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Co-founder Stans van der Poel remains involved with BioCheck

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Stans van der Poel is the co-founder of BioCheck and the creator of the BioCheck method. She recently celebrated her 69th birthday, but she remains actively involved with BioCheck. “This field will never bore me and will always keep me engaged.”

“Celebrate? No, you don’t do that anymore at this age.” Stans van der Poel falls silent. Then laughter is heard over the phone. Then, from Spain, where she spends her winters, Stans says, “Age is just a number, you know. I thought: let’s see how I’m doing physically myself since I have all the equipment here that’s also used at BioCheck. I tested myself at maximum capacity and what do you know? I’m still as fit as I was 35 years ago. Soon, I’ll be climbing the mountains near Jalón on a racing bike. Jalón is a junction for many well-known cycling routes; you might just bump into Mathieu van der Poel here. No, don’t worry about me!”

Creator of the BioCheck Method

On the work front, Stans is still very active. From Spain, she analyzes the test results of participants in the BioCheck programs every morning. She can do this like no other; in the eighties and nineties, as a pulmonary function analyst, Stans conceived and developed the EnergyControl-method upon which our programs are based. Through this method, the recovery process can be quantified with the help of objective data. She is also the creator and developer of various devices that monitor breathing and heart rate. In 2015, Stans joined forces with Patrick van Luijk, sharing a common goal: helping people to live fit and energetically. BioCheck was born.

Disrupted breathing

Stans reflects on the period when she laid the foundation for the method: “Thirty, forty years ago, there was a lot of talk about the disease ME. One of the main complaints of this disease is that you’re always tired. ME has many overlaps with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), but also with burnout and long COVID,” Stans explains. “From my background as a pulmonary function analyst, I discovered that disrupted breathing played a significant role in these complaints. People with these kinds of issues are constantly in fight-or-flight mode. Eventually, you can’t escape it. You’re always on. This demands a lot of energy from your body and makes it harder to relax and recover after exertion.”

Getting the engine going and calming it down

From her role, Stans conducted many exercise tests on patients back then. “I found that people were most balanced when they trained at halfway their maximum capacity. This was also true for people who, to put it bluntly, came in half-dead. They improved from such exertion. Their engine started up again. That’s why we developed sports programs where people trained at half their capacity. After a while, we realized that these people’s engines didn’t stop easily. They didn’t recover sufficiently from the exertion.”

 

“It’s great that my method ensures that people feel better.”

 

Measuring heart rate variability

Stans continues: “I linked that insight to the insight about breathing. This led me to the crucial part of the method: how well can people recover from an exertion? We map this capacity to recover by measuring heart rate variability (HRV); this is the difference in time interval between two consecutive heartbeats. HRV says something about the activity of the autonomic nervous system. And that autonomic nervous system determines the extent to which you can recover. Through breathing exercises, you can calm the nervous system down.”

Vision developed with technology

“That’s why breathing is crucial in our method,” says Stans. “After a training session at BioCheck, people aren’t allowed to leave until they’ve completely controlled their heart rate through breathing exercises. Additionally, it’s proven that training three times a week is the optimal frequency. Twice is just not enough for the body. Therefore, all BioCheck programs are based on training three times a week, divided into three blocks of six weeks. The measurements and data are crucial. It’s wonderful how we can map everything very precisely with heart rate monitors and the BioCheck app. Essentially, the program is still the same as what I thought of thirty years ago. But it has been wonderfully developed with today’s technological possibilities.”

Proud of successes

The BioCheck program is medically validated and proven successful. “That makes me proud,” says Stans. “We live in a society where there is increasing pressure on people, even on children. We have to do so much, for ourselves and from others. It disrupts our bodies and exhausts them, physically and mentally. With BioCheck, we make a significant contribution to the sustainable employability of people. We ensure they return to their work faster or prevent them from dropping out. But most importantly, we ensure that people themselves feel better. That’s what matters most.”

Field never gets boring

Stans still contributes to BioCheck’s programs and the high percentage of people who return to work optimally after participation, not only by analyzing test results daily and adjusting where necessary but also by her involvement in new developments. “We are currently working on a new wearable with TU Delft, to further improve our services. I still personally coach individual top athletes and top sports teams. This field will never bore me and will always keep me engaged.” Stans laughs again. “Yes, even at this age. If I stop working, it’ll be over with me quickly, I’m afraid.”

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