After all, it was a great excuse to wear leggings in public all day. Festival attendees are required to also be hotel guests, so in addition to a festival day pass ($ 69/day), guests had to spring for a hotel room (prices vary, about $ 250/night.) (W Hotels covered my expenses.)
Wake Up Call transformed the hotel’s ample rooftop space, massive lobby, and pool into festival grounds.
The entire weekend took place in the W Hollywood. The festivities didn't officially start until Saturday morning, but plenty of hotel guests-slash-concertgoers checked in on Friday. When I arrived late that night, it looked like setup had already begun. There was a step-and-repeat with W Hollywood logos, amps, and microphones in the hotel bar area waiting for their debut the following day, and the entire lobby had that hushed hustle a room gets when something is about to go down.
The hotel setting makes Wake Up Call very different from the sweaty, muddy experience of a musical festival—and to me, that was way more appealing. By the end of the day at Electric Zoo or Governor’s Ball, it can feel like you’ve always lived in a muddy field surrounded by portable toilets. But at Wake Up Call, the hotel is festival HQ, complete with a stage in the lobby and a DJ on the rooftop. You know how festivals sometimes have a smaller stage for more acts, like DJs, to perform a set in addition to the headliners on the main stage? Wake Up Call had that too—except instead of more music, there were workout classes, all on a terrace overlooking the Sunset Strip.
There were five workout classes scheduled throughout the weekend: two opportunities to take Y7 hip-hop yoga, a HIIT class, an indoor cycling class (well, technically it took place outdoors), and a boot camp class.
The various workout offerings meant that guests got to choose their own adventure.
Groups of friends could split up—some could lie by the pool, others could hit the created-just-for-this-weekend dance floor, and the fitness lovers could pop down a few floors for a sunset class. Even better, friends could split up without the requisite lost hour in which someone in your group inevitably goes missing, the random field you’re in has no cell service, and you spend an hour trying to find one another. Plus, instead of meeting by the portable toilets, Wake Up Call guests could slip into a hotel bed and blessed air conditioning when they needed a break from the sun and music.
I started the weekend with a morning HIIT workout, followed by some poolside relaxation, a sunset workout, and finally, a dance party.
On Saturday at 9 A.M., I met a handful of other Wake Up Call attendees on the terrace for a boxing-inspired HIIT class with Nike trainer Ashley Guarrasi. Under the glow of the Los Angeles sun and a Mamma Mia 2 billboard, we did 45 minutes of squats, shadowboxing, and boxer burpees. Going into Guarrasi's class, I wondered if students would be too concerned with getting cute photos or posing in their workout sets to actually break a sweat. (We all know how important getting shots for the ‘gram is at music festivals.) Turns out, I was worrying for nothing—this class was the real deal. And it was only my first workout of the day.
Between my morning boot camp and an evening sunset indoor cycling ride, the day was free for me to enjoy however I chose. I opted to lay out by the pool—which slowly filled with DJ crews setting up, partygoers, and Instagram influencers posing in front of the LA skyline.
I eventually switched out of my bathing suit, put my leggings back on, and spent sunset with celebrity trainer and founder of The Wall Jason Wimberly. With his glitter leggings and penchant for twerking on indoor cycling bikes, Wimberly was pretty much the human embodiment of a fitness festival. Everyone looked like they had a blast, including the people who had never clipped into a bike before.
After a quick shower, it was time to join the crowds dancing along to the DJ at the pool. Each day started with just a few early birds hanging by the pool but ended with about 200 festivalgoers dancing in the dark in the wee hours of the morning. I’ll say this: The DJ sets seemed more packed than the workout classes. (There were only about 10 to 15 people in each class I took.)
The promise of Y7 Yoga, the hip-hop, beat-based Vinyasa yoga class, got me out of bed bright and early Sunday morning.
I wasn’t quite as sprightly on my elevator ride down to the terrace for Sunday’s 7:30 A.M. workout, thanks to late-night performances by Betty Who and Phantogram. But I wasn’t the only one who crawled out of bed—there were a handful of us, including one student who showed up in solid-gold leggings and matching face paint, left over from the night before.
After class, it was back to the pool until I had to check out and catch my flight home to New York. In the span of 36 hours, I had done three workouts, eaten two orders of room service, and danced in a rooftop pool. Coachella, watch your back.
Before the festival, I had wondered exactly how hard core the weekend would be. Turns out, it was really up to me.
I’m the type of person who would rather go to a yoga class than a late-night DJ set. There are people who have to psych themselves up to enter a gym and people who have to work hard to get in the mood to rage. I’m the latter. Wake Up Call was an ideal mix—for me, it was a weekend of workouts with a side of pool party. For you, it could be the opposite. Either way, both of us will end up pretty sweaty.