It’s been exactly one year since Joe Wicks last graced the cover of Men’s Fitness, and it’s been another phenomenal 12 months in the life of the Body Coach with his book sales smashing the two million mark, just two years since his first book, Lean In 15. No one, least of all Wicks, could have predicted just how huge he’d become. With his new book out now (and his third MF cover under his belt), we caught up with the Body Coach to find out what’s next for the UK’s biggest name in fitness.
Joe, you’ve just released your fifth book in two years, and broken numerous sales records in the process. Has your success sunk in yet?
Yeah, it’s mad. My first book came out at Christmas 2015, and now I’ve just released my fifth book, The Fat-Loss Plan. Five books in that time – that’s a hell of a quick turnaround! Even a TV chef will only do one, maybe two books a year. It feels like a really long time, because that’s a lot to happen in two years alongside all the other stuff as well, but even now I still feel like I’m just starting out.
Starting out? You’ve sold two million books!
It’s crazy. I still get the sales numbers sent over by my publisher weekly. What’s mad is that I always saw such big numbers that I thought that it was normal to sell that many books a week. It’s only when I saw what other people were selling that it really sank in – I was selling in a week what they were selling in a year. Lean In 15, my first book, the red one – I call it “Little Red” – is the best-selling product on Amazon Prime ever. Over JK Rowling and mobile phone cases. Little Red even now still outsells my other books since. It’s very consistent. It’s just surreal.
How do you process that kind of success?
I don’t stop and think about it. That’s just what’s happened. But it’s changed my life. It’s allowed me to buy my own house at 30 years old. I come from a family where no-one ever owned their own house. We all lived in council houses, no-one ever had a mortgage. Moving into this place [The Body Coach HQ in Richmond, south-west London] was a big moment. I signed a three-year lease and you can imagine the rent on this place! But I had the self-belief to know that we were doing the right thing, and that we would continue to grow, and it was the right time for me to invest in people to keep growing the brand. That was a big day. It was like signing a mortgage. It was scary shit!
Do you feel famous?
I really don’t. I get stopped in the street maybe once or twice a day for a photo but to me that doesn’t really feel like being famous. Maybe it’s because I’m not in that celebrity world of falling out of nightclubs or going to red carpet events – I’m not in that world and never will be, so I don’t feel like a celebrity.
Has success changed you?
You’ve seen my journey from the very beginning. You know it’s genuine and authentic. People will always be drawn to positivity. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else – I’ve tried to remain as humble as I can be. It’s just not in my personality to be the big “I am”. Even if I’d had loads of success when I was younger I’d still be the same guy. I’ve never been flashy or cocky – as soon as you are, people turn off, and I wouldn’t have ever connected with people on Instagram.
At the end of last year you did a candid Facebook Live video saying you were demotivated. You’re normally so upbeat – was that genuine?
I was in the US and had been partying in Miami for five days with my mates. I did two workouts when I was there. Then I went to Vegas with Rosie [Jones, Wicks’s girlfriend] and relaxed with some shows and drinks, then went back to LA. I had an injury: my calf was really tight and I couldn’t run or cycle, so I was really pissed off. So I wasn’t training, and was eating burgers and ice cream, and drinking Coke with my meals. Once I start eating like that, I start craving it more. So with the Facebook Live video I wanted to show people that even I still struggle with motivation to exercise and eat well like everyone.
The video got an amazing response because it showed people that they weren’t alone in feeling demotivated. I never imagined it would become a story in the papers or that people would accuse me of some marketing trick. I just wanted to help some people get up off their arse and starting moving more and eating better. It motivated me too – I got it off my chest and then got back on it the next day.
You were first in the papers for your book sales, but more recently it’s been for your personal life. Is that a problem for you?
I came out of a long-term relationship then met Rosie [who’s a model], and I’ve always wanted to keep my personal life private. Last year one of the papers ran some paparazzi shots of us having a kiss and a cuddle on the beach in Santa Monica and it’s fine. I don’t have a meltdown over it, because what can I do? We have our own life together and we are super-happy, but we don’t post pictures of each other on social media because I think some things you want to keep out of the public eye.
I used to swerve questions and never go into detail but it’s out now: I have a girlfriend and we live together, but it’s no-one else’s business. Some Instagram influencers get into a relationship then it’s all about ‘couple goals’ but that’s not for us.
Do you feel pressure to look a certain way since finding success?
