“Mentally and physically I’m in a much better place. It’s almost as if I’ve had a full reset.”
To say Lincolnshire farmer and FCN Ambassador Charles Anyan has undergone a transformation in the last couple of years would be an understatement.
For anyone who knows Charles, they’ll have seen a different side to him since 2020 – once a connoisseur of chocolate, cherry bakewells and scotch eggs, he’s now much more likely to be seen running a 10K than he is towards a buffet cart.
A quick glance of his social media profile shows a man who is rarely seen without his jogging clothes on, and photos of meals often feature a visible salad on the side.
Charles was always active – his farming work required it, and he also made time for sports like swimming and rugby. But his eating habits kept his weight at a consistent 17 stone for many years; enough to make him feel that he was ‘the fat guy at the back’ in sporting and social situations.
“Mentally I was fairly happy, I think,” says Charles, “but it’s safe to say now I’m no longer the fat guy at the back, I’m in a much better place mentally. Although looking back at old photographs of myself, I never realised how big I had become.”
Weight is often a taboo subject when it comes to men. There is an assumption often made that men don’t think much about their weight, or care to embark on diets or other forms of self-care. But this stigma is one that can be damaging, as can comments made about men’s physical appearance.
Charles’s efforts over the past two years have seen him lose 5 stone and maintain his weight at around 12 stone – not bad for someone who never thought they’d one day be running marathons.
Charles started running when his local swimming pool was shut down. He realised he needed to do something drastic, otherwise he would quickly start to gain weight. This coincided with lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, which was a catalyst for many people to take on different hobbies. Running was one of the few things Charles was able to do, and he decided he’d give it his all.
“I started running in April 2020 when I was challenged by the wonderful Liz Hoggarth to ‘run 5 for the NHS’,” says Charles. “I didn’t actually own any trainers so ran – or perhaps more accurately, jogged or ‘steadily walked’ – around my orchard in my socks for 40 minutes.
“That night I ordered some trainers from the internet and 3 days later on their arrival my running career started properly, with my first ever 5K – which I ran in 34 minutes 46 seconds.”
Finding the motivation to take up exercise like running can be difficult. Trying once is one thing – sticking with it, and making sure that you commit to a goal, is where the real challenge lies.
“I found it very challenging indeed,” admits Charles. “The first few months the running was brutal. I would get back from a 5K run and head for a lie down. It was really hard work and when I got to being able to run 5k fairly easily I pushed things out to 10K.
“I soon started to realise I was losing weight, which motivated me more. It wasn’t long into my running career when I realised I was being transported to a much better place mentally and physically. The more weight I lost the easier running was and the quicker I could go.”
The close links between mental and physical health are well documented. Feeling good about ourselves when we look in the mirror can make a positive impact on our mental health. FCN’s FarmWell platform (https://farmwell.org.uk/) highlights the need for both good physical and mental wellbeing. Our publications, Men’s Fit for Farming and Women’s Fit for Farming, also attest to the important balance between physical and mental health and contain a wealth of useful information about maintaining both: https://farmwell.org.uk/fit-for-farming-2/
Charles’s running was not only motivated by a desire to stay active during lockdown, but also as a way of providing respite from some of the personal issues he was experiencing at the time.
“At the start of lockdown, I also fell out with a very close friend in what was a very frustrating situation,” he says. “Running was a way I could get rid of my frustrations for this. Every race I’ve run has really motivated me to go quicker.”
Thankfully, Charles is delighted to report that this friendship is now back on track.
There comes a time in every runner’s life where they start describing themselves as such. For Charles, he viewed himself as a runner around 6 months into his regime – when he was easily running a 5K in under 25 minutes, and 10Ks in under 50 minutes; whilst also running regular half-marathons.
This training prepared Charles for his entry into the upcoming Manchester Marathon on 3rd April 2022. Charles and fellow runner Gareth Stafford have teamed up in support of FCN, running to promote good mental and physical wellbeing. Their JustGiving page is available here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teamfcn
“I’m really proud of my achievements and everyone’s support has been so humbling and motivating for me,” says Charles. “I don’t think anyone (especially me) ever thought I would be capable of getting round a 10k in under 45 minutes or do a sub 4 hour marathon, like in last year’s #MarathonforMentalHealth. Mentally and physically I’m in a much better place. It’s almost as if I’ve had a full reset.”
Charles is keen to highlight that anyone with the right motivation can achieve what he has. By starting slow and setting achievable goals, we can all overcome our own marathons.
“Give it a go, its really rewarding,” he says. “It may be very tough at first, but it does get much easier. It can lead to great things. Buy some trainers, download the NHS ‘Couch to 5k’ app, get down to parkrun and give it a go. Most of all – back yourself and have fun.”
Throughout his journey, Charles has felt the encouragement and support of his fellow farmers. This has led to him giving something back to the farming community in his role as an FCN Ambassador.
“Charities like FCN do some wonderful work, especially within the realms of mental health. Mental health is a very important issue and I’m delighted many great charities are out there to watch our backs,” Charles says. “If I can raise awareness for these charities and the mental health issue, and raise a bit of money in the process, then I’m happy. I want others to be able to benefit from exercise and the benefits to physical and mental health, just as I have done.”
- Visit FCN’s FarmWell website for a variety of useful resources around looking after your mental and physical wellbeing
- The NHS ‘Couch to 5K’ app can be downloaded here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week/
- Charles’s JustGiving page for the Manchester Marathon is available here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teamfcn