At 63, Surrey-born-and-raised fitness trainer and author Doug Setter has packed several lifetimes of experience into one.
A 29-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces as a paratrooper and soldier (he retired at age 47, following peace-keeping experience in the former Yugoslavia) he has also been a fitness centre owner, a climber (Mount Rainier), a runner (five marathons to his credit) and a kick-boxing welterweight title holder in Manitoba.
Fitness may be second nature to him now, but he still recalls he was once a sickly child – and acknowledges that that some of the physical challenges he’s set himself over the years were based on overcoming his own fears.
Among his academic credits are certificate in education from UBC and a degree in human ecology (food and nutrition) from the University of Manitoba.
And although divorced, he’s also the proud father of a 12 year-old daughter (“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” he said).
His latest book, Fit Femme After 50, clearly identifies its target market, for very practical reasons.
“Quite frankly, I find that women are much better at taking care of their health than men are,” he noted.
But he agreed that most of the advice in its pages could equally benefit men – “I guess if a guy feels awkward about picking one up, he could say it was for his wife or girlfriend,” he said.
He acknowledges that some women readers might resist a book with such a title – especially one written by a man.
But he emphasizes that the book is based – more than on abstract theory – on his own journey of experience and self-education, and, even more importantly on what he has learned from his interviews with women about challenges they’ve faced, and successfully overcome, as they’ve aged.
Particular inspiration for Fit Femme After 50 came from one woman friend who, despite suffering some huge setbacks – including a car accident and a brain tumour – went on to compete in, and win, body-building contests.
While he recognizes that not everybody may be as driven as that one individual, he feels that many mature women could benefit from practical advice on training, eating and living well – without the punishing wear-and-tear of most trendy exercise regimens.
“These days, it’s all cardio, cardio, cardio; crunches and counting calories,” he said.
But such regimens don’t take into account the passage of years, different schedules and responsibilities, and inevitable hormonal changes, he said.
“Most women aren’t 20 years old anymore, or living at the ‘mom and dad hotel’,” he said.
Much of what he imparts in the new book has come from his willingness to adapt, listen and learn, he said.
For instance, he admits he didn’t fully understand the impact that training on cement floors – or running on hard pavement – could have on the human body, until he started suffering from back pain that had him “in and out of chiropractors and acupuncturists.”
“I finally got into a pilates class,” he said, noting that it was a humbling experience in which he realized he had a lot to learn about alternative ways of training.
“The instructor was a woman with ballet training – she’d say ‘stop what you’re doing and look at Doug, because what he’s doing is all wrong’,” he remembered with a chuckle.
“I sucked back some pride and learned a lot,” he said.
In Fit Femme After 50 Setter has advice on avoiding exercise that can be damaging to joints, and also about avoiding ‘muscle imbalance’ – he learned from his own mistakes that working some sets of muscles at the expense of others can actually undermine progress, and lead to injury, he noted.
He has tips on how deep breathing during exercise can actually narrow waistlines.
He also discusses the importance of nutrition in boosting endurance, strength and cognitive ability; provides ideas for achieving deep, restorative sleep and also offers inexpensive, non-pharmaceutical ways of reducing pain, such as a recipe for a highly effective, soothing tea made from turmeric, ginger and pepper.
But he also pays attention to the importance of addressing mental attitude, detoxifying not only the body but the mind.
Those who are new to physical training can ease into it with micro-workouts, he said. But it’s also important to feel good about a simple, sustainable process, rather than approaching exercise and fitness in a panic mentality.
Part of that is choosing the right location to exercise, and using small immediate rewards (which can be as simple as going for herbal tea with a friend) to help achieve goals, he said.
“You should be enjoying the here and now, living in the moment, rather than thinking ‘if I lose 30 pounds, I’ll get that Liz Claibourne outfit or take that trip to Mexico.”
Fit Femme After 50 is available from www.amazon.com in both print and digital editions.
For more information on Setter, his other books and personalized training programs, visit www.2ndwindbodyscience.com