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*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…

Keep­ing Fit: 

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. 

Farm­ing life:

Farm­ers are renowned for work­ing hard and nev­er stop­ping, farm­ing is 247 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‑

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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