Jane Dutton

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Jane Dutton and Richard Oborn run ‘Fit Farm’ on a Kentucky property, where guests enjoy the countryside and improve their health and fitness.

>Explain the ‘Fit Farm’ concept … 

Fit Farm is a holiday experience with a healthy twist. Essentially, it is a weight loss and fitness program based on a sheep property.  We designed it to help guests reduce weight and body fat, increase their fitness, eat healthily and experience the farm lifestyle and local region. After a week with us, guests go home fitter, lighter, and more energetic.

Fit Farm runs with a maximum number of ten guests each program. We teach guests about ideal food portions, food choices, exercise, and life balance. Guests go home with a healthy eating and exercise plan to help achieve long lasting results. 

We provide delicious and healthy meals and snacks each day, preparing lots of fresh foods with a balance of all food groups. The combination of action and healthy food always results in a reduction of weight and/or body fat percentage in each of our guests.

All food, accommodation, activities and transport are prearranged and included in Fit Farm program rates.

So far, we have been successfully running programs for women only, however, due to the high demand for men to be able to take part, we now offer mixed or women-only programs of either 5 or 8 days duration. 

> Where did the idea for ‘Fit Farm’ originate?

The idea evolved from a combination of influences: my work as a weight loss consultant at a Fernwood Fitness Centre in Sydney, and with AJ Rochester (who hosted ‘The Biggest Loser’) in reviewing food diaries and writing articles for her weight loss website. I gained a lot of ideas through training as a life coach and when working behind the scenes in a company that ran personal development programs. 

Having grown up on my parent’s property, where they produce superfine merino wool, I always enjoyed introducing friends from the city to our healthy country lifestyle. They loved being immersed in the landscape, healthy eating and farm work. 

A desire to enable more people from cities or built-up areas to experience the country way of life, combined with helping them to lose weight, led to the idea of Fit Farm.

> Where is the farm located?

We chose to locate Fit Farm on the Taylor family’s property in Kentucky, where their charmingly renovated shearers’ huts offer comfortable accommodation in a private setting. Their newly built studio is a wonderful space to hold exercise sessions in, as well as the outdoor tennis court and surrounding paddocks. 

Extensive tree planting on the property has created scenic walks for guests to enjoy, and they find it fascinating to watch the sheep, cattle, native birds and lizards as they walk. There is usually a lot of excitement at spotting kangaroos on the run. When there is sheep work or tree planting occurring on the property, our guests are included in helping with it. We also visit ‘Wyanga,’ run by my parents, Pam and Phillip Dutton, for extra sheep and cattle work.

In supporting the local economy, we visit Kentucky General Store, Uralla, Walcha and Armidale for our extra supplies and off-site experiences.

> Who is a typical Fit Farm visitor?

We cater for adults of all ages, body shapes and fitness levels. Whether you want to lose weight to feel slim and energetic, or to firm and tone your shape, the results start at Fit Farm. Some guests just come for the experience of being immersed in the farm lifestyle in a beautiful and healthy environment.

If you have a weight loss goal, feel ready to make a change and are fit enough to walk 5 km, then you will thrive at Fit Farm. It is a kick-start fitness holiday, not a boot camp. Each day is broken down into several blocks of exercise within the optimum heart rate training zones for burning fat. As it is not necessary to be pushed to extreme levels to get results, Fit Farm is suitable for most people. 

> Describe a typical day at Fit Farm …

We start the day at 7am with a zesty drink and a 4 km walk, wearing pedometers. A healthy breakfast is followed by a morning activity that involves specific training with equipment, or a specialty class of yoga or pilates. We include a life coaching session, where health goals and planning occur, before an early lunch. We allow a couple of hours of ‘Zen’ time as we call it, where clients can relax or have a sleep when needed. 

Afternoons are dedicated to fun farm activities and outings to local areas of interest. We walk 4 km through the property before a light, healthy dinner. Afterwards, we sit around the kitchen table or the potbelly stove, talking about health and other issues over a cup of tea. We tend to go to bed very early to recharge ourselves for the next active day.

> What other activities do you include?

Health-specific activities include a supermarket tour, yoga, pilates, gym classes, strength-training sessions, and an hour of massage. We record weight, body fat percentage, tape measurements and the heart rate of guests at the beginning and end of their stay. Some people lose weight while others drop body fat percentage or total centimetres, so it is important to record the changes as thoroughly as we do.

We offer a variety of outdoor activities that help guests understand more about the region. We go on walks around Wollomombi Falls, Apsley Falls and the Blue Hole, try gold fossicking at Uralla with Arnold Goode and follow the ghost of Thunderbolt at McCrossin’s Mill Museum. We wander around Kentucky and Walcha (coffee stops are allowed!) take part in the Armidale Heritage Tour, and talk to local property owners about different types of local production: merino and alpaca wool, cattle, roses, vineyards and trees. It is often a fun, new challenge for people with sedentary jobs to get exercise during farm work. In the Kentucky area, guests have a go at weeding between rose bushes for Kate Hedges and handling alpacas at Green Gully Alpacas.

Depending on the season and farm work available on the property, guests may find themselves running after sheep through paddocks, handling sheep or cattle in the yards, picking up fallen branches to build a bonfire, planting trees or building a rock wall. Every group of guests has different interests and abilities, so we tailor suitable activities each time. 

> Who makes up the Fit Farm team?

Richard and I manage Fit Farm together. Richard is our chef and general support, while I coordinate activities and facilitate life coaching. Michael and Millie Taylor pop in for a chat with guests about farming and local history, and they provide a memorable bonfire night.

We have involved local professionals in running private classes either on site or in town. Our guests experience yoga with Gina Dillon, pilates with Mally McCormack, massage with Steven Powley, a supermarket tour with dietician Gillian Woodward, and gym sessions at Mick & Colleens Fitness Centre and Feel Good Fitness in Armidale.

> What would you say to someone who is thinking about going to Fit Farm?

If you have tried and failed repeatedly to lose weight or to get moving, we offer a kick-start that just may change your life. When you feel really unfit, it can seem too hard to begin regularly exercising or dieting on your own. A week at Fit Farm will push you past that uncomfortable barrier, and with our support, you will increase your fitness and drop a kilo or two. Once you feel that you have started, it is easier to keep exercising, and your weight loss results will continue with healthy eating at home. 

It helps to learn how much you are capable of, and you can always say to yourself, “If I survived walking 10 km at Fit Farm, then I know I can walk 5 km today.”

Previous guests have gone home armed with ideas on how they would add more exercise and healthy eating into their lives. Months later, we still hear from them, and they have all made significant changes and stuck to most of them. One guest had a dream of running on the beach, but she felt she was too heavy to run before visiting us. She started to jog at Fit Farm, and was amazed at jogging non-stop for 400 m before she left. Now, she regularly runs 3 km and swims 1500 m on other days. 

Another woman wanted to shed a few kilos before her wedding, which she did, plus she learned how to improve her exercise technique for better ongoing results.

Several female guests aged past 50 have learned how to avoid their high risk of osteoporosis, and they are now lifting weights and eating more calcium-rich foods, which may prevent them from serious future injury. 

It is rewarding to know that we have influenced people in becoming more active and healthy, and we really enjoy getting to know each of our guests. 

> What special incentive are you offering readers of Focus?

Now that we are in the New Year, people often start thinking about making changes to their health and lifestyle. A visit to Fit Farm will help you commit to pursuing the results you dream about.

For readers of Focus, we are offering a 10% discount on all programs from January through April 2009. Visit our website at www.fitfarm.com.au for more information or to book online, and mention this article with your reservation to receive the discount.

> Thank you Jane.

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