Meet your Glutes!

Meet your Glutes!

Welcome to our first post in the ‘Meet a Muscle’ series! In this series, you can expect to be introduced to one of your muscle groups. You will learn:

  • Where the muscle is
  • What it does
  • Why you should CARE
  • How to train it

Why? Because knowledge is POWER.


And studies show that:

the more educated you are about exercise,

the more likely you are to adhere to exercise throughout your life.


So we are starting with that most trendy of muscle groups, our glutes!


What is it?

Your ‘glutes’ are actually a group of muscles; gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. The glute maximus is the largest muscle in your body and the primary player here.


Here’s the anatomy:

glutes 3

And here’s the porn fitspo:



What do the the glutes actually do?

Your glutes are responsible for hip extension (ie. standing up, deadlifts), hyperextension (ie. kick your leg backwards, supermans) and abduction (ie. kicking out to the side, clamshells).

Why you should care

Many people don’t realize it but your glutes are considered part of your ‘core’ (pretty much anything that isn’t an appendage is part of your core). As such, they help balance and stabilize the body during almost every activity you do. At least, they should….

….But alot of people are suffering from ‘gluteal amnesia’

gluteal amnesia


The term gluteal amnesia was coined by my favourite core training expert, Dr. Stuart McGill (he’s the reason we don’t bother with sit ups at our Bootcamps). It basically means your glutes have forgotten how to activate due to lack of use. Because we spend so much time sitting on our bums and not enough time walking and climbing stairs,  our brains –  those amazing computers of efficiency – decide to let those huge glute muscles go dormant.  Which means that our hamstrings and lower back take over the job of extending the hip and stabilizing the pelvis.  Which can lead to:

  •  lower back issues, ( including Disc Herniation)
  • knee issues (including Patellofemoral pain Syndrome, IT Band Syndrome)
  • hip pain (including Piriformis Syndrome)
  • a challenge in pulling off the short shorts trend with dignity and grace:

short shorts


I think I have gluteal amnesia! What do I do?

To address gluteal amnesia, we want to wake that lazy ass UP.

We do that through isolated glute activation exercises. These will remind our brains to fire off those awesome powerful muscles and reinforce the neuromuscular pathways that activate the glutes.  The idea is to do these exercises before you train and really focus on how it feels to actively engage through the glutes. This way they get ‘switched on’ for the remainder of your workout. Here are a few exercises that will do the trick. Try 20 reps on each side for 2-3 sets as part of your warm up routine.





Then once you’ve activated the glutes, you can move on to more compound lower body movements (like squats and lunges and deadlifts, oh my!) and your glutes will be firing off like the fourth of July.

You’ll be all like

glutes on fire


And if you really want to work your butt off (or, um, on) check out my signature GLUTE CHALLENGE. It’s a Fit Feels Good Bootcamp favourite!

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!

June 2015 BootcamperS of the Month: Claire and David!

Meet Claire and David! One of the best things about having a co-ed bootcamp is that we get couples who are getting fit and feeling amazing together! Claire stumbled upon us in a park and we invited her to join us and we are so glad she did. Claire and David are an inspiration to the 6am High Park crew and to anyone who thinks they are too busy to exercise!


How has being an FFG Bootcamper changed your life?
With 4 kids of our own, aging parents, demanding careers and a very gregarious cat named Max,  it would be easy to let our fitness programs lapse. In fact, 6:00 a.m. is about the only time of day that we can both be sure we are available. Fit Feels Good gives us a challenging and fun fitness It allows us to be at the top of our game and meet the challenges life throws at us. And it’s a GREAT thing to do as a couple.


What do you do when you are not Bootcamping?

We live a very hectic life from sunrise to sunset every day. We’re very involved with our kids, parents, careers, volunteer activities and so much more. In our spare time (whatever that is), Claire loves to garden while David is very involved in several volunteer pursuits. We also love to dance, watch a great movie, and when possible, read.


What’s your major fitness goal right now?

We did the Alpha Obstacle Course last year and it was a blast (read here about the hidden benefits of signing up for a race)  We’d like to get in great shape to tackle that again. We also run in the Terry Fox each year and would like to expand the number of fun runs we do each year. David would also like to shed a few pounds over the next few months – Fit Feels Good will be crucial toward reaching these goals.


What about coming to Bootcamp makes you jump out of bed at 5am singing the Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music?

We love exercising as the sun rises in High Park. We look forward to whatever our excellent instructor Scott will have for us today – it’s always something new. The people we exercise with at High Park are awesome and a lot of fun to work-out with – we encourage one another and have lots of laughs.


What exercise or drill makes you cower under your bed covers and pretend you don’t hear your alarm?

For David, it is the dreaded burpee (although he’s a lot better at it now); for Claire it’s running backwards.


What advice would you give someone who is just starting out with FFG Bootcamps or just thinking about it?


Make a commitment to attend every session for at least 4 weeks. It takes a while to get into an early morning exercise routine – but once you’re in the groove you can’t imagine skipping a class. It’s completely addictive.


What is the accomplishment or personal milestone you are most proud of?

We are most proud that we have firmly established fitness as a regular part of our crazy lives. We feel younger and more energetic than most of our friends who don’t exercise.

May 2015 Bootcamper of the Month: Maija!

