After a few years of Covid-related restrictions, cancelled events and slow summers, festivals are finally back with a vengeance.
Glastonbury returns after two years off from June 22-26, and a whole host of festivals will follow – including TRNSMT in Scotland (July 8-10), All Together Now in Ireland (July 29-31), and Green Man Festival in Wales (August 18-21).
And while we can’t wait to dive back into the festival season – seeing our favourite bands live, dancing in muddy fields and spending quality time with friends – it’s understandable to feel a bit nervous.
What if your body isn’t prepared for what’s to come, especially after a few years off?
At festivals, Dr. Stephanie Ooi, GP at MyHealthcare Clinic, says: “You’re not eating as well, you’re not sleeping as well, and you’re expending quite a lot of energy during the day walking around, dancing – whatever it is. It can leave you feeling pretty battered.
“If it is great weather, there is a risk of dehydration, if people are drinking alcohol throughout the day, and not keeping up with their fluids.”
To make it through to the end of a festival this year without feeling like a shell of a human, there are a few things you can do…
Pack plenty of healthy snacks
“When you’re at a festival, you’ll probably be eating more sugary, processed foods, the kind of foods that are higher in fat – more fried food, like chips,” says Ooi.
“So it will look very different to your regular diet. Your nutrient and vitamin intake is certainly going to be different, and that might have an effect on you.”
While chips are a great addition to any festival, you probably don’t want to completely subsist off fried potatoes – and Ooi’s advice is to have a solid breakfast, and pack snacks.
“Try as best you can to fuel your body with energy-rich foods. That could be starting off on a good foot in the morning – if there’s any kind of porridge available, or you can bring those ready-made porridge pots, for example, that you just have to add hot water to,” she suggests.
“Try to include some protein in your diet – whether that’s in meat or plant-based form – throughout the day.
Take some snacks along with you – like a breakfast bar, flapjacks, anything you can grab out of your bag easily. Fruit like bananas and apples would be a really good thing to take along.”
Watch your fluid intake
It’s easy to get over-excited by the return of festivals, but Ooi says: “Drink responsibly – don’t push yourself too much. It’s OK to say no – you can still have fun with alcohol-free options, and actually people might find the atmosphere will be plenty enough fun for them.”
If you are drinking alcohol, Ooi advises: “Try and have a break – or at least have alternate [drinks] like alcohol-free cocktails or alcohol-free beers.”
Most festivals have plenty of water stations dotted about, so she adds: “Make sure you carry a refillable bottle with you everywhere you go.”
Optimise your sleep
“Inevitably you’re going to be getting less sleep,” says Ooi. “If people are camping, for example, it can get quite hot in the tent.
And during summertime, the sun rises a lot earlier, so it might just be that you are going to bed later, and waking up earlier.”
While sleeping in a tent might not be quite as comfortable as your bed at home, Ooi recommends packing an eye mask and earplugs to “encourage you to sleep for as long as possible”.
Be careful with your posture
From walking around all day to the sheer amount of time standing, festivals are a departure from most of our daily lives spent hunched over a desk – and it can wreak havoc on your lower back.
To minimise backache, Ooi urges you to consider your posture: “When you’re standing up, chest out and think about tucking your pelvis under. If you’re carrying a backpack, try not to stuff too much in there, so it’s not such a strain on your body.”
She also recommends “sitting down where you can, and taking regular breaks”.
Be careful of the sunshine
While we all pray for festival season not to be a complete wash-out, soaring temperatures come with their own issues – including the potential for dehydration and sunburn.
“Take a hat with you,” is Ooi’s top piece of advice. “If you have long-sleeved, loose clothing you can still wear while it’s hot, that will help to protect you from the sun.
Heavy-duty sunscreen as well – carry that around with you, and make sure you’re reapplying it regularly throughout the day.”
Pack first aid essentials
If you really want to hack festivals this year, Ooi recommends taking a small first aid kit with you.
She would include “things like rehydration sachets you can mix with water – drink those first thing in the morning or throughout the day”, she says.
“Plasters – inevitably when you’re walking around a lot, you might be getting some blisters, so take some blister plasters along, and regular plasters as well.
Paracetamol and ibuprofen if you need them. Some people might find they may get indigestion because of the change of diet, so anti-acid tablets, like Gaviscon or some kind of anti-acid medication, could also be really helpful.”