Former student at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, Joe Wicks, also known as The Body Coach, has become a social media powerhouse in recent months, amassing thousands of followers on Instagram and Twitter and is even dubbed by some as “the Jamie Oliver of the fitness world”.
“I was only ever good at 2 things as a kid - annoying teachers and playing sports”, he tells me. It’s not surprising, then, that his love for sport as a child propelled him to study Sports Science when he came to St Mary’s in 2005.
I felt inspired by people studying what I was interested in and liked the fact it was small and didn't feel intimidating.
Initially studying at the University with the aim of becoming a PE teacher, he says, “I really enjoyed the course and got on with all the tutors.
“I first found out about St Mary’s when I was 15. I was chosen by my high school to go on a trip to St Mary’s and I really enjoyed the experience. I met some students and had a look around campus and I knew there and then that I wanted to go there. I felt inspired by people studying what I was interested in and liked the fact it was small and didn't feel intimidating.”
However, Joe eventually strayed from his original plan of becoming a PE teacher and delved into the world of personal training upon graduating.
“I realised my passion was in health and fitness so upon graduating I did an intensive eight-week personal training course to get the stamp of approval needed to work in the fitness industry.
“I then recognised that it would be much easier to set up a bootcamp than find PT clients so I went ahead and set up my bootcamp and PT business, Rumble in the Park and The Body Coach. As my bootcamp grew so did my personal training business and within a year I was fully booked and burning out.”
However, as with anyone self-employed and running their own business, following market trends and spotting gaps is key for brand building, which is exactly what Joe did.
He says, “I saw a trend and movement of trainers and nutritionists growing their businesses on social media and decided it was where I wanted to go”.
And just how crucial has social media been to Joe and his career? “It has changed my life”, he says bluntly.
“It has allowed me to stop bootcamps and personal training locally and now I coach clients all over the world with my online plans. I have clients as far as Dubai and Australia. Social media is the most powerful tool on earth. If you get your voice right and you connect with people, you can become very successful, very fast.”
Joe now knows his social media extremely well. “What will get the most clicks?” “What will make people tick?” are two common questions he may ask himself before posting new content. He posts 15-second video recipes of 15-minute meals rustled up in his home on a daily basis, aptly named #LeanIn15.
You can catch him belting out Dolly Parton’s Jolene at the top of his lungs or shouting his #Leanin15 catchphrases to unsuspecting passers-by. “I don’t really plan my Instagram pranks”, he says, “I just see how I feel at the time and if I see an opportunity to shout out ‘oi oi have you heard of #Leanin15?’ then I take it.”
Typically on social media, the more outlandish the content, the bigger the reaction, and it seems to be working for Joe. In just eight months he has amassed over 42,000 social media followers. What’s impressive is that all his video content is free.
But, as we know, free videos on Instagram, as entertaining as they may be, are not going to bring in any revenue for a thriving new business. More recently, however, he developed his 90 Day SSS plan (Shift, Shape and Sustain), a three-month nutrition and exercise regime that costs £147. According to an article in the London Evening Standard, since January he has sold over 2,000 plans, generating an approximate turnover of £600,000 in his first year.
However, it hasn’t been all plain sailing for Joe. He recalls his biggest challenge so far as finding others as motivated and dedicated to his vision as he is. “The biggest challenge for me so far has been learning to let go and trust other people running my bootcamp. I worked so hard to build it up and it’s very hard to find someone as passionate as you are about your business," he says.
Having learned to let go, he now employs others to run his bootcamps, giving him more time to focus on the online side of things.
My Sport Science degree gives me a seal of approval that I dedicated three years of my life to studying a subject I now love.
Joe credits the Sport Science degree he attained at St Mary’s for helping to solidify his reputation among fitness consumers.
“My Sport Science degree gives me a seal of approval that I dedicated three years of my life to studying a subject I now love. This gives people a sense of trust and this is essential when trying to set up an online business. Without my degree people may not view me as voice to listen to when it comes to training and nutrition, so I'm really glad I took the time to study at university first."
So, with his SSS plan currently racking up the orders, where does he go from here?
“I've just been offered a two-book publishing deal so my #Leanin15 cookbook should be out sometime next year. I'm also in talks with some TV agents about turning my concept into a TV show which is a real ambition and goal of mine. I want to educate as many people as I can on nutrition and get everyone off low calorie diets and fuelling their body to burn fat.”
Before we ended our chat with Joe, he had some final words of encouragement for new students at St Mary’s.
“My advice is to have fun, lots of fun, but get your head down and actually do some studying. I took the easy route in uni and didn't really challenge myself. Looking back, I wish I studied more about nutrition and metabolism because it’s what I am so passionate about now and have built a business on.”
Sport Science at St Mary's
If you’re interested in studying Sport Science at St Mary’s, check out our Sport Science webpage.