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Pumped up for Kilimanjaro, this time with the kids

W. Brett Wilson is the chairman and co-founder of the investment brokerage FirstEnergy Capital. A prostate cancer survivor, he now lives in Calgary and oversees a family foundation that raises money for causes including cancer, children's organ transplants and domestic violence. He is also a panelist on Dragons' Den, CBC's reality show for aspiring entrepreneurs.

My goal

"I'm most interested in general health. I'm also training to climb Kilimanjaro next summer. I've done it once before, in August, 2002, which happened to be one year after I finished my cancer treatment - that was the reason I climbed it that time. It took us a week.

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"The goal is to come back down safely. It would be nice to make the summit, but far more important is to make it home. I'm climbing with my three children, who are 17, 21 and 23. On that trip we'll probably be gone two, 2½ weeks. We're doing a safari afterward."

My workout

"I train twice a week with a trainer, generally a combination of weight training with a cardio warm-up. Weight training is 80 per cent of the workout. I rotate through about 30 different exercises, like Olympic lift, rows, seated bench press, incline bench press, flat bench press, leg equipment, seated hamstring curls, seated leg extensions, seated leg press. There's no focal point other than constantly making sure that the core is working. I've been convinced that the core is the most important thing for me. The other 20 per cent is therapeutic, building my rotator cuff and stretching.

"I run on a treadmill two to three times a week on top of it, 20 to 30 minutes depending what's on TV. The other thing I try to do is get to the pool once a week."

My lifestyle

"I went on an intense diet a couple of years ago and lost about 30 pounds that had to be lost. ... Ever since then, I'm fairly conscientious, but not as conscientious as I should be about how I deal with carbs and sugar. I'm reasonably careful with my diet.

"My sleep patterns are, to be blunt, a mess. Every person who's come into my life in terms of coaching me has said I need to meditate. Some day when I find time, I'll learn to meditate. I get four to six hours' sleep most nights and I love a 20-minute nap on a Saturday afternoon. On the road, I'm sloppy. I travel about a third of the time.

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"I try to get in, minimum, a 15- or 20-minute run when I'm on the road. But there's time zone changes - I'll get into Toronto at midnight and my first meeting will be at 7 a.m. local time, which is 5 a.m. Calgary time."

My motivation

"Purely my health. Just recognizing that it's the greatest asset that I have and, without it, none of the other assets mean anything."

My workout anthem

"I tend to watch the morning news."

My challenges

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"My shoulder injury was repaired; I had rotator cuff surgery about three years ago. We're careful with it.

"I love desserts, so that's a challenge. I find that on days when I've had a good workout, I cut myself some slack. ... Maybe it's one step forward, two steps backward.

"Coming out of cancer, the real challenge was being motivated again. ... I used Kilimanjaro as a tool to get me back up and running.

That required a lot of tread-mill work. I kept my strength up reasonably, but my cardio had slipped. The big part of the reason I went on the climb was to tell my friends that the cancer is history and it's not something I'm worried about."


Chill out

Caron Shepley, corporate director of Personal Best training and owner of Blue Dog Yoga, suggests Mr. Wilson try a power yoga class. The workout, she says, combines strength training, flexibility training and meditation. "The meditation portion of a yoga class is short," she says, "but Brett will still feel the benefits of focusing and freeing his mind." Ms. Shepley also recommends he pick up a meditation CD and practice relaxing during his frequent flights.

Be more consistent

Ms. Shepley also suggests Mr. Wilson use the Web to help keep up his fitness routine while on the road. She recommends, which lists personal trainers across Canada, and, which lists airports with fitness centres on-site or nearby.

Not so sweet

"To eliminate one pound of fat from your body, you have to burn 3,500 calories," Ms. Shepley warns. "It would take the average person over two hours of running to burn off one 1,500-calorie piece of cheesecake." She suggests Mr. Wilson treat himself to dessert just once a week.

Catch some Zs

Regular exercise can't make up for sleep deprivation, which, Ms. Shepley notes, can cause a depressed immune system, weight gain and high blood pressure. She suggests Mr. Wilson sit down and list all of his commitments, then work to eliminate or delegate some of them in order to spend more time in bed.

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About the Author
Journalist and editor

Denise Balkissoon is an editor in the Globe’s Life section and a columnist in Comment. The National Magazine Award-winning writer is also a co-founder of The Ethnic Aisle, a blog about race and ethnicity in the Greater Toronto Area. More


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