“Even as a child I loved heavy work; tiring yourself out”

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“Even as a child I loved heavy work; tiring yourself out”

With a vigorous stride, red cheeked and carrying two backpacks, workout fanatic Wesley Jeurissen storms into the Student Sports Centre after his exams. Partly because he fears he is late for our appointment, partly because whatever he does, he does it with vigor and haste. It would be a crying shame to have to sit still, that's been his feeling since a young age. He likes to be active, especially with his hands. Having passed his childhood days in Limburg's farming country, he now comes to the SSC gyms several times a week for a dose of essential exercise and vital self-reflection.

photo Bart Verkuijlen / LAVFotografie

Wesley, the typical Dutch boy with a shock of blond hair, is from the Limburg's 'bottleneck', the southern region where the Netherlands is at its narrowest. A provincial area where the rest of the country isn't thought of as 'the Netherlands', but as 'Holland'. A place where the members of the Janse Bagge Bend, a longstanding pop group singing in the Limburg dialect, are local heroes. “Our farm was some way from Susteren, near the German border. It was a four-kilometer cycle ride to my primary school and a modest ten kilometers to my high school. The route to our farm took me along sandy paths.”

Wesley Jeurissen | Working out | Windsurfing | TU/e | Eindhoven | Mechanical Engineering | Susteren | aged 27

“Living on a farm was wonderful, a great place for using up all my energy. School was little more than endless training in sitting still. In my first year of school I was always wriggling about on my chair. So one day my teacher whipped the chair out from beneath me and set me on a space hopper. For the first three or four days I kept falling off the thing because I kept on moving about. By the end of the week I had managed to sit still but, of course, when I got home I'd be bubbling with even more energy than usual. I used to get changed at once, race outside and find something to do; playing, go-karting and helping on the farm.”

The farming way of life is firmly coded into the DNA of the Jeurissen family. It is a life of calm, with a daily routine, clear questions and equally clear answers. There is no scope for disorder or troublemaking. The family's motto comes as little surprise: “Don't whine, just work!” laughs Wesley. “Oh well, I liked helping my dad. Before we could feed our eighty milk cows, for example, I had to clear the ground in front of the mountain of food. That meant spending an hour or two shoveling, passing the time with a good chinwag. Or I'd use the tractor to do some or other little job. I didn't have any special chores; whatever needed doing had to be done.”

I wanted pocket money too, just like my friends. My father said: ‘Sure, as long as you earn it’

Wesley Jeurissen
Mechanical Engineering student and workout fanatic

In Susteren Wesley was like a clod of earth with legs'. He lived off the land and for the land. As long as he could work with his hands, he felt free. So the jobs he did on the farm never felt like work. “All my friends were getting pocket money on Sundays, so I wanted it, too. To which my father said: ‘Sure, as long as you earn it’. That I was already doing jobs on the farm every day didn't count for anything. So I went and cleaned the garage, and with my little sister I scrubbed the bathroom. Nothing wrong with that, eh? You're not a little kid anymore, are you, once you're a teenager? I never understood why my classmates didn't have to do chores at home simply because they ‘didn't feel like it’. I loved heavy work; tiring yourself out. By and by I taught myself welding. Once I'd mastered it, I enjoyed welding.”


In spite of his unconditional love of country life, Wesley never considered taking over the farm from his father. “The work was fun, but I didn't have any deep-seated enthusiasm for cows. I've only ever milked the cows twice in my life. I was the handyman, the repair guy. My younger brother is studying in Dronten at the HAS University of Applied Sciences, with the intention of inheriting the farm. I've always been interested in engineering. At first I started studying Applied Physics, but that was too theoretical for me. In Physics they would talk about point particles in space, while Mechanical Engineering deals with tangible things. A little research is fine, but I really need to be doing something. Playing, messing about with things and then doing analysis.”

My girlfriend taught me to be proud of what I have already achieved at TU/e

Wesley Jeurissen
Mechanical Engineering student and workout fanatic

In a technological age in which TU/e students tend to be tapping their fingertips on a screen or keyboard, Wesley uses his entire hands. As if manual labor improves his brainwork. It acts as a symbolic counterbalance to the excesses of intellectualism, which at times marginalizes the importance of physical work. “I studied Mechanical Engineering at Fontys, passed my first-year exams and then came back to TU/e. With hindsight, I would have done better to complete the vocational degree. Then I'd have had the option of deciding whether I wanted to do something theoretical; here at university, you see, I miss the practical side of things.”

