Juriën dos Santos is a fitness trainer at Schiphol with Fit20, a fitness programme based on a unique approach. It whips you into great shape in only a few months' time, without working yourself into a lather. So how does it work, exactly? We asked Juriën to tell us all about it.
When Juriën was first introduced to fitness, he was himself overweight. 'I had a job at Customs, sat around the office most days and didn't get much exercise. When I was at 105 kilos, I had a medical examination and they told me I needed to lose at least 20 kilos. But I didn't take it seriously, because I didn't think of myself as too heavy. Then my daughter was born, and by the time she was three I couldn't keep up with her any more. A lot of the time, daddy was too tired to play. That's when it really hit me.'
Juriën started reading books by Sonja Bakker, a Dutch weight-loss guru, and began to learn more about healthy nutrition. At a certain point, he started giving his colleagues diet and exercise advice at work. 'I had first-hand experience, after all – I knew what it was like to be overweight. In talking to people around me, I noticed that many of them valued that experience.'
He enjoyed working out and giving advice so much that he decided to become a fitness trainer. At first, he found a job with Fit For Free, but three years ago he switched to Fit20. 'Fit For Free is much larger in scale, which means you can't really build a relationship with the people who come in to exercise. I was looking for a job where I could provide people with long-term guidance. As it turns out, I found that at Fit20 in Rotterdam.'
Juriën – who is now thirty kilos lighter – has been back at Schiphol for over a year. 'Back when things weren't going so well at Schiphol, they asked me if I was interested in taking on this challenge. After that, I focused mainly on the people who were already members. My hope was that if I increased their satisfaction, that group's enthusiasm would rub off on their co-workers. That's how you create ambassadors.' And it worked: the number of members at Schiphol rose from 55 to 80.
The concept behind Fit20 is unique: the target group consists of people with busy schedules, many of whom have little affinity with exercise. 'In just 20 minutes, we provide a high-intensity strength training session. In a short period of time, we push the muscles and the body to their limit. You can see a great deal of progress in only a few months' time, especially in people who weren't working out before. The classes are given in an air-conditioned space, so the participants don't break a sweat. This means there's no need to change clothes. People at Schiphol often don't have time to shower and change clothes. They want to get back to their jobs, and back to work, quickly. That's what makes this approach so unique. It offers a short, supervised workout with plenty of privacy – there's no way for prying eyes to see into our space.'
Today, Fit20 also offers in-house classes. In the past, 25 Danone employees at Schiphol took part in the fitness training, but then the company moved to Hoofddorp. The classes were considered so valuable, however, that Danone decided to have them taught at their new office as well. Other organisations, such as Siemens, Randstad and Ahold, followed their example.
When Juriën lost those 25 members at Schiphol, he immediately decided to begin recruiting new ones. 'I launched a pilot as part of which every business at Schiphol could have two of its employees train with us for a period of three months, free of charge. The only condition was that they act as ambassadors and tell their colleagues what they got out of the training sessions. It was a success: 40 people volunteered for the pilot, which has now ended. About half of them were HR staff: they wanted to find out if the class was something that might benefit their employees.'
At Schiphol, Juriën feels totally in his element. 'I used to work as a security guard at Schiphol. It's a fantastic place to work. There's a really pleasant atmosphere at the WTC – this place is like a nice little village unto itself. I like to get coffee at the Fortune Bar or go grab a drink with one of our members. Since you train the same people every week, you really start to build a relationship with one another. Sometimes, when someone has had something bad happen in their life, they ask if they can skip the workout and just come see me for a talk. I'm happy to do so. Being a personal trainer is about more than just training and pushing clients; it also means being a trusted person they can talk to.'