We all know that farming is the definition of hands-on and staying active is often part of the job. However, making time to enjoy real planned exercise, such as running, cycling, weightlifting or fitness can be a great way of staying positive.
Exercise helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently and releases chemicals that can reduce the effects of stress and produce positive feelings.
These mood-boosting properties are well researched and documented, so isn’t your wellbeing worth investing in? Even 15-30 minutes of exercise a day can make a world of difference.
Launched by Farmers Weekly in 2018, Britain’s Fittest Farmer was introduced as a fun way to get the nation’s farmers active and spark discussions about looking after their physical and mental health. Open to anyone aged 18 or over working in UK agriculture, the competition was looking to crown one man and one woman who could prove themselves to be a real ambassador of health and wellbeing. Of course, along with the title of Britain’s Fittest Farmer came a much-coveted trophy and a cash prize of £1,000 for each winner.
The 2021 qualifiers saw scores of competitors of all ages from across the UK battle it out at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park over the course of one weekend. The heats saw them take on gruelling challenges including jumping bales, dragging tractor tyres, lifting weights and a two-mile run. Although the competition was tough throughout and there was a lot of camaraderie between the contestant, 10 men and 10 women made the cut to the final stage of the competition which took place in October at Tom Kemp’s Farm Fitness Centre in Essex.
And the winners?
Erica Robison from Cumbria and James Arney from Somerset fought off stiff competition from the other finalists and were crowned overall winners – James having already won the title in 2020.
Erica (32) is a fitness instructor and personal trainer and helps on the beef farm run by her dad just over the border into Scotland, 10 minutes from where she lives. She loves running, and walking with her dogs and eldest son on the fells.
“I work out and burn calories to stay in shape, but I mainly exercise to feel good,” says Erica.
“Endorphins released after a workout can’t be bought or bottled up for a time when you feel like you need a lift. So, if I feel like I need a boost, I work out.”
Cannington College student James (26) lives and works on the family farm and stays fit by playing cricket, five-a-side football and visiting the gym.
“Everyone has struggled with their mental health during the pandemic, especially with multiple lockdowns,” he says. “Fitness has been a way of getting away from work, and I see it as downtime. It is something that always makes me feel better, so I try to get a session in most days.”
He adds: “The past couple of years have been so tough that it’s important we encourage everyone to do some exercise and open up about mental health. Everyone has struggled to a greater or lesser extent during the pandemic, especially with multiple lockdowns. Farming is a demanding job, and people might be out in the fresh air but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re particularly fit. Mental health is spoken about a lot more than in the past – which is important, as talking about it is the first barrier to overcome.”
As part of the competition, the organisers worked with four charities – Farming Community Network, DPJ Foundation, RSABI and ourselves to ensure the competition highlighted the link between your physical and mental wellbeing and, of course, the wealth of support and help available for the industry.
To learn more about Britain’s Fittest Farmer and to register your interest in the 2022 competition, follow @FarmersWeekly on Twitter or visit the website https://www.fwi.co.uk/ms/events/britains-fittest-farmer/