Recently we had a delight speaking with the managing director of OneFit  Edouard Leeuwenburg.

Hi Edouard, lovely to speak to you. Could you please give us a quick introduction about your role at OneFit?

I started my role as a Managing Director of OneFit in March last year, just two weeks before the pandemic began. Prior to that, I already had some history with the company. I was Ad Interim CMO for Urban Sports Club (the parent company of OneFit), which meant I worked in Berlin for four months and had weekly meetings with the Amsterdam office. One thing led to another, and now I basically run the day to day operations of the company in Amsterdam and I’m responsible for everything we do here in the Netherlands.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the concept of OneFit?

The concept of OneFit is a flat fee subscription which allows our members to do as many different types of sport activities as they wish. From swimming to fitness, yoga to padel, boxing to Pilates, we have it all. Usually when you sign up for a subscription, it’s for a particular studio or yoga studio and that‘s basically it. We feel that, and also looking at myself when it comes to doing sports, there‘s always more you might want to do. Maybe I want to do some HIIT training on Monday and a bit of yoga on Wednesday because it’s the middle of the week and my head is clogged. Who knows, maybe I’d like to play some tennis on Friday. Why do you need to have three different subscriptions for that, why not have one where you can try all different types of workouts? The concept of OneFit offers our members the chance to participate in a huge range of activities with just one subscription!

You also have tennis for example in some of your gyms / options. Tennis isn’t usually included in your typical gym membership.

Yes we do! I deliberately use tennis as an example because it gives you an idea of the wide variety of sports we offer. You can go surfing here in the North Sea, you can do paddle boarding and soon we'll be adding Padel tennis. But of course also more fitness related kinds of sports, there‘s a wide range of things you can do. The other great thing is you can do it with friends or meet new like-minded people, that‘s also great in sports. It’s all about living an active lifestyle that you enjoy.

What is that exactly?

Padel is a type of mix of squash and tennis.

I've read about the Sweat and Joy lifestyle. What is this and why do you think this is important?

The Sweat and Joy lifestyle is the OneFit concept in practice. Working out should not be all about sweat or all about joy, it’s a healthy combination of both. And again, with a OneFit membership this means you can do so many things, which enables you to really enjoy what you want to do. You can do hardcore training, that can be joyful too of course, I’m not saying that’s only sweat. But you can do it together with friends, our app provides a lot of ways to interact with friends, to do things together, to invite people to go together. So that’s also an element of joy and if I ask my friends today “Hey do you want to sign up for OneFit?”, that generally works better than when I throw a lot of marketing at people like “Start working out”. You need to have that tie with a friend that tells you “Hey, let’s work out together“. And on the other hand, to be perfectly honest, Sweat and Joy has a catchy ring to it, and it works.

How do you normally (before lockdown times) motivate your members to work out?

Well, there‘s the basic stuff like emailing customers about all the things we have to offer, especially when there are new studios out there, we promote them. The partnership team is constantly on the lookout for new innovative ways of living an active lifestyle. So with OneFit, you can be sure that you‘re always up to date on what’s happening.

We’ve developed our own concept which was really useful during Corona, because there were a lot of abandoned buildings and teachers without a job. We combined both in “OneFit presents", which means we hosted workouts in the Hilton Hotel, NH Hotels and on top of the Euromast in Rotterdam. The power of our network is that we can do a lot, so we can combine these things. We are always on top of new things!

During this lockdown, it becomes harder for people to keep exercising. Can you tell us a bit about the importance of exercise, especially during these particular times?

What I found really useful are these meditative sessions. I did a few of Wim Hof sessions, the “Iceman“, and learned that within 30 minutes you can really get in touch with yourself to create a calmness and deeper reality. This really worked for me. Looking at the world, what’s happening with people, I think we can all agree that corona and the lockdown has its psychological side effects. And therefore we emphasize the importance of sweating, bringing yourself joy, staying safe, sane and healthy, and to exercise. 

A few weeks ago we developed something really fun. In Holland, a lot of parents were going berserk because they had to work from home whilst having their kids at home as well. You do three jobs at the same time and so we created classes for both kids and parents with some of our teachers. I did it as well and it’s really fun. I could say to the kids “Boys, today we are going to do a workout together” and they were ready, they had put on their OneFit outfits and we did the workouts. That’s just an example, we try to come up with a lot of things to keep people motivated and sane. Keep your head in a healthy position, I think that’s really important.


