*BLOG* Meet Britain's Fittest Farmer, James Arney
James Arney (26), from Frome, Somerset, is a third generation farmer working on the family farm rearing young calves, a few pigs and a small flock of ewes. His farming keeps him in good shape, but he enjoys hitting the gym and playing cricket and football, too. Last November, James won the title Britain’s Fittest Farmer in a gruelling national competition organised by Farmers Weekly and in March 2021 he clocked up an amazing 215,629 steps over seven days when he took part in the LEAF Open Farm Sunday Farm Fit Competition. Living and working at home can be stressful, so managing time off is crucial for his personal wellbeing and mental health. Here James shares the challenges of keeping fit within his busy schedule…
For me exercise is a great way to get off the farm, certainly during lockdown. I would go for a run for half an hour and forget about everything, and then I could come back and do some more work. Living and working in the same space has its challenges as I’m sure most people have experienced during the pandemic, however, fitness is always something that makes you feel much better afterwards. For me it gives a goal to keep improving. I’m naturally quite a worrier and I know that if stuff on the farm isn’t going well, I can go to the gym, have a think about things and refocus. Problems don’t seem so bad if you take a step back. So, fitness has also been my go-to to clear my head.
I’m currently training about five or six times a week, focusing on functional fitness, weight and endurance training, including running and cycling. During the coronavirus lockdown, I set up a gym on the farm using tyres and heavy objects that were lying around. Since then, I have invested in some more substantial gym equipment which has made things a little easier to train and I have also built a squat rack in the garage which has been very useful.
Why I took part in Britain’s fittest farmer:
Originally, I wasn’t going to enter Britain’s Fittest Farmer as I thought I would never have a chance of winning. I left it very late to apply, I think I was one of the last to get my application in after my family spurred me on after seeing it advertised. In the end I was glad I applied as it gave me something to look forward to in a year that had been very difficult for many because of the pandemic.
I didn’t really know what to expect for the qualification round, however when the events were named, I felt that I would do well as my training has consisted of a lot of running and aerobic endurances exercises. The same applied for the final although we had a little longer to prepare as we were told by the Farm Fitness team what the events were going to be.
Farmers are renowned for working hard and never stopping, farming is 24⁄7 and it is difficult to stop working when you’ve got 100 other things you need to get done. It can control your life, so I think having time away to refresh is very important for everyone. For me a typical work-day would last over 10 hours and would consist of over 20k steps so being physically fit is vital. I try to walk to places around the farm as much as possible especially when the weather is good it’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors and apricate my ‘office’.
I think this is something that has been evident for everyone during the pandemic, walking has been about the only thing that we could do so we have seen a large increase of people on the public footpaths on the farm over the last year. This has defiantly had its pros and cons. Of course, we love to see people enjoying the great outdoors as its one of the best ways to keep mentally and physically fit. However, we have also seen a large increase in dog attacks on livestock and people thinking that they can roam anywhere as they please.
So, one thing to remember if you are going out to enjoy the country, wear the correct clothing and please stick to the footpaths — with dogs on a lead. We as farmers spend so much time caring for the livestock it’s very frustrating when people are unable to abide by the countryside code.
For information about the countryside code, take a look at our Out and About leaflet here: https://s3-eu-west‑1.amazonaws.com/leaf-website/LOFS-Out-About-in-Springtime.pdf
Britain’s Fittest Farmer competition was launched by Farmers Weekly as a fun way of sparking a vital discussion about the physical and mental health of the nation’s farmers. As farming becomes less active and more mechanised and office-based, it’s more important than ever before to make sure Britain’s farmers are getting the exercise that they need to stay fit and healthy. Farming can also be an isolating job, which is why it is also vital for farmers to focus on their own mental health and wellbeing so that they can keep their business in tip-top condition too.
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