Body Coach Joe Wicks on fitness and fame after Instagram made him a star
He looks like Aidan Turner in Poldark, sounds like Russell Brand and is raising the pulses of millions of women across the UK. And this is before you even factor in all the burpees and lunges in his fitness workouts.
Meet Joe Wicks.
Unless you’ve been living in a (wifi-free) cave for the past 12 months, you’ll know the cherub-haired, 30-year-old personal trainer – aka The Body Coach – has been everywhere.
With his ‘Lean in 15’ online diet and fitness plans, as well as his best-selling cookbooks, Joe is making pounds faster than his online followers lose them. Which is pretty fast.
Unlike so many diet regimes, his do not restrict calories. Instead, his signature 90-day “Shape, Shift and Sustain” plan encourages people to eat more – but of the right foods.
“Oh, and you’ve gotta chill out on the booze ,” he laughs. Of course there’s a caveat. But the transformations are indisputable.
Read more: How much exercise will it take to burn off these fast foods?
He says: “I’m passionate about what I do, and getting people coming up to me in the street or at book signings and telling me I’ve changed their lives – that’s what motivates me.
“I’ve even had a woman come up to me and tell me I helped her get pregnant. She was overweight and couldn’t conceive, and was a month away from starting IVF treatment.
“But after doing my plan and getting fit and healthy, she got pregnant naturally. That was amazing and shows what we are doing is literally transforming lives.
“I’m getting recognised every week now, and people will come up to me in Sainsbury’s and shout, ‘Oi! Lean in 15!' or one of my catchphrases ‘Guilty!' which still feels weird, but I love it all.
“I don’t feel like a celebrity at all and my friends think it’s hilarious that I’ve suddenly become a TV chef.”
As well as demonstrating recipes online in short, sharp, snappy 15-second videos – the premise being that all his healthy meals can be cooked in 15 minutes or less – Joe has become famed for his catchphrases, such as ‘Guilty!', used to describe something particularly tasty.
Or naughty. (Unlike many health fascists, Joe is happy to share the odd pic of himself eating a brownie, or attacking the breakfast buffet with gusto on holiday.)
His liberal use of the term ‘midget trees’ – tenderstem broccoli – has seen sales of the green stuff rocket by 25% in supermarkets across the UK. The ‘Delia effect’ is now the ‘Joe Wicks effect’.
Not surprisingly, while we lose the lbs, he is raking in the pounds. After recently signing a six-figure deal with publishers Bluebird, he has also been signed up to front a new Channel 4 show. And this week he launches in the US. Australia and the Far East will follow.
In just three years, Joe has gone from penniless pub worker to Instagram millionaire.
He says: “It’s incredible how my life has completely changed.
“A couple of years ago I had about four followers and was putting out all this free content for so long, putting myself out there to be laughed at and criticised. I never realised you could monetise Instagram. I just wanted to help people.
“But I’ve always had this vision that I was going to create a global business. I truly believed it was going to happen even when no one else did.
“Our turnover now is over a million pounds a month and when you say it out loud like that, it sounds ridiculous.
“But I have 500 people signing up to my plan every day, and the business keeps growing and growing. I think the reason I’ve become successful is because I never set out to make money.
“I’ve always just wanted to genuinely transform lives. Although it’s lovely to have money, I’ve never chased the cash.
“I hope that I’m an example of the fact that if you have a good idea, and believe in it, then good things will happen. I’m incredibly proud of my success.”
With a million followers on Instagram – and quite a few celeb ones – he has certainly worked hard for it. Gruelling 14-hour days are combined with daily ‘HIIT’ (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions – short but intense bursts of activity.
After all, the man who makes people ‘get down and give him 10’ cannot be a great whale himself.
His first cookbook ‘Lean In 15’ has been number one in the Amazon.co.uk book charts for 12 weeks, and in its first week sold 70,000 more than Davina McCall ’s.
It is currently number 15 in the top 20 biggest selling cookbooks of all time. Way beyond the likes of Mary Berry or Gordon Ramsay.
Typical recipes include a ‘build-up bagel’, chicken cashew curry and sweet potato hash brown with bacon, kale and poached eggs.
Chatting over lunch in a central London restaurant (naturally he has to stop mid-sentence to take a photograph of his grilled tuna salad, saying: “I’ll whack this online later”), it is clear Joe practises what he preaches.
In the flesh he is even better looking, and beneath the tight T-shirt he is very obviously thoroughbred racehorse fit.
