A Winnipeg woman who won gold at a world powerlifting championships over the weekend says she started strength training later in life as a way to keep up with her grandchildren.
Although Gail-Ann Breese, 62, has been active throughout her life, she began to feel sluggish in her 50s and began looking for ways to gain energy. She stuck to various forms of cardio, but she never considered strength training until a friend brought it up and directed Breese to a trainer.
“Certainly when I started out, I had no idea I was going to end up as the powerlifting champion of the world,” she told host Marcy Markusa during an interview Tuesday with CBC’s radio information.
“I’m a little stoned these last few days.”
Breese’s trainer educated her on bone density and muscle loss that occurs after middle age, she says, and that strength training can help counteract it. Together, they put together a fitness plan for Breese.
He attended his first powerlifting meeting in December 2019, an all-day event that included three attempts at squats, bench presses and deadlifts.
“I remember when I first came out on the platform, [I thought] ‘Oh please don’t fall on your face,'” Breese said.
She would go on to qualify for weightlifting meets at the provincial, national, and Western Canada levels, leading to her joining Team Canada at the World Classic and Equipped Masters Weightlifting Championships in St. John’s, where she 520 athletes from 30 countries competed earlier this month.
Breese says she was one of four Manitoba women to compete at the world championships, where she won two gold medals: one in deadlifting and one in overall powerlifting, after lifting a total of 700 pounds in three categories. She also won a silver medal in the squat lift category and a bronze medal in the bench press.
His family is proud and supportive of his weightlifting journey, though “I’m sure they’re tired of eating lean chicken for dinner,” Breese said. Her granddaughter plans to dress up as a weightlifter for Halloween this year, he said.
Breese is made stronger by lifting weights and says many older women have called her their inspiration. Powerlifting has also helped Breese through her retirement, keeping her active and social during that transition, she said.
The weightlifter’s advice to others who want to reach their fitness goals is self-investment, education, and consistency.
“Make yourself a priority,” he said. “Set a time to go to the gym…Learn about nutrition, learn about what you’re eating, and then be consistent.”
Breese’s fitness trainer and trainer, Dino Camiré, is the owner of One Family Fitness Center in Winnipeg. He says that many people may dismiss Breese’s success as if he had a “special gift”, but the reality is that she had a goal of her own and stayed true to it.
“A lot of people think it’s enough to just pick up a dumbbell and do that a couple of times a week,” he told the CBC in an interview on Tuesday. “But you actually have to increase that load … for the rest of your life just to maintain your muscle mass to compensate for changes with aging.”
Camiré says that Breese has tripled the weight she can lift during her three years of weightlifting, meaning she increased her weight by one percent each week.
“It’s very slow, very gradual, but you have to be constant,” he said.
As a fitness fanatic of nearly 30 years, Camiré says Breese inspires him to keep doing what he’s doing and that “anything is possible.”
Breese also inspires others in the same age group, he says, which is a demographic that is seeing them play the sport more often as a way to gain and maintain bone and muscle density.
Camiré says that he is very proud of Breese and looks forward to what the future holds for him.
“Now we have a world champion who lives here in Winnipeg, Manitoba. That’s crazy.”