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Posted: 2020-03-24 23:58:27

Some people do it in shorts, others in pyjamas. My elder son does it in a dinosaur onesie. The younger goes naked. 

I favour elasticated leggings and a very strong sports bra — crucial for the jumping jacks. My husband avoids it like the plague. How do you do it? 

I am talking about ‘PE with Joe’, of course, the daily exercise class that is sweeping our socially-distanced nation — or at least it is for anyone with school-age kids.  

At 9am on Monday morning, 806,000 people tuned in to Joe Wicks’ YouTube channel, to see him limbering up in his stylish West London sitting room and, as he squatted, lunged, planked and encouraged us, exercised with him, in their own homes. 

Yesterday, there were 954,000. Today, it’s likely to be far more. 

oe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, teaches the UK's school children physical education live via YouTube on March 23, 2020 from his home in London, England. Joe took to YouTube Live in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen school children around the UK sent home

oe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, teaches the UK's school children physical education live via YouTube on March 23, 2020 from his home in London, England. Joe took to YouTube Live in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen school children around the UK sent home

‘And imagine all the kids in each household — so it’s already millions and millions!’ says Joe looking, frankly, a little knackered.  

For anyone who has, somehow, not heard of Joe Wicks, or admired his lustrous brown hair and wonderfully glossy six-pack, he is a very chirpy 33-year-old multi-millionaire fitness guru and bestselling author, famous for his Lean In 15 cookbook series. 

Some people loathe him — complaining he’s too positive, too up, too bouncy, too handsome — though he insists he is not vain.

 ‘I roll out of bed and this is it,’ he insists, shaking his curls. ‘Sometimes I tie my hair up, sometimes I don’t. But no brush has gone through it in about ten years.’ 

But most love him. School mums, who discuss his washboard stomach on WhatsApp groups, and describe him as ‘Juicy Joe’, the ‘abs God’ and ‘like Jesus in active wear’, find ourselves feeling rather tenderly towards him and thank him from the bottom of our hearts for his part in the newly commenced battle of home schooling. 

We speak by video link on FaceTime: me and my sons, Freddy, eight, and Sandy, six, in my study; Joe wearing a snug-fitting orange T-shirt and shorts as he bounces about in his very tidy, grey living room. 

He is dazed, amazed, and very grateful at how things have taken off in just a week — a week in which he should have been starting a tour of schools to promote fitness and healthy living this week but, clearly, could not.

‘I was lying in bed last Wednesday night and was thinking, “What can I do, how can I help? How do I reach more people, how do I help the children,” ’ he says, looking almost impossibly handsome and kind in his tortoiseshell specs. 

‘Suddenly, the idea “PE with Joe” just popped into my head! Five days a week. Monday to Friday, I’ll take on the role of the nation’s PE teacher and maybe a few people will sign up.’ 

Pictured: Joe Wicks in an undated photograph. But most love him. School mums, who discuss his washboard stomach on WhatsApp groups, and describe him as ‘Juicy Joe’, the ‘abs God’ and ‘like Jesus in active wear’, find ourselves feeling rather tenderly towards him and thank him from the bottom of our hearts for his part in the newly commenced battle of home schooling

Pictured: Joe Wicks in an undated photograph. But most love him. School mums, who discuss his washboard stomach on WhatsApp groups, and describe him as ‘Juicy Joe’, the ‘abs God’ and ‘like Jesus in active wear’, find ourselves feeling rather tenderly towards him and thank him from the bottom of our hearts for his part in the newly commenced battle of home schooling

A few? Children (and, of course, their mums) from all over the world are tuning in and asking for the golden shout-out — yesterday, he said hello to William, Megan and Henry in Monmouth — during the session. 

Everyone I know with kids seems to have embraced it. 

My colleagues are doing PE with Joe and their kids, including one who admitted he hadn’t been to the gym in years. 

School of celebrity teachers! Stars - including Chris Packham, Myleene Klass, David Walliams, Dianne Buswell and Joe Wicks (pictured)- use their talents to offer locked-down pupils online lessons in geography, music and PE

School of celebrity teachers! Stars - including Chris Packham, Myleene Klass, David Walliams, Dianne Buswell and Joe Wicks (pictured)- use their talents to offer locked-down pupils online lessons in geography, music and PE

The neighbours are all doing it. One friend puts make-up on before she tunes in. All my kids’ school mates are, too, and all exchanging photos on social media of themselves huffing and puffing, sweating and laughing.

 ‘It’s gone global’ he says. ‘We’ve had people sending in message from Brazil, New Zealand and Australia.’ 

Joe himself has had so many direct messages on his Instagram feed that his platform collapsed the other day. 

‘There were so many coming through, it kept glitching,’ he says. ‘It’s all just blown me away.’ 

It left him rather teary. Joe has a lot of emotional moments, because of his star sign being Virgo, he explains. 

So he cries when he thinks about how many people are taking part around the world. And how hard he has worked to get here. And the impact Covid-19 is having on people losing their jobs, as well as families struggling through anxiety and depression. 

The other night, he says, in the middle of thanking people on Instagram for all their support, he became totally overwhelmed. 

Daily Mail writer Jane Fryer and her two children Sandy Dav, six (with glasses), and Freddy Davis, eight, work out to Joe Wick's PE lessons

Daily Mail writer Jane Fryer and her two children Sandy Dav, six (with glasses), and Freddy Davis, eight, work out to Joe Wick's PE lessons

‘I was proper balling my eyes out,’ he says. ‘It was uncontrollable. 

