By Jamie Millar
With 2.8 million YouTube subscribers, 3.2 million cookbook sales, a multimillion-pound training app and an MBE, Joe Wicks has built up a following. And though this Duracell bunny of positive energy is constantly trying to share how you can live a happier and healthier life—there’s only so many DMs one man can answer.
So, consider this your compendium of Wicks-certified advice. Having scoured the internet for the top questions the public want answering, we asked the nation’s PE teacher to reveal the tips he truly lives by.
Joe Wicks: Sometimes I'm filming a lot of content so I'm doing more, but in an ideal week I just do one workout a day—40 minutes, five days a week. And that could be a bike ride, it could be a sprint session on the treadmill, a bodyweight workout, dumbbells. I don’t have any fixed structure to my training, I just see what I'm in the mood for that day and do it at that moment in time.
Consistency’s the most important thing. I'm not super-motivated, I'm just very disciplined. And I know that if I don’t train, I'm not that great to be around. I feel stressed and tense, and I just need to let it out through exercise.
JW: I’d say a favourite workout would be to just set a timer: 40 seconds of work, 20 seconds of rest. Then I’ll do either a circuit or 25 different moves. I like the short, intense stuff where it’s in and out, because I get a massive boost of endorphins and I really feel great.
I do like a gentle cycle and a run. But when I do a HIIT, I'm buzzing for hours after and I have a lot of energy.
JW: I look back at photos and I’ve been more pumped and leaner because I did a photo shoot, but that isn’t sustainable year-round. It’s photo shoot prep: you cut things down, you're really strict, you're boring with your diet.
It looks nice. I feel good that day. But then I'm like, “This is so unenjoyable to be this lean and not be able to have any more body fat.” Because I like gin and tonics. I like a chocolate bar. I like treats. And if I want to be sliced like that, I can't have all those things.
So yes, I'm strong and fit, but I'm not as lean as I’ve been in the past. But again, I'm not as obsessed with that. I don’t measure body fat and stuff. I just think, “I'm 35, I'm strong, I'm fit, I'm a good role model for my kids.” That’s the most important thing.
JW: I normally train in the morning on an empty stomach. Then I’ll have a bowl of porridge with some berries, peanut butter, chia seeds. I love crunchy stuff so maybe some cashew nuts. Lunch will be maybe a salad with olives, cheese and avocado: a nice, fatty sort of lunch. Then dinner will normally be a chicken stir fry or a bit of grilled salmon with some mashed potato or vegetables. Just keep it really simple, really.
I try and mix things up, but the kids eat the same as us because they’ve been eating like mini adults from the start. We don’t have separate baby food for them. That’s something that takes time, but if you're consistent, they’ll eat the food you eat.
JW: I don’t believe in the whole “cheat day” thing, because I think, it’s just “life”. Some days I'm emotional and smash a workout. Other days I'm emotional and eat six crumpets, and loads of marmalade on toast, and a big bar of chocolate, and some Doritos. It just depends how I feel.
But I don’t feel guilt, I just feel tired and bloated. I don’t wake up going, “Oh, what have I done?” I just go, “Right, I’ve just eaten all that food, let’s do a workout and put it to use.”
JW: I can't honestly put my hand on my heart and say I’ve tried being full vegan or vegetarian. I kind of dip in and out of it. But I’ve really reduced my meat consumption. I still love a good burger and a steak, and if I go to a restaurant, I’ll have that.
But at home I’d say we’re pretty much 85 to 90 per cent vegetarian. Which I'm proud of, really, because I used to eat so much meat, chicken, fish, eggs, every single day.
Doing that veggie book made me realise you can have really good flavours and textures without having any meat or fish. People were asking me a lot on Instagram, “When are you going to do more veggie and vegan stuff?” So I created the book really trying to educate myself, because I was all about meat, meat, meat. I didn’t even think I’d ever really enjoyed veggie food.
But it took me on a journey, because I now love veg spaghetti or a lentil dahl – all these things that don’t take that long. A mild chickpea curry, which the kids eat as well, with some paprika and curry powder. Delicious.
JW: The one I'm always going to have a fond place for is the red Lean in 15 book, because that was the first one I released. It’s called The Shift Plan. And that was such a phenomenal success. I think we sold 1.4 million copies. So that was life-changing. I’ve had really successful books since, but that was the number-one smash hit that will always be the biggest one, I think.
JW: Obviously if you could do 20 minutes of HIIT and be active, and ride to work, or go on a walk, it all adds up. You can't just rely on the 20 minutes of HIIT, because you burn calories during the workout and a little bit after, but you’ve still got to be living an active lifestyle. If you sat down all day and did nothing else, you’re probably still not going to be getting the results you want.
But from a mental health perspective and for an energy boost, 100 per cent, 20 minutes is enough.
JW: Getting in the garden, going for walks round the block, going on the scooters and electric skateboards. All movement’s good. Even if you run up and down the stairs a few times a day, it all adds up. So I definitely don’t sit on Zoom all day. Even when I'm doing my interviews, I sometimes will have a stretch. I'm always trying to cram it in.
JW: Yes, it’s so important. Mentally and physically, I’ve had to. I got injured, I really had a pain in my leg and I'm now having regular acupuncture and massage, and the ice bath, I think, helps. I'm getting to a point where I have to warm up, I have to cool down. I need to keep supple. So I put in a lot of hours of the pigeon pose, the 90/90, hip flexor stretches, opening my hips up. Because without it I just stiffen up so quick and then my pain comes back.
JW: Healthy means body and mind, it’s not just about being super-fit and able to lift weights. Are you flexible? Can you touch your toes? Are you injury-free? Do you have any back issues? Is your neck sore? All these things that we leave until the last minute–instead, build the warm-ups and cool-downs into your workouts.
Health is also about waking up feeling energised. It’s easy to just train–people get that part. But you can still wake up really exhausted, and really flat, and really down from the food you eat, the media you consume, the TV you watch, how late you stay up. All these things are playing into each other. I'm a big promoter of getting an early night. Because when you’ve got kids, if you don’t get in bed an hour earlier, you just don’t catch up on the sleep.
JW: I think the most I’ve ever done was 100 in about 10 minutes. We went head-to-head, me and a friend of mine, for charity. Proper chest-to-floor burpees. He beat me by, like, 30 seconds as well. At the end my head was pounding because the blood is just pumping up to your head. So I’d say I could do 100. But I wouldn’t enjoy it.