Arable farmer and Farming Community Network (FCN) ambassador Charles Anyan has been confirmed as one of the Farmers Weekly judges for this year’s Britain’s Fittest Farmer competition.
Based in Lincolnshire, Charles grows 346ha of crops on his family farm, including wheat, barley, oilseed rape and spring beans.
He is passionate about supporting FCN through various fundraising efforts, including taking part in several marathons.
However, his relationship with running and physical health has not always been so clear-cut: “Going into Covid I was 17 stone at 5ft 7,” Charles says.
“I didn’t own any trainers, and I didn’t want to own any – I thought people who had trainers were the work of the devil.
“I took up running after the pools closed. I thought I had to do something drastic.”
He started running as part of the “Run1,000” challenge, and first came across FCN when selecting a charity to raise money for.
“I wanted to choose a charity that had mental health as one of its remits. I had vaguely heard of FCN, but didn’t know a lot at the time,” says Charles. “I started raising money for them and got a bit carried away.”
Through his fundraising efforts, Charles managed to raise just under £20,000 for the rural charity, which led to him becoming an FCN ambassador.
Now preparing to run his third marathon, Charles is passionate about sharing his physical and mental wellbeing journey, which he promotes through his Twitter account.
“I try to show how it helps my mental health, because my mental health, despite having always been good, is better as a result of exercise.
“People look at me differently because now I’m known as the guy who runs all the time, rather than the guy who would push you out the way to get his third bacon sandwich at the NFU Conference.
“So, essentially, because of running, and because of Covid I have turned my life around, and for the better.”
Charles admits that starting his fitness journey required taking a huge step outside his comfort zone, but he is passionate about inspiring others to do the same and realise the mental health benefits that can come from physical exercise.
He said: “I’ve left my comfort zone a lot over the past three years.”
For those just starting out on their journey, he recommends: “Keep moving. Buy some hiking boots. Don’t be ashamed to get off the farm occasionally, and to just spend a bit of time for you. Invest in yourself, mentally and physically, and get outside of your comfort zone.
“From an exercise point of view, just keep going and push yourself – you’d be amazed at where it can take you.”
Working with FCN last year, Charles helped to spearhead the ‘Who’s your Julie?’ campaign.
“It’s named after my best friend, Julie,” he says. “If the black clouds ever gather, I talk to Julie – a problem shared really is a problem halved.
“We’ve got to keep talking and break the stigma that’s attached to mental health. It’s a big barrier, and we’re too proud an industry.
“If you are struggling, there is no shame in it. Talk to people,” he says.
After his next marathon, Charles is looking forward to meeting and speaking with entrants and spectators at the Britain’s Fittest Farmer competition, and hopes to start discussions and encourage like-minded people to meet and get talking.
“There’s a massive link between physical and mental health, and I think it’s wonderful that Britain’s Fittest Farmer is a meet-up of ambassadors for our industry who will not only show the importance of keeping on top of their physical fitness, but also really shine a light on the mental side too.
“The competition is giving them a platform to really make a difference,” he says.
“I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and for some of these competitors to inspire me.”
How to enter
Visit the Britain’s Fittest Farmer page, upload a photo or short video, and tell us how you stay mentally and physically fit on the farm.
You’ll also find all competition information, along with terms and conditions, on the site.