Not one of those times when you can feel it coming and squish it back down. I was downstairs, proper crying.’ 

Ah, bless. To be fair, while the nation’s PE teacher idea came to him in a flash last week, his success did not come overnight. 

There were years and years of training session in parks at dawn in the freezing cold before he made the jump to online training. 

Yes, he boasts best-selling fitness DVDs, a Channel 4 makeover show, a starry Instagram following that includes former footballer John Terry and singer Ellie Goulding, and three No 1 non-fiction books in one year (more than Jamie or Nigella). 

But he is not just in it for the money. Modelling himself on a sort of Jamie Oliver (his hero) for fitness, he has spent the past four years visiting thousands of the country’s schools to lead mini HIIT(high-intensity interval training) workouts and encourage healthy living. 

And he has achieved all that on the back of a very challenging childhood on a council estate in Epsom, Surrey. His roofer dad, Gary, was a heroin addict and his Italian mum, Raquela was, as he once put it ‘on the social’.

 ‘I grew up in a very dysfunctional household,’ he says. ‘It was very chaotic and there was a lot of shouting and screaming. I remember as a kid I was very hyperactive. I didn’t ever get diagnosed with ADHD, but I think at some time I must have had some kind of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.’ 

His diet didn’t help: crisps, chocolate, frozen chicken pies, Coke, sugar and, on a good day, pasta with Dolmio sauce. 

However, despite being asthmatic with skinny legs, he was always active. 

‘I always had exercise and fitness,’ he says. ‘BMXing one day, football and cross country the next day.’ 

It sounds like it not only saved him but also made him determined to focus, to succeed and to break the addiction cycle. 

‘For me exercise is now about mental health,’ he says. ‘It’s an important part of my life. It’s my meditation, my way of staying positive.’ 

It certainly helped his father, who is now clean and last year ran the London Marathon. 

Somehow, despite all they have been through, the family remain close. Joe’s older brother, Nikki, helps film with Joe and sends those all-important shout-outs to his ear piece. 

Perhaps his background explains why he feels so protective over the nation’s children in these extraordinary times.

Ben and Isaac Rickett follow P.E with Joe, a fitness workout by Joe Wicks that is aimed at children that are being home schooled due to Covid-19. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday March 23, 2020

Ben and Isaac Rickett follow P.E with Joe, a fitness workout by Joe Wicks that is aimed at children that are being home schooled due to Covid-19. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday March 23, 2020

 ‘Little people who are going through this don’t know why they’re not going to school,’ he says. ‘They don’t understand why they have to stay in their flats and houses.’ 

That’s where Joe steps in, dressed in his jaunty T-shirt, to help — albeit looking a bit tired already. 

‘Some people have been saying I already look a bit knackered, but these lights aren’t very nice on the skin,’ he says firmly. ‘I’m not burning out. I’m eating healthy, I’m exercising, and I get a good seven hours’ sleep a night.’

 He will need it because the pressure is now on, day after day. I wonder if, when his flash of inspiration came, he had any inkling of the timescale ahead. 

‘It isn’t just Monday to Friday this week,’ he says. ‘I’m committed. I’m here and I’m going to be the nation’s [PE] school teacher for as long as it takes.’ 

Or, indeed, whether he ran it all past his beautiful wife, Rosie Jones, a former Page 3 glamour model who is now juggling a toddler daughter, a three-month-old son, a husband who has never been busier and a hallway at their home in Richmond piled to the roof with all the furniture that should be in the sitting room (which itself is now full of camera equipment and workout plans scrawled on sheets of paper).

‘She is very proud of me,’ he says. ‘She can see how hard I’m working. She knows this is me at my best and she supports me.’ 

Of course she does. Because even with everything he’d achieved, he’d hit a bit of brick wall with TV. 

‘I bothered Channel 4 for two years about doing a show and they kept saying, “We can’t do it, Joe. We haven’t got the budget.” ’ 

This week, he says, both Channel 4 and the BBC have been on the phone, asking: What can we do together? It’s a shame that it has taken a pandemic — but this is a silver lining for him. He insists that this isn’t about him. 

‘It’s about providing free content,’ he says. ‘It’s about helping. It’s about getting kids moving and feeling good and keeping your mental health up. And it works if you’re a six-year-old or a 60-year old woman. Even if it’s just 20 minutes, people need it.’ 

He’s right, of course. My family — husband, two boys, au pair and me — have been in shut-down for ten days now. Nerves, tempers and relationships are all fraying around the edges. The house is a tip, the washing is bursting out of the laundry room, no one’s jokes are funny any more, everyone is annoying and all selfdiscipline and most of the structure has gone out of the window. We are (barely) managing two hours of school work a day. 

The rest is Lego, dinosaur wars, penalty shootouts in the garden and flopping about irritably. So naturally, we embraced Joe’s sessions. At first, let’s be honest, just for something to fill half an hour, to add a start time to the day. But we’ll keep tuning in because they’re good. And fun. They get our hearts racing. They make us sweat and feel positive and when someone farts loudly, instead of launching into the usual volley of accusations, we all laugh. 

At the end, we feel happier, livelier and better equipped to take on yet another day in Covid-19 lockdown. So thank you, Joe Wicks. For being so good at your job. So public-spirited. So likeable and modest and emotional. And, more important, so very easy on the eye.  

 

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