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Joe Wicks: Spending Less Time On My Phone Has Made Me A Better Dad

joe wicks with mbe medal

Joe Wicks is doing “absolutely fantastic” right now.

He’s just come home from taking part in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee pageant (he was one of the celebs riding an open-top bus dedicated to culture in the 2000s) – which was “proper jubilant” – and now he’s off on holiday.

“I’m heading to Spain for a motorbike trip with my dad and brother,” Surrey-born Wicks, aka The Body Coach, shares. “We’re going to ride across Spain for seven days.”

There’s no doubt he deserves a good break. His long-awaited BBC documentary – Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood – aired recently, which saw him open up about growing up in a family with parental mental health problems, including an emotional chat with his dad, Gary, who was addicted to heroin when Wicks was young.

It’s a taboo topic – Wicks acknowledges he was shining a light on something that desperately needs to be talked about, and he’s had loads of feedback since it aired. But the process “was exhausting”, the 36-year-old admits.

“I was so just emotional and upset, it was like therapy, doing it every day was tough. I didn’t want to talk to anybody, I just wanted to go to sleep, I was physically exhausted from the process of talking about these things.

“But I’m proud of it. I’m proud of the conversations, the openness we all showed, the vulnerability and sensitivity, and how we dealt with a subject that was tough to talk about, in a really positive, kind way.”

Wicks has long been a household name, with his down-to-earth brand of fitness and healthy eating cookbooks. But it’s fair to say he became a national hero during the lockdown, with his sanity-saving PE With Joe daily YouTube videos (he was awarded an MBE for his efforts in March).

Joe Wicks and wife Rosie at singer Ellie Goulding's wedding in 2019
Joe Wicks and wife Rosie at singer Ellie Goulding’s wedding in 2019 (Peter Byrne/PA)

He says it “was probably my busiest time” and he’s “kept the foot on the gas” ever since – with a podcast, the BBC doc, his Children In Need challenge (which involved working out for 24 hours), and live tours all in the mix – but even heroes have limits.

Wicks shared an emotional Instagram post in January, acknowledging that even the “most upbeat and positive” people struggle, later admitting in his podcast that he’s no stranger to burnout.

“I am really good now at taking breaks. I’m learning to take time out, have more family time and take time away from my phone and be more present, that’s really helped,” says Wicks, who has daughter Indie, three, and two-year-old son Marley with wife Rosie (and baby number three on the way).

“So I’m in a really positive place with that – before I was consumed with it, I was just working and on my phone all the time, and now I’m having better boundaries.”

He says this has “really helped my relationship with Rose and the kids. I’m now a lot more present and less impatient and irritable, because I’m just calmer and a lot less anxious about things.

I’m just working on being with them, rather than working on replying to millions of people every day, which is impossible.”

Joe Wicks teaching at WellFest Ireland
Wicks teaching at WellFest Ireland (WellFest Ireland/PA)

This hasn’t dented his passion for what he does though. Wicks is just as invested and driven as ever – and there’s a lot he’s excited about right now.

He headlined health and fitness festival WellFest Ireland in May – “out of all the things I love, it’s definitely doing live events,” he says – and he’s also “really excited” about welcoming baby number three in September.

“Indie and Marley are so hilarious, they’re so funny together, but they’re so grown up – Marley’s two-and-a-half now, such a grown-up kid, and I miss the baby phase,” Wicks enthuses.

“So I’m very excited to bring a new baby into our life, have those early morning cuddles and push them around in the buggy, and obviously on the chest – I love the baby carrier. I’m sure it won’t be our last baby.”

When it comes to the example he hopes to set for his kids, for Wicks it’s pretty simple.

“I think the greatest thing we can do as parents is role modelling, and role modelling kindness. Teaching kids to be kind, teaching children to enjoy exercise and be active and move their bodies – let’s show them what exercise is, do it with them, do it in front of them – and cooking as well.

“If you can teach your children to enjoy food, to engage with cooking, to love the process of creating food, then you’re giving those three skills: kindness, physical health and mental health through nutrition and food and exercise. That’s it, that’s your job. That’s all you need to focus on,” Wicks reflects.

“Everything else – their career, their life choices, whatever they do as adults, it’s fine, they’re going to make that decision. But you’ve given them the tools they need to really have a successful and healthy life, and hopefully a positive mental health life as well.”

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