Joe Wicks has been open about how growing up with an addict parent had a knock-on effect on his education, with PE lessons the only place he felt he could truly be himself.
So it’s no surprise that 25 years later, he’s making a huge gesture to teachers by offering them three months’ free membership to his ever-popular Body Coach app.
When he was 12, Joe’s mum left him in the care of his heroin addict father for five months while she underwent treatment for chronic OCD. The situation at home was fraught, uncertain and frightening, and explored by the dad-of-three in last year’s BBC documentary, Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood.
Like many children with a difficult home life, his attitude and output at school suffered greatly, and he remembers being asked to leave maths, English and science lessons for being disruptive and unable to focus.
But, there was one lesson where he always felt at ease: PE.
He told Women’s Health: ‘I was always the first one there, trying to get out on the pitch. and being a positive source of energy for the teacher.
‘I wasn't talking and crying about my mum and dad being addicts. I was just running around and smashing myself.
‘I loved encouraging people, the children that were out of shape or that weren't that confident. I’d tell them, “come on up, we'll do it together”. And I just loved that feeling of helping people.
‘It kind of set me on a path because the P.E teachers were fun, they were young, they loved me. They knew when I walked into the class, whatever mood I was in, I'd always be happy when I left. I really connected the dots between how I felt at the start and the end.’
Fast forward to modern day Britain and teachers are facing more challenges than ever - least of all with increasingly large workloads, extra pastoral care expectations, and wage disputes - amid a cost of living crisis.
Joe hopes that his small gesture of free app membership - which means access to healthy recipes and easy to follow workouts - will help them feel appreciated, and make positive changes to their lifestyles, especially if they are losing their weekends and evenings to unpaid admin related to teaching, or having taken on an extra sidegig to make ends meet.
He added: ‘It's sad to think that teachers are going into school, exhausted and stressed and probably relying on fizzy drinks and energy drinks and chocolate bars. It's a quick fix but I think you’ve got to shift the behaviour and shift people's perception.
‘I talk a lot about small daily wins. You don't have to find an hour to get to the gym, you could really just do a 15 minute workout or 15 minutes of walking or just stretching or doing something positive for yourself.
‘My angle is it's never about body image. It's never about weight loss. It's always about transformation that you feel mentally and physically.
‘I think a lot of people just see exercise as a punishment but it's a reward. If you've had a stressful day, it's like a release valve. You can just let it out, let it go and then the next morning you can go into work.
‘I just think if I can get teachers fit… imagine if every teacher in the UK went on this journey and started training and getting healthier and being a great role model for the kids, t's gonna have an impact. “We're gonna do a Joe Wicks workout today... we're going to learn about nutrition..” That is going to shift their mindset and will have a massive effect - if we can get the teachers moving and feeling good.
‘A positive mindset is so powerful, especially around young kids. I'm a parent of three and if I don't exercise, I find parenting really tough. I find it really stressful and it helps me be a calm person around them as well.’
Joe and his wife Rosie, 33, are parents to Indigo, 5, Marley, 3, and baby Leni, 11-months. The couple recently hit the headlines when it was revealed that they were homeschooling their eldest, affectionately referred to as Indie.
He explained that they don’t plan to keep her out of mainstream education long-term, just for the next year or so while he travels the world starting up Body Coach franchises in Australia and the US.
He said: ‘We're fortunate we can be together and work remotely, which I love, and I'm so happy to be around and be present because I do love being a parent. I don't want to have kids and then disappear. I really want to be there, and help them, learning and stuff.
‘We made a decision to homeschool the kids, so we're not having Indie in school next year. She's actually just turned five, so it's not like a long term forever thing we're more likely to have another year together.
‘I love teaching kids at home. I think the two most important things we can teach our children it’s nice to cook and enjoy food, and enjoy the process of learning to cook. And the second thing is to get into and enjoy physical activity and movement.’
But Joe admits that learning and teaching isn’t a one-way street. He’s also found himself changing for the better thanks to the influence of his kids, namely his patience levels.
He said: ‘I was shouted and screamed at as a kid, so my reaction is to scream and shout. I have to suppress that and I have to work on that. I realised that actually I can react differently. I don't have to be a shouty dDad and I really work on that and I'm learning that you have to take a breath and a moment and react differently.
‘I read a really great book called There's No Such Thing As Naughty, which helped me understand the infant brain and when they have a meltdown and are irrational they're not trying to ruin your day they just can't comprehend “turn the TV off. We've got to go now you can't have any more toast”.
‘I'm not perfect, I still shout, still slam doors and I feel terrible sometimes, but I also know that I can say sorry and I can learn from it and I can help them and myself be more calm and more patient in situations like that.’
Teachers and teaching staff in the UK and Ireland must apply for their three months' access to the The Body Coach App by 2nd October 2023. For more information, visit thebodycoach.com/teachers
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