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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Many farmers find themselves sitting in a cycle of eat, sleep, farm repeat’

When people start to look at the wider benefits of fitness – which could be strength and mental health benefits rather than just as a way to lose weight – it becomes less of a chore and more of a choice which is when you can start to see the true value of it, according to Jacalyn Dunlop, RSABI fitness ambassador.

She is one-half of a farming couple from the south-west of Scotland, helping to inspire farmers and others working in agriculture about the benefits of keeping fit.

Dunlop and Grant Neilson, run their own fitness business G&J Coaching and have volunteered their services to help agricultural charity, RSABI, promote the benefits of exercise to mental and physical health.

Jacalyn, who grew up on Holehouse Farm near Ochiltree, now works full-time in the fitness business, while Grant combines working on the family farm, Park Farm near East Kilbride, with fitness training.

After the pair started training together, the mutual motivation and accountability they offered each other helped drive their fitness careers and has seen them both now become personal trainers.

Dunlop explained: “I decided to make fitness a priority when I realised the benefits of training for performance rather than training for aesthetics.”

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“For many years, as most young girls do, you train because you want to be skinny, but when I changed my mindset and my approach towards fitness and the outlook I had on it, it completely changed everything for me, and I love it now.”

“I train because I want to be fit and strong rather than, as I say, just trying to be skinny.”

“Fitness brings so many benefits. So physically, obviously, you are going to be fitter, stronger, and just more able and capable to do everyday jobs, especially within farming.”

“You are far more able to keep up with the physical demands of the job. But mentally, for me, that is where the benefits of fitness really come into play. For me, the mental health benefits hugely outweigh the physical benefits.”


A typical week, for Dunlop, revolves around training five times per week across “varied” and “non-negotiable” session plans, but she can scale back, where she may not be in full health or performance.

The duo are passionate about encouraging more farmers to prioritise their fitness and help them understand the benefits they will get from dedicating some time in their day to being active, aside from farming.

“Many farmers find themselves sitting in a cycle of eat, sleep, farm repeat.”

“However, it is so important to create a bit of space between you and the farm – go for a walk, run, cycle, do an online workout, use the space and resources around you to work fitness into your everyday life.”

“Even coaches need coaches, so my boyfriend and I both follow a coaching plan, and we train together, which makes it so much easier because we can keep each other accountable as well.”

“The biggest piece of advice I would give to any farmer, farm worker or whatever it may be, is to put yourself first. You have to make time for yourself.”

“You are going to be a far better sibling, parent, grandchild, worker, and friend, fulfilling those roles if you just make a little time each day for yourself.”

“It does not need to be drastic fitness sessions – 20 or 30 minutes. An at-home or on-farm workout could be the difference between you being half the person you could be and you fulfilling your full potential. So 100% just make time for yourself.”

Britain’s Fittest Farmer

Jacalyn and Grant came first and third in their respective categories in the 2022 Britain’s Fittest Farmer competition, launched five years ago to spark discussions about physical and mental health in farming.

RSABI has supported Britain’s Fittest Farmer for several years, and entries are now open for the 2023 competition, which aims to get farmers thinking and talking about their physical and mental health.

Farmers of all ages are invited to take part in one of three qualifiers throughout the UK, including a new event for this year taking place at the Royal Highland Show on Sunday, June 25th.

RSABI’s freephone confidential helpline – 0808 1234 555 – is open 24 hours a day, every day.

The services offered include practical, emotional and financial support for people in Scottish agriculture.

Importantly, RSABI can provide a free counselling service which, if urgent, can be arranged quickly after receiving the initial enquiry.

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