All about maintenance and active recovery

Did you know that you can reduce the volume and intensity of your workouts and nutrition habits by two thirds and still stay in shape?

For reals.

It’s actually one of the foundational principles of personal training-

It’s Maintenance.

Now before you click away-

I know you are probably not reading a fitness blog because you want to maintain the body you have.

You are reading a fitness blog because you want to maintain the body that Beyonce has.

But let me tell you why maintenance is actually part of the process – why the bridge between you and Beyonce must involve maintenance phases.

But first – two things:

  1. Maintenance is not quite the same thing as a plateau. For the difference, go here.
  2. If the thought of decreasing your workout volume and intensity makes you freak out a bit because you are scared you will get fat or depressed, go here to learn how to NOT exercise.

So here’s how it works:

  • When you first lose weight (or get stronger or whatever your intention is), you will probably have a good amount of success relatively quickly.


  • Then, your body will hold in a maintenance phase for a little while and adjust to the new metabolic needs.


  • During this phase, you won’t have to work as hard as you did when you were actively trying to get better.


  • Then you can adjust your program/ increase your effort and you will lose a bit more weight (but not as much as the first time).


  • And your second maintenance phase will be longer as your body again adjusts to the new metabolic rate.

And so the pattern continues until you reach your stable weight/fitness level.

Which is a GOOD thing.

A couple of things to notice about ^^ this amazing image  ^^that will have you lining up to hire me as your graphic designer:

  1. The lines are wiggly because NONE of this happens in a linear way. You have ups and downs – daily, weekly, monthly (especially monthly. Ladies, amiright?)

2.The weight loss (or strength increase) will get less dramatic and the                 maintenance phase will get longer with each phase. Don’t spend                  your life – and blow out your knees – chasing that initial                      weight loss success and the resulting compliment                          onslaught. 

(seriously. This is like trying to chase the high you got the first time you fell in love or heard Hit Me Baby One More Time. There are some things you just can’t repeat.)

So – how do you pull off a maintenance phase that prepares your body and mind for the next cycle of kicking ass?

Can you just drink beer and eat hot dogs for a bit and then get your shit together when you are ready?

Nah man.  You’ve got to practice ACTIVE RECOVERY.

Active recovery is when you do things that actively promote the recovery of your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems and prepare it for the next increase in effort.


Think about the active recovery you do during your workout. Let’s say you are lucky enough to be doing a burpee tabata (so, 20 secs of burpees followed by 10 secs recovery x 8).

So you do your 20 secs of burpees  – and then in the 10 secs of rest, do you sit down and drink beer and eat hot dogs?

No. Because then your next 20 secs of burpees would be barfy hell.

What you do during that 10 seconds of rest is walk around and swear and take deep breaths and grab some water.

THAT is Active Recovery.

Same thing goes with your weekly cycle. Let’s say you workout every other day.

On your active recovery days, you don’t sit on your ass. That’s called sitting on your ass.

^^^fig. 1: NOT Active Recovery^^^


During your active recovery day you do basically the same thing as your active recovery ten seconds during your workout:

Walk around

Take deep breaths

drink lots of water

(swearing is optional but I’m usually a fan).

And now let’s pull the camera back even further and talk about the cycle of the year.

There are months where you will naturally feel an energetic push to take things to the next level (like January, May and September for most of us)

And there are months when it’s time to relax a bit, practice maintenance and active recovery (like August, December).

If you are enjoying a Maintenance Month, here’s how to do it properly:

Reduce volume and intensity of workouts but don’t just stop moving:


  • If you are used to 5 workouts a week, you can probably scale back to 3 without seeing a noticeable decrease in your fitness.
  • Or if you are used to hour long workouts every day, you could do 20 min workouts.
  • Or if you are used to doing Crossfit, try more swimming, hiking and yoga.

It’s pretty much NEVER recommended to sit on your ass. Our bodies were meant to move and ass sitting won’t help prepare you for the next step.

Sleeeeeeep like your life depends on it:

Because it kind of does. More about that here.

Drink tons of water:

Water is great at helping you eliminate waste products and combat the dehydration most of us have from too much coffee and booze (or, to use trendier language, ‘flush out toxins’)

You can chill a bit on your nutrition but don’t eat like a total asshole

The best way to rest and recover your physical body would be to continue to feed it well with lean protein and veggies and whole grains, etc.

