Joe Wicks, @thebodycoach, is proof that great abs are made both in the kitchen and the gym. The 32-year-old British trainer, cookbook author, online transformation specialist and Instagram sensation built his career filming 15-second videos of the healthy 15-minute meals he was preparing, as well as 15-minute high-intensity interval training workouts to burn fat and build muscle, a program he calls Lean in 15. Now the author of six cookbooks across the pond and a seventh, called Veggie Lean in 15 (Bluebird) due out in December, he’s credited with getting millennials in the U.K. and Australia cooking again and has become a protégé to chef Jamie Oliver. 24Life recently sat down with Wicks to discuss how he became Insta-famous in such a short time and what he’s doing to get the next generation in shape.
Get Ready for Joe Wicks to Get the Next Generation in Shape
By Melinda Fulmer
24Life: Tell us about your journey from working as a personal trainer running a boot camp in London to Instagram and YouTube fame in just a couple of years?
Joe Wicks: I had two big camps going … I really loved group fitness. I liked seeing people’s progress. I would even do it in the winter in the snow. But it’s exhausting. You’re working mornings and weekends and evenings. [At 50 clients, Wicks said he sort of hit a wall.]
I thought how can I start sharing what I’m passionate about, which is food and fitness and getting people moving? I started tweeting. Then in 2015, Instagram opened up video. I was in my flat and had my iPhone out and said to myself, “I’m going to share a recipe.” The hashtag was #leanin15 because I would post a 15-second video showing how to cook a 15-minute meal, which would be lean and healthy and get you burning fat. I combined that with silliness and personality like calling broccoli “midget trees.” These silly little phrases got quite a lot of traction in the U.K.
[When Wicks hit 70,000 followers, he got offered a book deal.] The publisher said if they sold 70,000 books, they would make money, and we ended up selling 1.3 million that year. [It became the second best-selling cookbook in the U.K. that year behind Jamie Oliver.] Then came the fitness DVDs and a TV show on Channel 4 in the U.K., and my 90-day online plan, which is the core of my business all over the world.
24Life: You now have 2.3 million Instagram followers and nearly 600,000 subscribers on YouTube. What does it take to grow and maintain this big following?
JW: I love posting content. … It’s just a case of being consistent … not letting it all go to your head … or letting someone else run your Instagram. If you lose touch with it, people will switch it up. People send me messages … and if I can take 10 minutes and send them a little video, that means so much to them.
My aim every day is to post one good recipe to show you how to prepare a healthy meal and maybe get you thinking about doing some exercise, either a 15-second Instagram video or YouTube exercise video. The rest of it is just about inspiring you to make healthy decisions, to have a little treat and not feel bad if you do have a chocolate bar or ice cream. I just promote really positive messages. It hasn’t changed from the very first hour to now. That’s why I have maintained my growth throughout the last few years.
24Life: When did you feel like you had made it as a fitness influencer?
JW: I don’t have any concept of what it’s like to be famous. But there were several moments … I set a Guinness World Record in London for world’s largest HIIT session in Hyde Park in 2017]with about 4,000 people, and to go from doing a little boot camp in London to that in two or three years is really awesome. And when I signed my book deal, I thought this was cool, but I didn’t know which way it was going to go, and then when it went to No. 1, I realized people really were engaged in what I am doing. That is one of those moments, or when I did my TV show.
JW: If you want to be healthy, forget about the low-calorie diets. I’m really anti-dieting and obsessive training and making it really hardcore. … I always come at fitness as a way to feel good. When I exercise, I feel really happy for the whole day.
No keto. I love my carbs, I like balance, I like having an occasional ice cream. I like treating myself. [But, he says, it’s also important to cook healthy meals at home, prepping lunches or dinners in batches to eat in the following days and fitting in regular HIIT sessions or other exercise throughout the week.]
My message is really simple, home cooking, home workouts (if you can’t make it to the gym), do it consistently and you’ll be healthy and happy. It’s quite a simple message.
24Life: Tell us about your new initiative to bring fitness back into schools?
JW: I have been doing YouTube workouts live, and they’re streaming them in schools in the U.K. We’ve had a million kids a week exercising with me. I’m in my office at the gym taping and people all over the world are doing it on the big screens in their sports halls or in their classroom. At the moment, kids in the U.K. are getting more unfit. I want to try to disrupt their day using tech … and get them exercising. That’s my main mission is to get school kids exercising. … There’s no funding for PE. I want to try to fix that.
I was so active as a kid. I want to start young and get them thinking about it so they will grow up to be active adults. If I can do that there, maybe I can take it to other countries. I definitely have America in the future. … I want to try to do something that will really make a change.
Video, photo credit: Joe Wicks