The question on everyone’s mind is “How much longer“. It’s one thing to keep sane short term, but doing that for an uncertain period of time… We are all missing the social aspect, the diversity of things on a daily basis. Also, your body is built in a way that you shouldn’t do the exact same exercise every day, because then it becomes used to it. You always have to mix it up. So I think it’s interesting, but for a lot of people who are a bit less motivated, it may be more challenging, especially in the aspect of the mind or sanity, like you said.

Online classes were the first thing we developed in a few weeks when the first lockdown started in March last year. At first I was sceptical, but I understand that people really need online guidance to stay motivated and to keep moving and doing things. I even followed a break dance aerobic class with 80’s music. How cool is that!

How can regular exercise contribute to preventing stress and burnouts?

I think the answer is in the question. I mean, there are more than enough studies. If you listen to Erik Scherder (a Dutch professor of neuropsychology who is connected to the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam), he is a strong advocate of that. You don’t have to exercise like crazy but there’s more than enough research out there that shows clearly that if you do exercise on a daily basis – it could be walking, it could be running, it could be simple stuff – it creates a lot of positive development in your brain and in your muscles. That’s where it initially begins, moving and being active. It’s extremely important.

Are there any other initiatives you’re currently working on? Besides the ones you already mentioned.

We are doing a lot of back-end engineering at the moment and we want to be ready to jump right out when we can. We’re also investigating all the options of re-opening again and what it means. Perhaps, we could be facing a situation in our industry comparable with the airline industry, where you’d have to test negative before you can do sports. Let’s say the government says you can do sports again next week. I can tell you what happens, everybody will massively jump on that. How do you cope with that? We’ve seen what happened in the first lockdown, when the gyms opened up again and we really had to work hard to get the inventory up to speed. We are in the business of matching supply and demand, so you need to boost up two things. We have learned from reopening after the first lockdown. It’s not that we are sitting and waiting on what’s to come, we are very busy at the moment to evolve from our past learnings.

We were told OneFit launched the concept OneFit for Business. Can you tell us about how important it is for employees, and their employer, to keep exercising during these times when we’re all mostly working from home?

This is one of these things we’ve been really pushing while everything was in lockdown – the B2B segment. Employers nowadays need to provide enough resources for their employees to stay sane, fit and healthy. We all want our employees to focus on work while being at home, but it's hard with all the distractions. As an employer, we ask a lot from our employees. Then it only comes natural that you should offer them some perks.

Our business proposition comes in quite nicely here and it’s growing like crazy. Attracting consumers at the moment is a bit slow, but on the business side it’s working beautifully.

We also offer a membership to our own employees and we see a lot of great stuff happening there. My sales team is challenging each other every week with a different workout. Even when we are working remotely, it does create social engagement – we do this together. It’s a great concept and bringing some great energy to the team so we’re very enthusiastic and we have high hopes for it.

For OneFit for Business you’ve also developed a Vitality Quickscan. Can you give us an insight on how this scan works and how it benefits exercise?

The Vitality Quickscan is a guideline, for HR people, employees and employers, to check whether they are doing all the necessary things to keep their workforce healthy – both physically and mentally. Although it's also a sales driven tool we put out there in the market, it does have a moral function to ask yourself the questions “Am I doing what I should be doing to keep the workforce healthy?“. You know the funny thing is, of course we are a business and we need to be profitable, but our main goal is to help everyone find enjoyment in sports. And that goes for employees more than anybody else. You can’t expect your work force to sit at home, work their ass off the whole day, sit on their chair and don’t give them anything to stay fit and healthy. I don’t think that’s the future. You should really take care of that.

Any tips or tricks for companies and their employees to ensure regular exercise? Any recommendations?

Scratch all the lease cars, provide a bike where possible 😉  

The trick is, how do you get your people engaged? I think the social element really works. You can join in with a group of likeminded people. Going back to the example of my sales team: every week they challenge each other in something new. And that’s the social component, the peer pressure and I would also say that it gets people to start doing stuff, to workout. And that’s really helpful and I think that’s one of the secret ingredients to our app and our product – the social engagement.

Last but not least, what is in the stars for OneFit?

We are the incumbent sports membership in the Netherlands and we want to stay that way. Just before the lockdown, we opened in two new cities and we have a few more ready to go. So we are going to roll out to the rest of the country and that’s our goal. I keep saying “bigger, better, faster, stronger“ – I love that song. 
Our mission is to inspire people to live an active and healthy lifestyle, and we’ve only just begun.


Timotej Letonja