How Joe Wicks became the nation’s PE teacher

Joe Wicks has inspired millions of people to keep active during lockdowns with his live workout videos. We talk to Nikki Wicks, Head of Content at The Body Coach, and Koto, the studio behind its branding, about creating PE With Joe

At 9am each morning, from Monday to Friday, Joe Wicks performs a live 30-minute workout from his home in South West London. The set up is simple: Wicks bounds on to the screen, wishes his viewers good morning, and gets straight to work, performing a family-friendly HIIT workout from his living room while delivering shoutouts and words of encouragement to viewers following his steps. He often adds a fun twist – from quizzes and spot the difference games to fancy dress Fridays – but the basic format is always the same: an accessible, fun and engaging 30-minute session that is designed to leave people feeling energised and ready to face another day in isolation.

Wicks has been doing this each weekday without fail for the past two months, and his PE With Joe sessions have become a part of lockdown routine for families around the world. His videos regularly clock up over 1 million views on Facebook and Youtube, and have become popular with everyone from young children to teenagers, parents and grandparents. While Wicks recently had to take a break from exercising following an operation on his hand, he continued to deliver daily sessions with help from his wife Rosie – and eight weeks on, people are still eager to tune in. There are thousands of comments on his social media channels from viewers requesting shoutouts, sharing their progress and thanking Wicks for helping them feel happier and healthier while they’re stuck at home.

Wicks already had a formidable fanbase before launching PE With Joe. The personal trainer started out posting exercise and nutritional advice on Instagram, and found success with fitness plans that combined brief HIIT workouts with quick and easy recipes. He’s since released multiple bestselling cookbooks, as well as a Channel 4 documentary, where he travelled across the UK helping everyone from pub landlords to police offers improve their health and confidence. His fitness brand The Body Coach has built a loyal following with its paid-for eating and exercise plans, and has released over 250 free workout videos through its YouTube channel, BodyCoach TV. Given Wicks’ success, it’s little wonder that PE With Joe has proved popular – particularly when people are crying out for something fun and constructive to do with their time at home – but its success is still remarkable. In just a few weeks, his videos have achieved the kind of reach and continued engagement that most fitness brands and influencers can only dream of. 

While his live workouts started out as an off-the-cuff response to school closures and social distancing measures, PE With Joe is part of a much bigger project. As Joe’s brother Nikki Wicks (who is Head of Content at The Body Coach, and produces PE With Joe), explains, Wicks has spent the past few years working on programmes to get more children engaged in exercise. “A lot of people think that this PE thing is new, but we’ve been working on it for a long time,” he says.