Talking Business with Oonagh Duncan, Fitness Expert

For the past 28 days, 3 of the lovely ladies from our FC staff team have been on the 28 Day Transformation with Oonagh Duncan.  You can check out where they are 7 days into the program here and midway through it here.


Here Laura-Jean and Oonagh chat business and fitness. Enjoy!


Name: Oonagh Duncan
Occupation: Fitness Expert
Age: 39
Lifestyle: active/entrepreneur/mom
Top: Neighbourhood Tee from Toronto based label The Candi Factory; Pants: Yoga Jeans.


How did you get into fitness as a career? Was that something that was always there for you even as a kid? 


Omg no. I was not a sporty kid. During recess in primary school I would read on the portable steps and hope nobody asked me to chase them or engage in anything embarrassingly physical.
As a teenager I was too busy smoking and stomping around in platform boots and circulating petitions about how everything in my school is sexist to even be aware that my school had sports teams.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I sheepishly took a first stab at a ‘run’ (more like a 10 min lurch/gasp/walk) but I stuck with it and eventually liked it enough to want to get certified as an instructor.
I was an actor and being a bootcamp instructor was great because I had classes at 6am and 6pm and spent the rest of the day auditioning and writing plays.


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Dress: Wilma Print Jersey Dress by Toronto label Mandala Design; Bracelet: Jon Klar


I always think that fit people WANT to work out and find it easier than the rest of us. Is this true or do you still need to motivate?


Well- my body is used to moving every day so if I don’t get a workout in, I get antsy. So in that sense, I  ‘like’ it. And I know that I’ll get an endorphin rush and feel more mentally clear after so I crave that.
But, you know …it’s HARD. Working out pushes you. It’s not always comfortable or pleasant or graceful. Although I’ve developed good habits to be disciplined regardless, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have moments of internal whineyness where I watch my brain work hard to come up with some perfect excuse of why I don’t have to do it today.


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Top: Slouchy Tee by Toronto designer Yasmine Louis; Skirt: Geeky Deer Denim Skirt from Toronto designer Nicole Boudreau from Desserts and Skirts. Necklace: Colleen Poitras.


How and when did you get started in your career? 


After my first shuffley jog, I started going to fitness classes and I remember looking at the instructors and thinking they were just the coolest, most admirable people in the world (which kind of makes me smile now) so I worked hard to get certified (the whole time feeling like an imposter, as I think everyone does when they first start something).


I started teaching in condos and I had only memorized one class so I did the same one every time for about 2 years. Then I got my personal trainer certification and started teaching bootcamps, then my pre and postnatal certification and dance and spin etc. etc.


Eventually I started my own bootcamp company and applied to be a PRO TRAINER for canfitpro and teach the certification course. I certified over 1000 new trainers and got awarded the PRO TRAINER of the Year award twice before I resigned the position early this year to focus on my online business. All that took about 15 years.


What have been the hardest lessons as an entrepreneur for you?


Systems. Organization. All the stuff I thought was super lame about having a real job I am now obsessed with. But primarily I would say that finding some separation between myself and my job can be hard.


When people didn’t renew their bootcamp membership I used to get hurt and interpret it as them not liking ME. I’m over that one but I still struggle with drawing the line between my business and myself. Now that I do most of my coaching online, I’m struggling with finding the line where I turn the phone off, stop being a trainer and coach and just be with my family.


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Shrug: Malvastrum Shrug from Toronto designer Jennifer Fukushima; Tunic: Fiji Tunic from Montreal label Cherry BobinPants: Yoga Jeans. Necklace: Curious Oddities


What do you LOVE about your business and your clients?


SO MUCH!!! For one thing- I love my work day. I’m up early and get to be outdoors watching the sun rise. I genuinely like my clients so much so I look forward to seeing them and hearing about how their weekends went and everything.


After I’ve taught my one class every day the rest of the day is mine to work on all my projects and I have the flexibility to pick my kids up from school if they are sick or anything. So that’s the lifestyle stuff.


