My Complicated Relationship... With Exercise

Personal Trainer Stretching


Over the years we’ve had a love/hate relationship. I've loved it, hated it, then loved it again (but in a more healthy way!).

I want to share my story because I want you to skip that section of your life and get to the part where exercise is not only something you love doing, but something that makes you feel incredibly happy. 

I’ll take you back to high school – final year, and with it, the pressure to be beautiful, fit and lean.

I’d look at the scales every day and see something I didn’t like. I’d look at the mirror and see something I wanted to change.

My lunch was an apple or a chai latte and I’d avoid breakfast. After school, I’d be on the treadmill for a minimum of an hour, plus weights on top. Then I’d go home and eat my one meal of the day.

While my weight dropped, I had no energy and I was off school all the time with my health. Severe abdominal pain led to surgeries and procedures. And looking back, I was not helping my body with anything I was doing.

After I finished school, I went to England for a year… and things went completely the other way. Fending for myself for the first time, I binged on Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, sweets and sugar-filled, artificial foods. Before I knew it, I’d gained 10 kilograms.

I was sicker than I had ever been before and more mentally down than I had ever experienced. I lost confidence in myself and suffered depression and anxiety. I may not have shown it on the outside, but on the inside I was struggling.

The following year, I moved to Brisbane for university. Suddenly I was thrust back into social pressures… and I realised just how much I hated myself and my now overweight body.

I’d eat a plain piece of bread for breakfast, some iceberg lettuce and a tomato for lunch, and the same for dinner. I would get up at 6 every morning for a mandatory three hours of exercise: one-hour run, one-hour bike, one-hour weights.

I mean, the weight fell off...

But what came with it…? An addiction to exercise. I couldn’t not exercise every single day. I ran twice to the point of not being able to walk, and developed a stress fracture in my left shin. My left hip was in agony, and some days I couldn’t walk… but did that stop me? No.

Flash forward now to someone who is very different to the girl I was back then.

I became a qualified personal trainer, came to terms with my vulnerability to ‘boom and bust’ with exercise, and nurtured my self-love and self-care.

Now? I’m someone who puts their health and mindset above all else. I won’t do anything unless it feeds and nurtures me. More than that, I know the power of exercise. I’ve helped women (including myself) to find confidence, to be proud of their strength and to grow through health issues.

My favourite way of moving and the workouts that make a difference to me are constantly changing and evolving. And I’m learning and growing with them.

Up until May of last year, I was my fittest and strongest self. I could do 15 pull ups without thinking twice. I could deadlift and bench press and take on the guys.

But after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia last year, I took time off exercise because I thought my body wasn’t up to it. But I’m learning it’s what it needs, even when I don’t feel like it.

I’m starting from scratch… and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m the girl struggling to run more than 1.5 kilometres (and is in AGONY the next day!), I don’t have the strength I used to (I can’t even do one pull up), and I’m taking it slowly.

So… wherever you are in your journey with exercise, health and wellbeing. I want you to know one thing:


My up and down relationship with exercise has made me passionate about one thing:


I want you to realise that wellness isn’t about the latest ‘fad’, but about prioritising a way of wellbeing that works for us.

Exercises that light us up, that excite us, that make us feel strong and confident and capable. A way of living that makes us feel healthy and glowing and able.

Whether it’s a high intensity class or a stretching class. Whether it’s meditating or going for a run. It needs to work for you. 

Trust me. Your body and your mind are trying to communicate with you. The latest supermodel may swear by this workout or that way of living… but if it doesn’t resonate you with, you’ll never see the results you want to see.

And please. Take the judgement out of the equation. Don't be hard on yourself. I decided to start running again and I'm exhausted and sore after 1 kilometre... and a slow one at that! But... I don't care. I am proud of myself for starting somewhere... and you should be too. 

Above all, I want you to know that whatever journey you’ve had with exercise, with health, and with wellness, there’s no time like right now to start chasing a life where you prioritise yourself and your wellbeing.

Courtenay McCulloch Life and Wellness Coach


Founder of Thrive Collective, activewear-wearing, brunch-loving, dog-obsessed girl on a mission to help all women realise their real potential and start living a life where they thrive in every moment.