JOE Wicks is remembering the night he met his now-wife for the first time.
It was at a rave – not where you might expect to find the nation’s favourite PE teacher – and he was attending with the sole intention of accidentally on purpose “bumping into” former glamour model Rosie Jones.
“Obviously, I bought newspapers and used to work on a building site,” he explains.
“So I’d observed her for seven or eight years in The Sun, Nuts and Zoo. I always thought she was so hot. Literally my dream girl.
“So, when my friend was DJing at this rave and I knew she was going to be there, I really wanted to meet her… I was just hoping she was aperson as well.”
The rest is. Rosie, it turned out, was “just as beautiful in person” and eight years, three children and a life-changing lockdown later, Joe, 38, is as smitten as ever.
“We formed a close friendship first, then became boyfriend and girlfriend, and from there, we just went crazy fast. I was madly in love and couldn’t be apart from her.
“It was perfect timing. I’d started to have a bit of success – I actually met her the day before my first book came out, so she’s been with me from the beginning.
“I was 30, she wanted someone who was committed and I knew early on that I wanted to spend my life with her.
“Some people play games, but I can’t do that. We were both very upfront about how we felt and that meant we didn’t p**s around.”
In July 2018, two and a half years after that first meeting, Rosie gave birth to their daughter Indie, now five.
Joe and Rosie, 33, married in June 2019, and son Marley, four, arrived later that year.
Their youngest, Leni, is now 15 months and Joe is getting broody for a fourth. And probably a fifth at some point, too.
“I’d love more kids. Rosie does too, just for the record! It’s not just me saying: ‘Come on, let’s have more!’
“She loves being a mum and is so maternal and so nurturing, which I think is such a lovely gift. Being a parent is stressful, but Rosie manages to stay calm all the time.
“I don’t have as much patience – my house growing up was much more shouty and intolerant. I’ve learned so much just from watching Rosie.”
The last few years have been quite an adventure for the Wicks family, since the launch of PE With Joe, his live daily workouts during the first Covid lockdown in 2020.
The online sessions became a fixture in the diaries of households across the country and even made the Guinness Book Of World Records for the most viewers for a fitness workout livestream on YouTube, after an astonishing 955,185 people tuned in.
The success turned Joe, who was later awarded an MBE, into an overnight superstar and national treasure.
His bestselling books have sold more than 3 million copies, and today we’re here to talk about his latest, Feel Good In 15, which is being serialised in Fabulous and continues in The Sun tomorrow.
“I was just saying to Rosie last night that I’ve got such a nice level of fame,” he says.
“I use trains to get into London, I don’t have a private luxury car or a security guy. It’s a nice level of success and I can live a completely normal life. I can still go to raves and do the things I love.
“All the interactions I have with people are great and I don’t get stopped for selfies all day, every day. It’s just people who want to say hi, then grab a quick pic and be off.”
However, with the bouquets occasionally come the brickbats, and this year Joe experienced a couple of bumps in the celebrity road, which took him by surprise.
The first came in April when he shared a post about Rosie’s post-baby fitness routine and praised that she’d trained throughout her pregnancy with Leni and looked “absolutely phenomenal”.
A husband expressing pride in his wife’s achievements, right? Er, wrong, apparently.
Several followers took offence, accused him of being “tone deaf” and putting unnecessary pressure on new mums toback into shape. Eight months on, Joe is still slightly baffled by the backlash.
“When I posted that, I wasn’t thinking: ‘This is making my wife look amazing and it’s going to put other people down and make them wish they had her body.’
“I was proud of Rosie and thought that it was inspiring – she was back in the gym after 12 weeks and had trained right up to the end of her pregnancy.
“As a person and as a brand, I’m only ever trying to share positive stuff. It’s never with the intention of making anyone feel they’re not doing enough.
“There were actually about 4,000 comments that were really positive. But there were a few hundred from people who were triggered.”
Did the reaction upset him?