But most of my clients need a mental break from the ‘rules’ as much as their bodies need a workout break.

If that is you, this is how I’d recommend relaxing the nutrition rules:

  • If you normally eat a really healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner – maybe you could relax dinner a bit but stay on target for breakfast and lunch.
  • If you normally measure out your food or count calories or macros, drop it and just eyeball your portions to make sure they are within reason.
  • If you normally try to eat healthy ALL THE TIME, maybe you relax it to ‘I eat healthy when I am cooking for myself, but when I’m a guest, I will just eat what’s being served and limit my portions of stuff that makes me feel like butt.’

And this is the best part about Maintenance phases – they are a chance for you to ditch the rules and the effort a bit and focus more on intuitive movement and eating and experiment with what actually makes you FEEL GOOD.

And of course, feeling good RIGHT NOW is the whole point – not when you’ve hit your goal weight.

And if you get antsy during your maintenance phases, remember that they are practice for when you hit – and maintain- your perfect weight/fitness level.

Happy maintaining! x

Are you in maintenance right now? Leave a comment below and let me know how it’s going?






Good Food For Good

Every now and then I meet someone who is so cool that I need everyone to know about them IMMEDIATELY.

Richa Gupta is one of those people.

One of my clients met Richa at a food fair and played matchmaker between us.  Her company, Good Food for Good, makes healthy sauces and when I learned that she does a Butter Chicken curry that is only 80 calories per serving (as opposed to 200 +) and includes hemp protein, I was about to storm her warehouse to get my hands on some.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to because Richa invited me to come and check it out. This is a quick video about the day we met and why I was so impressed with what she is doing to make the world healthier.


Wondering what to do with all that healthy delicious?  Here are some ideas from Richa’s site:

Massala Cauliflower Steak



  1. 1 head Cauliflower, sliced into two steaks
  2. 2 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1/ 2 tsp sea salt
  4. 1 jar Good Food For Good Tikka Masala Sauce


Heat the oven to 400 degrees, on a sheet pan place the two steaks and rub them with oil and salt. Bake for about 20-30 minutes till fork tender and brown on edges

If cooking on stove top, take a heavy bottom skillet and pour 1tbsp of oil. Once pan is hot, add the steak and cook on each side till it turns brown about 5 minutes if the cauliflower is still not fork tender, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for another 10 minutes.

Once the steaks are done, plate them and drizzle with warm tikka masala sauce and garnish with pommegrante seeds and cashews.

Delicious! Serve with basmati rice and salad or a warm naan.

Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes


  • 4 Sweet Potatoes, washed and brushed
  • 1.5 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 jar Good Food For Good Ancho Chile Enchilada Sauce or if you like spicy try the Chile de Arbol Taco Sauce.
  • 2 ripe Avocados
  • 1/2 cup chopped pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/8 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/8 cup diced deseeded tomato
  • Fresh lime juice


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Poke several holes into each sweet potato and place on the baking sheet and roast for 40-45 minutes.
  • Bake sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes till they are fork tender.After baking let the potatoes cool for 5-10 minutes.
  • While the potatoes are roasting, prepare guacamole and black beans.
  • Black Bean Sauce: In a shallow pan pour all the Enchilada sauce and black beans with 1/4 cup of water and cook for 5-7 minutes.
  • Guacamole: Prepare guacamole by dicing the Avocado, add onions, tomato, salt to taste and lime juice.
  • Assemble sweet potato: Slice each potato in half lengthwise like a hot dog bun leaving the bottom intact. Pour the saucy black beans in the middle and top it with fresh guacamole.
  • Garnish with chopped pepper and cilantro.

Did you like this post? Want more healthy recipes and features on other people doing cool, healthy stuff? Leave a comment and let me know!

How to fight the Fuckits

If you are interested in fitness, you probably have a bunch of rules buzzing around your head at all times:

  • Should drink 8 glasses of water a day
  • Must do cardio, strength and flexibility training
  • Must get 10K steps in today
  • Should avoid sugar and starchy carbs
  • Must moderate booze intake
  • Should eat protein at every meal.

etc etc.

And now the Holidays are approaching and


A lot of these rules are going to collapse into a pile of mashed potato.



