How to not exercise

Now, don’t get me wrong. Most people are really good at not exercising. The most recent Statscan report found that only about 15% of Canadians are getting enough exercise, that most people spend about 9.5 hours a day sitting. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that this is bad. Like, global pandemic causing 57 million annual deaths bad.

So why on earth would I write a post about NOT EXERCISING?!

Because it is possible to over do it. Did you hear that doctors are starting to perscribe exercise as medicine? (check my FB for a recent article about this happening in BC). This is awesome. Not only because it gets people moving but because it recognizes that exercise is powerful medicine.

And like any powerful drug, it can be overused and abused.


Let’s go over the basics of how exericse works. When we do a tough workout – like, let’s say one of my killer bootcamp classes– we are creating tiny micro tears in the muscles and putting stress on our heart and respiratory system. I know that sounds bad but it’s not. Because our amazing bodies take this as a signal that our muscles are needed and therefore we better adapt and get stronger. Which is exactly what happens – on our recovery days.

If we don’t allow adequate time for recovery –  when we overtrain – there are consequences that are going to move you further away from your goals. Here are a few signs that it might be time to back off:

  • You are hungry as hell
  • You are always sore/achy in your muscles or joints
  • You get colds often or it takes forever to recover
  • You often have insomnia
  • You haven’t seen any improvement in your physical condition in a while
  • You have trouble losing weight
  • You are emotional/irritable/depressed

So is it as simple as exercising one day and then chilling the next?

Not necessarily. Like all medicine, the dosage will depend on the individual. A day on/day off schedule would probably bore Anna Kournikova to tears but send Al Bundy to the hospital.

So, unfortunately, you are going to have to listen to your body (I know – most unwelcome advice ever.)

Here’s a few rules I suggest:

1. The 15 minute rule.

It’s really common to feel like you are too tired to exercise. Very few poeople spring out of bed looking for a burpee TABATA. However, a well designed warm up will increase circulation through the body and start sending those feel-good chemicals to the brain. Within 15 minutes, you will probably be feeling more awake and glad that you didn’t hit snooze. If, after 15 minutes of exercise, you still feel completely wiped, this is a sign that it should be a recovery day. My suggestion is to maintain your intention for an hour of self-care and transition your workout to focus on restorative flexibility.

2. You should feel fully recovered from your last workout before you workout again.

If your quads are killing you from the wall sit enurance test you did yesterday it’s not necessarily a bad idea to go for a jog. In fact, moving some oxygenated blood around will probably relieve the soreness. But save the front squat 1 rep max for another day when your quads are feeling spring loaded and ready for action.


3. Your workout should leave you feeling energized, not exhausted.

When you are done your workout, you should feel like a champ.



If you feel like roadkill, you probably overdid it.

Now here’s the tricky part: Some people don’t know how to chill (hi, Mum!).

If you are in that very small minority that could benefit from less exercise,  you might be reading this and experiencing some anxiety. Because for you, my one-percent warriors, it’s more than a workout, right? It’s your ‘me’ time, it’s your stress-relief, it’s your happy place. These are some of the awesome effects of exercise, which is why it can be so addictive. So how are you going to get your hit when you are giving the body a break? Here are some ideas:

I need the workout to de-stress and get mental clarity:

Try yoga and meditation, or going for a walk in nature. All of those are trite. All of them totally work.


I need the workout to feel happy and energized.

Three words: Dance. Mix. ’96.

Or whatever makes you feel like doing the Humpty Hump. And then call up a friend who is smart and hilarious (Hi, Meg!) and get them to meet you for that walk in nature. (check this post for a list of Toronto’s best hikes)

My workout is the only thing I do for myself.

I get it. You have so many demands on your time that the only time you insist for yourself is for something virtuous and dutiful like exercise. And you would feel like a jerk if you left the dishes in the sink and let the kids watch TV while you did something indulgent like…read a book. Don’t. Everyone was fine while you went for an hour long run. They will be fine if you go for an hour long pedi. If judgers gotta judge that’s their problem.

serve our community

It makes me feel productive… like I’m doing something GOOD for my health.

Then spend that hour doing something else that’s going to move you towards your goals. Like batch cooking some healthy new recipes (subscribe at the top of the page to get our Meal Planning Made Easy Guide to get started) or download the best apps for workouts you can do from your phone while you are at the cottage this summer.

And to deal with the elephant in the room…

I’m worried I will get fat if I take days off:

If you are overtraining and not allowing your body to recover,  your body is under some serious stress. When your body is stressed, it thinks you need lots of energy to fight off sabre toothed tigers. When you are not in a state of elevated stress, you will not need as much food to feel satiated and your stress hormone levels will balance out. I promise you it will be alright. Your body won’t eat more calories than it needs if you listen to it. And, seriously – get into that meditation. It will help you tune in to what the body needs and calm alot of the fat anxiety chatter.

If you need some other ideas about how to not exercise, you can always ask the other 85% of Canadians who are already experts at that.

But if you need some next-level inspiration, I’ve have scoured the internet for recovery-day heros for you. You’re welcome.










Warning! Gluten ahead!

After a year of collecting recipes from our Bootcampers, recruiting friends to do recipe testing and trading personal training for design and illustration services, I’m so psyched to introduce our Food Feels Good community cookbook!  Have a look at the Forward to learn a bit more about our food philosophy, check the back for some awesome resources about everything from food politics to disordered eating and then dig in to some delicious recipes!

(from the forward of the Food Feels Good Cookbook)

Warning! Gluten ahead!

None of these recipes will promise to make you lose weight or look like a celebrity or be bikini ready in 3 weeks. Be warned that they might contain fat and meat and dairy and deliciousness. These are a collection of recipes chosen by people like you; busy people with families and jobs who like to make and eat food that makes them feel good.