“It probably upset Rosie more. If I woke up to comments like that every day, then it would 100% affect my mental health and confidence.
“But I focus on the positive comments and ask: ‘Did it inspire someone out there to get moving?’ I know it got a lot of people back in the gym that week.”
The second blip came with news thisthat Joe and Rosie had taken Indie out of school, following the completion of her reception year, and intended to homeschool instead.
“Though the most common age to start full-time compulsory education in Europe is six, their decision nonetheless caused a stir.
“There’s a massive community of homeschoolers, but it’s still kind of stigmatised,” says Joe.
“I know people have the same concern – even Rosie’s mum said: ‘But she needs to socialise.’
“But you can still do loads of social things and get kids interacting. My daughter is so sociable. She does after-school clubs like gymnastics, and she’s happy.
“I’m not anti-schooling. I think teachers are amazing – Indie went to school for a year and loved it, and I’m sure at some point we will get her back there.
“But we love being together as a family, and that’s the reason we’re doing it first and foremost. At the moment, we want the flexibility to travel and this feels like the best option for us.
“I honestly don’t know how long it’s for, it’s very open-ended. It’s very much a decision for now, and so far, it’s working perfectly for us.”
It meant the family were free to spend several weeks this autumn in the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Santa Monica, where they have a second home.
While there’s a focus on creativity and play, Joe and Rosie make sure that Indie keeps up to date with her curriculum-based learning.
“I’m teaching Indie Spanish, guitar, PE and I cook with her. Rosie does phonics and numeracy, so we’re keeping up with what she would be doing in school. We just have a bit more playing and fun in between.
“I think being together as a family is wonderful. It might only be for another year, who knows?”
A few internet snipes aside (“Hey, you can’t be loved by everyone!”), PE With Joe afforded him superhero status, with fans spanning the generations, from five year olds to great-grandparents.
It took his Body Coach brand, first launched in 2014, into the stratosphere – he currently has 2.8 million subscribers to his YouTube channel and more than 600,000 have signed up to the 90 Day Plan on his app.
“I didn’t know the extent it would take off by,” he says. “But as it went on, I realised how important it was for people having the routine and a familiar face.
“I never mentioned lockdown or Covid – I wanted to stay away from that, because it was all over the news and I thought: ‘If I can just make them giggle for 30 minutes, that would be a really cool thing to do.’”
It wasn’t until that first lockdown eased in the summer and Joe stepped outside his house for the first time, that the impact truly dawned on him.
“When kids were recognising me in the street, I had this sense that I’d reached new people. There was a shift, but it was good.”
He’s so instantly identifiable that it’s impossible to go incognito, although he says it’s oftenpeople notice before the hair.
It’s why the complete anonymity he has in the States is one of the appeals of spending time there.
However, he insists reports that he’s trying to crack America couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I’m not someone who wants to crack America or live out there. I go for a few months and we reconnect as a family.
“I’m in a pair of shorts and T-shirt the whole time, and I’m a bum! We eat, we go to the beach, I love having nothing in the diary.
“But we always want to come home. I know I need to be near family and friends to be really happy. London is the best city in the world. I just wish it was 24°C all year.”
As a kid, sport was Joe’s saviour – an escape route from his chaotic and dysfunctional home life as his dad Gary battled addiction and mum Raquela suffered with depression, anxiety and OCD.
Had it not been for exercise, he’s convinced that life would have turned out very differently.
“I would have gone down the route of drugs, cigarettes, weed, alcohol.
“There are so many ways to soothe those [unhappy] feelings, but I always chose exercise because it was a relief for me.
“Falling in love with fitness was pivotal. Having that as a tool and seeing my dad and the disruption, I knew I could never go near drugs. I didn’t even drink until I was much older than my friends. I was so scared of becoming an addict.”
Last year, Joe made a documentary for the BBC, Facing My Childhood, which featured an incredibly moving heart-to-heart with his dad about the past.
