Sometimes I find it hard to believe how much has changed this year. Back in February, I was happily creating fitness videos and writing recipe books. Then Covid struck.
And so, faced with months of lockdown, I decided to film a live exercise class every morning to get kids jumping about and staying active, and put it on my YouTube channel.
It is unbelievable how ‘PE with Joe’ took off – on some days we were getting nearly a million views – and I was completely blown away by the response from people, young and old, telling me how a bit of daily exercise had kept them going through those dark early days.
That’s why, for my new 30 Day Kick Start Plan, I’m changing things up. I know that focusing on how you feel is the fastest way to living a healthy and happy life, so I’m shining a light on the wellbeing and mental-health benefits of exercise.
Focusing on how you feel is the fastest way to living a healthy and happy life, so I’m shining a light on the wellbeing and mental-health benefits of exercise, writes Joe Wicks
Back when I started, I talked a lot about ‘fat loss’ and ‘gaining lean muscle’, and how my plans would make you look. But I’ve come to realise that the things you can’t see are actually more important and powerful than the things you can.
I’ve been on my own personal journey with health and fitness over the years. In my teenage years, I was motivated by a desire to get stronger and build muscle. I wasn’t confident and was concerned about how other people perceived how I looked.
Now, at 35 and as a dad of two young kids, I don’t worry about what other people think and I don’t exercise just to look a certain way. I exercise to feel happy and positive every day, and I eat healthy food to feel energised. That’s why my aim today is to help instil a few good habits which will set you up for life.
Stick with me for the next 30 days and you will see – and more importantly feel – the benefits.
I’m not promising radical fat-loss, but you will sleep better and have more energy. You’ll feel happier, less stressed and more motivated every day.
That’s not all – you are very likely to drop a few lockdown pounds in the process too.
GET YOUR BODY AND MIND IN SHAPE
Forget restrictive calorie-counting, fad diets or cutting out whole food groups. My 30 Day Kick Start Plan is different. I’m urging you to eat three deliciously nourishing and filling meals a day. And if you’re still hungry? You can indulge in two healthy snacks every day too.
There are four pillars to the plan, which I believe are fundamental in order to feel physically and mentally healthy: diet, exercise, setting goals and sleep.
To help with the first pillar – eating right – you’ll find an exclusive selection of recipes in today’s You magazine. There are curries, stews and even burgers – you’ll be enjoying generous portions of food that will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
And to help you keep cravings at bay, below you’ll find two of my tasty snack recipes.
I’m urging you to eat three deliciously nourishing and filling meals a day. And if you’re still hungry? You can indulge in two healthy snacks every day too, writes Joe Wicks
You also need to get moving. I exercise five days a week and rest for two. It is very important to let the body recover and repair after training, so rest days are just as important to your overall health.
My advice would be to aim for four to five exercise sessions per week. See my exercise plan, right, for help getting started with that.
You should see and feel results in just 30 days. Start today, and you’ll feel healthier by Christmas.
WHY 30 DAYS IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS
My 90-day plans have been phenomenally successful in helping people establish new habits to become fit and strong, but it was always clear that motivation is strongest during the first 30 days, which is why I was adamant that this would be a 30-day plan.
There’s no denying that life is difficult for all of us right now.
Everyone is feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or tired, and that means our food choices can often be unhealthy. It’s really easy to overeat or under-eat as a coping mechanism. But my plan is a brilliant way to change those routines. Many people believe it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but 30 days allows you to not only form great healthy-living habits but also to start to cement them for the long term. Just 30 days really is enough to unlock your potential.
Joe Wicks, also known as The Body Coach, pictured teaching the UK’s school children physical education live via YouTube on March 23 this year from his home in London
This plan is designed to give you the tools to unlock your happiness, control your energy and feel like a winner. Use this plan to launch into a new way of life. I want it to get you so excited by great food and exercise that you don’t want to stop.
So first, let’s talk nutrition…
TUCK INTO CARBS… BUT AT THE RIGHT TIME
I want you to eat the foods you love and enjoy treats too, but key to my plan is consistency: consistent exercise and focus on sensible portions of home-cooked food while reducing heavily processed foods, fizzy drinks, fast food and alcohol. Over the next 30 days I want you to keep down your carbohydrate levels – that’s bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. But don’t despair, they aren’t off the menu completely.
The secret is enjoying carbs after your workout to refuel and replenish your muscles.
