Joe Wicks, 34, the nation’s favorite body trainer During the pandemic it kept millions on alert and raised £ 580,000 for the NHS (Physical Education with Joe on YouTube it ran most days of the week between March 2020 and March 2021). At the end of this month he launches Training badges, a series of short and energetic workouts for preschoolers on YouTube, in collaboration with Hey duggee (The most watched children’s program on BBC iPlayer last year). As part of his very drive to inspire kids to exercise, Wicks is bringing up, with the writer Vivian French and illustrator Paul Howard, a picture book, Burpee bears, September 30th.
Were your own children an inspiration for your new series?
Massively: I always exercise in front of them, even though my little one, Marley, is only 18 months old. I also have a three year old girl, Indie, and I love when she copies me … The other day we were doing Training badges, and she said, “Dad, you have to keep going because if you stop, you won’t get your badge!” My passion is helping young people, through exercise, to change the way they feel.
It involves capable and disabled children in its program, and it is inspiring to all. Was it fun to do?
I love being playful. Exercise doesn’t have to be serious. But it was very exhausting to do the series because of Covid. I had to film with each child separately due to social distancing rules.
When I was a kid I couldn’t touch my toes (I still can’t). What advice would you have given me?
The message with children always has to be: “Do your best. If you can’t do it perfectly, give it a try. “Don’t judge yourself. Don’t compare yourself.
Have you ever been disabled?
I have never been overweight. I was a slim kid who loved physical education and sports. I used exercise as a coping mechanism …
Your father was addicted to heroin. That must have been very difficult …
It formed me. I’ve never been depressed, except when I was a teenager, when Dad relapsed every two months; it was quite emotional. Dad struggled with his addiction so he couldn’t be there all the time for me. It made me want to be there for my kids. It has helped me become a better husband and father. As an adult I am more compassionate towards my dad [recovered now] Than it was when I was a teenager. We have a good relationship [today]. I didn’t realize that both of my parents had serious mental health problems. My mother had eating disorders and OCD; I thought he loved cleaning his house four times a day.
Would you say it has an addictive trait?
I used to think that if I tried drugs, I would get addicted. It scared me. I guess I’m addicted to social media … and helping people. I’m very driven by purpose and I’m excited about that. I am obsessed with making more content, more videos, going to other countries.
Your diet must have been transformed since childhood?
He had a very unhealthy diet. My mom had me when I was 19 and she didn’t know how to cook. Junk food was all he tasted. I used to go to Iceland where there were a lot of buy one get one free offers. I started cooking in college. I am still very greedy. I love chocolate and ice cream. I eat a lot more than the average person, but because I exercise five to six days a week, I get away with it.
How much do you think about the obesity crisis in this country?
I used to, but now I think more about the mental health crisis. I used to focus on physical transformation: slim, body shape. But during the pandemic I realized that it is with mental health that people need help and motivation. Without a healthy mindset and the energy you get from exercise, life feels a lot more difficult. If you look at exercise from a mental health perspective, the body will follow.
And your new picture book is about that?
It is an uplifting story about a family of bears who have a wonderful day in the woods. It’s about getting active and having fun (and getting caught in the rain) …
The healthy recipes you post On Instagram and in other places they are always fast. Why such a rush?
I was successful because my workouts were 20 minutes long and my recipes 15 minutes. I wanted to show people that they can lead healthy lives with minimal effort.
Have you ever burned?ed out?
More recently, yes. I did the confinement [workout] things, good. So i did two podcast series and I filmed a documentary about my childhood with the Louis Theroux production company. In the end, I was so emotionally drained that I felt like I had nothing else to give.
Do you need a break from social networks …?
There are days when it wears me down, not so much my posts as the messages from people who are struggling. I try to answer. I am constantly giving energy. But I can keep my phone. The first few hours I will miss it, but as each hour passes I feel lighter: I have no demand, no one can contact me… it is a pleasant feeling.
Has getting married and having children changed you?
My family has brought me joy, confidence and security. Whatever happens from now on, even if I’m not relevant or popular, I have my family, so everything will be fine.
Your favorite way to relax?
Go out on my motorcycle (a Triumph Bobber). Or take the kids to Richmond Park or Virginia Water Lake. My garden is a small sanctuary. I have an ice machine, a metal bath that I hose down and then pour a lot of ice into it. I stay there for four or five minutes and it’s amazing. Nothing brings you more to the moment than ice water.
Have you ever been tempted to stay in bed?
I have days where I eat emotional meals and sit on the couch. But I love those days. I am not ashamed. I’ll think: that’s just one day. I don’t let it drag on. I know life is better with good sleep, good food, and movement – I’ll get up, exercise, get back to mindset.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism