Joe Wicks was born in Epsom in 1986 and is known as “the Body Coach”. In March he broke a Guinness World Record after almost one million people tuned into “PE with Joe”, which he films every day during lockdown.
What’s your earliest memory?
Summer holidays in the south of France. We’d drive there in our Mini and stay in a tent, living off French sticks and Nutella. Me and my brother would enter the talent show at the holiday park, singing songs like Take That’s “Back For Good”.
Who are your heroes?
My mum, who raised us alone and made me the man I am. My wife, who is so loving, she makes me want to be kinder.
What book last changed your thinking?
Calm Parents, Happy Kids by Dr Laura Markham. I come from an upbringing of chaos, lots of shouting and swearing, but I don’t want to be like that. This book made me a better parent.
Which political figure do you look up to?
I’ve never been that into politics, but Greta Thunberg has made me think about my actions. I don’t respect politicians like I respect her. She’s not trying to become famous; she’s trying to wake people up.
What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?
The British comedy The Office because I’m obsessed with David Brent.
In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?
In the Sixties during the Motown period, with the Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, and at Woodstock in 1969 listening to Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.
What TV show could you not live without?
Planet Earth, Our Planet… anything with David Attenborough is wonderful. The world may not be like that forever.
Who would paint your portrait?
Vincent van Gogh. When I was nine or ten my dad took me to the National Gallery and we saw the Sunflowers and van Gogh’s self-portrait, and I learned the story of him chopping his ear off. My dad got me a postcard of The Bedroom.
What’s your theme tune?
“Shotgun” by George Ezra. When I go into schools I play it and the kids sing it back to me. I think I’ll have it played at my funeral.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My mum and dad told me to do what makes me happy, not to worry about what other people think. I’ve ignored so many people who have negged me. Now I’ve got a positive cheerleading voice in my head.
What’s currently bugging you?
Nothing, because I’ve started doing 20 minutes of guided meditation every day. I’m learning to let go of anxieties, negative thoughts, bad energy. I’m only two weeks in, but it’s changed my life.
What single thing would make your life better?
Another child. I’ve got two but I’m definitely up for a couple more.
When were you happiest?
Yesterday, when I got home from hospital with my broken wrist fixed, and had a big cuddle with my wife and kids.
In another life, what job might you have chosen?
A PE teacher. I kind of am that now, but I’m a world PE teacher. I do it online and I love that I’m doing it with millions of kids a day.
Are we all doomed?
I’m an eternal optimist, so I think absolutely not. We’re blessed, life is a gift and time is precious. Stay connected and be kind and compassionate.
“Wean in 15” by Joe Wicks is published by Bluebird
This article appears in the 13 May 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Land of confusion