Many of us have worked up a sweat with Joe Wicks. When the world went into lockdown back in 2020, the UK-based fitness personality started sharing daily workout sessions on YouTube. They became a sensation, garnering more than 100m views globally.
Wicks considers the success of those lockdown workouts his “proudest life achievement”, but they weren’t his first foray into the world of fitness. He has been in the game for more than a decade now – the Briton’s resume includes authoring 11 cookbooks and launching the popular training app Body Coach. Last year Wicks even received an MBE for services to fitness and charity.
In February, Wicks will come to Australia to host a pair of workout events that will raise money for youth mental health charity ReachOut and wildlife group the Taronga Conservation Society. The trip should be a little more comfortable than the first time Wicks came to our shores, when he was a backpacker fresh out of university.
“We got into Sydney, bought a little banger of a car for like 500 bucks and drove up the east coast,” Wicks says. “I spent two months in Byron Bay and ended up fruit picking in Cairns.
“I actually worked at a shrimp farm for a day as well, which was the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life. So this time’s different.”
Before he was an internet star, Wicks was a personal trainer who ran sparsely attended bootcamps in a small town outside London. “A really slow start,” he admits. Here, Wicks tells us about the item that helped him kickstart his career back in those days, and the stories of two other important personal belongings.
What I’d save from my house in a fire
During the lockdowns, I went to Windsor Palace to be given an MBE from Princess Anne. It lives in a medal box on my bedside table. It’s not so much the metal thing itself that I care about, it’s more that it’s symbolic of what I’ve achieved.
I went with my brother Nikki to collect it, and that was such a big moment for us. We had quite a difficult home life, growing up on a council estate with parents who both had mental health issues. Our dad was also a drug addict from a young age – he was really dysfunctional, he was in and out of the house, he wasn’t really there. We were two kids who weren’t expected to be a hell of a lot.
To go from our childhood to being there, flexing this award that was given to us by a member of the royal family, it was really amazing. I share the story because I hope it inspires other people who have parents with addiction or mental health issues to know that you can actually get through that and have a really great life at the end of it.
My most useful object
It’s something I’ve gotten into recently and it’s become a daily ritual: my ice bath.
Imagine a big chest freezer, but it’s covered with wood on the outside and has a steel bath on the inside. It generates ice from the bottom up. So when you jump in – rain, shine or hot weather – it’s continually producing ice. If I’m having a stressful day, or I’m overworked or really exhausted, I jump in the ice bath for somewhere between one and five minutes. Mine is in the back yard and even if it’s snowing outside I still go in there. I really look forward to it.
I used to hate the cold, but now I crave it. It’s so good for your mind – it clears everything out of your head. It’s amazing for your mental health because it forces you to regulate your breathing, which helps anxiety. I think for me it’s more of an energy and stress relief thing, rather than something I do to make my muscles and joints feel good – the other benefit of ice baths. So I think I’ll be doing it for years to come.
The item I most regret losing
When I started my bootcamp 10 years ago, I couldn’t afford to buy a van. So I had a bicycle trailer – it’s like a big cage with a couple of wheels on it, and you clip it on to the back of the bike and pull things along. I would pack it up with my kettlebells and boxing gloves and cycle to the park where I set up my boot camp.
Years later, when I no longer needed it, my dad said that I should keep it. He thought I could make it a feature in my garden someday, but I lived in a flat at the time and just thought: “I’m not going to use it.” I left it in my dad’s garden, eventually it rusted and he got rid of it.
But I really wish I still had it because it was symbolic of where I started my business and my career as a trainer. Nobody was coming to the bootcamp at first, and I was pulling these heavy weights there every day on a bike. I should have kept it, really.
Joe Wicks is hosting two Australian workout events – Saturday 25 February in Melbourne (tickets here) and Sunday 26 February in Sydney (tickets here).