Half a million pounds raised for the NHS, millions of followers on Instagram, nine best-selling books and now a PE teacher for the nation’s kids. In the first of two features, Joe Wicks speaks to City Kids about his motivation, his lockdown experience and his greatest work…
Just three months ago, Joe Wicks was putting the finishing touches to his latest book, Wean in 15. But the Covid-19 pandemic set him on another path, with lockdown accelerating his phenomenal success thanks to PE with Joe. The Body Coach tells Victoria Evans about what he considers to be his greatest work.
“It looks like an overnight success, but I’ve built my brand, trust and loyalty over eight or nine years of YouTube, going to schools and doing UK schools tours. I really believe in what I’m doing, I’m really passionate. It takes a lot for a parent who’s never heard of you or seen your content to let you into their room and their house live on a stream.
I always dreamed, I knew this was going to happen, but I thought it was going to take me 10 years of hard work and it happened in the space of three months because of the lockdown and PE with Joe, that’s the truth. I know I would have worked so hard to make it happen anyway, but it just intensified it and magnified it.”
So, did you always want to work with kids?
I dreamed of being a PE teacher, that was my first ambition. My career went into personal training and when I realised I had a massive audience and a massive reach, I thought, “what means a lot to me?” I really think young people, mental health and fitness is very important so then I did a trial whether it was a Facebook live or YouTube live with schools, very small numbers and it grew from that. Then I went out on the road to real schools and got to know the teachers, parents and the kids and really understood how to engage children, how to make it fun and that evolved into PE with Joe. We’re now in our 12th week.
Alongside PE with Joe, you’ve launched your ninth book, Wean in 15. Was this an obvious business decision?
It wasn’t a forced thing, “oh now I want to capitalise and monetise this”, it was more like, I’ve got an opportunity and people really need this advice. I’m getting so many questions online about when to start, what to do, so I took all the information I learned and all the research from [nutritionist] Charlotte Stirling-Reed and put it into a book. I can’t believe how many people have got this book already. I’ve given out so much free content, I’ve given out all those free recipes, I’ve given so much advice on Wean in 15 that when you do the book, people support it.
Image Maja Smend from Wean in 15
That’s an interesting way to build your business as you do offer so much for free.
I always believe you’ve got to share free content. You have to give before you get given. I’ve always been like that, even now. My YouTube is an example. I’ve had DVDs in the past, I’ve had cookbooks, but I still love doing my YouTube videos because they’re free and they’re for everyone. I also have my Instagram with loads of recipes for free because I don’t want anyone to feel they can’t access it or they can’t get to it. I always say, my 90-day plan is a great plan, but you don’t need that, you can use my Instagram recipes, my Wean in 15 Instagram or my YouTube videos and you can still have a transformation; you can still go on a journey and that’s important to me because I don’t want anyone to feel left out of my business and my brand. I mean you need money to survive and have a company, but the majority of my content is free for everyone to access. That really is the stuff that motivates me. When I get a million people doing a workout with me that’s fantastic, that’s true motivation and that inspires me you know.
Your life is very public, and your business has been built on social media. How often do you reflect on the kids being involved in that?
I contradict myself sometimes about the way I feel about it. You either go all in or you don’t. We have conversations where we dip in and out of not wanting to be on there but then there are some things that we love to share – Indie’s on the front cover of my book. I suppose even if I didn’t have millions of followers, as a culture I think we all like to share our pictures and our children so it’s just the way of the world now. I just embrace technology. It’s allowed me to have a fantastic life so there are pros and cons to it.
Do you ever feel pressured, or is it stressful living your life so publicly?
I don’t feel like it’s pressure, I feel like this is my role, this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my time. I could hand over my Instagram to someone else and ask them to run it for me and answer all these questions, but I know that I need to connect with all the emotions that people are feeling. I need to know why I’m doing this, why I work so hard and who it’s affecting and how it’s helping people and so I don’t feel like burning out I feel like I’m just getting into my groove and that I’ve got more to offer. and that I can reach more people so it’s not a pressure.
What memories will you take from this period?
For me, PE with Joe is the thing I will remember forever. I’ve been there for people when they’ve needed it the most and it’s kept me sane and kept me happy as well. I think this is the greatest work, and it’s the most important thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t know whether I’ll do anything as meaningful as this again.
Image from @thebodycoach by Ollie & Nix Photography
You always talk so lovingly about Rosie, what’s your relationship like?
There’s no power struggle really with us, it’s quite balanced. She’s an amazing mum, she’s really good with the kids. I always look at her when the kids are screaming and I think, how are you so patient and calm and it makes me think if she can be like that then I can too so I’m learning from her every day.
100% she’s made me a better person, especially as a parent. I was shouted at and screamed at as a kid. In my head I’m screaming and shouting but I’ve learned to internalise it and be more patient. There are days that you do want to pull your hair out and scream at the kids but it doesn’t get you anywhere, it doesn’t help. So, learning to communicate better is something I’ve learned from her.
Your parents must be so proud of the person you’ve become.
A lot of my friends from my area ended up on drugs or in prison but we broke that mould. You’d have expected us to have been like that you know. I believe in three things and my motto is work hard, have fun and be nice. If you do those three things with relationships, with work, with everything you attack in life, if you have fun doing it and are kind to people and you put in the effort, you will be successful. That’s such a simple way of living life and it’s always what I think about. Am I being kind enough, am I working hard enough and am I having fun and living my best life and if I think I am then I normally am.
So back to Wean in 15, how will you approach weaning with Marley as you’ll be starting soon
We’re going to repeat the process which his basically a two-week veg led approach so for the first two weeks we focus on one new vegetable a day so whether it’s spinach or kale so really develop a palate for those savoury tastes. Then you can introduce sweeter things and start combining stuff. It’s all about consistency so lots of variety, try not to offer alternatives if they kick something back. I really want Marley to love food like we do. Me, Rosie and Indie all love food, we live for food, we’re obsessed with it so I hope that if we repeat the same process and have the same principles that he’ll be similar or the same as Indie, but who knows. We’ll see, it might change.
Food does seem to be a big part of Wicks family life.
I love any food. I love chocolate but I like being in control of what I’m eating and feeling energised. Food can make you feel so happy and energised but you can also have a complete blow out all weekend and it can make you feel knackered and tired and bloated and so I allow myself treats and I know the effect it has on me but I still really do prefer eating healthy food that’s home-cooked.
Picnic or Lion Bar?
Lion bars and the white one’s good as well.
What’s your favourite recipe from the book?
Broccoli and cheddar tots are really easy to make and super more-ish and there’s a chicken and and butternut squash stew at the back which is for older kids. They’re really good recipes for families. If you’ve got kids who are a bit older there are some great recipes in there, you don’t have to be weaning to enjoy it.
Recipe and demo for Broccoli and Cheddar Tots from @thebodycoach:
For more from our interview with Joe, read the second part of our interview here.