In most of your three meals per day, carbs will be reduced, which means they will typically include protein, in the form of fish, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, pulses or dairy products, with plenty of salad or vegetables.
You’ll find recipes for sausage shakshuka, almond butter satay chicken with Asian slaw or cumin-spiced lamb and feta fattoush in You magazine today. On the five days you exercise, swap one reduced carb recipe for a hearty ‘post-workout’ meal. They have added carbohydrates – such as the tasty chipolatas with balsamic lentils or a tangy tandoori chicken burger recipes you’ll find in You.
Breakfast could be a fruit smoothie, a cheesy frittata, or my amazing ‘Elvis pancakes’ (made from bananas, eggs and peanut butter instead of flour). Pictured: file photo
The key is to time your exercise so that you can have your post-workout meal afterwards. You can choose whatever time of day to exercise to suit you, so if you fancy a yummy plate of pasta for dinner, schedule your exercise for the afternoon/early evening. If you love to tuck into porridge for breakfast, jump out of bed and get exercising first thing in the morning.
On your two rest days you certainly won’t go hungry – you still get to enjoy three reduced-carb meals and two snacks. Breakfast could be a fruit smoothie, a cheesy frittata, or my amazing ‘Elvis pancakes’ (made from bananas, eggs and peanut butter instead of flour).
I’ve got a really big selection of lunch and dinner recipes which you can mix and match to fit your schedule – just remember to save the post-workout meals for after your exercise session.
I’m the first to admit I love a gin and tonic, but alcohol could be holding you back so I urge you to give your liver a 30-day break.
SO EASY… YOU CAN DO IT WHILE YOU’RE ASLEEP
It was after my wife Rosie and I had our second baby, Marley, that I truly felt the negative effects of sleep deprivation. In those early weeks I found it hard to train consistently and with the same intensity. I made the effort to do something, even if only a 20-minute power walk to clear my mind, but I definitely found it harder to stay lean, fit and emotionally strong.
It doesn’t surprise me that 90 per cent of people who suffer depression also have poor sleep – which means it’s very important to work on the health of your sleep as well as your body.
A good night’s sleep means you wake up refreshed and energised, with the ability to exercise effectively. You will also have the energy to prepare your own food (file photo)
Keep a sleep routine and think about your sleeping environment. Is it as peaceful, relaxing and clutter-free as it can be? Listening to guided meditations can be a great way to help you fall asleep – you can download apps or find them online. Turning off devices and winding down earlier in the evening can also make a huge difference.
A good night’s sleep means you wake up refreshed and energised, with the ability to exercise effectively. You will also have the energy to prepare your own food so you don’t turn to sugary snacks and drinks to get you through the day. Your mood will improve, you will be more patient and understanding with others and you might also be more productive at work.
Joe makes workout videos for ALL ages and abilities.
Visit YouTube and search ‘Joe Wicks home workout for seniors’ for more inspiration.
So sleep really is the magic ingredient after which all the other good stuff will follow.
SET GOALS… BUT MAKE THEM REALISTIC
Another key to success on my 30-day plan is to set goals. That said, they don’t have to be big and they don’t have to be based on body image or weight. If goals are unrealistic and your expectations are too high, you’re less likely to achieve them.
The last thing you want is to feel disheartened by not achieving something, as this could lead to you wanting to give up altogether. A short-term achievable goal could be: ‘Today I am not going to drink fizzy drinks or alcohol, I’ll just drink water’ or ‘I am going to go to bed an hour earlier every night this week’. All of these little wins really do add up and make a massive difference over a month or year.
Goals become even more powerful when you write them down or say them out loud. Use the notes app or voice notes on your phone, or go old school and write your daily and weekly goals on Post-it notes around the house. Come back to them to remind yourself of what you want to achieve.
So, now you know all you need to get started. All that’s left to say is, good luck. Enjoy the journey. It’s just 30 days. One day at a time.
30 Day Kick Start Plan, by Joe Wicks, is published by Pan Macmillan, £18.99. To get yours for just £13.29, visit mailshop.co.uk/books before December 6 or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £15.
SNACKS TO KEEP YOU GOING
Stir together so that all the almonds get coated in the chocolate, then dollop 10 spoonfuls on to the lined baking trays
Dark chocolate, almond and sea salt clusters
- 100g almonds, roughly chopped
1. Line two small baking trays with baking parchment.
2. Toast the roughly chopped almonds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until lightly golden.
3. Meanwhile, break the chocolate into a microwaveable bowl, spoon in the coconut oil. Zap in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring in between, until the chocolate melts.
