Joe Wicks: I always get asked if it was hard work or luck... it was a bit of both
After writing one of the biggest-selling cookbooks, The Body Coach shows no signs of slowing down. He talks to Liz Connor about his success secrets and lessons learned along the way
At 31, Joe Wicks has achieved a feat most aspiring influencers could only dream of - turning his virtuous lifestyle into a multi-million-pound empire.
In the space of three years, there have been five workout and recipe books, a Channel 4 show, DVDs, countless tours across the globe and over 8,000 Instagram posts under his nom de plume, The Body Coach, racking up two million followers and counting.
From the outside, the man seriously doesn't seem to stop - a quick scroll through his Instagram feed before we meet reveals Wicks has already shared photos of his breakfast and new book, The Fat-Loss Plan, and he has a full day of media interviews ahead.
Of course, he's also managed to tick off a gruelling morning HIIT class - yet not one strand of his cherub-esque hair is out of place and that megawatt smile is in full force, despite the fact he appears to also be fighting off a nasty cold.
So what does he make of all his success? "It's mad isn't it, really? It's such a short amount of time," says Wicks, reflecting on his growing repertoire of recipe books, based on his cult Lean In 15 method. "I've got an eight-book deal with a publisher so they're just really keen to keep pushing them out, so obviously it's going to get more challenging to come up with something new," he adds.
To date, he's sold more than one million copies of Lean In 15 and managed to hold a steadfast place in the upper regions of the book charts since December 2015. He puts its popularity down to our modern, time-poor lifestyles. "People just wanted that ease and accessibility of quick basic stuff that they could throw in the pan, make a couple of batches, and stick it in the oven or the fridge for the next day," he says.
Wicks has also just launched a new 18-part audio series for Audible with Mo Farah called Mo-Joe, in which the duo will coach TV presenter George Lamb to run this year's Virgin Money London Marathon.
Wicks ran it himself in 2015, but confesses it wasn't his finest moment. "I'd a bad experience because I didn't take it seriously," he says. "I thought that because I was fit, I could just turn up and do it and my body would be fine. You sort of just think, 'Mind over body', but there comes a point where your body needs to be trained and conditioned. My knee got really sore halfway through, it swelled up, and I had to walk the rest of the way. It was a really important lesson - don't just think you're superhuman."
Between brief appearances from Farah, Wicks will set out a follow-along training and nutrition plan for Lamb in the run up to race day. Despite working out five times per week, he admits he's no match for the four-time Olympic champion on the track. "I did a few laps with him," he says. "I ran as fast as I could - I was sprinting - and he was literally just casually jogging next to me; he wasn't even panting. On the treadmill, I could only last 90 seconds of a pace which Mo ran for two hours at."
So is there any sport he thinks he could trump the distance runner at? "I could probably beat him at a press-up or pull-up competition... I'd have different strength - he's really slim."
Speaking to Wicks, it's clear that what you see is what you get. The lifestyle he sells over Instagram is not smoke and mirrors - he really does live by the Lean In 15 mantra. The key to staying trim, he believes, is in organisation. "It's in removing that barrier of time from your mind that says, 'I haven't got time to cook', or, 'I haven't got time to exercise'.
"If you keep telling yourself that then you won't find the time, and you'll end up in a rut where you eat out all the time and don't really exercise. These are just little actions that will make a massive difference to your body over time."
Thankfully though, it's not all kale smoothies and cauliflower pizzas - the Instagrammer does have a pretty human Achilles' heel, albeit fairly vanilla on the celebrity vice spectrum. "If I've got a tub of ice cream and it's chocolate-based, like chocolate fudge brownie or (Ben & Jerry's) Phish Food, I just have to eat the whole thing," he says. "I can eat a little bit of chocolate, or a few crisps or a few treats, but then when it comes to ice cream, I'm just like - it's all or nothing."
With such a busy schedule, it's hard to imagine how he finds time to see his family and girlfriend, model Rosie Jones.
While Wicks is reluctant to give anything away about his relationship, he says trying to keep the balance is important to him, and being "over" hangovers appears to be key for the savvy entrepreneur. "My ideal night is like a nice meal and the cinema," he reveals. "I'm not really into raving and clubbing any more. Almost overnight, I just lost interest in it, you know? It's weird, I used to always be the last one out - now I'm happy to go home at midnight."
Between the books and his social-media presence, he's aware that his time is, increasingly, in demand. "I plan my breaks around my year but I'll have to block a week out in advance, because if I don't, everyone will just stick stuff in my diary," he says.
"I've got a good balance, it might look like I'm 24/7 all year round but I do have a week off here and there. I re-energise, refocus, and then I can go again."
Outside of his growing media empire, young people are a particular passion for Wicks. He says he was "always a sporty kid" and originally aspired to be a PE teacher; he also recently launched a Schools Fitness Week, where he streamed workouts on his channel that could be followed along by schools.
After the eighth book is wrapped up, he'd like to focusing on helping combat childhood obesity and bringing more education about fitness and nutrition to the curriculum. "I really want to be driving the schools campaign that I've been doing online and hopefully amplifying it, maybe with a TV show where I can create actual change within schools - like Jamie Oliver did with school dinners," he says.
"My end goal is, I really want to be remembered for more than someone who sold a few books and had an online business."
I ask if his stratospheric success is partly down to luck, and he's humble enough to agree - while also acknowledging all the hard graft he's put in. "Yes, I think so... It's hard now, if I was to start today, it would be way harder to grow because Instagram's algorithm has changed.
"I always get asked if it was luck or hard work, but it's a bit of both, I think," Wicks adds. "I had the idea at the right time, and I worked really hard to push it through."
Mo-Joe is available at www.audible.co.uk/run, free with Audible's 30-day free trial. The Fat-Loss Plan: 100 Quick And Easy Recipes With Workouts by Joe Wicks is published by PanMacmillan) priced £16.99