Today’s interview is with the awesome Dutch fitness guru Jerome Fitness.
Jerome first caught my eyes with his highly entertaining yet extremely informative and well researched youtube videos. This, along with his excellent programs, secured him a place in my calisthenics masters list.
Other than bodyweight exercise, Jerome’s area of interests includes martial arts, flexibility, and diet, and he’s here to share with us pearls of wisdom about these and other topics, so enjoy!
Talk to us about yourself and your fitness career
I’m a 24 year old fitness and health enthusiast from a small village in the Netherlands and have had an interest in fitness and sports for most of my life. At the age of 8 I started doing judo and got a brown belt after which I quit at the age of 14 due to a loss of interest for the sport. From that age I did some simple workouts with improvised equipment such as using books as push up bars and training my biceps by doing curls with a backpack filled with books. I also included body weight training mostly consisting of doing push-ups and abdominal workouts. That’s also when I started learning one armed push-ups and V-sits. When I turned 15 I thought it was time for a new challenge and started running. I’ve never been great with endurance sports and figured I should work on that, eventually running a 10 km and 15 km in respectively 55 minutes and 85 minutes. After training I did pull ups and chin ups on pull up bars I found outside on kids playgrounds. This is also the time where I started doing flexibility training. Starting at the age of 15 it took me about half a year to do my first side split followed by a front split.
At the age of 17 I bought my first set of dumbbells and this also happened to be the time when I saw my first Bruce Lee movie. After looking for information about him on the internet I saw him doing one handed, two finger push-ups. I started training for it and eventually managed to do my first two finger push-ups. I got in some sort of argument with a guy in the comment section on YouTube saying that I could do that, so I uploaded a video about it. That video got viewed 100 times in a few days. I was hooked.
My YouTube channel started by this accident and for a Dutch guy living in a small village I quickly learned how far of a reach I could have with my videos. Growing into the life of fitness and YouTube my channel grew out to what it is now. I won YouTube NextUp, a sort of talent show for YouTubers, in 2012 and with that learned much more about how to edit videos. My channel got a big boost and I extended my work on YouTube to a website, later followed by a blog. In 2014 I wrote my first book (available as eBook on my website), I started doing online personal training and made a 3 year workout program last year and, just recently, a 1 year bodyweight only workout program followed. Currently I’m in my last year of college studying for my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I completed a nutritionist course and during college last year I finished a sports nutrition specialist and personal trainer course.
What influence did martial arts and martial artists have on you, especially Bruce Lee?
Martial arts have always had a special place in my wide interest. As a child I loved watching movies of Jackie Chan and Steven Segal, among those of many other action movie stars. As mentioned earlier I did judo for 6 years (from 8-14) and later picked it back up when I was 20 years old. After 1 more year of training and starting to prepare training for my black belt I got seriously injured in a judo fight. Someone threw me and to avoid falling on my back I turned and landed on my shoulder. A severe bruising of my acromion (joint at the top of shoulder) was the result and unfortunately I had to quit judo as I didn’t feel like getting injured again. I always have to be a bit careful not to injure myself since my fitness career on YouTube is very important to me and I also kind of need to have a well-functioning body as a nurse.
Regardless, I still find martial arts a great thing and truly artful. Bruce Lee in particular was actually the person that got me started with YouTube, albeit indirectly. Hence he’s important to me for that reason as well as being a great inspirational person as well. Few people have impressed me as much as his work and skills have. I’ve made about 8 videos about Bruce Lee’s workouts and his diet and those videos were all pretty big hits. Some may say I’m lifting on his success and fame, others (myself included) think it’s how I got a bigger audience to listen to the things I have to share regarding fitness, nutrition and flexibility. This way I feel I’m continuing his work to inspire others, in my own way of course.
You’ve stated different reasons for being a vegan, can you run us through some of these?
I’ve adopted a plant-based diet since August 2015, so I do not consider myself an authority on that terrain. Vegetarianism has always been something that I would like to try, but like many others I was very negative about vegans and thought they were exaggerating. Until recently I didn’t even consider going vegan but then I came across the videos of a controversial vegan on YouTube. You may know him, it is Vegan Gains. My first thought was that he was not the nicest person I’ve seen (big understatement), but his arguments were better than those I’ve heard against eating meat before.
In his videos he showed some clips from a documentary called Earthlings and I decided I was obliged to watch that documentary as a nutritionist. I think people are responsible for knowing what they put in their bodies and so I did too. I was shocked to see how animals were treated and decided I didn’t want to support an industry treating animals that way. The next day I also found out the huge negative impact animal farming has on the environment. I did more and more research on the topic while cutting back on animal products that I consumed. Starting with milk and then cutting down on the rest and after a few weeks eating almost no animal products I completely turned to a plant-based diet. I’m using that term as if it’s a diet, but actually I think it’s more of a philosophy. I dislike the thought that some people have that they find the human race more important than other animals.
