Edition 28 December 2017, by Phoebe Dodds
New year, new you, right? If you’re like most people, your new years resolutions will include a fitness or weight-loss related goal. Luckily, new fitness- and yoga-related trends are popping up all over the Netherlands, and there really is something to suit every taste. From yoga with your pet, to hardcore weightlifting, whether you want to bulk up or tone down, read on for the low-down on the fitness trends sweeping the Netherlands right now.
The Netherlands is known as a fit country – just ask any foreigner to describe an average Dutch person, and you’ll likely be met with a associations involving cycling, hockey, football or ice skating. De Parool’s latest study, which found that 69% of Amsterdammers takes part in sport at least once a week, backs up this generalisation. Working out in the gym is still as popular as ever, but fitness instructors are noticing that the demographics are changing. In past years, the weights section of the gym tended to be dominated by men who strived for a weightlifter body type, and it was rare to find a woman venturing into this corner of the room. Over the past few years, however, the tables have turned. Rodrigo Coesel, commercial director at USC Amsterdam, notices that “in our gyms, the number of women doing hardcore strength training has increased”. The reasons for this? Instagram and other social media channels could be behind the shift, with a number of high-profile fitness influencers helping to break the assumption that weight training leads to women ‘bulking up’. Additionally, the fitness and celebrity world has been embracing the strong, athletic body shape rather than the previously-desired size 0, which could also contribute to the rise in popularity of weight training amongst women.
Fitness centres of all types in the Netherlands have benefited from the rising popularity in working out. Gyms situated in modern and unusual settings are especially popular, as demonstrated by TrainMore’s Singel location in an old bank building, and Sportsworld Amsterdam’s Oude Melkweg building. Gyms that take a different approach to the norm in terms of membership options also experience success. Last January, gym chain TrainMore, which was founded in 2010 by Marjolijn Meijer and Han Doorenbosch, received a significant amount of funding. This allowed the chain to rapidly expand across the Netherlands, from their initial branch in Utrecht. TrainMore’s concept is revolutionary: members pay less, the more they exercise. The basic monthly cost is €35, and you save €1 with every visit you make to the gym. Their system seems to be paying off. At the average gym in the Netherlands, members workout 1.1 times per week. At TrainMore gyms, however, where members are presented with a financial incentive when they work out, that average is 1.9 times per week. TrainMore currently has locations all around the Netherlands, from The Hague and Utrecht to Den Bosch and Zaandam, and the founders are looking to expand continuously.
Embracing modern technology
Technology has inevitably crept into every part of our daily lives, and fitness is no exception to this. One very successful example of incorporating fitness and technology is the gym membership app, OneFit. The app, to which members pay a monthly fee, allows users to visit most gyms in their city, up to 4 times each month. This gives members access to a wide variety of workouts, from ordinary gyms and boxing classes, to hot yoga and bootcamps that take place outside in parks. In certain cities, swimming pools and even hotel spas are included. One popular location in Amsterdam that OneFit members can visit is Spa Zuiver, situated in the greenery of the Amsterdamse Bos. Users of the app can visit the gym for as long as they choose, then benefit from a free hour using the saunas, steam rooms and swimming pool of the spa. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of the app is the flexibility it affords users. Member Storm Gibbons, 22, says “I live and study in different parts of Amsterdam, and OneFit allows me to work out wherever and whenever suits me that particular day”. OneFit is currently active in Amsterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht and Rotterdam.
Catching the yoga bug
Yoga is by no means a new fitness trends in the Netherlands, but the past year has seen an explosion of new trends reigniting interest in this centuries-old exercise. Amsterdam in particular has welcomed a large number of new yoga studios, including those solely dedicated to hot yoga, where the practice is performed in temperatures of up to 40 degrees. Martijn Peters is co-founder of Equal Yoga, one of the aforementioned hot studios, and has noticed how interest in hot yoga has grown since he entered the field 5 years ago. The reasons for this are thanks to the fact that hot yoga “combines both physical and mental aspects”, he says. “It’s a great workout, and in exciting but fast-paced times like we live in, this type of yoga helps people become fitter both mentally and physically”, he adds. Equal Yoga opened in 2016 with a location in Amsterdam Oost, and its overwhelming popularity led to the opening of a second studio in Amsterdam West in mid-2017. Naturally, of the trend in the Netherlands, Peters says that “we expect the yoga business to keep growing rapidly in years to come (but then, I am as biased as can be!)”.