I know you want to be buff and beautiful and have a flat stomach. And you’ve probably heard that people who cook are more likely to have a healthy body weight and live longer. In fact, the decline in home cooking closely tracks the rise in obesity and all the chronic diseases linked to diet. Research even indicates that children who enjoy home cooked meals with their parents do better in school and are less likely to drink, smoke and suffer from eating disorders.

This book was designed to evoke a time when people cooked at home about twice as often as we do now. Cookbooks were not glossy hardcover kitchen decor but smudged with lard grease, chocolate fingerprints and years of wear. Those 1970’s cooks may have been making jellied ham salads, but at least they were making their own and not outsourcing their food to industry. And they were a lot thinner and healthier than we are today.

You may think that a cookbook by a Personal Trainer and a Nutritionist should be a bit more prescriptive. If you want food advice, I would quote my favourite food writer, Michael Pollan, in saying: “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And then I would add: Eat with people you love. And pay attention to how it makes you feel (physically, emotionally, psychologically).

If you want some ideas from active and awesome people such as yourself, check out these recipes.

Oonagh Duncan

Personal Trainer, Fitness Educator & founder of Fit Feels Good 



The Food Feels Good Community Cookbook!

Seize the Summer

“Does it ever seem like summers are getting shorter?

Like time is moving faster?”

I said this to my friend Cam as we waited for the Dream in High Park to start in 2004. We had a picnic and some wine and liked to get into the deep stuff. He was a fellow actor but also a sciency sort, and he told me about ‘ratio theory’.
The idea, he explained, is that time is experienced as a percentage of our total existence.  
So for a four year old,  a year represents 25% of his existence. For a 50 year old, a year is only 2% of her life, making it relatively insignificant.
I’ve thought about that theory a lot since that picnic. When it seems like my kids are morphing before my eyes, when I’m still not used to writing 2016 on cheques and the year is half over. Thinking about that picnic also reminds me that we really don’t know how many summers we have left. My lovely friend Cam died in an accident when he was only thirty years old.

So here I am at the starting line of summer… that sweet moment we Canadians wait for during the months of grumbling and scraping our cars in the dark. And I’m thinking,
“Summer 2016, I’m gonna grab you by the balls.”
Because life is short. Because summer is sweet.

Here’s how to do it:

The key is to not wake up in September and realize you forgot to do the things that are important to you. The hard part is identifying those in advance. I tackle it with Persons, Places, and Things:


You know those people that you love being with but you realize you haven’t seen them since that Christmas party? If part of your perfect summer involves reconnecting with certain people, then take action now to make sure it happens. You might be surprised to find out that your next mutually available Saturday is in August.
And then look closer to home and think about your family. Here are some of my essential family experiences for the summer:
  • One big old family reunion. Parents, grandparents, cousins, a casserole that involves cheez whiz. Let’s do this.


  • At least one romantic summer night in the city date with my husband. Bikes. Sundress. Patio (check out this list of Toronto’s most romantic patios)



  • At least one lazy afternoon in the park with my kids per week. Sitting in the sun with my bare feet in the sandbox, watching all sorts of projects and kid drama unfold. Unfortunately, I have the kind of life where I have to schedule this. But it’s happening.


What are your essential summer destinations? I need:
  • A visit to Toronto Island. My husband finds those quad bikes embarrassing but the kids and I outnumber him.

quad bike

  • A visit to a farm to go berry picking. Every year I say ‘let’s go berry picking!’ and my husband informs me we are already into apple season. That’s how in tune with nature I am. Here’s a great list of what is in season in Ontario and here’s where to get it. Advance warning: Strawberries are over in July. OVER.


  • A trip. Sure, a Euro rail pass would be great, but I’m talking about even a road trip to Port Dover, Ontario (which, by the way, has a surprisingly delightful 1950’s seaside kitch vibe). Here’s a link to some other awesome options.  (Did you know there is an Apple Pie trail? Doesn’t that strike you as an EMERGENCY?)

apple pie

  • To just be outside.  This seems obvious but we are creatures of habit. What routines can you move outside? Your lunch at work? Your workout (cough cough Bootcamps) Meetings? Your commute? Dinner? Watching the entire third season of Orange is the New Black on your laptop in the front porch after the kids go to sleep?
This is actually a picture of my sister, Shannon Duncan, doing her SEO job in the forest using a car battery and a homemade stepper for exercise. I'll just let that sit for a bit.
This is actually a picture of my sister, Shannon Duncan, doing her SEO job in the forest using a car battery and a homemade stepper for exercise. I’ll just let that sit for a bit.


Another theory of why time seems to speed up as we get older is that we measure time in memorable events. (I talk about this in my blog trying to convince you to sign up for a race) Whereas childhood is marked by many ‘firsts’ and memorable experiences, adult life tends to be more routine and a lack of memorable events causes the time to smooth out and condense.
So what things can you do this summer to create memories?


  • Throw a party. I actually hate hosting parties like most people hate exercising but I’m always glad when I do it. My favourite low-key party is bringing pizza and sangria to the park and inviting a bunch of families for a 5-7pm type thing. Easy, cheap and no clean up. Perfect for a June school night.
  • Run a race. Or tackle a section of the Bruce Trail each weekend. Or join a Bootcamp and commit to going every day. Do the Ride for Heart. Learn how to salsa. Make Summer 2015 the year you accomplished something and made yourself proud.


Most importantly, in all this summer planning, schedule unscheduled time.
There is another theory that time speeds up as we age due to stress.
The feeling that we don’t have enough time to get things done can be reinterpreted by our brains as time passing too quickly. So whether you tick off everything on your perfect summer list or not, take the time to breathe and savour every minute of the summer you have. Like this one. 🙂

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