You are a guest at someone’s house

Because you are sick

Because drinking Bailey’s at 8am on Christmas morning with your dad is awesome.

Because there is no way you will make it through the office party without wine

Because your mum makes that marshmellow sweet potato casserole thing because she thinks it’s your favourite.

Because you are hungover as hell

Because your kids are home all day

Because it’s only once a year and you want to enjoy it and relax a little.

And guess what? I’m actually down with all of that.  Really. I do want you to relax a little and enjoy the season.


Sometimes ‘relaxing a little’….. can turn into The Fuckits.


It happens like this:

“I’ve already broken my ‘no sugar’ rule and had a piece of pie. So fuck it. I’ll have three pieces.”

“ Well, I opened the bottle… So fuck it. Might as well finish it.”

“I missed my workout every day this week so far. So fuck it. I won’t bother going today. I’ll get in shape in January ”

The Fuckits are a recipe for weight gain and bing/purge behaviours that will screw up your metabolism long after that ball has dropped on New Years Eve.

So if any of those internal monologues sound familiar,  you need to implement:


Oonagh’s Two Rules

to Fight the Fuckits.

1. Exercise consistency.


Just do something.

Pretty much every day.

You don’t have to do the same old thing (those who signed up for my Get Better In December program are banging out quick 20 min at home workouts, for example.)

It doesn’t have to be hard (try Adrienne’s yoga for when you are hungover).

It doesn’t have to be long.

It just has to happen.

Because exercise is a keystone habit. Meaning that if you do it, it sets off a chain reaction that will lead to other positive decisions.

For example, you are less likely to eat Toaster Strudels for breakfast when you just came back from a run. Even a pathetically slow 10 min run.

You are less likely to finish the bottle of wine if you’ve paid for a Bootcamp class the next morning.

DO NOT WASTE MENTAL ENERGY on a big old debate about whether or not you REALLY have to exercise today because blahblahinsertexercusehereblah.

Listen to how funny your brain is trying to make excuses and then do something anyway.

2. Try moderation.

I know. Mega boring. My personal motto has always been:

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth OVERdoing!”

It’s a philosophy I’ve applied with gusto to everything from run training  to tequila shots, The Master Cleanse to eye makeup.

I love extremes. But extremes are unsustainable and therefore give birth to The Fuckits.

Check it out:

You could be someone who has two glasses of wine and then stops. ( I swear. I have met these people.)
You could go for long walks when you don’t feel like running.
You could make a small plate from the hors d’oevres table and then walk away like


The point is not to be PERFECT…

(and if you try to do that in December, you will probably fail and then get The Fuckits.)

The point is to make better decisions, more often.

And to relax and enjoy the season. 🙂

Did you like this post? If so, leave a comment below and tell me a bit about your strategy for staying fit during December!

How Meditating Helps You Lose Weight

This month in my online program we are focusing Sleep and Stress Reduction and one of the tasks I’ve given my clients is to try meditating for 20 mins every day.


And let me be clear.

Most of my clients hire me because they want to lose weight and get fitter, not because they are looking for a spiritual guru.


So one of them asked,


What is the real value of adding 20 mins of daily meditation to my life? If I’m not stressed, sleep well and feel grounded in life as it is, should I bother?


To reply, I told her this story:



When I first heard that story, it really hit me. 

Because I can relate to that woman getting impatient in a yoga class.


And I know that most of my clients have a pattern like this:

  1. Run around like crazy all day –

      2. Mindlessly eating whatever comes their way because they don’t have time to prepare

      3.  They try to chill themselves out with wine at the end of the day

….. and the cycle continues until you are burnt out, overweight and exhausted.


When you take the time to meditate every day, you are:

  • less likely to overeat
  • you will not need alcohol to help you relax
  •  you will lower your levels of cortisol, which leads to retention of belly fat.


So that’s how meditating helps you lose weight.


But more importantly, meditating every day will lead to a great acceptance and love of exactly how your body is RIGHT NOW. 

 Which is obviously the whole point. 🙂


To get you started on your meditation practice, here are some of my favourite meditations available for free online plus one of my own for you:


And we use this story of a hot air balloon ride to put the kids to sleep:


Cosmic Kids Yoga Chanel also has a bunch of great guided relaxations for kids


And here’s a meditation of my own that I will often use to get grounded and get perspective:


Building the Perfect Pantry


Are you ready to get your Martha Stewart on?