4. Tip the toasted almonds into the bowl of melted chocolate. Stir together so that all the almonds get coated in the chocolate, then dollop 10 spoonfuls on to the lined baking trays. Sprinkle each with a generous pinch of sea salt and whack in the freezer for about 8 minutes, or until set.
5. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Roast in the oven for 12-14 minutes until cooked through and crisp
Peri Peri popcorn chicken
- 1 tbsp peri peri sauce, plus more to serve
- 1 x 200g skinless chicken breast fillet
1. Preheat oven to 220C (fan 200C/gas mark 7). Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
2. Spoon the yogurt into a shallow bowl. Stir in the peri peri sauce. Measure the breadcrumbs into another shallow bowl.
3. Cut the chicken into popcorn-sized cubes. Season all over with a big pinch of salt, pepper and smoked paprika.
4. A few at a time, coat the chicken cubes in the peri peri sauce and then in the breadcrumbs, until completely coated. Lay out in a single layer on the lined baking tray. Roast in the oven for 12-14 minutes until cooked through and crisp.
Full workout in just 24 minutes
Repeat the following sequence of eight exercises three times. Do each exercise for 30 seconds, aiming for maximum effort, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Set a timer on your phone. The aim of this type of training is to push as hard as you can to elevate your heart rate as much as possible. Your session will last 24 minutes.
1. MARCHING/JOGGING ON THE SPOT
Jog or march up and down on the spot. Lift knees as high as you can, keep your back straight and pump your arms to boost the benefit
Place your feet in a comfortable position that will allow you to squat down while keeping them firmly flat on the ground. Sit as low as you comfortably can and drive through the heels to stand up. Repeat fast.
3. STAR JUMPS
Stand tall with your arms by your side. Jump up, extending your arms and legs out into a star shape in the air. Land with your knees together and hands by your side. Engage your core (pull your tummy in) and keep your back straight.
- If you have back or knee problems, start by stepping one leg out a time, raising your arm on the same side, then switching sides continuously, progress to full start jumps.
4. REVERSE LUNGES
Start with both feet together, then step backwards with one foot and bend both knees into a reverse lunge. Only step back as far as you can. Aim to keep your back straight. Alternate each leg.
- Rest a hand on the back of a chair for balance if you find yourself wobbling.
5. CLIMB THE LADDER
Start by marching or running on the spot. Imagine you are reaching up above your head to pull yourself up a ladder. Do this as fast as possible, lifting your knees as high as you can.
6. WALK OUTS
A: Stand with your feet hip-width apart
B: Bend your knees and place your palms on the floor in front of your feet.
C: Shift your weight on to your hands and walk them forward until your body is in a straight line from your head to your heels (drop to your knees at this point if you find the full extension initially difficult). Walk back and stand up. Repeat.
7. MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
Start in a high plank position. Look down towards your hands and keep your back flat. Then drive your knees towards your chest as fast as possible one at a time. Start by stepping one leg forwards at a time, increasing the speed as your fitness and strength improve.
8. ELBOW PLANK
Lift and hold your torso and legs off the ground with your elbows on the floor directly under your shoulders. Aim to keep a flat back and keep stomach and buttock muscles tight.
- If this is difficult, rest your knees on the floor.
FIVE ways to stay motivated
The hardest part of getting fit is getting started. If you struggle with motivation, don’t sit around waiting for it to come. Take action! Do a workout and see how you feel afterwards. Most people believe motivation leads to action, but I think the opposite is true: action leads to motivation, and that motivates you more.
1 Set your alarm clock a bit earlier each morning and put your gym clothes out ready for exercise.
2 Take a photo of yourself, front and side on, at the beginning of your 30 days and then another at the end.
3 Record a short video message on your phone telling yourself why this was so important to you, why have you started this journey to a healthier life, and what the outcome means to you. Then you can replay your personal pep-talk when you feel a wobble coming on.
4 Set mini goals (‘Today I am not going to drink fizzy drinks or alcohol, I’ll just drink water’ or ‘I am going to go to bed an hour earlier every night this week’) and write them down or use a voice memo to record them.
5 If you have a bad day when you can’t face exercise and healthy eating, accept that you are human. Never feel guilty, and don’t let a bad day become a bad week.