The future of the Dutch fitness industry

Meyken Houppermans, PhD. CrossFit Level 3 Trainer.
Head Coach and Founder
Fit Fair, the Dutch fitness event of the year. In 2022 CrossFit Eudokia is one of the speaker to share our vision on the role of the Dutch fitness industry in improving public health and vitality. What is needed to help the Dutch people to a healthier lifestyle and more vitality; what has Covid-19 taught us; and what is the future of the Dutch fitness industry?

Active in your own way

In our opinion, the goal of the fitness industry should be to activate people active in a way and in a setting that suits them best. That increases the likelihood of a sustainable exercise pattern. Whether that is with CrossFit, or any other form of exercise. We have to realize that what is appropriate for a client at the moment, may not be so in a while, for many different reasons. That is also the starting point of the Dutch government campaign ‘Fit op jouw manier’ to support an active lifestyle.

Membership is not a primary goal

Often, for understandable reasons, the starting point for fitness providers are their services. CrossFit Eudokia starts from the wishes and need sof the potential client. In a No Sweat Intro, a personal conversation, we explore the potential match between on the one hand the client’s goals, expectations, sporting and medical background, and on the other hand our services and coaching method. CrossFit is for everyone, but that does not mean that everyone likes CrossFit, or that we are the most appropriate coach to make this client thrive.

The goal of the No Sweat Intro is to explore together what the potential client needs to develop a sustainable exercise pattern. A membership is not a primary goal. A referral to another fitness provider or advic econcerning other forms of exercise are also an option.

And even when the client has been active with us for sometime, we periodically reassess goals and expectations and the effectiveness of the match. It is not so much about committing the client to our club, but much more about helping the client to commit to a life in which exercise is a matter of course.

Taking the client’s perspective and putting the conversation first

Putting the client’s wishes and needs first with the aim of helping them to develop and maintain an active healthy lifestyle requires that we, as coaches, take on the perspective of the client. What motivates the client to start and maintain healthy habits? Taking the client’s perspective instead of trying to fit the client into our services.

The starting point is that the client is the expert about his body and mind and therefore also about his preferences and motivation. Interaction (the conversation!) with the client is needed to bring out and use his expertise, knowledge and experiences, in order to facilitate and stimulate the client as much as possible.

When was the last time you asked your clients how they are really doing and what they need to stay motivated and to keep up their healthy habits? When was the last time you evaluated the match between on the one hand and on the other hand the wishes and needs of your clients?

Positive Health and self-management

"What is needed to help the Dutch to a healthier lifestyle and more vitality?" is one of the questions for the FitFair 2022.

At CrossFit Eudokia it is about more than just getting and staying active. "A healthy lifestyle and more vitality" is about the client learning to take charge of their physical, mental and emotional health. The concept of Positive Health. We as coaches have a role in encouraging this self-management.

From bubble to multidisciplinary collaboration

Not only at macro- level but also at work floor level, do we need to realize that in the context of financial sustainability of the Dutch healthcare system, a paradigm- shift is necessary from care and cure to prevention and self-management.

The number of Dutch people suffering from chronic lifestyle related diseases is increasing, society is aging and people are living longer. We as coaches play an important role in this paradigm- shift: We are in the fortunate position to teach our clients to take control of their physical, mental and emotional health.

Teaching and stimulating self-management require a multidisciplinary cooperation with other parties surrounding the client. For example, the family doctor, psychologist, debt relief worker, family members or medical specialists. This is a major challenge for all parties.

As is the case with public policy making on wicked societal issues, it is also true at work floor level that multidisciplinary cooperation is no sinecure. Unknown sometimes makes unloved and parties do not always speak the same language.

This common language is essential for the effectiveness of "treatments" of a client. Just like a commonly felt need to act, shared by all parties involved, and the willingness to subordinate one's own interests to the common interest. Only in this way can the knowledge and experience of all parties involved, including the client himself, be utilized and used for the benefit of the health and self-management of the client. In addition, of course, preconditions must be in place, such as financial compensation. For example, no reimbursement is currently offered for lifestyle coaching on an individual basis.

This multidisciplinary approach requires that coaches, but also other parties surrounding the client, be able and willing to transcend their own bubble; be able and willing to assume a different role; and possess a rich palette of knowledge and skills to work both with other parties surrounding the client and with a wide variety of clients with whom the coach is confronted. After all, it will not only be clients who come to the coach's initial sports services, but also clients who come into contact with a coach for other reasons.

This multidisciplinary cooperation is, as already stated, far from being a matter of course.  Even within the fitness industry itself there are still many challenges. For example, few CrossFit boxes are affiliated with the professional fitness association NL Actief and sports coaches are only sparsely affiliated with the Dutch Vereniging Arts & Leefstijl (association of physicians and lifestyle). 

Insight into options and chances

Growing and devloping, whether it concerns an industry, company, or individual, require thinking in terms of options, possibilities and chances, rather than limitations. At CrossFit Eudokia this is an important motto, both for our clients and our coaches.

I can and I will

For our clients for example, not participating in a training session when they want to but feel hindered by an injury or the after-effects of Covid-19 is not an option. There are always options to do CrossFit, regardless of impairments. It's our responsibility as coaches to make that happen. Not only in a physical sense by offering an adapted training, but also by teaching our clients how to deal with injuries, illness or setbacks. By focusing on options and chances, we stimulate self-management. I can and I will.

CrossFit for everyone

Increasing the insight into options and chances also concerns our mission to show that CrossFit can be for everyone. Not just for young people who are very fit, for tough types with a beard and no shirt, or for people who are not afraid of injuries. Our No Sweat Intro for example gives us the opportunity to explain to a potential client that CrossFit is about maintaining health throughout life: healthy ageing.

Best practices boost new general practice

Publishing (best) practices of multidisciplinary cooperations, for example by the Knowledge Center for Sports and Exercise, can increase the insight into successful and unsuccessful real-life cases, and lessons learned. As far as we are concerned, this should happen more often. Insight into both best and worst practices and exchanging experiences and knowledge can boost new collaborations and can contribute to a new general practice. Known makes loved.

The future of fitness after Covid-19

The pandemic has taught us a lot. It emphasizes the importance of a healthy lifestyle, of physical, mental and emotional health and self-management. It also emphasizes the importance of putting the client first and creating insight into options and chances. All with the guiding question: How can I as a coach help you to start and maintain healthy habits? Even if gyms are closed because of a pandemic, even if you are recovering from Covid-19, even if it is difficult to pick up the thread after a long time.

Key points for the future of fitness are to take on a different role and to step out of the bubble. By being willing to subordinate our own interests (memberships) to the common interest of a healthy lifestyle for as much Dutchies as possible. By being willing to share knowledge and experience with all parties involved, including the client. By being willing to invest in increasing knowledge and skills to work both with other parties as well as with a wide variety of clients. By being willing to invest in a client, to really care about a client.

As we say at Crossfit Eudokia: We care!

Create your own health!©