“I’d love to be ordering the burger right now,” he says. “But that’s not going to make me lean.
“I don’t really feel under any pressure to have the six-pack, but people love to see a selfie every now and then, and they need to realise I really am doing that HIIT, and that it works. They need to see I really am living this lifestyle.”
Since becoming a bona fide celebrity, Joe has been bombarded with lucrative endorsement deals but has turned down virtually every one so as not to dilute the brand.
The only thing he currently promotes is the Microsoft Band 2 – a fitness tracker which also monitors your heartbeat.
Fitness is key to his 90-day plans, and he recommends four times weekly workouts. However, all take less than 50 minutes, and everything can be done at home without the need for a gym. They are, however, guaranteed to raise a sweat.
With three one-month cycles to the plan, each segment incorporates different exercises – and different recipes.
Subscribers are told to have three main meals a day (each plan is tailored to every individual based on height, weight and fitness levels) in addition to two daily snacks.
Joe now gets recognised on a weekly basis – and gets marriage proposals daily, as well as being linked to various celebrities.
Which, presumably, can’t be easy for his girlfriend of 11 years, Caroline.
He says: “I just want to be me. I’ve worked really hard not to be a celebrity trainer and I don’t want to be linked to celebrities all the time. I genuinely mean that. You can send me to America and ask Jessica Alba to train with me, but I’m not interested. I just want to help people, normal people.
“My girlfriend is brilliant and really relaxed about it all. She’s not a jealous girl. There are no trust issues there and she knows I never engage with any of it.
“You just have to laugh off all the attention because it’s not real. It’s a bubble world, and you don’t know these people in real life.”
But all his followers certainly know one thing – that Joe is the man who can transform their bodies.
Joe helped me change my attitude
Mum-of-three Jillian Blantford, a midwife, 33, from Stratford-upon-Avon, is nearing the end of Joe’s 90-day Shift, Shape and Sustain plan with her husband, CCTV engineer Adrian, 47.
After my third baby, I struggled to lose weight. I was a size 12 but with wobbly bits and hit a 10st 7lb wall.
Looking after three kids, I lived on pasta, wraps and bread and at weekends we’d eat out one night and have a takeaway the next.
My husband, Adrian, then 15st, signed up to the plan with me in January. I’d drop off Lucas, seven, and Ollie, three, before putting baby Esme down for a nap and doing HIIT exercises at home.
There are three cycles to the plan to help you develop your training. The first one involves high-intensity interval training cardio exercises which Joe says helps build fitness. I did high knee kicks, leg jumps and burpees for 30-second intervals, before taking a break and repeating. The whole workout lasted about 25 minutes.
Cycles two and three started to incorporate more weight work into the HIIT programme. And combining the two was great because I felt I was burning carbs with the HIIT and getting more toned with the weight work.
The food was also divided into cycles – during the first and third I would have a smoothie for breakfast and chicken with plenty of greens for my main meal.
Cycle two focused more on carbs so you could maintain the four days of training a week so pasta was back on the menu with veg like mushrooms and onions.
My husband and I both allowed ourselves a couple of cheat days where we would swap the chicken and veg dishes with plenty of greens for a Thai or a chocolate bar, but we would make sure we had done the exercises and we never went mad.
Overall, I’d say we stuck to the exercise plan 100% and the food about 95%. We’re now nearly at the end of our third cycle and I’ve lost 1in off both my arms, 3in from my legs, my hips are 3in smaller and I’ve dropped 2in off my chest. I’ve also knocked 5in off my waist.
It has changed my attitude to food. I’m 9st 1lb and a size 8/10 again and I have more energy. And with Adrian 12st 7lb, we will keep it up even when the plan is over.”
Joe's five top tips to get lean
Drink more water. Between two and four litres a day. A well-hydrated body is a more efficient, fat-burning one.
Sleep. Aim for between seven and eight hours a night to reduce cortisol – stress – levels.
Exercise. Smash out a HIIT (high intensity interval training) first thing and you’ll be energised and buzzing for the rest of the day.
Prep like a boss. Prepare your meals the night before, and invest in some Tupperware – it’ll stop you reaching for the Snickers and keep you on track.
Chill out on the booze. Unfortunately, if you really want to see results, you cannot drink regularly. A couple of times a month is fine, but alcohol impairs fat loss.
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Which, presumably, can’t be easy for his girlfriend of 11 years, Caroline.