I don’t feel pressure – I just feel ambitious. The more people I can connect and resonate with – whether that’s a seven-year-old in a classroom, or a busy mum or dad, or your nan – the more I get excited about the potential of helping them.
Now I’m on a mission to be known for something more than just book sales and an online business. I want to have the biggest fitness channel on YouTube but, more than that, I want to change government policy.
How do you plan to do that?
Look at Jamie Oliver. Look at how much he’s achieved in that area with school meals. I feel like I have so much more in the tank – and so much more I want to do, like with the schools initiative we started last year. It started when I went back to my old primary school and took the kids through a HIIT session. They all loved it and were buzzing so we decided we wanted to take it further.
We did a Facebook Live test and it was followed by kids not just in the UK, but all over the place. So we then did a five-day schools fitness week via YouTube. We think we reached a million kids in those five days. Then a TV production team got in touch because they think it could have the same impact as Jamie’s School Dinners did and have a big effect on government policy.
Do you think the right people will listen?
All I known is, actions speak loudest. What Jamie did with school dinners was great, and I want to have a similar impact on kids’ fitness and exercise. I know the power of exercise, as do you, and if I can help get kids to exercise, even for just 20 minutes, then I know it can have a really big impact on their health, fitness, productivity and so much more.
A child who has had a fast-food lunch and sat around during their lunch break will perform very differently in the afternoon than a kid who has eaten a healthy and balanced lunch and run around and done some exercise. It’s not just about their physical health, it’s all the mental benefits too – better mood, focus, energy levels… the list goes on.
I can contribute – I have stuff to say and I know I can make a change. I am absolutely convinced that if kids do half an hour of exercise a day then their grades will go up.
That’s your main focus for the future?
Yeah, I want to be known as more than the guy who made a few quid selling fitness plans online! That’s why the schools fitness stuff is so important to me. The last few years have given me some money and a lovely life, but more importantly the success has given me a platform and it’s up to me to use that platform for the best possible causes.
You’re a busy man, so how do you switch off?
I love putting out content that makes people laugh and feel good about themselves, so it never really feels like work. It’s fun. I’m always thinking about what’s going to be the next part of my Instagram story – a bit like a director, I suppose. It’s like doing a live TV show every day. I’ve found Audible [the digital audio and spoken word service] a really good way to switch off and unwind, and I’ve started listening to a lot of podcasts. Sometimes we’ll have a weekend away in a hotel or somewhere, and I’ll leave my phone in the car for two days, which is lovely and I can do it no problem. I also switch off when I’m working out. That might sound strange because I often post my workouts, but it’s “me time” and I really appreciate that time for myself.
You’re not tempted to pack it all in and retire then?
But I feel like I’m only just getting started! With the books, I don’t see pound signs. Yes, I get some money for every book sold, but I think more about the families around the country that are now cooking from my books. That’s a massive motivation for me. I still do book tours so I’ll meet 50 or so people somewhere around the UK – I don’t need to do that any more, but I want to. I want to meet the people that are cooking my recipes and feel great for doing so.
Well, we really hope you have the same success in helping kids fall in love with fitness that you’ve had with adults…
Thanks, man. It genuinely upsets me that one in three kids is overweight. When I was at school there might be one or two bigger kids, but that was it. We were always running around, playing football or chasing a tennis ball – I really wonder what kids are doing now during break times. I’m so passionate about getting people thinking about fitness. I think I’ve done that with a lot of adults, and it’s the right thing now to try to do that with kids. You can’t make money out of kids, so it’s really not about that – it’s just the right thing to do.
Get Lean With The Body Coach’s Help!
Try these three simple fat-burning tips from Joe Wicks
1. Set fitness goals
“Set a goal – not just a physique goal but a performance goal too. It’s not enough for most people to have the goal of ‘get a bit leaner for holiday’. Sign up for a 5K or another type of race or event you can train for, and focus on your performance – not just how you look in the mirror or what you weigh on the scales.”
2. Start cooking
“For the overwhelming majority of people the single best step they can take towards looking and feeling better is to start prepping their own meals. The more of your own meals you make, the better. Try new recipes and learn to love cooking – it makes such a big difference to eating well when you do.”
3. Keep life simple
“I spent a while prepping for this MF photoshoot and not once have I counted calories or checked my macros. Instead I’ve made sure I smash my HIIT sessions, I’ve eaten three meals a day, had a bit of fruit but not any cake, and I’ve managed to get lean. Simplicity and consistency are the most important things.”
The Fat-Loss Plan, the new book from Joe Wicks, is out now