Taking fitness cues from Joe Wicks sounds like the stuff of nightmares – until I tried it

The exercise coach keeps the nation fit during lockdown
(The Body Coach/Getty)

Ok, we’ve managed lockdown for over a week and I’ve still got a clean bum, so that’s one worry that has so far been confounded.

As for my designated daily exercise, the old man and I have taken to going for a walk every afternoon. Now, this is something we have never really done before – not daily. After all, we don’t have a dog.

Up until now, our walks have been mostly confined to sunny holiday strolls down a Mediterranean seaside promenade, eyes swivelling for a decent-looking restaurant where the wine glasses look properly filled.

On weekends (pre-pandemic) we would often drive out to somewhere like Hyde Park where you could nip around the Serpentine and catch some art in the two little galleries that perch on either side of the river.

Other BC (before coronavirus) favourites included pretty little Dulwich Park, conveniently situated opposite the Picture Gallery, which, incidentally, has a very fine café and nice clean loos. And then there’s Battersea Park, with its petting zoo, boating lake and 1950s rose garden vibe.

But nowadays, having been told not to drive to popular exercise spots, we’ve been keeping it local and our nearest patch of grass is Ruskin Park: 36 acres of green space complete with a pond, paddling pool and playground.

The latter two are obviously closed at the moment, but there is still plenty of walking space and the blossom is spectacular. Chalked onto the pathways throughout the park are reminders to keep two metres apart from each other and, unsurprisingly, most people are very careful. I say unsurprisingly because Ruskin Park is bang slap next to King’s College Hospital and there is nothing like walking in the shadow of a building where men and women are either fighting for their own lives or for other people’s lives to make you respect the situation we are in. We walk wearing surgical gloves, we don’t touch the fencing and we certainly don’t sit down on the benches.

Joe’s kiddie exercises have hit the spots that yoga and walking don’t reach, dammit

Taking some exercise is vital, even for those of us who hate exercise. Before all this happened, I’d been in the process of acquiring a very small gym habit, having found a local place that I felt understood me.

So while we await “normal service to resume”, I’ve been rolling around my yoga mat for 20 minutes most mornings, choosing the routines I like (ie the easy ones) from an inexhaustible supply on YouTube.

Bendiness is not my problem, my problem is cardio fitness, so with this in mind and a non-slip mat in place, I decided to attempt Joe Wicks’ live 9am PE work out.

Joe Wicks, AKA “The Body Coach”, looks like Poldark’s gym bunny little brother, and for half an hour on weekday mornings, he is putting the nation’s, kids, mums, dads, aunties, uncles, nans and grandads through their paces.

It’s a great workout, lots of squats, thrusts and jumping up and down – who needs expensive equipment when your own body supplies all the resistance you need? Particularly when your own body is sixty years old and weighs a ton.

During the work out, which is streamed live on YouTube, Joe is fed his viewing stats through an earpiece via his brother Nikki, who is obviously keeping an eagle eye on the numbers. Soon it becomes very apparent that Joe intends to crack a million live viewers from all around the world. Hence the now famous shout outs, “to Harry from South Africa and the twins from Billericay” and the constant encouragement of “likes, hashtags and shares”.

Only, after a while, these shout outs began to get on my tits and I started yelling at him to cut the chat and get on with the PE. In fact, after my first session with Joe, I texted my nephew to say I think Wicks may be a bit of a wanker. My nephew disagrees and points out that the show is designed for kids, that it’s all about engagement, participation and involvement. Hmm? I wasn’t convinced. To me, he came across as a fat-headed show-off, and I made my mind up to give Joe a miss.

Just a day later and my muscles ache. I can barely walk to the bathroom; what is wrong with me? I feel perfectly well, I haven’t got a temperature and my sense of smell is intact so I know it’s not corona?

The fact is, I’ve been Wicks’d. Joe’s kiddie exercises have hit the spots that yoga and walking don’t reach, dammit. I’ve had to hobble to my study to check the news online and the first article I read is about how Joe is donating every penny of the huge advertising revenue generated by the live streaming of his PE classes to the NHS and I have to admit I was wrong.

Wicks is clearly a very good egg and I will definitely be tuning in to his class again – though when I do, I might simply copy what he does and turn the sound off and who knows, I could be his millionth viewer?

Sod it, now I want a shout out.