Get in shape wit rolling pins

Marc de Haan

By Marleen van Wesel

“It has quite an American ambiance, a large space like this, without any distractions such as televisions. You come here purely to exercise”, explains Niels van der Klauw (25, a master student reading Social and Organisational Psychology). Last Saturday, he and his brother opened a new gym in Leiden: SPORTJA. “It sounds encouraging: sport and ja [yes].”

The men’s changing room is still empty; no curtain or other window furnishing covers the large window. From the busy Admiraalsweg, you can see right into the showers but they won’t be ready till later on in the week. “Some of the equipment hasn’t arrived yet”, says Van der Klauw. The only ordinary cardio machines are a lone elliptical and a single treadmill and he intends to keep it that way. “They’re primarily for rehabilitation exercises and warm-ups.” He prefers to exercise with dumbbells and by moving freely. “You can only go in once direction on a machine, two at most: back and forth. If you’re not attached to anything you can move in all directions and you need to correct your body’s movements all the time.”

He built the wooden Plyo Box, which measures 60 by 70 by 80 centimetres, himself: you are supposed to jump on it. You can alter the height by changing its position. “The advantage, compared to regularly jumps, is that you don’t have to brace for the impact.” A grass mat for sprints and exercises involving running or turning runs along the entire length of the right-hand wall. You can out also set a track with miniature hurdles, pull a parachute for more resistance. And there is a prowler, a kind of heavy sledge that you can push or pull with a rope. “The movements you need to do that are brilliant, and very tough.”

The first time he joined a gym, he realised that he wanted to set up a gym of his own. “In my second and third year, I did a minor in business studies and I incorporated the set-up in my assignments. I’m doing an internship now and that taught me that I really don’t want to be in an office all day long.”

Although it has only been open a couple of days, the gym already has fifty members, including Erik Dubbeldeman (24, History). As Erik joins us at the home-made bar, he says: “I’ve always been into kickboxing and that sort of contact sport but I had to stop when I was injured. I’m trying to slowly build up my strength again here.” He is a friend of Van der Klauw and put in a lot of work to help finish the last few jobs. “I still have the marks from the sandpaper.”

Methods liked the ones used at SPORTJA are popular among personal trainers and boot-camp instructors. “But Leiden didn’t have a gym with instructors who can teach people how to use these facilities”, explains Van der Klauw. Standing in the middle of the room, he demonstrates how to hit a tractor tyre with a large hammer. “Oblique strikes are even better for your stomach muscles. It’s hard work, but very efficient.” Nearby is a rubber mat with a solid-looking rolling pin, a larger roll of foam rubber and a power ball. “You can use them for a rub if your muscles are knotted.”

He points outside to an area cluttered with pieces of wood, iron and sheeting. When it’s cleared, people can exercise outdoors. “It gets the sun at one o’clock, and afterwards we can hold barbecues.”

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