For many of us, maintaining optimum levels of health and fitness is far from a stable process. During the various stages of our lives and careers, we are constantly juggling workouts around family commitments, and so we find that our own wellbeing takes a backseat to stressful deadlines and a desire to put a quick fix on our emotions.
On top of all this, in the last few years, the relationship we have with our own bodies has been tested exponentially with global lockdowns and restrictions around gyms, providing the perfect excuse to fall off the fitness wagon altogether.
Enter Joe Wicks, the British “Body Coach” who became a social media phenomenon for launching his “PE With Joe” YouTube fitness sessions when the U.K. entered its first lockdown in March of 2020.
Wicks’ videos proved to be a great way for parents and their newly home-schooled children to connect and let off some steam. Wicks, who was already a respected trainer and author, gave a much-needed motivational boost to viewers from all around the world, earning him a well-deserved MBE, and a Guinness World Record for “Most Viewers for a Fitness Workout Live Stream on YouTube” after racking up more than 950,000 views on one video alone.
As a best-selling author, TV presenter, and fitness coach, Wicks interacts with many people of all different fitness levels, and appreciates that some of us need the motivation to start our initial journey into wellbeing, while others require the tools to pick up where they left off before life derailed their progress. Here, talking exclusively to Muscle & Fitness, the 36-year-old with more than four million Instagram followers puts things into perspective.
Sleep on it
There’s a reason why sleep comes up time and time again when talking about our well-being, but getting enough shut-eye is a challenge for all of us. Even Joe Wicks himself, who sits down with us in LA, is navigating jetlag while trying to find time for a workout. Like the rest of us, he’s often tempted to stay up too late, but changing his routine due to his travels has forced him to reassess his own relationship with sleep.
“I’ve gotten into a really good routine here,” he says. “I’m getting up a lot earlier, like 5:30 or 6 a.m., going to bed earlier to try and start the day earlier. It’s harder back home because I’ve got my friends on Call of Duty, and we chat on WhatsApp, so I go to bed much later but when I’m back home, I’m going to prioritize my sleep because when you wake up before your alarm goes off it’s such a nice feeling. You feel energized.”
Joe Wicks, who is a fan of Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, reiterates that sleep is the foundation for everything we do. “When you are getting a good night’s sleep, your hormones are in-check, your stress levels go down, and you have more energy to exercise,” says Wicks. “It’s quite a hard subject to talk about because it really triggers people. Especially those with kids, or with insomnia, so it’s a delicate subject, but I’m always trying to promote this idea: Imagine if you just went to bed one hour earlier, how much better might you feel in the morning?
“It’s like a circle, isn’t it?” he adds. “Sleep, food, energy, and exercise. It goes round and round and if one of those things fall out of sync, everything falls apart. I know from my own experience, when our babies came along, my sleep was broken and I felt like a zombie. I didn’t want to exercise and then you gravitate towards high sugar, high carbohydrate foods, and it’s a vicious cycle. We have to accept that even though we are busy, and have kids, we can get more sleep. As humans we would rather distract ourselves and watch two hours of TV to have some ‘me time’ but is that the sacrifice that you are willing to take to have no energy, to feel groggy and stressed and impatient with the kids and not being productive at work?”
Exercise for the right reasons
New Year’s resolutions and fad diets come and go, so your desire to be healthy shouldn’t be tied simply to a number on the scales. Joe Wicks says that the motivation for moving your body should come from knowing that it makes you feel good, rather than allowing yourself to obsess over issues around body image. “This will intrinsically bring you right back to the exercise,” he shares. “Because everyone wants to have energy, and wants to feel good, and wants to feel inspired and motivated but that only really comes after the exercise, when you get that positive feeling of completing a workout. Reshift your mindset around exercise being all about changing your weight and losing inches off your waist. That is a nice side-effect, but once you feel positive about your mental health, the body will follow.”
The popular presenter understands that it may take more time for some to experience these positive effects than others. “Very overweight, unhealthy people may get headaches when they first start [training],” says Wicks. “They may feel out of breath, but you’ve got to persevere through that initial two or three weeks because you’re gonna have DOMS, and you may even feel a bit sick, but until you persevere through that, you are never gonna get to that feeling where your endorphins, and your brain start to feel amazing.”
Focus on the easy wins too
We all have our ultimate goals, whether it’s a target weight or a defined six-pack, but it is important to acknowledge the immediate wins that you can make as you head toward your long-term goal, so that you can be aware of the progress you are making with your healthier lifestyle. “Break it down into small daily chunks,” says Wicks. “Today, I have a list of things in my head, so a 10-minute meditation would be a win for me, in my mind. I don’t always do it, I struggle with (finding the time and space) for it, but even if I miss that, I’ve done 20-minutes of stretching, so it’s still positive. I know that this is good for my joints and helps me to stay injury free. Sometimes it’s the smallest of things like ‘can I avoid a meal out today and just make a recipe at home?’”
Don’t be so hard on yourself
Relaxing your fitness efforts is almost inevitable, from time to time, but make a conscious effort so that you don’t let those off-days lead to you abandoning the plan completely. “You are not going to be perfect every day,” says Wicks. “So, you have to accept that, and allow yourself those days where you come home, you are stressed, the kids wind you up and you go and grab a beer or a chocolate bar and have a little blowout with some cookies. It’s human nature but I always think, don’t let that one decision, or that one moment, ruin the whole week or month.”
Don’t go at it alone
Joe Wicks is passionate about connecting with the people that follow his workouts and nutritional guidance through his The Body Coach TV sessions or through his app. “I still continue to share free content,” he says. “For those people who are stuck in hotel rooms, in quarantine, or don’t have the funds to sign up to a plan or whatever. I’m listening to, and reading messages every single day from people who have followed me, and it’s changed their life.”
The coach has been told countless times that as his students have improved their bond with their own bodies, their relationships with children and loves ones has improved as well. “I do believe that having a training partner or someone that you can talk to about your goals, like joining a Facebook group where you can talk to likeminded people … that’s a powerful thing. I’ve got my community on Instagram, but my Facebook group has like 100,000 people and they motivate each other. Definitely speak to people who pick you up, and if anyone is putting you down, then you really shouldn’t focus on that because it’s just going to derail you every time.”
Through his app, Joe Wicks is able to share tailored plans and guides that take multiple factors into account, such as your daily energy requirements, age, and individual goals, but for anyone looking to make positive changes to their wellbeing, no matter how busy their schedule, Wicks’ overriding message is that, “When you lose your excuses, you’ll find your success.”