Think of a lockdown YouTube star and Joe Wicks springs instantly to mind, but it turns out that the nation has been turning to a lesser-known fitness trainer to get in shape over the past five months.
Lucy Wyndham-Read is the UK’s most popular exercise guru on YouTube, according to a report into the nation’s viewing habits published this week by Ofcom.
She may not be a household name, but Wyndham-Read is a quiet phenomenon. Her most-watched video is a seven-minute workout to lose belly fat.
Created in 2018, the video has notched up an astonishing 75 million views - 17 million of them in the last three months alone. In the past 48 hours it has been viewed 250,000 times.
Wyndham-Read, a former Army corporal turned personal trainer, posted her first YouTube video in 2012. “In the beginning, I would be lucky if I got 10 views. It took years to take off but I just never gave up.
“I remember uploading the seven-minute workout - I thought it was a good workout but it was just another standard video and never, ever could I have imagined this. Then I started noticing, wow, that’s getting a lot more views. And then it just went viral,” she told the Sunday Telegraph.
“No one knows me, everyone knows Joe Wicks. But people started to find my workouts, got great results and it’s been word-of-mouth.”
Wyndham-Read, who is in her late 40s, was bullied at school and always picked last for sports teams. It was only when she decided to join the Army and had to pass the fitness test that she began taking an interest in exercise.
She left the Army in 1992 following a tragedy: her partner was accidentally killed by a fellow soldier in barracks while playing a game similar to Russian roulette.
She retrained and spent the next two decades as a fitness instructor before beginning her YouTube workouts.
“When I first qualified as a personal trainer I lived in Reigate and I put up flyers everywhere in the town centre and I was going to do a circuit class for free. I stood there in the hall waiting at 6pm and no-one turned up. And yet now I’ve got a quarter of a million people in two days doing one of my videos,” Wyndham-Read said.
Her audience on Facebook - where her followers dub themselves Lucy’s Squad - and YouTube has rocketed during lockdown as people try to stay fit both physically and mentally. And Wyndham-Read is careful to make her videos accessible to beginners and people of all ages.
“My philosophy is that it’s got to be do-able, because I don’t want people to do it for three weeks and then stop. I want it to become their lifestyle. It’s got to be something they’re going to wake up every day and want to do.
“When I did my research I looked at a lot of beginners’ workouts and thought, oh my goodness, if I was a beginner and watched a video where they were telling me to come down on the floor and do mountain climbers and press-ups, I would feel so upset and think I couldn’t do that.
“So I created beginners’ workouts that are actually are designed for a beginner.”
She has nearly 1,000 videos on her YouTube channel and recent ones include indoor walking workouts. Wyndham-Read said: “I was doing those prior to lockdown but they have been so useful when people couldn’t go out.
“I went out and on my iPhone I filmed some beautiful pathways with a blue sky, so I could bring a bit of green space into the videos. I always created some workouts as a series - I know people like Netflix so I’ve done them in episodes.
“It’s helping with health and obesity but also with things like anxiety and stress. I get emails from doctors saying they’ve prescribed my workouts to their patients.”