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Lean On Me

In an exclusive interview, Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, shares his top tips for a healthy start to the year with Caroline Harrap – and explains why there’s no place like home in Surrey.

As the traditional time for the dreaded detox, ‘dry’ January isn’t exactly known as the most fun month of the year. But, according to Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, therein lies the problem. Denying ourselves all the things we love is actually the worst way to go about achieving that elusive ‘new year, new you’.

“First and foremost, new year’s resolutions don’t work and neither do diets,” says Joe, as he chats to T&L from his home in Richmond. “Dispose of those and you’re already winning. Instead of setting yourself unrealistic resolutions that you’ll probably break in a week, decide to make some small changes.

“It could be anything from learning three more recipes to cook this year, setting your alarm 20 minutes earlier three times a week to exercise or it could be as simple as drinking more water to help your body function better and to make your skin glow. Set your fitness goals, rather than resolutions, because a goal is something that you set yourself to achieve and you’re much more likely to stick to it.”

It’s this pragmatic, common-sense approach to healthy living that has seen him go from being a jobbing personal trainer to the face of the UK fitness industry – almost overnight. It all started when he began sharing his snappy social-media videos via Instagram, posting recipes and fitness advice under the now renowned hashtag #LeanIn15, and everything took off from there. Today, he has almost two million followers on Instagram alone, is the author of four best-selling books and even has his own TV show.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 people have signed up to his 90-Day Shift, Shape and Sustain Plan, a tailored online health programme. Created especially for each individual, it combines simple-but-effective HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts, which can all be done at home, with easy-but-nutritious meals. The idea is to shift unwanted fat, and build lean muscle, thereby transforming the body – all in the
space of 90 days.

“I’m a man on a mission to rescue people from the awful dieting industry,” continues the 32-year-old, who learnt his trade doing a Sports Science and Physiology degree at St Mary’s University in Twickenham. “I am sick and tired of people struggling on low-calorie diets and meal-replacement shakes. I created this plan to educate people and give them the knowledge they need to get a lean, healthy strong body without going hungry – and it has already transformed the lives of tens of thousands of people all over the world.”

While he may be something of an international star these days, with followers all over the globe, he has far from forgotten his local roots. Born in Epsom, he has fond memories of his time growing up there – and still spends as much time in the area as he can.

“Because it’s such a small town, everyone knew everyone – it was so lovely,” recalls Joe. “I grew up with my family in a council house on a quite nice estate, and I used to play out a lot with my brothers, my brother Nikki especially. My favourite childhood spot was going to fly my kite at Epsom Downs! Nowadays, I go back to Epsom whenever I can for a legendary Sunday roast at my mum’s house. Being in Richmond, I’m not far away, and my mum still lives in the house where we grew up. In fact, lots of my family are still Epsom way so I’m always there. I love knowing the area and bumping into familiar faces. I’m lucky enough to travel around the world, but home is where my family and friends are so you’ll always find me close by!”

As well as returning to the area to see his loved ones, he also took time out recently to visit his old primary school, St Joseph’s Catholic School in the town, to talk about the importance of eating well and exercise. So, was he a fan of school himself?

“Yeah, I have great memories; I really liked school,” continues Joe, who also studied at Blenheim High School in the town and later at North East Surrey College of Technology in Ewell. “I was definitely a little bit of a joker in the classroom, but I wouldn’t say that I was badly behaved. I was always more into sports than academia, though, and I loved PE and being active. Going back was actually really emotional for me. I guess whenever you get that opportunity to take a step back and look at what your life was and what it is now, it’s always quite humbling and emotional. If you’ve seen the video, you’ll see that I shed a little tear.”

Educating the next generation is something he is particularly passionate about. With that in mind, he recently organised the first ever Schools Fitness Week, with the aim of getting one million children feeling the benefits of exercise through live workouts. And he says there’ll be more of that to come.

“The idea is to get more kids active and feeling the benefits of exercise,” says Joe. “I’m always looking for new ways to inspire more people to get into fitness and exercise – and that’s why I wanted to reach out to schools specifically. I want young people to see that fitness can be fun and, ultimately, to love it as much I do. Who knows? By the time they’re my age, maybe we won’t even need new year’s resolutions any more!”

For more on The Body Coach, see his website at www.thebodycoach.com and follow him on Instagram: @thebodycoach

Photo © Conor McDowell