Weightlifting grandfather George proves fitness is marvellous medicine

A STALYBRIDGE grandfather is proving age is nothing but a number by powering past the competition.

George Travis is still hammering out kettle bell classes as an Active Tameside fitness instructor at 78-years-old.

He is also the current British Masters Weightlifting champion and number two in the world in his age category after taking the silver medal in the World Master Weightlifting Championships in Poland in the summer.

He is now preparing to compete in the British championship in the Olympic lifting category at Bangor University in April and in the British Masters Classic Championships in Belfast in June, where he will be demonstrating his expertise in powerlifting.

Not only did he qualify with flying colours for the Belfast event at the recent North West Masters in Stalybridge but he also broke four records for the squat, bench press and deadlift elements as well as overall lift total.

He is currently powerlifting 110 kilograms, bench pressing 70 kilos and dead lifting 140.

British Masters Championships 2023. CREDIT British Weight Lifting

George’s achievements are made even more remarkable by the fact he suffered two heart attacks and had to undergo an emergency triple heart bypass just over 10 years ago – a life-threatening blow which left him fearing he would never lift again.

Aptly, it was his passion for a sport that embodies human strength and courage that got him through.

“I would never have come through my heart attacks if I hadn’t been so strong – that’s what the doctors told me,” said George.

“I took up swimming, cycling and walking after my operation.

“I eventually bounced back and now I’m as strong as ever. Still breaking records. Still lifting weights.

“It was a shock as I’ve been exercising all my life but I was told it was hereditary. My father and brother had the same problem. I did everything I was told to do and started training very gradually.”

George at his kettlebell class

After being invited to join his work’s weightlifting team as a powerlifter at Mather and Platt engineering in Newton Heath at the age of 16, George won numerous North West Counties titles and broke several records in his teens and 20s.

He was always in the shadow of legendary four-times Commonwealth gold medal winner Precious McKenzie when it came to the British title and when he joined the ranks of the Masters, for competitors aged 35-plus, he found his national and international footing.

He began Olympic weightlifting – which consists of different lifting movements to powerlifting – in his 50s and now competes in both sports.

“I’m not even the oldest competitor,” said George who has also competed in four London marathons among many other marathon events and six Tours of Tameside.

“There are two age groups over me, 80-85 and 85-90 in the Olympic lifting. In powerlifting there’s a 10-year age span.

“I’m an M4 which is 70-80 and M5 is 80-90 so there’s still time for me to compete yet!

“We’re not talking hundreds of competitors but there’s a few of us around.

“I love it. The passion never leaves you but your body lets you know sometimes.

“There’s definitely something in the sport itself that helps to keep you going. Everyone should do resistance training of some kind because it’s so good for your bones and that’s especially important as you get older as it can prevent falls and fractures.

“The more muscle you build the less fat you have.

“It’s hard to explain how much weightlifting does for me. It cheers me up if I’m having a bad day.

“Nothing can compare to the buzz and happiness it gives me. It’s scientific fact exercise triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin which helps to lift your mood. Weightlifting does that for me.”

Aside from leading two kettle bell and a Tai Chi class every week for Active Tameside, George walks 10,000 steps a day and weight trains four times a week.

He also started running in his 50s and joined Ashton-based East Cheshire Harriers, taking part in four London Marathons and six Tour of Tameside events.

At the end of last year, he trained alongside England’s Strongest Man Paul Smith at an event at a Stalybridge gym owned by his son Adam, who followed in his dad’s footsteps and has lifted for Great Britain on numerous occasions.

And his picture adorns one of the walls inside Ashton Market Hall as part of a focus on the importance of exercising into the more senior years.

“They know all about my weightlifting exploits,” said George.

“They always ask me how I’ve got on. I go into classes wearing my latest medal and take my trophy in. They think it’s amazing, so I say just go and speak to my wife, she’ll put you right.

“I once won a big trophy in Belgium and she said, ‘I’ve got just the place for that. Under the sink.’

“She definitely keeps my feet on the ground.”

Gill Buckley, Active Tameside’s Commercial Manager for Health and Fitness said: “George is a true inspiration for staff and members of Active Tameside.

“George shows that consistency, hard work and dedication works, keeping his passion for helping people in his job to become fitter, healthier and happier whilst being committed to his competitive weight training.

“Well known within Active Tameside and the local community, George, continues to be a genuine Active Tameside Champion in every possible way.”

 

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