Farmers Weekly’s Britain’s Fittest Farmer competition will happen later in 2020 than it did in 2019 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which means you’ve got even more time to submit your entry.
This unique competition champions fitness and mental wellbeing in agriculture.
It aims to get all farmers thinking and talking about their health to make sure they are in top condition to run their businesses.
We caught up with last year’s winners to hear what they’ve been busy with, and how they’ve been keeping their fitness firing and their spirits strong in these testing times.
“One of the best things I’ve ever done,” is how Fiona describes taking part in the 2019 Britain’s Fittest Farmer competition.
“It was a cracking day,” she says. “It was a lot of fun and I loved the sense of camaraderie.”
The Somerset farmer is a strong advocate of the physical and mental benefits of exercise.
“As soon as I go out for a run or do some obstacles, I feel more able to tackle problems and face challenges.
“Running and exercise clear my mind. It definitely makes me a better farmer.”
Fiona typically fits in 20-30min, three or four times a week, with running her go-to activity.
“Come rain, shine or snow, I’ll run,” says the 39-year-old.
“Running is brilliant, especially if I’ve had a tiring day and don’t want to do a form of exercise that requires brainpower.
“You just switch off and let your legs do the work.”
The farm is a great location to run and she’s built outside obstacles – such as monkey bars and climbing hooks – on which to test herself. “It’s like Ninja Warrior stuff, a real challenge.
“Nowadays, you don’t need to be physically strong to be a farmer for the vast majority of the time, but there are moments when I realise I have got a lot stronger because, when I do the obstacles, I’m constantly lifting my own bodyweight.
“I can lift an animal now that I wouldn’t have been able to a few years ago.
“Spending an hour travelling to a gym is wasted time – that’s an hour’s exercise I could have done, so I do all my exercise at home.
“As farmers, we’re lucky, we’ve got access to all this wonderful, open space.”
Fiona also enjoys playing rugby and is aware she’ll miss that this year, with the Covid-19 crisis likely to force games to be cancelled.
“It’s usually a chance to get off the farm and mix with non-farming people.
“If you exclusively live and breathe farming, it can be quite a dark place because there’s never a week goes by when you don’t have some trauma.
“Every job has its stresses and bad weeks, but farming can be particularly intense.
“My rugby friends talk about everything else other than farming, so it’s an important physical and social outlet.
“I find that really healthy, chatting about everyday things unrelated to our farming problems.”
Fiona, who pursued a career in sales and management after studying sports science at Swansea University, took on the 65ha farm full-time four years ago.
Life is busy, but she definitely plans to find time to enter the Britain’s Fittest Farmer contest again this year.
“I love competitions, but I’m not competitive to the point where I always have to win. I’ll be doing my best to hang on to the crown, but if I get beaten by someone better, so be it – good luck to them.”
What is Britain’s Fittest Farmer?
This competition is designed to get all farmers thinking and talking about their health – physical and mental – to make sure they are in top condition to run their farm businesses.
It aims to support farmers’ amazing work to put food on our plates and care for our countryside, by helping them ensure they are fit to farm.
We’re looking for farmers who make fantastic ambassadors for health and fitness in agriculture, to help break the taboo of talking about mental health issues such as depression, eating disorders and rural isolation.
To find out more, see who has signed up already and apply yourself, go to the Britain’s Fittest Farmer website.
The coronavirus crisis and Brexit are causing huge worries for farmers, making staying mentally and physically fit more important than ever, according to Sean Curtiser.
“These are testing times,” says Orkney-based Sean.
“It’s been financially tough for many farmers for a few years and there’s a lot of additional worry that goes with the job at present. Keeping fit and playing a sport or having a hobby is a great stress-release.”
The 31-year-old, who works on the family’s 750ha beef and sheep farm, has been a keen rugby player since he was a young teenager, later developing an interest in weight training to build his strength and condition for the game. He’s even converted a shed on the farm into a gym.
“I live in a small village so it’s not always easy to fit a visit to the town around my farming schedule, but because I now have the gym at home, I can just nip in there whenever the opportunity arises.”
He’s aware many farmers have intense lifestyles and huge workloads, from which they rarely get a break.
“We all need to relax and unwind, though, and spending time in the gym is how I do it.
“If I know it’s going to be a 14-hour day, I’ll get up an hour early and train first thing in the morning because I know I’ll be too tired when I come home at night.
“People ask how I find the energy to do it, but keeping fit and keeping strong gives me energy. Doing it in the morning puts a spring in my step for the whole day.”
Though Sean acknowledges it’s not always easy to find the time at during particularly busy periods such as lambing season, he urges everyone to try to find one hour every day to pursue a hobby or sport.
For him, these hours also act as useful thinking time.
“My whole day is planned before I even start it,” he says.
“It’s good for mulling over big decisions, too, although we’ve put those on hold until it’s clearer what’s happening in terms of coronavirus and Brexit.
“It would be too much of a gamble to change anything too much right now.
“The whole coronavirus situation is very sad, but I hope long term it will at least highlight to people in towns and cities how important British farming is and how we need to be a bit more self-sufficient.
“I don’t want thanks for what I do, as I love doing it, but farmers do need to get a sustainable price for their produce.
“So let’s take this rare opportunity to reconnect with the wider public and educate the nation on just how sustainable and ethical British farming is.”
Meanwhile, Sean’s urging people to enter this year’s Britain’s Fittest Farmer competition.
“I’m a competitive person, so it was great to compete against other farmers and I met some interesting folk. It was a fantastic experience.”
Britain’s Fittest Farmer: Our sponsor and partners
Tough, rugged, agile – the new INEOS Grenadier 4X4 will share plenty of traits exhibited by the winner of Britain’s Fittest Farmer. That’s why we’re so pleased to be sponsoring this rural British physical challenge.
As an uncompromising, no frills, off-road vehicle, the Grenadier will provide all the capability, durability and reliability you need to tackle the toughest tasks on the farm. That’s why we see ourselves as the ideal partner for this true test of grit, endurance and strength.
For more information on Grenadier, pay a visit to their website.
Farm Fitness: Partner
Farm Fitness has rapidly become a burning beacon on the UK fitness scene, attracting spectators and participants from all over the country to come and take a swing at its almost alchemic blend of modified strongman, functional bodybuilding, calisthenics and blistering cardio efforts.
The gym, founded by farmer’s son Tom Kemp, was voted one of the best gyms in the world and ‘coolest outdoor space’ by Men’s Health (PDF)
Tom has blended his farming background with his love of training to create a raw and exciting outdoor environment for people of all strengths and abilities to get fit.
The Farming Community Network: Partner
The Farming Community Network (FCN) is a voluntary organisation and charity that supports farmers and families within the farming community through difficult times.
The charity has helped thousands of people deal with a variety of issues, including financial difficulties, animal disease, mental health and family disputes.
Volunteers provide free, confidential, pastoral and practical support to anyone who seeks help, regardless of whether the issue is personal or business-related. FCN also runs a confidential national helpline and e-helpline.