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Sixty Seconds with Joe Wicks

The 33-year-old lockdown PE teacher of the country, no, the world, on celeb fans and why he quit at school

What’s it like being a national treasure?

I’ve been blown away by the response to everything I’ve been doing. Over a million people take part in my online PE lessons every day. Fitness is such a key part of mental health. I’m really glad it’s helping people.

You’ve just left hospital after a hand operation. How long until you’re properly back in action?

I went in to hospital because the wires in my hand became infected. They removed them and I’m on antibiotics. It’s healing up, I just can’t put any weight on it for a week or so. Then I can start doing my workouts again but at the moment I’ve got my wife helping me out. I will keep going for the foreseeable future. Definitely until lockdown’s over.

Anyone unexpected doing the workouts?

Louis Theroux is my favourite documentary maker and he’s smashing it. And Jamie Redknapp and Rio Ferdinand’s kids are doing it.

Smashing: Louis Theroux is a fan

Are you surprised by how popular it is?

Very surprised. On day two we got 955,000 live streams and I got the Guinness world record for the most amount of people watching a live fitness stream. It’s not just the UK, it’s Australia, India, Thailand, the Caribbean, Russia — there’s nowhere this workout isn’t reaching. I’m the world’s PE teacher. I’ve had more than 50 million views over the past few weeks.

Do you feel under any pressure with one million people looking at you in your living room?

No, I’m really relaxed, it’s what I’m used to. It’s given me such a purpose and I’m not sure I’ll do anything that’s so impactful again. I’m doing it for everyone else but I’m also getting a massive positive benefit to my own mental health every day.

Why did you do the live workout in the first place?

I’ve done live workouts for schools before but I only got a couple of thousand schools doing it. I was supposed to be going on another schools tour and decided to do it anyway but stream it online. I thought some schools in the UK would pick up on it but for it to go round the world is mind-blowing. I’ve been working on this for four years. I knew this was going to happen one day but I thought it would take ten years. It’s just massively accelerated because of the lockdown.

How did you get started in the fitness industry?

I wanted to be a PE teacher and did a sports science degree. Then I changed my mind and did a personal training qualification. From there, I started doing boot camps and one-to-one stuff, then I started doing digital stuff and sharing recipes and doing videos online.

What put you off PE teaching?

I worked as a teaching assistant and found it really challenging. I thought I’d better do something I’d really love so I became a personal trainer. But I’ve come full circle now because I’m a PE teacher. I can just do it through the lens now.

Why was being a teaching assistant challenging?

It was a challenging school with lots of kids with behaviour issues. Teaching is a very high-pressured job — the kids have got to perform and you’ve got to get the grades. I’ve got a lot of respect for teachers.

What made the biggest impact in building your profile?

Lean In 15 — my recipe videos. I was doing inspirational videos on Facebook and Twitter but I hadn’t shared recipe content before. It caught people’s attention. They’d buy the ingredients and follow along. I connected with a lot of people in a short space of time.

Deputising: Wife Rosie Jones PICTURES: REX

What do you do when you’re not doing the workouts?

I love being with my family — I have a four-month-old and a 20-month-old. We’re just having a great time.

What impact do you think all this will have on the fitness industry?

There’ll be a big shift to digital platforms. There’ll still be gyms but people will need to be smarter and think, ‘I need to have some online content to fall back on and provide a service’, because you don’t want to be in a position again where this happens and you’re back out of work. People will be thinking about how they can reach people through social media.

What’s this Big Issue app you’re promoting?

Vendors haven’t been able to sell the magazine in the street during lockdown and that’s a really important part of their lives. So this lets you experience the magazine digitally and support them.

What plans have you got for the future?

I want a TV show to follow me on a schools tour to see what I’m doing, which is trying to get children to do 15 to 20 minutes of exercise every day to benefit their mental health and academic performance. I want to try to work with someone in the education system to implement that long term.

The Big Issue app is available on Apple Store and Google Play, with weekly downloads costing £2.99 per issue