It’s my third time at Bodypower, the world’s largest fitness exhibition held at the NEC in Birmingham, and year on year it astounds me with how much fun I have and how much I learn from the professional athletes, brands and contributors who come together from all over the world to train, shop and play all things fitness.
I first came to Bodypower in 2015 for an afternoon with my two children whilst at the Birmingham NEC for the Baby Show and loved it so much that I booked a weekend ticket for 2016, studied and qualified as a personal trainer and have just spent all three days to Bodypower 2017 this year after competing at Pure Elite and earning my PRO Card – what a journey it’s been. The buzz surrounding the show is simply electric and has me hooked on the positivity, motivation and inspiration that I always take away with me from meeting such incredible athletes, like-minded members of the public and fitness fans from all walks of life. In fact it’s changed my life and led me into health and fitness and I’ve never been happier.
Naturally being a woman I love to shop and countdown the weeks leading up to the expo with the same enthusiasm as I had about Christmas when I was a child. If you’re looking for an extensive range of gym wear and accessories then Bodypower literally have everything you can dream of in every size, style and colour imaginable. The brands always run special offers and discounts for the show so you can pick things up far cheaper than if you shopped online and at regular intervals they also throw freebies into the crowds – t-shirts, shakers and supplements – with others giving out goodie bags during athlete meet and greets. I’d recommend setting yourself a budget on what you’d like to spend, stop off at the cashpoint before you get there and take a good look around before you buy so that you can compare prices and styles and make sure that you go home with a good deal. As there are so many different brands to choose from it’s unlikely that the same items will be sold elsewhere in the arena for a different price, but with the latest fashion trends it’s refreshing to see the different takes and styles of gym wear with monochrome, khaki and stripes really taking over this year.
It’s also nice to see people walking around in the latest gym gear because you get to see what it looks and feels like on different body shapes and sizes before buying which is helpful as there’s no space for changing rooms. The amount of girls who came up to me this year and asked me where my leggings were from was incredible! Usually the models and athletes on each stand wear their favourite items from the range so that you can see the cut, shape and coverage as well as ideas on how to style and accessorise it and it always tempts me into picking up a few extra items because they all look so good! I always bring my bank card along just incase but try my best to be good. I adore the independent and emerging brands who have stands and stalls scattered throughout; they’re typically British start-ups and organic businesses that have just launched and make it their purpose to fill a niche in the market. The quality of the clothing is fantastic and there are always fitness challenges and games to play to win bundles of goodies and testers. To see a brand returning year on year, growing and bringing out new products makes me feel so proud of them as you get to recognise the team and follow their journey throughout the year on social media until the next exhibition.
There has also been a rise in dairy-free supplements year on year which I’m very happy to see as being vegan it can be difficult to find mainstream brands who cater to my dietary requirements when whey protein floods the market. A few years ago I asked everyone if they stocked vegan and only a handful were able to help me, but this year I literally grinned from ear to ear as so many were showcasing their new vegan range or telling me about their impending green launch. It goes to show that meeting brands directly, speaking to their designers, developers and marketing managers makes such an impact on the fitness industry as we’re able to give direct feedback on what we’d like to see more of as well as discussing the plus points of existing products and what we love most. It’s that direct contact, discussion and collection of thoughts that lead to such developments in fitness, the supply and demand of superior quality goods and keeping on top of the trends to bring the public what they want at a price that we’re happy with.
Not only do brands give out free clothing and accessories but you can also try fitness shakes, energy drinks, protein bars and guilt-free treats too. So many stands have food and drink samples in tester pots and trays that you can go and help yourself to, whether you’re trying something for the first time or wanting to sample the entire variety of flavours it’s a really handy way to discover what works best for your training and dietary needs. I hate it when I order a new tub of pre-workout online only to discover that it’s too weak or tastes disgusting, I’ve had so many protein shakes that smell awful and don’t mix very well with water or protein bars that are far smaller than they appear online and leave me feeling ripped-off. For me it’s priceless to be able to sample products before I buy because picking the wrong flavour or ingredients can be a costly mistake to make when shopping and once you open them you can’t always send them back. And if you’re feeling peckish there are plenty of food stalls to choose from with grab-and-go meat trucks, sandwich shops and treat stands catering for high-protein low-fat diners. I always enjoy cold-pressed date and cashew bars followed by a falafel salad wrap and a bottle of fresh fruit juice whilst others walk around munching on gourmet burgers and protein shakes. Inside the NEC there are plenty of restaurants if you want a sit-down meal or to rest your feet and count up your goodies.
