Britain’s Fittest Farmer judge Tom Kemp on how to get fit

Farmer, fitness instructor and Britain’s Fittest Farmer (BFF) judge Tom Kemp gives his advice on how to get fit, both mentally and physically.

He says focusing on improving sleep can be a useful starting point, in tandem with making changes to nutrition and ensuring you stay well hydrated.

See also: Britain’s Fittest Farmer opens for entries 


“Sleep is hugely important for physical and mental recovery,” he says. “It allows the body and brain to slow down and engage in processes of recovery.”

He recommends consciously preparing for bed. In the couple of hours ahead of turning in, avoiding blue light from smartphones, iPads and computer screens.

Not eating a big meal, steering clear of caffeine and consuming no – or only a moderate amount of – alcohol also helps. 

“If you’re on your phone until the moment you go to bed, you’re never giving yourself time to wind down. It’s easy to build up mental fatigue, so it’s important to try to switch off.

“Some people find meditation or breathwork is useful to calm them down and get them in a good frame of mind for sleep.

“Day-to-day, there is a lot of mental stimulation involved in being a farmer.

“There’s a lot happening that requires concentration and, right now, there are a lot of issues to worry about, such as the rising costs of fertiliser and fuel.”

It’s hard to stick to a regimented pattern because of the seasonal nature of the job, but establishing as much of a routine as possible is desirable, adds Tom.

Contestant in BFF qualifier

© Richard Stanton

Take it step-by-step

He advises viewing the body and brain holistically, as one connected whole rather than isolating them and making incremental changes to your lifestyle to achieve your goals.

“Break it down and work out which aspects of your lifestyle need addressing first, then make step-by-step improvements.”

Such changes can make a big difference in terms of overall health and welfare, he points out. “You won’t reinvent yourself overnight, but you don’t need to – what’s important is just starting a journey.

“Any physical exercise is positive – you can keep it as low key as you want.

“You don’t necessarily need to go to a gym and you certainly don’t need expensive kit – you can do a workout with a tractor tyre or a sandbag.

“Even a gentle jog round the farm or a long walk with the dogs will do you good.”

There are, he says, many online training plans available, but what’s key is finding one that suits your level of fitness, your age, your goals and takes account of any injuries you’re carrying.

“Remember, though, you’re never too old to start and there are many different ways to get fit. Find what you enjoy and it becomes a virtuous circle – you’ll feel the benefits and be more inclined to carry on.

“Don’t look at exercise as a chore – it should be a highlight of your day, knowing it’s going to make you feel and perform better, both physically and mentally.

“If you’re currently fairly inactive, any extra movement is useful – you’ll be burning calories, hopefully in the fresh air, so even just tracking steps can be a positive start to help get you moving.”

Taking health seriously

According to Tom, people across the farming community are taking physical fitness and mental health more seriously than a few years ago.

“We get a lot of people coming to Farm Fitness [Tom’s on-farm gym] who previously may have had the mindset that they were active enough day-to-day doing farmwork, but now see the benefits of structured training in terms of their performance at work.

“Physical fitness goes hand-in-hand with mental health. I would function less well in business if I wasn’t physically fit.”

A female contestant running in the Britain's Fittest Farmer 2021 semi-final heats

Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2021 semi-final heats © Richard Stanton

Mixing with people

Socialising is another important aspect, says Tom.

“Being in a group brings out the best in people. This might be the encouragement you get from those around you if you’re training, or the camaraderie that comes from being involved in a team sport.

“Farming can be quite lonely at times, so mixing with people and having a good social balance definitely boosts morale.”

This sense of mutual support is certainly evident at the qualifiers and the finals of BFF.  “The atmosphere is always awesome,” Tom says.

“It’s a great chance to meet others in the agricultural sector with similar interests. Although it’s an individual event, you won’t feel like you’re doing it on your own.

“Everyone supports one another and cheers each other on.”

The workouts, meanwhile, have been designed to be as accessible to as many people as possible.

 “You certainly don’t have to be an elite athlete or an avid gym-goer to take part. You just need a good base level of fitness and strength.

“People of all ages get involved – we’ve even introduced an over-40s category this year.”

In terms of preparing, Tom’s advice to entrants is to remember the event is looking for good all-rounders.

“We want to test various aspects of fitness, so it won’t just favour, for example, endurance runners or super-strong individuals.

“The qualifiers will include various tests of strength, some bouts of cardio, and there’ll be an endurance element – probably around the 3-5km mark. 

“I’d advise contestants to build up their general base level of fitness, by working on some interval training to get their speed up and basic strength work incorporating loaded carries.

“I really love BFF – it’s one of my favourite events of the year.”