Manon Raats

Communicatie & cultuur

Fit for an 80-hour work week

18/04/2018 | Judith Giliberto

He is Openings General Manager for the new Maritim Hotel that is being built in Amsterdam North, and at the moment also Director of Operations for Maritim Hotels outside of home base Germany. Remco Gerritsen spends 55 to sometimes 80 hours a week on the job, because on business trips the work goes on 24/7. What is the secret to focus and energy that lasts all day? Healthy food choices and a tailored exercise regime that he takes along on the road.

It all started on a holiday in Miami. The Gerritsens had planned to go on a diving trip, but the underwater visibility was too low. They decided last minute to book a cruise to the Bahamas instead. When they had their fill of the endless buffets and lolling on a sunbed, they signed up for all the activities on the ship. Among those was the workshop ‘Change your Life’. Gerritsen: “It was a clear account of how we eat too much, move too little and what the consequences are for our health. Enlightening and inspiring, that is until they started trying to push weight loss pills on us.”

Slim, fit and focused

Gerritsen looked in the mirror and saw a flabby man in his forties whose father had died young of a heart attack. The workshop resonated not just with him but also with his wife and daughter. Together they decided to live healthier. Gerritsen: “We did not want to go on a diet, instead we set out to change in a way that is sustainable because it works for us. Since then I lost 25 kilo (55 pound), I get up in the morning feeling energized and I feel active and focused throughout the day. This allows me to make good decisions even at the end of a long day. A big plus for me as a frequent flyer is that I feel much fitter on travel days.”

Gerritsen bij het Maritim Hotel in aanbouw in Amsterdam Noord

Awareness

Gerritsen: “The most important thing is a growing awareness. My personal trainer Karen Nijssen taught me a lot about food and the body. For example that the proverbial healthy apple contains a lot of sugar, and an orange even more. That allows me to make informed choices in what I eat and when.” The Gerritsens aren’t following gurus or handbooks, but they do use apps.

Every piece of licorice goes on the scale

“The FitBit pedometer makes me aware that I don’t move enough on some days. Yes, that does mean that I have to go out at night and take a walk to reach my step goal! When we just started, for one month we tracked everything that we ate and drank in the Food app. There were scales scattered throughout the house,” Gerritsen laughs. “It took a lot of dedication to track every morsel, including the lump of butter you fry your egg in and that piece of licorice before you eat it. But it opened our eyes to what we really consume on a day. With our jobs and school we all have to find our own way to get through our days healthily. Part of Sunday we spend in the kitchen, precooking for example broccoli so we can just grab and go during the week.”

Exercise on the road

One might associate ‘sports’ with cardio and resistance training, but Gerritsen started out with stretching. “For my body, stretching was so intense that I lost a lot of weight and got much fitter. After a year I finally could reach the ground with the palms of my hands! Then I started to set myself training goals like doing the ‘Dam to Damloop’ (a marathon through Amsterdam) and the ‘Amsterdam Swim’ (swimming the canals and Amstel river). At the moment I am doing cardio an weight training following an exercise regime that I can do anywhere in the world. Every business hotel has a pool and a gym, and walking you can do anywhere. Via a WhatsApp group I keep in touch with my trainer and training buddies.”

Gerritsen op de finish van 'Amsterdam Swim' en aan het trainen op zakenreis in Shanghai. Bron: Remco Gerritsen

Eating at McDonald’s in China

Gerritsen: When I had just started, I got extremely frustrated when a meeting got moved and I couldn’t make it to the gym. And I got angry with myself for not eating as healthy as I had planned on a business trip. I particularly remember this one time that after a long day on the road in China I ate at a McDonald’s with my colleagues. Another day I politely had some alcohol as a dinner guest. I have stopped beating myself up over these things. I do what I can, and because I have a strong metabolism, I can handle the occasional slip up much better.”

Fresh and no more than the size of your fist

Gerritsen: “Cooking is something I really enjoy. I make up most of our family dinner menus based on what I know about food groups. We eat fresh and avoid E-numbers. As a rule of thumb, in one sitting I don’t eat more that the size of my fist. Tip: this portion size exactly fits a soup plate. My breakfast is fit for a king, my lunch for a prince and my dinner for a beggar, as they say. For dinner you can prepare great dishes without carbs, because those make your body work so hard that it can impact your sleep. I account for business dinners by eating less at breakfast and lunch that day. This lifestyle works for me because I can make my own choices. I couldn’t go though life denying myself things and going hungry!”

Having fun, not drinks

People have noticed that Gerritsen lost that 25 kilo. And they also notice his new lifestyle choices. “I have been called a ‘health freak’ for declining an alcoholic beverage at the after work drinks. It takes a lot of willpower to say no, because alcohol is pushed as being ‘gezellig’ (social). On the other hand, without alcohol it is super easy to stay away from the ‘bitterballen’ (fried appetizers). I still drink alcohol, just less often and without it I have just as much fun. I definitely don’t see myself as a ‘health freak’, there are people that are much more strict than I am, vegans for example. I am doing what works for me.”

Everyone can work out successfully

Gerritsen: Living healthy takes discipline. You have to really want it and go for it. I’ve seen colleagues go on a crash diet and lose 10 kilo (22 pound), only to gain it all back within the year. As long as you find a way that fits you, your life and your body, everyone can succeed at working out. Doing this with my family and having training buddies is a big support, but at the end of the day you have to do it yourself. To me, the health benefits are the most important and losing all that weight is a bonus. I feel good. Eating healthy and working out is not a straitjacket but has become part of my life.”