Divine inspiration is granted to the chosen few. For some, it’s a flash of lightning, illuminating the way and the truth. Others find themselves becoming the mouthpiece of God. But, for men such as Joe Wicks, the 33-year-old roofer’s son from Epsom, it’s a little more prosaic than that.
“I was lying in bed at 12.15pm,” he explains over a Zoom chat. “And this name just flashed in front of me: ‘PE with Joe’! I could see everything – the hashtag, the graphic. I saw it all in my head. So, I texted my brother [Nikki, Joe’s head of content], ‘PE with Joe, starting Monday. Every day at 9am. Live workouts streamed on YouTube.’ From there, things moved quickly. He announced it and it started to get shared. Then, it got picked up by school newsletters; soon after that, the NHS website. And that’s when the momentum really started to build.”
Men's Health: Let’s get this straight. You were lying in bed and you decided on
a whim that you would become the nation’s PE teacher?
Joe Wicks: Well, I was supposed to be on another UK schools tour. I’ve been visiting schools up and down the country since 2016. BBC Children in Need asked me to become its schools’ ambassador for fund-raising. After I go travelling, I like to come back and do some impact work. It was all planned: I was going to do another tour, visit 10 schools, and it was all supposed to be in the same week that the schools got closed down.
MH: When did you first realise that the idea was blowing up?
JW: I don’t have a publicist any more, so I was just getting tweets from people. Some TV and newspaper editors managed to get hold of my number, and they were phoning me for interviews, all day, every day. I suppose I properly realised within two days. On day one, we had 806,000 live streams. By day two, we had 954,000 live streams. After 10 days, the videos had been viewed more than 28 million times. It was clear that it was becoming a pretty big deal.
MH: Those are big numbers.
JW: Mate, normally I’d be lucky to get 100,000 views of a workout over six months. I’d never seen anything like it. It’s blown me away. And the ad revenue from YouTube that this has generated – that was totally unplanned. We didn’t even consider it when we set out, which is why we quickly decided to donate that money to the NHS.
MH: That’s your national treasure status confirmed right there.
JW: It’s a phenomenal amount of money and it just felt right, seeing as it was the community that built it. I didn’t want people to think for a second that I had the intention of financially benefiting from any of this.
MH: You’re clearly a down-to-earth bloke. But recently you said: “I want to be the person who completely transforms the health of the nation.” That’s a pretty lofty aim. Where does that come from?
JW: I’ve never thought much about energy, or a higher power, or the driving force behind someone’s purpose. I don’t come from a very ambitious family. We weren’t entrepreneurial. We weren’t hard-working academics, or setting up businesses. But for some reason, when I started doing fitness, I always had this voice in my head telling me to keep going – keep going, and people will eventually follow. It was like that when I first started doing boot camps in the park, and it was the same when I started the Instagram videos. If I kept doing it, I knew people would come back in the end. That internal voice is what has kept me going. It’s been the same with the schools thing. When Channel 4 first turned me down, I was upset for about five minutes. Then, I got on the phone to my brother and said, “Fuck it, we’re going to do it anyway.” I’ve just got this dialogue going on inside, an inner energy.
MH: And it has paid off, clearly.
JW: I’ve never made a penny from any of the school stuff I’ve done. I’ve had brands asking me if they can sponsor my channel for a year, stuff like that. But I’ve never monetised it. My books and my 90-Day Plan are my business. This is my purpose work. It’s what fires me up. And there’s something inside me that’s telling me to keep helping people, keep doing it.
What you’re seeing now is a four-year journey with schools that’s only just coming to light because of the current situation. It probably would have taken me 10 years to achieve this at any other time. So, I have to use it. I want this to be my legacy. When I’ve stopped doing workouts and YouTube videos, I want this content that I’ve created to be used in schools all around the world. This is what I want to be remembered for.
For the full interview with Joe Wicks, pick up the July/August 2020 XL issue of Men's Health, out now!
Sign up to the Men's Health newsletter and kickstart your home body plan. Make positive steps to become healthier and mentally strong with all the best fitness, muscle-building and nutrition advice delivered to your inbox.
For effective home workouts, uplifting stories, easy recipes and advice you can trust, subscribe to Men's Health UK today
You Might Also Like