KATE HUNTER: "I think I’m on my way to becoming an inspirational meme."

You know, I think I’m on my way to becoming a goddamn inspirational meme.

I’ve taken up exercise. Not walking the dog exercise. Actual sweat-exercise.

And this is not a flash-in-the-pan thing. Not like the cardio-tennis. No no no, this is long-lasting, life-changing stuff.

I’ve been doing it for EIGHT WEEKS, so I fully expect a book deal, if not a TV series.

In the first episode, I’ll talk meaningfully to camera, explaining the seismic events that were the catalyst to this.

When the anonymous person behind the camera asks, I’ll explain, with a suitably earnest expression that:

1. I’m turning 50 in a few months and worked out that if I continue to put on half a kilo every year I’ll be the size of a Toyota Prado by the time I’m 70. No disrespect to the Toyota Prado, it’s a fine automobile. It’s just tough finding clothes to fit it. Parking spaces are tricky. And they use a lot of petrol.

2. The last decade went like a doped Usain Bolt. My 40th birthday party feels it was like the week before last. If the next one goes even faster without me taking charge of things, then I might as well sign up for an AVEO apartment now.

Kate: The past 10 years have been like a doped Usain Bolt.

3. I’ve run out of excuses. I don’t care if people think I look blobby in athleisure. I am not pregnant, planning to be pregnant, or revelling in the glory of a recent pregnancy. The children (on whom I blame a certain amount of my softness) are of an age they can be left at home unattended. I have a little more time than I did a few years ago.

4. In March I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Low level, caught early but still cancer. Two surgeries, six weeks’ radiation, and some dreary drug therapy should mean the end of it. But holy hell, there’s nothing like a malignancy as a reminder that none of us knows how long we have. Although there’s nothing I could have done to prevent it, there’s a bunch of things I can do to make the most of whatever I have left – which I really hope will be another 50 years.


So I called Emma, one of my sister’s best friends, who’s a personal trainer. I’ve always liked Emma, and because she knows our family dramas as well as our genetic bias towards cured meats I felt she would be sympathetic if not forgiving.

We discuss our unhealthy relationship with exercise: do you want to be thin or fit? (Post continues after audio.)

At our first session, Emma asked, ‘So what are your goals? What do you want to achieve?’

Why, that’s an excellent question, Emma.

‘Well,’ I mumbled, not having given it much thought, ‘I’m not a complete sloth. I can walk forever … but I can’t run very far.’

‘But do you want to run?’ she asked.

‘Not especially. I’ve never seen the point unless you need to get somewhere quickly.’

‘So what do you want to do that you can’t do now?’

I thought for a minute.

‘I would like to be able to get into a canoe without looking like a goob’.

"I don't want to run a marathon. I'm just about this canoe." 

To her credit, Emma’s face remained straight.

I explained. Every year we go on a holiday that involves lots of snorkelling. The best coral is a few hundred metres from the beach, so we paddle a canoe out to it.

I’m excellent at slipping into the water and I’m a supremely graceful snorkeler, but climbing back into the canoe has become high drama for me and world-class comedy for my children.


A decade and a half ago, when planning to exit the water, I would simply remove my fins, use my strong arms pull myself up, then execute a tidy twist of my torso before lowering myself gently into the canoe.

The last couple of years the same exercise has become an epic struggle, that frequently ended in capsize. I would take a deep breath and proceed thusly: I’d keep my fins on so I could use them to propel myself vertically in manner of a North Korean missile. If the launch went well, I could gain enough momentum to fling a single leg into the canoe. Then I would kick furiously with my submerged leg and pull the canoe over far enough so I could clamber in but not so far to tip the whole thing over. With luck the rest of me would tumble into the canoe like a just-landed bluefin tuna wearing a rashie.

"My personal trainer managed to keep a straight face when I told her my goal."

‘So that’s your challenge,’ I said to Emma. ‘I don’t want to get into a particular pair of jeans, I don’t want to run the Gold Coast half marathon, but I do want to climb into a canoe like I used to.’

Emma thought this a worthy goal, even though I do not need to access canoes on a daily basis. She told me she works with another lady whose aim was to get a glazed ham into the oven unassisted. Not really the stuff of viral memes but important to her and her ham-loving loved ones.

So here I am, exercising three times a week, not loving it but not hating it either. I’m a little bit lighter and quite a lot stronger. I’m no longer freefalling towards fifty. I’m lifting myself up to it, like it’s a canoe.


Kate Hunter is a writer of ads, novels (the Mosquito Advertising series for young readers), a picture book (A Curry For Murray), as well as online columns, articles and status updates. You can follow her Facebook and Twitter. Kate lives in Brisbane with her husband, three kids, two cockatiels and a complicated dog. Her favourite things are travel, food and conversation, ideally enjoyed all together.