A couple of weeks ago, I attended one of the biggest summer music festivals in the country: Lollapalooza. Everyone from Paul McCartney to The Weeknd and Sam Smith to even Metallica were performing across the 3-day festival at Grant Park in Chicago.
I turned the festival experience into a fun Quantified Self experiment for the weekend and all I needed was the Moves app. The results provide a peek into the amount of exercise you actually get at a music festival, which you can compare to your most strenuous or inactive days. Plus, there’s always the added inspiration to run more QS experiments like this in your daily life going forward.
So without further ado…
To first give you some background, the festival is laid out across the entirety of Grant Park, with the two main stages being on opposite sides of the 3.4 square mile area.
Here’s the visual, which shows my 24 minute walk from main stage to main stage amidst heavy foot traffic from the 100,000+ festival goers per day.
Day 1 — Friday
Lollapalooza is also known for being an all-day event that starts at 11am and goes until 10pm. This isn’t my first go around at Lolla so I arrived around 7pm. On this night, I only wanted to catch the headlining acts, with an after-party to attend later and 2 more days at the fest to come.
Ultimately, the 3 hours I spent at the festival and the 1.5 mile walk to the after-party concert afterwards was the least amount of distance I traveled for the 3 days.
I, somewhat surprisingly, hit the standard FitBit goal of 10,000 steps. I wasn’t bouncing around to too many stages on Friday night and acknowledged when I went to sleep that I had another level of energy still in reserve. I also immediately realized I would need that for the increased ground I knew I was going to cover in the next 2 days.
Day 2 — Saturday
Saturday proved to be my most active day before and after the festival.
I started by walking to brunch near my place. Later in the afternoon, I stopped by a lounge party across the street from the festival’s main entrance. And after the festival, my friends and I hopped from one hotel bar to another, taking in the many brand sponsored parties that come to town for the festivities.
All of these spots were walking distance from one another but we were going back and forth across the Chicago River in an inefficient manner, only adding to my steps. My night ended at 3am, and afterwards, my body was aching everywhere.
The first variable that skewed the data can be seen above. “Moves off 2:03 h” is the Moves app’s way of saying my phone died.
Pro Tip: If you go to a festival, your phone will be searching for a signal the entire time and your battery will drain faster than normal. Bring one of those small battery pack chargers so you can be plugged in amidst the crowd.
However, I can accurately estimate how many total steps I ended up with on Saturday. The biggest factor: I made the same 35 minute walk on Friday, to the same hotel Saturday night. This walk amounted to 2,369 steps.
I would then add another 0.7 miles of walking from hotel to hotel while my phone was off. That is about half of the distance of the 1.3 mile, 35 minute walk the night before.
The resulting, approximated total for Saturday: 16,800 steps. This is the highest amount of steps for my 3 days.
Day 3 — Sunday
The last day of the festival turned out to be my most active day actually within the festival. I was there for 6 hours and was stage-hopping most of the time too.
My data highlights a few interesting observations. The hidden one is that my night ended much earlier than the previous two: roughly at 10:35pm.
The more obvious one: I set my month record of 13,640 steps (though I just calculated above my Saturday was a few thousand more steps) AND I ran… for 932 steps, a.k.a. 0.6 miles.
I was humorously running toward Union Station to catch the last train after the festival had ended. The train was set to take off at 10:35 and as you’ll note above the map, my running ended at 10:34. I just made it!
That experience was made more memorable by the fact that I had to carry around a 40lb. backpack with my laptop, media equipment, and change of clothes that entire time. All the while, I was weaving past attendees who were walking with no knowledge of the train schedule. Unfortunately, Moves can’t quantify the added weight to my exercise but I’m comfortable knowing it was a great, and unexpected cardio workout. (I was sitting on the train in a full sweat and catching my breath for 15 minutes.)
Festivals are tiring.
OK obviously. But more useful to you, I found out that festivals are actually an unexpected, suitable workout substitute, especially if you’re worried you’ll fall behind your regular workout schedule.
Heading into the weekend, I was worried about just that. I had turned the corner in recent months recovering from an injury and following a strict routine that mixes full-court basketball, treadmill sprint workouts, pilates, and weight lifting.
On that train ride home Sunday night, and the couple of days after, I felt more sore than after any of those other workouts. The festival, for 3 straight days, flat out takes a heavy toll on your body.
Here’s how the weekend’s steps compared to my more inactive days:
A quick glance at my monthly data shows pretty clearly when I attended Lollapalooza. Relative to my work days, the weekend contains a lot more steps. (The variables to note here: I work from home and I don’t have a FitBit or wearable to track when I play basketball or run on the treadmill, etc.)
The latter point is actually another one of my takeaways from this experience. I really want to see how attending a festival compares to my normal day playing pickup basketball and the days I’m actually active.
I did track my all-time ceiling: in June, I made a 4 mile hike up a mountain in California that amounted to 30,000+ steps. Now I know that a busy day at a festival is about half of that for me. So where do my other activities lie on this spectrum?
Hopefully this experience is as inspiring to you as it was for me to track more of your everyday movements. If so, let us know @quantselflafont!