Dairy farmer’s gym is no ordinary bootcamp
19 December 2019
Bootcamp farmers – Kane and Nicole Brisco pictured with their son Parker and daughter Ahli. They named their children after boxers Joseph Parker and Muhammad Ali, but in their daughter’s case spelt Ahli to ensure her name was not mispronounced Ali.
In the vast swathe of green pastures that make up much of South Taranaki there’s a bootcamp gym on a dairy farm that cares for more than buff bodies. It is where the heavy lifting can involve helping a mate to de-stress, just as much as heft a fence post.
Welcome to dairy farmer Kane Brisco’s unique approach to not only keeping himself farming fit, but also helping others in his remote close-knit community of Ohangai to build their fitness – and overall wellbeing.
“I’m a believer that you grow in mind and body when you face a few physical challenges and put yourself through a bit of discomfort,” he says. “This means when life throws one at you, you can dig a couple of tools out of the box to deal with the issue.”
This 32-year-old sharemilker, husband and father of two knows about physical fitness, having spent his late teens and early 20s in the boxing ring and playing rugby, both for the Taranaki Under 20s and 100-plus senior games for the Border Rugby Club in Waverley.
But what about mental wellbeing – something farming strong men and women are today only just learning to talk about?
Kane Brisco sees that physical fitness and mental fitness are inextricably intertwined. He realised this during his sporting years when the training and mentoring he received made him feel good, both physically and mentally.
Today, the exercise programmes he develops for people attending his bootcamp sessions aim to condition minds as well as bodies.
While he had a fair idea of how to create fun workouts, he recently completed the theory part of the USA National Academy of Sports Medicine’s personal trainer course and will shortly undergo the practical assessment.
“My thinking was the people coming to the bootcamps were putting in their best effort, so I should too – and while it’ s been a challenge doing the study on top of running the farm, it’s reinforced I’m on the right track.”
Kane first considered setting up the farm bootcamp sessions three years ago when the milk price paid to dairy farmers was low, and was able to bring the idea to life back in January. He was feeling pressured, and could see other farmers and others in the community around him were also stressed.
With support from wife Nicole, who he enjoys trail running with around the Ohangai region and on the slopes of Mt Taranaki, he decided a great antidote would be getting his neighbours around for some laughs and a good workout.
“I got some free weights together, and some sandbags people could also workout with, and put the word out. I really thought only two or three people would turn up, but at that first bootcamp there were six people – and it’s grown from there to where nearly 20 people are likely to turn up for a session.”
He says the bootcamp sessions, together with his personal training services, attract an interesting variety of people. For the most part they are local farmers and teachers, but there also people who are happy to drive 30-40 minutes.
“We have a mix of people – some who’ve never worked out before, and three or four who’re over 50 years old. In fact, I’ve found that when I set a tough training session, the older more mature ones look at it, take a deep breath and get on with it, while the younger ones are not so keen.
“This backs up my theory that mental strength, like physical strength, has to be earned – it’s all about mindset.”
As enthusiasm has grown for Kane’s bootcamps, so has the creative thinking behind improvising farm equipment for the workouts – think pressing and lifting bales of hay and haylage (the big round ones), along with those fence posts that come in different sizes and weight.
He has now also added some purchased gym equipment like resistance bands, boxing gloves and skipping ropes, and will soon set up a punching bag. In the winter months workouts are in a farm shed he’s cleared for the purpose, otherwise the training sessions are in the fresh air out of doors.
After taking a break over the calving season, the busiest time of the year for dairy farmers – although Kane did find time to train five people to run an off-road half marathon – the gym is again open for business.
Kane says: “staying fit and well, and helping others to do the same, is helping me to be a better person, a better farmer and a better husband”.
Kane and Nicole are 50:50 sharemilkers for farm owners Brian and Patricia Williams, and milk 210 kiwi cross cows.
Bootcamp dairy farmers Kane and Nicole Brisco out for a run near their Ohangai farm.
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