When the taxi driver dropped me off at the entrance to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on Saturday morning he was a little taken aback by the sight.
“Is there anything here today?” he asked with some puzzlement.
In front, all that could be seen were yoga mats, blonde ponytails and plenty of Gym + Coffee branded leggings.
It was the first day of WellFest, Europe’s largest health, fitness and wellness festival, back in the flesh after a two-year hiatus.
And back with a bang it was.
With 15 scenes dedicated to different areas of health, fitness, food and wellness, and some of the biggest names in health and wellness – think Joe Wicks, Maeve Madden and Kathryn Thomas – this was the place to be if you’ve ever posted an acai bowl to your Instagram feed or taken an Instagram Live workout class.
I did neither, but dressed head to toe in activewear with a yoga mat in tow, I was ready to become one of the converts.
Yoga was first on my WellFest to-do list, but my eye (or ear, as the case may be)…was shot by the music coming from the ReviveActive tent where a small group was dancing with PT (this is Instagram speak for personal trainer) Nathalie Lennon and DonKing Rongavilla. I’m not sure what I was doing in this class was actually what I was asked to do, but in the end I decided that if there was a DonKing Rongavilla dance class in this city, I would register.
Then I decided to head to the WellYoga area. First, I tried calming yoga with Becky on the Kind Snacks stage, before joining Neasa McHugh’s stimulating yoga session at the Reformation tent, then Jenny Keane’s tantra yoga class. The Dublin-born holistic sex educator attracted many to her session, which briefly reviewed the four pillars of tantra yoga before the practice began. Everything was great, but everything in a meditative state was somewhat hampered by the sound of pumping music from the surrounding tents.
During Keane’s tantra yoga session, the WellFest app (very easily) pinged me to let me know that an event I had preferred was happening elsewhere. Dodging bodies in downward facing dog, I headed for my first talk of the day – Angela Scanlon and Kathryn Thomas. Scanlon recently published his first book,, which preaches the merits of gratitude – something the Irish-born podcaster’s presenter and subscribers know all too well. It was an interesting conversation, although the Q&A section took a while to get going afterwards. One person asked the podcast host what her dream guest on the pod would be — “Oprah,” she said without hesitation, before adding that actor and foodie Stanley Tucci would also be a dream. We hope his team will follow this one.
Speaking of food, my tummy was rumbling now so I headed over to the food village where there was a huge selection of healthy and nutritious food – and something to satisfy vegans. I went for a tofu massaman curry from Camilie which hit the spot. Ann at Lyre Spirits provided her version of a whiskey and non-alcoholic coke to wash it all down. At this point, I must admit that I would have preferred Jameson.
As we headed into the second half of the day, with the sun now beating down firmly on what seemed like thousands of attendees, Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach stepped onto the Gym + Coffee main stage. One of the big draws of the event, the author and fitness trainer led a crowd of all ages, sizes and genders through one of his “Lean in 15 HIIT” workouts – and with squats, burpees and planks, there were quite a few people huffing and huffing at the end of this one.
Wicks, who has more than 4.4 million Instagram followers, seemed to draw the biggest crowd of the day – although PT and model Maeve Madden weren’t far behind him with his “Combat Queens party workout.” high-intensity HIIT” earlier in the day.
—Nicole Glennon (@nicolelennon_) May 7, 2022
To catch my breath, I headed for a session (which turned into a bedtime) at Gerry Hussey’s talk on dissolving the ego. This one was a bit esoteric for my liking, so I quickly returned to the main activity center where I got to rappel down a rock climbing wall, play ping pong, and try the CBD iced tea. Then I found myself in the Today FM tent for Carla Roberts aka Move With Carla’s ‘Coppers: The Workout’ which turned out to be a highlight of the day.
To end the day, I threw away my now slightly more worn yoga mat and closed my eyes for Gerry Hussey’s 15-minute meditation. “Let your heart speak and lead,” he told the crowd, “because your heart knows the way, it always has.”
Coming home for the day I had a smile on my face, and it was all the bigger knowing that I would wake up tomorrow without the hangover that a festival would usually bring. Although this will likely be replaced by a sore core.