Wesley is now in his eighth year of study. Completing his Master's proved no straightforward matter. Thanks in part to the wise advice of his German girlfriend, he has been able to relaunch himself, producing a sprint finish that will take him through to graduation. “I completed the first three years in the allotted time. Then during my Master's in Polymer Technology I started to have doubts. The number of projects was diminishing, while the amount of research was increasing. I lost my motivation. My girlfriend helped me put everything in perspective. One of the main things she taught me was to be proud of what I have already achieved at TU/e. I'm now working on my final courses and am feeling motivated.”

Whenever he was academically becalmed, Wesley gained much-needed routine and a sense of purpose by working out in the gym. “When I was struggling with my master's, I decided to work out four times a week, every week - mainly to keep a semblance of structure. Working out also got me thinking more about life. I realized that my idea of myself was perfectly correct: I'll happily do physical work, I'd rather not do intellectual work. Two hours of hard labor are preferable to an hour's thinking. Even as a child I was the same: helping dad was always preferable to doing homework.”


I was not allowed to do kickboxing; my dad was worried that I'd start trying to resolve other people's arguments and would end up getting hit

Wesley Jeurissen
Mechanical Engineering student and workout fanatic

However, if it had been up to his dad, Wesley would now not be working out. Why work out when all that farm work means you're already doing power training? “My dad was also worried that working out would make me brutish. Nor was I allowed to do kickboxing with a friend; my dad was worried that I'd start trying to resolve other people's arguments and would end up getting hit,” says Wesley, laughing. “But as a six-year-old kid I was allowed to join the Susterse Boys soccer team. My granddad's farmhand was crazy about soccer and demanded almost as soon as I was born that I would play soccer. I did enjoy soccer, although mainly because it involved running fast. I played soccer until the age of nineteen and then I started working out.”

A friend introduced him to the world of working out. “The first time I thought: ‘Dad is right, this really is very like what I do on the farm’. I could do all the workout exercises easily. I 'played out' a basic workout program in no time. Actually I only started getting results when I started working out at the SSC and began using free weights. After that I started doing new exercises and studying anatomy. It was three years before I really knew what I was doing.”

Although Wesley also windsurfs a couple of times a year with WETH and boulders once a week, working out is the activity he's addicted to. “First and foremost, working out is my own personal contest. I no longer measure my performance against other people. I work out in ‘periods’; at a given time I'll want to increase mass, the next three months I'll be concentrating on building strength. I don't write anything down, but I always remember my last workout session and see whether I am improving. If I have an off day, I'll look at possible reasons: Did I eat enough? Did I drink enough? Those are moments of self-reflection. Times when I evaluate my day.”

You will never see me in a bodybuilding competition, wearing a thong and posing on a stage

Wesley Jeurissen
Mechanical Engineering student and workout fanatic

Wesley's workouts don't necessarily have to deliver aesthetic results. “Every body is different. I am naturally inclined to gain chest muscle, others might put on leg muscle easily. I want to see an athletic body that is in proportion. A body that shows that its owner has spent time and effort on it. For me, it's not ‘the more muscle definition, the better’. I could certainly lose some muscle and fat, but I never measure my fat percentage. It doesn't interest me. And that's why you will never see me in a bodybuilding competition, wearing a thong and posing on a stage. I still party and I don't follow any specific diet. At WETH, I'm happy to be ‘BBQ organizer’ and have been for the past three years!”

Although working out is an individual sport, Wesley feels it is also a social activity. “The fact that you are pursuing a certain individual goal makes working out an individual sport. But I certainly swap ideas with other people about how to get from A to B. And I enjoy helping other sport card holders; for example, by helping someone to adopt the correct body posture for a particular exercise. This is one of the reasons why it's a shame that some people wear headphones in the gym. But that's just how it is - everyone likes to do things their own way.”

A workout goal is not something Wesley has. “In terms of performance, I can imagine taking up powerlifting. But that requires a more technical training regime. You specialize in doing just a single deadlift or a squat. And you'd need a trainer. Now that coach Pjotr van den Hoek has joined E.S.K.V. Odin and I have seen students training fanatically, I am feeling quite motivated.”

And a professional goal? “I haven't yet made my mind up about that. With my degree I could work at any number of companies. A PhD? Even if I were to consider it, a PhD would never consider me,” says a self-aware Wesley. “All I want to do is find somewhere in the world I can settle down and enjoy my work and stay healthy and injury-free. That's my workout goal too. So I will never be able to say I'm done with working out. Working out is forever.”              

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