Aside from that – it’s incredibly rewarding to help people get healthy and feel good (my company is called Fit Feels Good because for me, feeling good is the ultimate end goal because otherwise, seriously- who cares if you can do push-ups?) .


This will sound like a big fat humble-brag but I’m not lying that several times a week I get messages from people saying that I’ve changed their life. Which isn’t true – THEY changed their own life by taking action. But wow- talk about job satisfaction to be around when that magic happens….


You also personally teach boot camps as well as being there for your online clients. Can you tell us a bit about the juggling act of your day and where you find the energy?


If you ever saw me at 9pm you would never ask me where I get the energy. Which would never happen because at 9pm I’m hiding under a blanket in my living room and wishing my kids were asleep.  But before that witching hour, I would say that I wake up pretty excited each day because I love  what I do and I’ve got big goals that I want to accomplish. I eat well (I quite literally follow my own 28 Day Challenge plan to stay on track) and I never sit for too long (a treadmill desk helps with this because I’m on my computer a lot these days).


What’s next for you career-wise?


Right now I’m creating a One Week Reset program for people who can’t commit to the 28 day Challenge. And for my awesome 28 Day Alumni, I’m building out our year long programming so that those people undergo a massive physical (and mental) transformation over the year. After that I’d like to look into doing retreats and writing a book.


What are some big misconceptions about health and fitness that you find you have to unteach your clients?


  • that women will get bulky if they do strength training. Seriously- that one has to die once and for all.
  • that they will get thinner through exercise alone (it’s really the diet)
  • that pregnant women should avoid strenuous exercise and postpartum women should work hard to get their ‘body back’ (women are more fragile after the baby than when pregnant)
  • that you can do it wrong. Unless you are lifting heavy weights, you really don’t have to worry too much about ‘form’. People get so worried about doing it wrong that they don’t do it at all. Just get moving. If it hurts, do something else. That’s all you need to know about form.
  • that they can’t do it. That they are just not athletic, or too old that they have some unique condition or situation that prevents them from getting fit and feeling incredible. All of that is (saying this with love) bullshit.

OonaghBlogCollageFind these articles and more on Oonagh’s blog; 5 Minute Healthy Meals, Meal Prep Power Hour and The News About Booze

We’ve been talking positive self-talk and body image all month long at Fresh Collective and I know you and I have chatted about this issue. In the interest of body positivity and being supportive of women of all sizes and shapes, how do you handle messaging around “weight loss” in your business?


Yeah – this is so tricky in my industry. Because absolutely the reason that 99% of people come into my world is because they want to lose body fat and they want to fix their “bad” thighs/tummy/upper arms/love handles etc etc.


In my younger days, I was into Fat Activism (reclaiming the word, celebrating diversity, skewering companies who promote a culture of body shame) and when I first started Fit Feels Good I swore I would never promote fat loss and do the before and after marketing and instead focus on feeling good and the incredible communities that happen in my bootcamps.


But let me tell you something from a business perspective- you will not feed your family on the amount of Fs given about positive communities. No one is googling ‘how to find a positive community’. They are googling ‘how to get rid of my disgusting belly that is so repulsive that no one will ever love me and if people found out they would hate me’. Because that’s how they are made to feel by a culture that perpetuates so much shame.


I had a older and wiser colleague with similar ideals who said that he uses weight loss marketing because it’s a ‘Trojan horse’ – it’s just what gets you through the gates.  You promise a flat stomach and then you deliver health and vitality and community and self sufficiency and confidence and a total mental shift that exercise can actually be fun (all that, by the way- is available at any size). Oh- and maybe the flat stomach comes too.


One of my favourite testimonials is from a 58 year old woman who has been Bootcamping with me for years (who, by the way- can now do full pull-ups like a beast):


“For the first time in my life, I don’t even care what I weigh. I just feel really good”.

Find Oonagh and Fit Feels Good on social media!
twitter: @fitfeelsgoodto
instagram: @oonaghduncan
Facebook: FFGcanfitpro 

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