People of Body&Fit: Sandra Prikker
In the spirit of moving together, Body&Fit recently joined forces with fitness model, businesswoman, personal trainer and superstar mum, Sandra Prikker. We sat down to discuss her remarkable journey from up-and-coming kickboxer to worldwide Instagram sensation for this month’s special edition of People of Body&Fit. It wasn’t an easy ride. After a horrifying accident, Sandra had no choice but to step away from the sport she loved, only to bounce back and rediscover her passion for fitness and healthy living in a whole new way. Soon, she’d amass millions of online followers and build her own business, all while starting a family and maintaining a strict exercise and nutrition plan to look, and feel, her absolute best.
A future career in kickboxing turned upside down
At the age of 16, Sandra moved out of the family home to live with her older brother and a friend of his. It’s safe to say she had to grow up fast.
“I was the mum of the house. I did all the laundry, cooking — pretty much everything — on top of my job and school. It was quite intense. There’d be weekends when there was, like, 15 guys around the house, partying, drinking, whatever. I’m very tiny, and in that manly world, I felt like I needed to learn how to protect myself if something ever got out of hand. And yeah, I also needed to let out a lot of frustration! So, I started kickboxing.”
In the first two months, Sandra’s coaches recognised her as a future prospect and stepped up her training schedule. One year later, she was preparing for her first competition, until an accident with fire left her entire face with third degree burns.
“I remember there was a smell coming from the kitchen, so I went to go check it out. There was a hot pan of oil sizzling on the electric stove. I took it off and couldn’t find a place to put it down (living with two guys, it was always a mess in there!). As I turned around, a breeze came in through an open window and it suddenly burst into flames. I reacted, throwing the pan and the burning oil just completely covered my face.”
Sandra spent the next three and a half weeks in a specialised burn unit and the following month in recovery. After five skin grafts and months of rehabilitation, there was no way she could take shots to the face like she used to, which meant the end of her kickboxing career. The accident was a huge mental setback, and it was time to get away from the Netherlands for a while, refocus and figure out what she wanted in life.
Finding ‘Insta-fame’ after reigniting a passion for fitness
It wasn’t long before Sandra took off to Brazil for eight months of travelling and soaking in a whole new culture, which she describes as the best time of her younger life. She returned home feeling calm, refreshed and ready for what life would bring next. Fitness, however, had taken a bit of a back seat. Who can blame her? At that time, it was more important to focus on her mental wellbeing after such a traumatic event. Still, she wasn’t ever used to being out of shape.
“I didn’t do any training when I was in Brazil. I was just living the good life, you know. But, as much as I needed it for my mental health, I wasn’t super happy with my body when I came back. I wanted to start training again. I knew I had the discipline to do it. When I worked in nightlife, I’d wake up, go to the gym and then work a 12-hour shift five times a week. One time, I made my protein shake in a cocktail shaker and my boss thought I was drinking on shift. I was like, ‘you want a shot?’! I took my training seriously, so I never drank, even when I worked in nightclubs and bars. I didn’t find it difficult to find that mindset again.”
At first, Sandra worked with a personal trainer, but didn’t really get anything out of it. So, she decided to do things her own way, researching techniques, training plans and new exercises to try out at the gym. It was then she began documenting her journey on Instagram. In the first year, she’d gained over one million followers.
“It was crazy. Instagram had just launched, so I decided to start posting. It just took off, which really motivated me. When you see people responding, like ‘oh, I’m really curious how it’s going and I want to try to do this with you’, it makes you want to train more and more. Then, I built a clothing company next to it. The fitness industry wasn’t big in the Netherlands at all then, but I wanted to make it my work, so I needed to go where things were really happening.”
Sandra moved to LA, where she spent the next three years working with well-known American brands, building a name for herself and enjoying the California sun. It was a different world, where she found it hard to connect with the culture and make real friends. She missed her ‘Dutchies’! After a toxic relationship came to an end, Sandra was ready to come back home.
Influencer life, motherhood and a new kind of audience
When she returned to the Netherlands, Sandra reconnected with an old friend — fellow Body&Fit athlete Kaz Van Der Waard (@kazvanderwaard). They fell in love and had two beautiful children together, which of course came with a new set of challenges.