Meet Maija from the 6am Christie Pits class! The self-described ‘awkward, uncoordinated fat kid in gym class’ is now someone who shows up early for the 6am class, takes every option for higher intensity and is well on her way to becoming a trainer herself. Maija is an inspiration to our 6am Christie Pits crew…even if there are still a few exercises that make her hide under her covers…

What made you sign up for a FFG Bootcamp? How long have you been training with us?

Haha! I never had any intention of signing up for a bootcamp. I was volunteering with an organization that held a silent auction at a fundraising event. One of the items up for auction was a month of bootcamp. Soon Oonagh emailed and informed me that not only was I starting the next day but that it would be before the crack of dawn. And that was the first time Oonagh made me sweat.

This was October of 2013, 18 months ago.

How has being an FFG Bootcamper changed your life?

I honestly feel like becoming a bootcamper has changed my life entirely. I never thought of myself as an athletic person. I had no interest in sports and could not understand their appeal. Being the awkward, uncoordinated fat kid in gym class made me feel like I could never possibly enjoy physical activity. I’ve been a gym goer on and off but it’s never been fun. Working out with Oonagh feels like all of the best parts of gym class without the middle school bullies. It is so much fun! I’ve become hooked on trying new things, tackling challenges and making goals in all aspects of my life. I’ve learned how to snowboard from scratch, acquired brand new software skills, run my first 10K and half marathon, and have taken a Personal Training Certification course. Losing 60 pounds isn’t so shabby, either. I feel strong, with a clear mind and a super positive outlook. And I became a morning person.


What do you do when you are not Bootcamping?

Most of the time I’m doing the stay at home mom thing. When I can squeeze it in I make custom jewellery (I’m a goldsmith by trade), and any other hand crafted thing I can think of. I’m currently tuning my craft habit into an Etsy shop.

What’s your major fitness goal right now?

My current goal is to finish the Sporting Life 10K (happening next weekend) in under one hour.

What about coming to Bootcamp makes you jump out of bed at 5am singing the Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music?

The Glute Challenge. Slam ball. Bill breaking into song. Sprints. Any class with a holiday theme.

What exercise or drill makes you cower under your bed covers and pretend you don’t hear your alarm?

Bear crawls with sliders. Mountain climbers.

What advice would you give someone who is just starting out with FFG Bootcamps or just thinking about it?

Relax and have fun. This isn’t military style bootcamp. No one is going to yell at you if you can’t do a pushup. Just keep showing up and you will get stronger.
What is the accomplishment or personal milestone you are most proud of?

Finishing the 2014 Scotiabank waterfront half marathon.

Nutrition tips for new Bootcampers!

From Kristen Spencer, Registered Holistic Nutrionist.

Sometimes when people first start an exercise program, they hear buzz words like “carb loading” and “protein shakes” and think that they automatically need to be adding all of this stuff into their diet. The thing is, these kinds of nutritional strategies are only needed when in very intensive training. In terms of bootcamps, you are likely not training for more than an hour, which means that you don’t really NEED anything extra (provided you are eating a balanced diet throughout the day) except for water! Once you hit the hour mark, we’ll start talking about carbohydrate supplements. Super long training (like 5+ hours) and our focus shifts to fats!

How much water, though? For all workouts, you’ll want to consume 4-6 ounces of water for every 10-20 minutes of activity. So, think about ADDING another full 750ml bottle of water to your day (picture a regular ‘Camelback’ bottle or equivalent).


drink all the water


Tips to keep in mind

  • You’ll want to avoid eating immediately before a bootcamp. Food will just sit in your stomach, and when you exercise, digestion shuts down to focus our energy efforts on the activity at hand. This can lead to some not-so-good feelings.
  •  Avoid commercial drinks and gels (or at least – check to make sure they aren’t full of artificial sweeteners and colours
  • The more you sweat, the more you need to replace electrolytes (which is what Gatorade is trying to sell you on). So for summer bootcamps in humid weather, we’re sweating a lot. You may want to think about a natural alternative like coconut water which contains electrolytes. You can also eat dulse (a seaweed), or check out some of the higher quality supplements like nuun tablets (you just dissolve those in water)…
  •  Eat properly throughout the day. If you aren’t doing that, you may get HANGRY when you start bootcamping regularly and end up binging on whatever you can find in the moment. Prevent this by putting a big focus on protein and fat in all of your meals.
  • Listen to your body: Go to sleep when you are tired! Especially if you are doing an early morning bootcamp, your body will need extra rest so try to get to bed early! Human growth hormone is essential for muscle repair, and when sleep is interrupted, levels of this hormone decrease.
  • Severe cramping? This could be due to an electrolyte imbalance. It could be potassium (in which case try 2 tsp apple cider vinegar in water… if this helps, add more potassium rich foods to the diet like apples, banana, avoado, mushrooms, yogurt, spinach). It could also be calcium/magnesium (you can get this from raw cacao which is my personal fave, but also dark leafy greens, broccoli, Natural Calm magnesium supplement). Green smoothies can help get all of these minerals in quickly and deliciously.

After Bootcamp:

Fifteen minutes to an hour after a workout, your muscles are primed to receive fuel to begin the repair process. Your meals after a workout should be easy to digest! The perfect meal will hit all of your macronutrient groups. A great meal: avocado (healthy fats) with sea salt (electrolytes), eggs (healthy fats & protein), and a plantain cooked in coconut oil (simple, easily digestible carbs and more healthy fat!)

Happy training!