Both men broke down as Joe relived the pain of his childhood and the effect it had on him and his brothers Nikki and George.
“When you visualise yourself as a child being abandoned, lied to and deceived, you can’t help but feel emotion,” he says today.
“I always knew what was going on. I could sense it. I could smell it. I could feel the energy in the room.
He used to say he was popping out to get some milk, and he might as well have just said: ‘I’m going to get some heroin.’ I’d be thinking: ‘Please don’t go,’ but sometimes he’d be gone for a day, sometimes a week, sometimes three months. In my head, it all felt the same.
“It changed my perception on trust and made me want to be a totally present dad.”
These days, he enjoys a good relationship with Gary, who has worked hard to get clean and rebuild his life.
“I’ve learned a lot from him and those experiences. I can only thank him, really. We ride motorbikes together and I feel lucky that we’ve managed to repair the damaged relationship.
Thank god he didn’t die – so many of his friends died from overdoses. I think if I’d lost my dad as a teenager, things might have been different.
“There was always a bond and we always felt loved. If you don’t, you’re in trouble.”
Nurturing relationships with family is one of the themes of Feel Good In 15 which, as well as being packed with recipes and workouts, looks at quick and easy ways to restore balance into busy lives.
“The difference with this book is those lifestyle hacks and the things I’ve learned about people, psychology, gut health, mindfulness and mental health, I’ve tried to include it in an accessible way.
I talk about what you can do that might make you feel a bit more calm, whether that’s meditation, journalling or stretching.”
This is his 12th book and it’s already a bestseller. But as Joe packs up his things at the east London boxing club where we’ve been shooting his Fabulous cover, he’s not thinking about sales or subscribers. He just wants to get back to Rosie and the kids.
“I miss them when I’m not with them,” he admits. “When I think about what success is, it’s not how many app subscribers I’ve got or books I’ve sold.
“My goal isn’t to get to another level or buy a bigger house, it’s to protect my family and make sure I can design my life so I can be with them.
“As long as I’m a good friend, a good husband and a good father, that’s success to me.”
- Feel Good In 15 by (£22, HQ) is out now.
JOE’S 15-MINUTE LOWER-BODY STRENGTH CIRCUIT
Time to build the lower body! This circuit focuses on the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.
Aim to complete each exercise for 40 seconds with a 20-second rest between moves.
Repeat the circuit 3 times. Do each move as slowly and with as much control as possible with a weight that challenges you.
Hold a dumb-bell in each hand. Start with your feet together and back straight.
Step your right leg straight back behind you and bend the knee, lowering it towards the ground.
Maintaining good balance, slowly drive through your left heel to bring yourself back to the starting position.
Repeat this for 30 seconds, alternating between legs.
ROMANIAN DEAD LIFTS (RDLS)
Hold one dumb-bell in each hand, stand straight. Lean over slightly with a soft bend in your knees.
Keep your back straight and lower the dumb-bells towards the ground.
When you feel a stretch in the hamstrings (usually just above the knees), pull the dumb-bells back up until your legs are straight. Repeat.
WEIGHTED GLUTE BRIDGE
Lie on the floor with your head and shoulders on the ground, your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
Place a dumb-bell on your hips and drive both feet firmly into the ground.
Using your glutes, drive your hips up off the ground.
Slowly lower yourself down and repeat, focusing on squeezing your glutes as much as possible.
Hold one dumb-bell in each hand and rack them up by your shoulders.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
Lower yourself down by bending at the knees.
Focus on keeping your back straight, core engaged, elbows up and feet flat on the ground.
Drive through the heels into a standing position and repeat.
Hold one dumb-bell in each hand.
Stand with feet together and hang the weights down by your side.
Step out to the side in a lateral movement, bending at the knee.
You will feel a big stretch on the inside of the straight leg, so take it slow and steady and only go as far as you feel comfortable.
Repeat on the other leg for 40 seconds before taking a rest.