As Joe Wick’s series of virtual PE lessons come to an end, one writer explains why he is the unexpected hero of lockdown, and how he’s helped her to navigate through the tough times.
The nation has fallen head over heels for the Wicks family. When the UK went into lockdown in March, Joe Wicks – also known as The Body Coach – started doing live PE lessons on his YouTube channel. The aim was to get families exercising together every morning at 9am, and it worked.
Within the first week, 15 million viewers around the world had watched the morning exercise sessions. His subscribers jumped from 800 thousand to 2.2 million, earning him a YouTube Gold Button plaque.
Wicks has continued to stream a morning workout every weekday morning ever since, and he won’t stop. The money he is raising from YouTube advertising revenue, which was around £580,000 at the last count, is being donated to NHS Trusts. He’s also selling tee-shirts to help with the fundraising.
Basically, this guy needs an OBE for services to wellbeing during lockdown. Like my friend Charlotte gushed over WhatsApp: “He’s the light this nation needs, a symbol of positivity in a time of uncertainty, a hero we didn’t even know we needed.”
She’s right: it is pretty unexpected. I never thought that Joe Wicks would be one of the few people to really help me – a single adult woman living on my own – through lockdown.
I was a few days late to the PE party. I assumed it was just for kids and I should be doing ‘serious’ exercise. But I’d halfheartedly tried a couple of fitness apps and videos and just couldn’t stick to them. On a whim, I decided to tune into one of the PE lessons, just to see what all the hype was about and do some gentle exercise.
Reader, I’ve been doing them every week ever since.
Pikachu squats, Spider-Man lunges, Fireman Sam ladder climbs – I go into full child-mode when Wicks throws out these cartoon themed exercises. “Pika-chuuu,” I scream while bursting out of my squat, not really caring what the neighbours think. “Sss, sss, sss,” I hiss while throwing a spiderweb from my wrist with each lunge.
Let me tell you, squatting while pretending to be a walking duck and hopping around like a kangaroo holding onto a joey are not easy exercises. I was a fool to think this was easy stuff. But because it’s so damn fun, it all seems more bearable.
I find myself laughing like a kid during every workout. From the technical difficulties, to David Brent impressions and those insane fancy dress outfits (who the hell does a HIIT workout in a wedding suit?), I feel like Wicks is a pal who knows how to crack me up.
And when he tells me to hug myself or pat myself on the back at the end of every workout, it’s enough to remind me that I’m still here in the world. Having lived alone for the majority of the pandemic, I’d not touched another human being for months, so it made all the difference just to be reminded to touch my own skin. Honestly, it’s made me cry a few times.
Then, there’s his family. I have never been broody in my life, but my heart bleeds pure joy when little Indie gatecrashes the workout by spinning into the room. And after being taken into hospital to have an operation on his arm, his wife Rosie has stepped up to the challenge to lead the workouts, like a true legend. Maybe it’s tapping into the fact that I’m reminiscing about my family and childhood a lot?
But ultimately, the reason I am hailing the Wicks family as lockdown heroes is the fact that they are purely doing this to help people. They just want families around the UK to come together through exercise, and they’re helping our NHS while doing exactly that. They’re just so… nice.
The Wicks aren’t going to cure coronavirus, and they’re not risking their lives on the front line like NHS and keyworkers. But they offered hope and positivity on a mass scale at a time when it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed with darkness.
As someone who has hit some pretty low points during the last couple of months, I just want to say to them: thank you for keeping me going. (But please, no more burpees!)