The fitness influencer known as The Body Coach is offering free workouts for the nation. By Sophie Morris
Joe Wicks teaching the class from his living room via YouTube
Don’t drop your joey, Mummy,” shouts my daughter, giggling and bouncing from side to side, as I attempt to leap back and forth over an imaginary log without dropping my baby kangaroo from my stomach pouch.
She looks forward to dancing, singing and yoga sessions with her childminder, but we’re rarely on the mat together on a weekday.
We’re here because the country’s ranks of rookie stay-at-home parents have anointed a new guru. He doesn’t waft incense or go in for chanting. All Joe Wicks (inset) wants is the attention of your stir-crazy children at 9am each weekday for his free online PE sessions. And his service has proved so popular that more than 800,000 homes streamed the first 30-minute edition of PE with Joe on Monday.
Late last week, as parents and children contemplated their last school days for the foreseeable, Wicks, a fitness influencer also known as The Body Coach, announced his intention to become the “PE teacher for the nation”.
It’s unlikely many of Wicks’ housebound exercisers have homes as spotless or trainers as white as he does. He has as much in common with a harried, homeschooling parent as a Kardashian does with an average single mother, but his peppy attitude is pumping some energy into morning routines around the country.
“With the schools closed and with us all spending more time at home, it’s more important than ever that we keep moving and stay healthy and positive,” he wrote in a blogpost on his website. “Exercise is an amazing tool to help us feel happier, more energised, and more optimistic.”
The kangaroo exercise is fun, and there’s another doing frog-style jumps which gets a few giggles. My daughter is entertained for 30 minutes, albeit mostly by laughing at me. Emily Nudds has three children of school age in Enfield, north London. “My kids loved it,” she says. “Lila, 10, said it was a great start to the day, and that Joe Wicks makes exercise fun.” In other timezones, parents are fitting his classes into the school day wherever they fall.
Peter Cansell of the National Association for Primary Education has 40 years of teaching experience. “I’ve been to lots of schools where they get out and have a dance in the playground and children love it,” he says. “Joe Wicks is very successful with adults but seems to be largely presenting an adult exercise video.
“A teacher would do something a bit more mind-stretching and develop coaching and teamwork, but obviously that’s a challenge at the moment.”
Perhaps most valuable is the cushion it gives parents to prepare for the day ahead. Over the weekend, it seemed like any friend with a school-age child was planning to tune in. It started to feel like there was something to get up for on Monday morning, or something to look forward to getting up for at least. Wicks’ aim of getting “kids moving, feeling energised, positive, optimistic” is stuff most parents struggle with on a normal day.
Employed parents now wake up to whiteboards of school timetables alongside their own workloads. They might be WFH but their deadlines, conference calls, and bosses on the live chat continue as normal.
Wicks didn’t whip up this reputation from a standing start. He’s a diet and fitness coach with 3.1 million Instagram followers, 1.2 million YouTube subscribers, incredibly shiny hair and blindingly white teeth. He’s probably bestknown for his Lean in 15 book series, and is currently running a 90-day “transformations”. Style-wise, he’s the Jamie Oliver of diet and fitness, promoting healthy lifestyles and happy families.
By the time Wicks was ready to lead session two, at 9am yesterday, his debut effort had been viewed 3.7 million times. And its appeal is, er, contagious.
Will parents come out of this with a greater respect for teachers? “I hope so,” says Mr Cansell. “It’s time to take stock. We need to ask what school is for, and what we are doing with our education system. Are we providing a service for children, or are we providing a system that children have to fit into?” exercises” that are “suitable for beginners”. He assures that “if you’re unfit you’re still going to manage to do it”. Exercises in lesson one included jogging on the spot, dynamic stretches and shadow boxing.
How can I keep my children fit at home? Beyond adopting Wicks as a PE teacher, you can keep fit by following the NHS’s home workouts. The health service offers a series of entry level 10-minute workouts for those wanting to remain fit at home.
their hand at the NHS’ gym-free workouts, which include a chair workout, a seated yoga workout astanding abs workout.
There are a number of YouTube channels offering fitness routines for children. Debbie Doo has simple movement exercises set to music for younger ones. Cosmic Kids Yoga offers yoga workouts targeted at children which will help young ones to burn energy and relax. Move To Learn has a library of fitness workouts for energy-packed kids to enjoy.
When do the live lessons take place?
PE with Joe will be aired live on weekdays at 9am on his YouTube channel. Joe Wicks says: “I will do this as long as the schools are closed”.
Can I catch up with lessons that miss?
Yes - the first live lessons have been uploaded by Wicks to his channel.