So going vegan actually works great with my philosophy of life and health wise I feel great. No more heartburn, less issues with my hay fever, I feel more energetic and I have no more gastrointestinal problems. My main reason to go vegan is not health though. I was a pretty healthy guy to start with (apart from the issues I just mentioned). The science regarding veganism is still not that great. I like to base my information on science and I’m interested in starting with a Master´s degree after I finish college, which is why I did my little research on veganism to find out few studies are really targeted on veganism. There are, however, a lot of studies showing negative aspects of many animal products, whereas few studies go as far to say plant-based foods are bad. Many health authorities have now also adjusted their recommendations regarding healthy foods and have said you should cut down on animal products and put more emphasis on plant-based foods. I think I have the responsibility to also recommend eating more plant-based rather than animal-based foods for many reasons, health being one major reason.
You’ve recently expressed dissatisfaction with the way media covers some health and fitness related issues, what’s that all about?
Personally I’m not a fan of media regardless of it covering health and fitness. A quote from the late Mark Twain (a famous comedian) I recently saw, perfectly describes my thoughts on media: “If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed”. Indeed, most information that you find in the newspaper regarding health and fitness is either incorrect, outdated, lacks nuance, is biased or irrelevant.
After winning YouTube NextUp in 2012 I had a lot of media attention. I’ve been interviewed in 5 Dutch TV programs, got plenty of attention from newspapers and was on the radio and in some magazine. What I learned from that is how television works and how many mistakes are made in the writing of newspaper articles. To give you an example, I was interviewed by a newspaper and a week later I read the article for which I had given the interview. There were three mistakes in the article which wasn’t much longer than half a page. They spelled my name wrong (hence nobody could actually find me on the internet), and they twisted words I said to make it look more interesting. Many of those experiences followed and therefore since that time I started demanding people to first send me their first draft to me before publishing it (I haven’t accepted any interviews from mainstream media for years though). I can guarantee you that this happens all the time, especially with articles about health and nutrition, which are often written by someone without any sort of knowledge of or even any affinity with the subject at hand. That’s why I think following big media outlets are not going to benefit you in any way. Another reason why I think media is rather bad is because the news isn’t show in an objective way; hence it doesn’t allow you to properly form your own opinion as they only show what they want you to see. That’s the beauty of internet. Bloggers, YouTubers and other online public figures get challenged and everyone can put their words out. Yes, there may be a lot of murmur because of that, but at the same time you hear things from different point of views, allowing you to make up your own opinion. I’m also not always correct and people call me out for that, which I think is perfectly fine. Feedback you get can always make you better as a person, except when it’s just hateful comments of course, but those I simply remove.
How important is flexibility to the average person?
The term fitness has gotten a different meaning since big commercial gyms and the importance of looking great came into play. To me fitness is not just looking good and being strong. It’s about being healthy, flexible, agile, strong, fast, looking fit and have a good endurance all at once. I think it’s a shame when people can’t do the most basic exercises and one reason many people can’t do those things is because they lack flexibility.
If you can’t do a full squat because you sit on a chair all day and don’t do much else to work on your range of motion and fitness, then you’re in bad shape, regardless of how good you look. Other than the fact that you should be able to squat down like we are supposed to do (for sanitary reasons), flexibility is important for more reasons that just that. As a nursing student I’ve seen a lot of people who lost the control of their body in one way or another. I’ve worked in three different hospitals already and especially in older people, a lack of flexibility is a very bad thing. For old people, being inflexible increases the risk of falling. Now you may think that this isn’t a problem for you as a younger person, but flexibility is best learned when young. Few people that are older than 50 years old feel the need to do flexibility training, because of the same reasons they had when they were young. So it’s as with many other things: rather learn it when you’re young so you make it a habit for the rest of your life.
It’s also great to be able to put on your socks and tie your shoes without struggling to reach your own feet. Saying you were born inflexible is not a very strong argument, because you actually were flexible when you were a kid. Some may be more flexible than others, but the fact is that everyone can become flexible without too much effort. Especially for any athlete, flexibility is a must for overall fitness.
Flexibility training, much like yoga for example, can help you to relax. We are so stressed these days that any time taken to really relax and empty your mind through flexibility training is a huge investment in your own health. For those who don’t know, stress is a major contributing factor to developing heart disease.
What do you think about cardio?
