A former naughty kid is now the man keeping Britain’s schoolchildren fit in lockdown. His enthusiasm is irrepressible, and he’s using it in the service of some admirably big ambitions
It is not these extraordinary times that have made Joe Wicks. He was already huge, initially from Instagram cooking videos that lasted just 15 seconds. Rudimentary but engagingly zany, they attracted a substantial if hodgepodge fanbase from body-conscious zoomers to middle-aged mums. So when he brought out the cookbook Lean in 15, five years ago, his publisher said she would be delighted to sell 70,000 copies, which roughly amounted to one per Insta follower. Instead he sold 700,000, to become the second biggest seller in the cookery hall of fame, below Jamie Oliver.
This week, though, his live workouts on YouTube have put him in a different league. Every morning at 9am, he is running a “PE lesson”: an exercise class for kids that you can do in your living room. It sounds like a simple idea, but now every child in the country (and their mum) is talking about it, his name forming a compound noun with his chosen title: “Yes, I’ve done my PE homework, I’ve done JoeWicksBodyCoach.” Kids love the kangaroo hops and parents love the fact it gets their children burning off excess energy when they are trapped inside.