“One of the things I worried about was stretch marks. I knew my mum had them, and they’re genetic, so I was probably going to have them, too. I trained throughout my pregnancy, and after I gave birth the first time, I didn’t put on that much weight. Still, I got a lot of stretch marks on my belly. I looked in the mirror and was like, ‘you’re a fitness model and you can’t see your abs. What am I going to do? People are going to unfollow me!’ And they did.
The first picture I posted with stretch marks got a lot of negative comments, but in the end, I was happy those people left. I’m a mum and I’m proud to be a mum, so I’m gonna share it and be completely transparent. I love my following so much. They’re mostly females now — mums or mums-to-be — and I love sharing my journey with them.”
Right now, life is busier than ever for Sandra and Kaz. On top of raising two kids, they’re running a business as well as their own Instagram platforms.
“Fortunately, we have the luxury of having a gym in our warehouse, so the kids can play, and I can watch them while I train. I would say I’m quite an involved mum, so I want to be around as much as I can. I’ll spend the day with them and go to the home office in the evening when they’re both in bed. It’s kind of intense, but I’d rather do it that way.”
Living a healthy, vegan lifestyle that works for her
Healthy food and nutrition have always been something Sandra has paid close attention to, even from a young age.
“My dad was very sick when I was growing up. We had to be so aware of what we ate. If I went to the store and bought something, I always had to read what was in it. I got used to checking ingredients when I did the shopping and learned about what’s good for you, what’s not and the kind of things to avoid.”
During her time in the US, Sandra noticed her body not responding well to meat and dairy, so she went pescatarian, and eventually vegan.
“It felt like my body was having trouble processing food. I was having problems with my stomach. If I ate out, there’d always be issues. It became too much of a thing for me. I also had to stay shredded for shoots. It became extremely difficult to stay lean as my metabolism got used to the number of calories I was consuming. I had to shock my body to shred fat, so I was eating less and less and doing a ton of cardio to avoid putting on weight. It was extremely unhealthy and couldn’t go on any longer. I went pescatarian and already things got so much better.”
When Sandra moved in with Kaz, who was a vegetarian at the time, she cut out fish and naturally fell into a vegan diet. It was a true ‘lightbulb’ moment.
“I’ve never been able to eat so much and stay so lean. I feel healthy. I feel strong. I mean, it’s incredible. I was like, ‘oh my God, this is the best thing ever!’”
Vegan supplements are a large part of Sandra’s routine, and she shops carefully to make sure she gets the right nutrients from her food — greens, oat and nut milks, meat substitutes etc. It’s much easier nowadays to stay healthy and achieve your fitness goals with support from plant-based foods and sports nutrition, and Sandra is a real testament to this.
So, what’s next for a woman that’s always on the go?
When we spoke, it had been seven months since Sandra gave birth to her second child, and she couldn’t wait to get 100% fit again.
“I’m probably about 80% there. I really want to build my muscle back, but it’s way more difficult than I thought. Up until my first kid, I trained 5-6 times per week. I never had a long break. Now, after 6 months of no training, I have to build up again even though everything is still weak from giving birth.
I’m all about sharing that with my followers as well. I want to show them the progress. I’m also thinking about doing something surgically with my stomach. I can train all I want but the stretch marks are never going to go away. So, I’m looking into how I can stay in this fitness world while being healthy and completely transparent about it. I want to ask my followers: ‘how do you feel about it? Do you feel good in your body? Would you do something about it?’ I think it’s so important to include other women in conversations like this.”
When it comes to longer-term goals, Sandra wants to grow her business — a venture she’d love to turn into a family affair — and continue enjoying valuable time with her kids. She also has her heart set on other things.
“I want to start a farm! I love animals. Nothing huge, just a couple of rescue cows or pigs. It doesn’t have to be in the Netherlands, either. I’m open to moving abroad at some point.”
Only time will tell!
You can follow Sandra’s story and all her progress via Instagram (@sandraprikker) and stay inspired to push past your own challenges, train hard and discover what works for you and your body. Don’t forget to look out for more upcoming People of Body&Fit portraits via our blog or social channels (@body&fit_official). It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey, you can find all the advice and motivation you need to achieve your goals with Body&Fit and our inclusive community of go-getters and fit seekers.