Fit4Farming reveals 3 key ingredients for success

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The most important thing on your farm is you

As we prepare for the Farmstrong Fit4Farming cycle tour of New Zealand we know there are 3 key ingredients we must have for a successful tour. Over the coming weeks I will go into things more deeply but below are three key things you must have in your kit before you contemplate reading Farming 101.

Firstly Fit4Farming isn’t about smashing out great running times or pushing your body to the limit it is about helping you deal with the ups and downs of living in rural New Zealand. Fit4Farming sets aside the work stuff and focuses on you the person because you are the first piece of the puzzle. Get that wrong and the puzzle can never be completed to perfection.

No self-help book will tell you this but nothing works until you do.

The first key ingredient you must have is your HEALTH. Be the best you can be. If you want to perform to your best you actually need to put aside the excuses and be better than you were yesterday. With a 1400 km tour in front of us the Fit4Farming team must be able to get over niggles, injuries and health problems. To do this we need to be fitter – why should you, in your business be any different? World champion Paralympian Tim Williams speaks about living with his injury and how he made the conscious decision to be the best he could be, again if he can do it so can you.  Go to the local GP at least annually for the necessary checkups  then set about taking control of your life.

The second key ingredient is Healthy Thinking. Farmers who have been lucky enough to listen to Dr Tom Mulholland will understand the power of learning to deal with issues in front of you by learning to think more strategically. Everyone will have a bad day the ones who learn to deal with it are the ones who are best placed to succeed. The recent drop in dairy payout drew huge volumes of fortune-telling about financial ruin which simply sent people down a path of exactly that. Those who saw it as a challenge and acted accordingly will learn and go on to better things.

The third component to success is Support. All the noise from industry about suicide and depression got rural lenders off their backsides, and industry organisations to understand the one fundamental human requirement in life – relationships i.e. SUPPORT. Everyone needs a support network but you can’t sit back with your hand out you must do your bit as well. We are lucky enough to have great support with FARMSTRONG, TOYOTA NZ, NORWOOD FARM MACHINERY, ANZCO FOODS AND B+LNZ behind the Fit4Farming campaign. All these organisations have an enduring relationship with their people which is priceless when the pressure comes on. In your business you need reliable support that believes in you after the handshake and deal is done.


Preparation for the long road starts with yourself

There is a saying that goes “you don’t make the weak strong by making the strong weak” and I tell you what if you are cycling in a bunch into a strong headwind you very quickly realise the importance of staying within the protection of the other riders and not dropping off the back. Support is the number one key ingredient to any success story. To get an easy ride you still have to work hard to stay with the support pack – drop off and you are out the back and it is a very long hard journey from there.

Fit4Farming provides a simple message to farmers. You can get yourselves in a better position financially but it takes some work. The most important thing is to get the basics right with yourself first before you begin to tackle the farm and you will find the ride a lot easier. We will look at things more closely in the coming weeks so if you are interested subscribe to the updates and be part of the FIT4FARMING journey.

Share this with your friends and enemies as without both we would be nothing.


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Have we dropped the ball with human performance in the rural industry.

Three different articles in three different publications caught my eye on Monday. Only one is connected to farming in any way but all are very relevant to the sustainability of farming. They all had one common factor; they are all about human performance.

I have been an advocate of farmer’s health and fitness for some time and recently completed a Kellogg rural leadership project on the subject.  From this I, along with some keen people, have started a campaign called Fit 4 Farming.  Fit 4 Farming is all about ensuring our rural people are physically and mentally able to cope and flourish with life in modern rural New Zealand.

My belief is that the general farming population, rightly or wrongly, is heading away from physical work and more into office/computer work and anything with wheels and a noise. This has multiple cause and effects, on one side farmers will have less stress on their joints so arguably will be more active in older age, they should also have more energy to do more on the farm however the reality is by doing less farmers are at risk of actually becoming less active, eating less healthy and are at risk of cardiovascular disease therefore shortening their lifespan in an industry where we drastically need them to remain. We are so intent to concern ourselves with pay rates and hours worked that we have forgotten how important productive time is including having enough productive rest.

