When Louis Theroux revealed he did Joe Wicks’ PE lessons every morning during lockdown, it pretty much sealed the personal trainer’s National Hero status. In fact, Theroux called Wicks his “safe space” – something the millions of people around the world who also took part in the sessions will relate to.
It perhaps seemed an unlikely new friendship, but the pair have now met up to record a new podcast. And in another unexpected turn, documentary king Theroux – who hosts the Grounded with Louis Theroux Podcast – isn’t the one doing the interviewing.
The Joe Wicks Podcast sees everyone’s favourite PE teacher take on a new podcasting venture, where he chats to guests about their mental health journeys. Theroux is part of the impressive lineup, along with Fearne Cotton, Gordon Ramsey, Russell Brand and Robin Arzon.
Chatting on the fourth episode in the series, Theroux recalls how much the PE lessons have helped him during pandemic.
“The whole rest of the day, after I’d done it, there was a little voice at the back of [my] head saying, ‘You’ve done your Joe Wicks, don’t worry,’ Theroux tells Wicks, after revealing he even did the PE lesson on his 50th birthday. “That’s why I’m doing the podcast, because I want to say thank you, I feel like I owe you a debt in gratitude.”
What ensues is one of the purest podcast episodes to be recorded, with two national treasures having an honest, funny and refreshing conversation about their lives, and praising each other’s work (Wicks is also a huge fan of Theroux’s documentaries). Theroux also talks about his physical and mental wellbeing, going into great detail about how he achieves the perfect 10-15 minute afternoon power nap in the toilet at work, so that he feels re-energised for the rest of the day.
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Speaking to Stylist ahead of the podcast’s launch last month, Wicks explained why he set out to make the podcast and how it felt to sit on the interviewer hot seat.
“It’s really about wonderful, honest conversations about the connection between their mental and physical health, and its relationship to their personal success,” he said. “Listeners can take something from each one to help improve their mental health.
“The first episode I recorded was with Gordon, and I was so nervous because he’s such a big character,” he says. “But when I went on to record with Fearne, then Louis, I did start to relax a bit. It’s good to have a common ground with people, and I learned to pause and not rabbit on!”
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New podcast aside, we managed to squeeze in some time with the busiest man in England to find out more about what changes he wants to see happen after the pandemic: from what he would do as prime minister, to the world he would he like to see his daughter grow up in.
Stylist: If your National Hero status led you to become prime minister tomorrow, what are the first three things you would do?
Wicks: I would flip everything on its head. I’d put all of my energy and love into the health and fitness of the nation. It’s one of these things that is talked about and seen as important, but it isn’t the number one priority.
By providing more facilities, encouraging schools and families, and giving them as much resources to exercise, you’re going to improve the nation’s mental health, reduce anxiety, depression, obesity and diabetes. Everything comes from good mental health and fitness.
That would be my priority and everything else would be like a waterfall.
The second thing would be making healthy food more accessible: reducing that reliance on fast food and cheap convenience food.
I’m not really a political person, I can’t think of a third thing – being prime minister must be the hardest job. I’m only really good at two things: food and fitness. Can I leave it at that for now?
Stylist: You have two (adorable) baby children – Indie and Marley – what changes do you want to see happen in the world that they’re growing up in?
Wicks: I really hope that, especially with the Black Lives Matters movement, people become more loving, caring and compassionate. Children really need to grow up learning that. I didn’t learn about Black history; I’m learning about that now as a 34 year old. So I want my children to learn and understand about equality.
I want people to build communities and look after each other, not just because it’s lockdown. Look out for people all the time, because that’s how you feel connected, happy and loved.
We also really need to take care of our planet because I actually have a bit of anxiety around plastic, pollution and the environment. What will the world look like in 50 or 100 years? I want us to care more and look after things and not take liberties.
Stylist: As we ease out of lockdown, people might start to feel anxious about changing their physical routines once again. What advice would you give to anyone experiencing this?
Wicks: It’s going to be difficult to adapt to getting back on the train, the commute and generally going back to normal. But I really believe in redesigning your lifestyle. If you feel like you want to work from home a couple of days a week, and you are able to, try design your week around that.
Every company that has been successful and survived through lockdown will has been doing things remotely, so it proves we don’t need to be in an office everyday. Hopefully, bosses and companies will start to allow a culture change where it’s encouraged for people to have a day off, and do some work from home and be with their kids more.
And keep exercising at home so that everyday, regardless of what’s going on, with your work or relationships, you’ve still got that mental health benefit. You can literally do it wearing your pants in the living room, and you don’t need any equipment to have a great workout.
Stylist: What about the future of gyms? Do you think more people will actually prefer to work out from home in the future?
Wicks: Some people will prefer the simple, easy routine of working out at home. But there’s also the die-hard gym lovers that love the culture of being in a gym, class or studio.
Members will also want to support businesses, especially if it’s a small gym. People have seen them struggle and they’re going to want to go back and support them.
We don’t know what the long term effects are going to be but I think people will start getting the confidence to go there again. Even I love going to the Soho House gyms, it’s like a day out for me!
I do my workouts from home, but I go to the gym for a sauna and steam – it’s a nice thing to do for yourself.
Stylist: You seem like someone who has top tips for a good night’s sleep; can you share some with us?
Wicks: My top tip for a good night’s sleep is don’t have kids [Indie and Marley have just wondered into Joe’s kitchen and camera view with their mum Rosie]. Or stay in a hotel and leave them with their grandparents [laughs].
Sleep is about pattern and routine. I’ve started getting into a guided sleep meditation before bed. I try to get in bed an hour earlier, sacrificing that usual hour of TV. Because you know that once you whack that series on, you watch one episode and think, “Oh let’s do one more”. They leave you on a cliffhanger, always. Replace the screens with candles, meditation and music.
Also, if my phone is in the bedroom and I wake up at 4am, I can sometimes do half an hour of social media and replying to DMs. When the phone is downstairs, I sleep better, I’m more present and I don’t think about work.
Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…