A new take on an ancient tradition
Yoga may be a tradition that has been practised for hundreds of years, but recently, entrepreneurial yoga-lovers in the Netherlands have been reinventing the exercise in weird and wonderful ways. Take goat yoga, for example. The Goatfarm (geitenboerderij) in the Amsterdamse Bos claims that “nothing is more relaxing and beneficial for the body and mind than yoga, except maybe yoga on the Goatfarm in the middle of the Amsterdamse Bos, surrounded by nature”. It’s well known that spending time in nature has great health benefits both physical and mental, and so the Goatfarm has started offering yoga classes in their barn, with participants in the class surrounded by real goats as they practise their downward dog. The Goatfarm website explains that “just being around these sociable animals causes the body to produce the cuddle hormone oxytocin, relaxing the body and mind and therefore assisting you in your postures”.
They add that “the curious, bold little goats can’t fail to make you laugh, so this is a fun and playful class which will certainly help you learn how to let go of control”. Joining a class costs € 25, and coffee with goat milk is included, along with homemade nut cake. If you don’t want to leave your pet alone at home while you head to yoga, why not consider dog yoga? Renate Steinfort, of Life Coach Company which is based in Aadorp, offers online dog yoga classes that participants can follow at home. According to Life Coach Company’s website, “your dog plays a valuable role during the yoga classes by helping you to get further into the pose, by sometimes taking part in postures, but especially to both become relaxed”. They explain this practice will “strengthen and deepen your relationship in a way that you have not experienced before”. Steinfort had been a qualified Hatha Yoga teacher (and the owner of two dogs herself) for a while before she developed dog yoga. She introduced the idea after noticing how dog owners often prioritise providing their pet with the best food and products, but do not spend enough time focusing on their own selfcare. This way, Steinfort explains on her website, dog owners can give themselves time and attention, in the presence of their beloved dog. One of the reasons that yoga is so popular, both in the Netherlands and around the world, is because it is an inclusive activity that can be adapted so that people of all ages and abilities can benefit. Joyful Mamas, which is based in Amsterdam, offers baby yoga classes for new mothers. They describe themselves as “a fantastic way for new mums to stay strong and relaxed without needing to find a babysitter”, a common challenge facing parents in the Netherlands, despite more government support than may be provided elsewhere. The classes use traditional yoga movements, with the addition of specific exercises to aid post-birth recovery. These include movements to strengthen the abdomen, back and pelvic floor, whilst also encouraging the bond between mother and baby to form. The babies are entertaining with stretching and interactive sounds, and Joyful Mamas says this has benefits for the baby to: “[it can] improve your baby’s sleeping pattern, enhance their relaxation, and stimulate your baby’s mental and physical development”. Simran Yoga, in Eindhoven, caters to the other end of the spectrum with yoga for the elderly. They say that “it’s never too late to start with yoga”. The aim of their lessons is to make yoga accessible for the elderly, by adjusting the exercise to the group’s age-specific needs, teaching them the techniques of Kundalini yoga.
Those looking to invest more time and money into their yoga routine often choose to go on a yoga retreat, which take place in exotic locations from Costa Rica to India. But there is also a large choice for those who prefer to stay within the Netherlands. Price comparison websites offer choices from the Veluwe to Groningen, with bespoke packages including different forms of yoga and meditation. One such yoga retreat, which takes place in Purmer in February, offers participants the chance to “learn tools to take better care of yourself and enhance your everyday well-being”. Their program includes daily yoga and meditation classes, as well as fitness classes and workshops.
What’s next for 2018
I’s the start of a new year, and you might be looking to the exciting new fitness trends of 2018 to motivate you to reach your goals. According to coach Jenny Eden Berk, quoted in Business Insider, “returning to a childlike state of play will be all the rage in 2018”. This will replace the hardcore high-intensity-intervaltraining that became so popular in 2017, and will ensure participants really look forward to their workout. In line with the popularity of the technology-centred OneFit app, Business Insider predicts that live-streaming workout classes will gain popularity in the coming year. Having too little time is one of the most commonlycited reasons for skipping a workout, and the ability to live-stream exercise classes will take away this block. Instead of having to get ready and travel to a gym far from your house, you’re able to open your laptop in your living room at home, and get sweating. Boxing has become popular amongst certain gym-goers in 2017, and Business Insider thinks that 2018 will see the sport taking on new forms. Much like yoga has undergone a range of transformations from its original form to now include pets and babies, boxing will get the same treatment. The sport has already moved far from connotations of violence and aggression, and is set to become even more mainstream this coming year, thanks to its calorie-torching effects.
We’ve already seen that exercise classes are adapting to include much younger and older members, and this trend is also set to boom in 2018. A number of American gyms already offer exercises classes where parents can work out alongside their child, taking part in exercises like weighted hula hoop competitions and races. This trend could well make its way across the Atlantic to hit Dutch gyms. After all, Dutch children are some of the most sporty in the world, and the combination of adult-child workout classes means that parents neither have to skip their precious exercise time, nor find someone to watch their kids for them. Whichever new trends boom in the Netherlands in 2018, it’s likely than any new, fun exercise craze will help keep the Dutch as fit as ever.