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Are Fitness Festivals the New Music Festivals?

Julianne Lesinski for Wanderlust Festival

You might know the name Virgin for their cell phone service (you know, those pre-paid Virgin Mobile phones), their purple-hued super-hip airlines (a la Virgin America), or their now defunct record label (Virgin Records once repped your fave pop ladies, like Janet Jackson and the Spice Girls). But the latest offering added to the Virgin menu might surprise you.

The company just announced the launch of Virgin Sport—a fitness festival that includes both a long (half marathon) and short (5K) run, group fitness classes like yoga and boot camp, and local food, music, art, and culture to create the familiar festival vibes. Virgin is offering the festivals in four U.S. and U.K. locations this year, from London to San Francisco, and will soon expand to even more locations around the world.

So, why is a company who brought you cell phones and in-flight refreshments getting into the active world? For one, "festivals of sport embody our work hard play hard lifestyle at Virgin," says Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group CEO in a press release. All right, we can get down with that.

But this new launch is more than just Virgin deciding to jump into the fitness world. It makes you wonder: While everyone used to scramble to score passes for music fests like Coachella and Lollapalooza, could weekend-long fitness festivals be the hot new ticket? Take a look at your Instagram feed; chances are, there are just as many fitness posts as there are of envy-worthy travel or partying. And, actually, millennials are more into being healthy these days than they are into drinking and partying. So it's no surprise that these wellness events—which feel like a party but don't treat your body like one—are popping up left and right. (More on that here: Millennials Prefer Working Out to Drinking, New Study Shows)

ICYMI, Virgin isn't the first one to dream up the idea of dedicating a weekend to celebrating wellness with a turn-up atmosphere. Take Wanderlust Festivals, multi-day celebrations all about yoga, adventure, and mindfulness, that started in 2009 with one festival in Squaw Valley, CA, and about 700 participants. Now, Wanderlust runs about 60 events worldwide, and in 2016 had more than 80,000 people in attendance. They've even branched off into one-day events like Wanderlust 108, a "mindfulness triathlon" consisting of a 5K run, yoga, and meditation. And they're not the only company doing it; individual brands and locations host their own get-sweaty weekends, like the SeaWheeze Half Marathon and Sunset Festival in Vancouver, BC, and the Telluride Yoga Festival in Telluride, CO. (And this isn't even counting individual fitness retreats.)

And it makes sense; instead of simply booking a beach or adventure vaca, people are combining the fun of travel with the perks of working out. Wellness tourism makes up a huge (we're talking, $563 billion huge) section of the wellness industry, and that number is growing. It surged 14 percent between 2013 and 2015, more than twice the growth of tourism overall, according to the Global Wellness Institute. (Feeling inspired? Book a trip to one of our health travel award winners.)

If your PTO plans have been somewhat uninspired or you need to light a little fire under your running, yoga, or other fitness goals, book tickets to a fitness festival—it'll do your body good and you'll officially be one of the cool kids.

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