As with every big event there are always queues so my advice is to unsurprisingly set off early and make the most of your day at the show. I’d recommend spending at least two days at the show if you can to get the most out of it as you’ll need to be prepared to queue to get in, queue for gift bags and queue to meet the big name athletes. The Bodypower website always releases details of the brands and people appearing at the show in advance so just like at a theme park I like to make a mental note of the top things I want to see and check where they’re situated to save time. If there’s an athlete you’ve got your heart set on meeting or a talk or performance happening at a certain time then go there first because shopping can wait! You don’t want to miss out on the highlights of the show because you didn’t know they were on or left it too close before closing time to get to them. It’s a full day seeing the exhibition but the time goes so fast and I easily cover several miles of walking whilst I’m there. Thankfully there are plenty of toilet facilities and I’ve never had to queue for more than a minute to use the restroom, it’s a well equipped arena, easy to access and has plenty of parking and transport links.
The arena parking is available on the day of the event and you can pay £12.00 with cash or card upon arrival at a booth as you’ll need to show your ticket to leave at the end of the day. There are huge carparks with free shuttle buses running to different entrances of the NEC so even if it feels like you’re parked really far away it’s never more than a few minutes walk or a quick hop on the bus. I much prefer to walk across the carpark because it only takes several minutes to get from the far end to the show and it’s a few extra steps for my pedometer to track which helps me towards my fitness goal. This year I stayed in the Holiday Inn Express hotel which is across the roundabout from the far end of the North carpark, about a fifteen minute walk from my room to the exhibition hall which meant that I could leave my car at the hotel and walk across each morning in the beautiful sunshine rather than queuing to get in and out of the carpark – can you tell that I don’t like queues? It’s these little time and money saving tricks that maximise my day and get the best out of the experience and with breakfast included in the price of my room each morning it meant that I only had to worry about lunch and dinner at the show.
Each year Bodypower host an official afterparty on the Saturday night and it’s a chance to mingle with some of the athletes and let your hair down after a hectic day of being healthy. Just like the show itself you’ll have to book tickets if you want to attend as it’s limited entry so grab them online in advance as it costs more on the door. After staying out until closing I hit Sunday’s show on just a few hours sleep not quite hungover because I’m sure I was still drunk but it’s all part of the experience and I highly recommend you stay over and make a weekend of it.
Each year there are world famous athletes, TV stars, fitness models and motivational speakers who attend and it’s great fun meeting them all, watching them workout and taking pictures – I like to think of it as the grown up version of Pokemon Go as I try my best to collect them all and headlining this year were Kai Greene, Steve Cook, Cedric McMillan, Nikki Blackketter, Calum von Moger, Ryan Terry, Sadik Hadzovic, Rich Piana, Dana Linn Bailey to name but a few. It’s a long day for meet and greets and some stay the entire day or weekend seeing person after person, signing shirts autographs and giving fitness advice whilst others are scheduled for just a few hours for one day only. It’s therefore important to check in advance how long each athlete is available for and to be mindful of their lunch breaks and time limits as you don’t want to waste time queueing to see somebody that’s due to leave before you even get to the front of the queue. The athletes often bring their friends and family along too and I have great fun speaking to their husbands and wives, meeting their children and talking to their team and security about where they’re off to next and how they’re finding their visit to England. Steve Cook always has a fantastic group of people with him and is so patient and genuine with everybody that he meets, over at the fashion end of the scale meeting Chet Sket for the first time this year on Machine Fitness had me laughing all morning and we’ve since followed each other on Twitter.
If you’re looking to compete in fitness then there’s the WBFF event of world beauty fitness and fashion held at the show where amateurs can compete for pro status and begin a career in fitness. There are also the Bodypower Games for crossfit challenges and model searches throughout. Everything you need to compete for the first time is tied up neatly under one roof from training plans, equipment and gym wear to tanning, beauty, shoes, makeup and dazzling bikinis. There are also companies offering personal training qualifications, nutritional and general lifestyle advice.
What I love most about Bodypower, aside from the show itself of course, is the amazing mix of people who attend; the thousands of general public from every walk of life across the country with varying ages and backgrounds at every level of fitness all looking to feel better and live more healthily. You don’t have to be a muscle-bound hunk nor a bikini clad babe to attend as there are newborn babies being proudly carried on their fathers backs and girls with curves looking sensational in the latest gym wear. Fitness is all about being a better version of who you were yesterday and we’re all at different stages of our journey yet the welcomeness, acceptance and positivity from all is just so inspiring and always makes for an experience I’ll never forget! Roll on 2018!