Managing farm work, motherhood and millions of other tasks is all in a day’s work for rural women. However, that also means they don’t get a chance to visit the gym. Sarah Martelli has come to the party with an online fitness business. Sheryl Haitana reports.

Rural women are busy juggling farm work, the bookwork, kids, all in relative isolation, and driving into town to go to the gym for a workout or getting healthy meals delivered to the door isn’t a realistic option.

Sarah Martelli has started up a fitness business that reaches out to rural women to become the healthiest and strongest version of themselves. Strong Woman is an online community where women can find tailored workouts to do from home, with quick and easy healthy recipes, goal planners, and a platform to connect with other women.

If women can prioritise their own health and fitness, they can inspire their partners, their children, and the community around them, Sarah says.

Sarah encourages women to ditch the diets and unrealistic expectations. Her philosophy is to help women create healthy, sustainable habits.

“Start small. If you aren’t drinking much water, start by having one glass of water every morning. Then increase it to drinking one bottle a day. Then two bottles of water a day.

“Motivation and willpower only last so long and then they leave. You have to create healthy habits that are sustainable long term.”

Sarah started Strong Woman from her dairy farm at Reporoa after a faceoff with cancer. In 2016, she was diagnosed with a rare gynaecological cancer that first presented as a false pregnancy.

After the first two chemotherapy regimes didn’t work, an intensive third round of chemo was a success. From being too sick to even get out of bed to look after her three young children, when Sarah was announced cancer free she was determined to get strong and healthy again for her family.

Her first challenge was to be able to walk to the letterbox and back. Then to the end of the road and back. She thought there might be other women out there, not necessarily on a cancer journey, but on a health journey.

Determined to help women

“I can be quite determined. I made it my mission to be fit and healthy again and I’m a bit of a sharer so I started up a Facebook page to share my story. “I thought if I could do it, after being literally at rock bottom, that anyone can do it, they just have to believe in themselves.”  The name Strong Woman seemed quite fitting at the time. Then it grew from there.

Strong Woman has evolved into a full time fitness business for Sarah, who retrained to be a personal trainer, then continued with further studies in nutrition.

“Now I know how good food makes you feel and you want to fuel your body right. Food is medicine. You only have one body, if you feed it full of crap and don’t move it, you lose it. You have to look after what you’ve got.”

Sarah doesn’t want the story of Strong Woman to be centred around her cancer story. It shouldn’t take a close call with cancer to inspire women to eat better or get fit. She is a small bundle of positivity and she would rather focus on today and tomorrow and helping rural women reach their goals.

She is passionate about getting other rural women to prioritise their health and create habits which are sustainable. Making small changes that naturally become part of their daily routines.

Start with doing small swaps such as swap the milk chocolate for dark chocolate, the white bread for brown, swap wine during the week for kombucha and just have the wine on Friday night.

“I don’t live for fitness and sport, but I know how good you feel, and to get through life as a mum, if you are fitter, stronger and healthier.

“But I have to work at it. It doesn’t come naturally to me, it never has. But I’ve been doing it long enough now that I’ve created healthy habits, so it’s just part of my routine.”

Sarah keeps it real online and shares her own journey to remain fit and healthy. She is cutting through the fake, perfect images shared online and telling it how it is, from the realities of mum life to having a healthy body image.

“Being alive, hanging out with your kids and being grateful for what you’ve got every day, that’s what is important.How much cellulite is on your arse is the least of your problems. “You can still be fit and strong and healthy and have fat – we all have fat.”

After chemo, Sarah has been diagnosed with arthritis, which sometimes hinders her ability to do high impact workouts. She has employed her close friend and fellow Reporoa dairy farmer Karla Shaw, ‘Coach Karla’, who now leads the sweatier, harder workouts.

“Karla is a massive part of the team, she is a huge support to me. It’s so awesome having my dear friend on the Strong Woman journey with me.”

Sarah has also recently trained to be a pilates instructor, as she is passionate about offering workouts that cater to different able bodies, no matter people’s ability.

“You want to be able to move your body for the rest of your life. Move your body, it doesn’t matter how you move, it’s how it best serves you.”

Sarah is passionate about fitness regimes that are tailored specifically for women. A lot of trainers out there have not been taught how to train a woman’s body, she says. They don’t ask about a woman’s pelvic floor, or check for abdominal separation, prior to starting exercising. Women are often doing exercises that they shouldn’t be doing, ultimately doing more damage to their bodies.

“I encourage all women to be checked out by a women’s health physio, after having a baby, prior to starting exercise. Then they know what they’re dealing with, and can modify exercises if required.”

DWN calving

Sarah is running an eight week Strong Woman challenge with Dairy Women’s Network to help women get fit for calving.

When the first calves are born this year, hopefully there are less injuries on farms from lifting calves and buckets of milk.

“Having a strong core is incredibly important.”

The challenge is aimed at getting women fit and healthy now the cows have

dried off, so they can go into calving freeling stronger.

“Knowing they can chase that calf around the paddock, and not feel out of breath and generally having more energy to get through the day.

“We are all time-poor, so the workouts are quick to fit into our busy lives.”