It’s time to create The Perfect Pantry.


It will help with you with your Meal Planning, which will help you not eat crap when you are busy.


I know.

But if you are well stocked, it’s actually easy peasy lemon squeezie to throw together simple healthy meals.

Imagine how you would never have an outfit crisis if the only clothes in your closet were deluxe and made you feel amazing.


^^^That’s exactly what it would be like if your pantry was all stocked up like Miss Perfecty Perfect.^^^

Step #1

 DOWNLOAD YOUR PERFECT PANTRY PDF (click image to grab it)

(includes Bonuses My Ferocious Freezer, My Funky Fridge and Where to Buy Guide) 


Step #2

Throw yourself a Tupperware Party:


  1. Toss out those ratty old yogurt and margarine containers. (if possible, rid yourself of any plastic containers… they leach all sorts of nastiness you don’t want to be ingesting!)


  1. Invest in some glass containers, with with tight sealing lids, that can go from fridge, to microwave, to freezer, to dishwasher. They also make great storage containers for nuts, seeds, and spices.


Step # 3:

Stock up Your  Ferocious Freezer!

  • Frozen berries/fruit for smoothies
  • Frozen Veggies
  • Emergency portions of meals/soups
  • Brick of tempeh (Vegheads)
  • Pound of ground beef (Meatheads)
  • Edamame (throw them in a soup to amp up your protein. Put them frozen on the table with some salt for an after school snack)
  • Single protein portions (chicken/fish, etc…)

TRAINER TIP: While portioning out your dinner, portion out a single serving in a freezer/oven proof container, and place in the fridge. Now you have lunch for tomorrow or an emergency meal to transfer to your freezer.

TRAINER TIP: Ladle single servings of soup into a freezer bag, burp all the air out and lay flat. Takes up way less room and it’s already portioned!


TRAINER TIP: Leftover herbs going to waste? chop or puree, place in ice cube container, top with olive oil and freeze. Pop one out when sauteeing veggies! Instant flavour bomb!

TRAINER TIP: While prepping for the week, pre-portion spinach/greens, and fruits/veggies for smoothies and store in freezer in individual freezer bags. (bags can be rinsed and reused for the next week!) This frees up space in your veggie drawer, ensures the ingredients are at peak freshness, and saves prep time in the morning.You can do the same with any dry ingredients.



Label and date what you put in your freezer! That way nothing is a mystery, and nothing goes to waste!


Step #4:

Stock Your Funky Fridge!



  • Grass Fed Butter/Ghee
  • GF Tamari Sauce
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Honey Mustard
  • Eggs
  • Miso
  • Minced Garlic Ginger
  • Hummus*
  • Pesto*
  • Sundried Tomatoes* Olives*

*good to have on hand for little pops of flavourful fat!*

PRO TIP: Keep a Brita filled in your fridge! Fill up your portable water bottles the night before and refill your Brita, so you always have your water at the ready!

PRO TIP: Know what’s in your fridge and where, especially if you have a crisper drawer you can’t see into! If you want to get super organized, make “zones” and use baskets to organize. (by type of food, or by day or by recipe)


PRO TIP: Prep as much as you can in advance, and have at the ready for meal prep. The less you have to “think” about it, the less likely you are to stray to the darkside!

PRO TIP: use a dry erase marker to write what you have in your fridge on the door, cross off or erase when out. (or start a new “need” list) Snap a pic of your door before you go shopping!



Cleaning/chopping fruits and veggies and storing in containers as you unpack your groceries is a great time saver later in the week.

(BUT if you’re not going to do that, DON’T wash in advance! This will advance the deterioration of some produce, leading to spoilage before you can use it, which obviously sucks.)

Where to buy:

Want to know the best places to grab your containers?

What you should buy at Costco vs. Bulk Barn?

Click the image below to get your free Perfect Pantry PDF download with bonuses:



Now that your pantry is up to snuff, click on the pic below to test it out with these quick and handy recipes!


Did you find this post helpful? If so, leave a comment below or tag me @oonaghduncan (ig and FB) or twitter (@fitfeelsgoodTO) in a pic of your amazingly organized life! 🙂