I started running at the age of 15 and when I was 18 I quit. I was never good at cardiovascular based sports and therefore I’m not a fan of it. However, I do think it’s great to have a good endurance. I already mentioned that fitness also included endurance the way I look at it. From a health perspective it’s a pretty good investment one can make. Luckily lifting weights, doing bodyweight training or doing any other form of sports also increases endurance, so pure cardio is not a necessity to start with. Personally I do ride my mountain bike to and from college (a good 60 minute ride) and basically anywhere. So to say I don’t do any form of cardio would be a lie. Being a naturally thin guy I also think I shouldn’t waste too much energy on cardio. It’s not necessary for people to do if they want to lose weight so if that’s the reason you think you need to do cardio, just stop doing it.
So you’re not a fan of exercising to improve body image, why not?
In a video I made on the fitness industry I did indeed mention that I don’t like the idea that fitness is promoted as something you have to do to look good. I dislike the whole idea that people have to follow a certain standard of how they should look. I would much rather see people be proud of who they are and make the best out of their own talents and goals. If improving the way your body looks is the only way to get the health benefits of fitness, I think it’s better than nothing. Working out to impress a potential partner is just stupid in my personal opinion. Yes, you do show you try to take care of your body which is a great thing. The downside is that you’re going to focus too much on your body. Eventually you’ll grow old and ugly regardless of how many hours you put into looking good. So essentially what’s the point? The whole aesthetic aspect within the fitness industry creates a negative body image for many people, much like supermodels make young girls think you need to be skinny to be successful in life. It’s not.
I have much more respect for a slightly chubbier person who has lots of confidence and is truly happy with themselves than for someone who looks like Frank Medrano and thinks he’s worthless. People often say I look skinny for someone who has been working out for many years, but the truth is I don’t work out for the looks. I work out because it makes me feel good and I choose to be a role model for those who are also struggling to gain weight. So for that reason, I’m not a fan of exercising to improve body image only. Health should always be your priority. Young people often don’t think that’s important, but most of them will change their mind when they are older and get sick. There are hospitals full of people that wish they made different choices in life.
You’re currently 24 years old, where would you like to be fitness wise at the age of 30, what about 40?
One of my great passions is writing. I’m planning to write more books and also have some great ideas for bigger video courses. I already did a 45 minute complete flexibility course on YouTube that is a big success and I would like to do more of those kinds of videos. I’m considering doing some real life personal training too and want to continue educating and inspiring people with my online fitness career. So that’s about it for the age of 30.
When I’m 40 I hope to have built up an even bigger online fitness business combined perhaps with owning a gym. Even though I don’t have any specific plans for opening up my own gym, I do think it wouldn’t be a conventional gym as we know it now. I would rather give flexibility training courses in there, have ropes and rings everywhere and aim on functional training rather than using machines and free weights to get the aesthetics look.
From the number of programs you offer, which one would be the best introductory JeromeFitness experience?
Apart from the hundreds of free YouTube videos, blog articles and website posts, the most relevant program for those interested in calisthenics is probably my recently released 1 year bodyweight program. It’s a complete 1 year workout program using body weight exercises only. It also comes with 3 bonus months. All the exercises that are mentioned in the workout are linked to a YouTube video demonstrating the exercises. So with one click you can immediately see how the exercise is performed. There is also a lot of basic information that help beginners learn how to train. The combination of lots of high quality information, videos and my workout programs make that this product is probably the best to get an introduction to the JeromeFitness experience.
To wrap this up, what would you say are your 3 favorite bodyweight exercises?
My number one overall exercises would be pull ups. It’s an awesome feeling to pull up your entire body weight multiple times. It’s also one of the most functional exercises out there.
Handstand push-ups are definitely in my top 3. It’s definitely not my best exercise and I have periods where I do them a lot and when I don’t do them at all. I often get headaches when I do too many of them in a row and the form I use is far from perfect. However, it’s the best bodyweight shoulder exercise in my opinion and I would love to be able to do multiple reps of free standing handstand push-ups. Hopefully that’s something that I can show in future videos.
Rounding up my top three are push-ups. Not regular ones though, but elevated knuckle hip push- ups. With your feet resting on a chair or a bench you perform push-ups on your knuckles, placing them as close to your hips as possible. Do a bunch of those and your chest is going to thank you later!
Thanks Jerome, I had tons of fun doing this interview.
You have a fresh perspective on a lot of fitness issues, something which we need more of in this industry.
I’ll be keeping an eye on you and I advise the SOA tribe to do the same. You’ve done some wonderful stuff, and I’m absolutely certain the best is yet to come.