The first of the articles this week that caught my eye was from the Farmers Weekly. A small article titled Fagan honoured. David Fagan is a shearing phenomenon and more should have followed his lead but he was so far ahead of everyone else he became some sort of mythological creature churning out win after win over 35 years of competition. Why was he so good for so long– because he trained, he ran, he got fitter, and he ate like an athlete. How much more productive could New Zealand Primary industry be now if farmers had followed his lead 15-20 years ago.

The second article was in the NZ Herald and it looked at the effects of stress and sleep deprivation on sailors during the Volvo Ocean Race. A race against time-and stress could have and should have been about farmers not yachties. Has the Primary industry has dropped the ball with this one.  I do wonder why some of the millions of dollars floating around the industry for R&D has not been corralled into researching the physical requirements of farmers and the effects of stress and sleep deprivation in farming. It makes you wonder how interested the industry really is in improving farmer wellbeing. The first step in making a change is to first measure what needs to change.

The third and final article was written by a life coach Louise Thompson and features in the herald supplement BITE. Things naturally fit people do differently very simply lists six things that Louise has identified now she is naturally fit.  When I read through the six ‘secrets,’ I wondered how many farmers fall into the category of being naturally fit.

  1. They do it for the feeling of doing it not just the result of doing it. They run because it feels good.
  2. Exercise is about much more than weight loss.
  3. They respect their body for what it can do.
  4. Naturally fit people talk about exercise like it’s a supportive friend
  5. They fit it into their day no matter what.
  6. They make it work

Last weekend saw the 2nd running of the Surf 2 Firth bush marathon. This is one tough demanding event, which sucks the life out of the competitors. Not unusually, many finishers remarked they wished they had trained harder. In all my dealings with farmers whether coaching or consulting, no farmer has ever said “I wish I had trained harder for calving” or “I wish I had done more fitness before lambing” however they are quick to mention how much weight they have lost over the peak period. Here is a wake up call – losing excess weight during an endurance event means you will be under performing.

In the lead up to the National fieldays you will be hearing more about Fit 4 Farming and our exciting vision to make New Zealand the fittest farming nation in the world.  FMG, Mental Health Foundation, Toyota NZ, CB Norwood and Beef & Lamb NZ have already committed to helping this initiative to ensure it is a success.

So when you are feeling tired during the day have a think about whether you are mentally tired or physically tired. I would say it is the former and if it is take a lead from David Fagan and train your body to stay on top.

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The 5 ways to wellbeing

The Mental Health Foundation has identified 5 simple ways to improve your wellbeing. We perform these 5 ways nearly every day of our lives until we become over stressed, become depressed and take on the flight mode of retreating into ourselves for protection. The 5 ways to wellbeing are:


  2. GIVE

An active lifestyle outside our workplaces helps people perform these ways on a regular basis and leads to new confidence, experiences and health. One such event is the Tarawera Ultramarathon which offers 60 km, 85 km and 100 km endurance running distances over trails and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

Last month I talked about mentally preparing for an ultramarathon, and on Saturday 7th February I completed my first Tarawera 100 km ultra and now fully understand the power of the 5 ways to wellbeing.

Firstly there is no way to achieve a physical goal without LEARNING and TAKING NOTICE of yourself, others, and the environment. As you learn more you want to know more so you CONNECT more and naturally GIVE back to others sharing your new found knowledge. Of course this all happens because you are ACTIVE, as you get fitter your diet changes, your body changes and your life changes.

The ultimate is being involved in an event whereby hundreds or even thousands of people naturally perform the 5 ways to wellbeing simply because that is what competitors, supporters and volunteers do.

The Tarawera Ultra offers everything, every time you are passed or pass someone you chat, you give positive support, you connect, you learn, you take notice. At each aid station you chat, receive massive uplifting support, you learn, you take notice and you give back thanking them for their volunteer support.

Finally, the very environment allows you to connect with yourself, you give back to yourself for your stoic efforts, you learn about yourself as you take notice of your inner thoughts and how your body responds to the power of the mind.

All this becomes possible when you are ACTIVE. Being active opens up a new world of possibilities and opportunities so take up the challenge and change your life by performing the 5 ways to wellbeing today.

Please share this with those you love and those you think may need it.


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