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George still pulling his own weight at the age of 78

Almost an octogenarian, George Travis is still hammering out kettle bell classes as an Active Tameside fitness instructor.

But at 78, the remarkable Stalybridge grandad has another secret under his belt.

He’s 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.

George is now preparing to compete in the British Masters Weightlifting Championship in the Olympic lifting category at Bangor University in April and in the British Masters Classic Championships in Belfast in June where he’ll 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.

George’s achievements are made even more remarkable by the fact he suffered two consecutive 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’d never squat, power lift or dead lift again.

Aptly it was George’s passion for a sport that embodies human strength and courage that got him through, a passion which began when he was invited to join his work’s weightlifting team as a powerlifter at Mather and Platt engineering in Newton Heath at the age of 16.

He slowly trained back to health and fitness, returning to elite competition level in the British Master and European champions six years later where he won the silver medal.

“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.”

In his teens and 20s he won numerous North West Counties titles and broke several records, but was sadly always in the shadow of legendary four-times Commonwealth gold medal winner Precious McKenzie when it came to the British title.

George remained among the top three British weightlifters during the 60s but it wasn’t until he joined the ranks of the Masters (for competitors aged 35-plus) that he truly 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.

He’s now won numerous British titles and won two consecutive silver World Masters Weightlifting Championship medals in 2022 and 2023.

“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’s currently powerlifting 110kgs, bench pressing 70kgs and dead lifting 140kgs.

George started running in his 50s and joined Ashton-based East Cheshire Harriers.

He ran in four London Marathons – raising money for the Christie Hospital Palatine ward where parents can stay overnight when their children are having treatment – 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. 

Not surprisingly George is extremely popular and rather famous among his kettlebell and Tai Chi class goers and has become a real inspiration for old and young members alike.

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 & 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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