George Bieber gives his upper body a workout at the Comox Community Centre.

George Bieber gives his upper body a workout at the Comox Community Centre.

George Bieber: Comox’s 96-year-old wonder

The ultimate healthy retirement, and it’s been going on for 31 years

To say George Bieber is an incredibly fit 96-year-old man does him an injustice.

George Bieber is an incredibly fit man, period.

Most 30-year-olds can’t do what he does, at least three times a week, at the Comox Community Centre.

It starts with a 20-minute bike ride. Then he hits the weights – and this is what sets him apart from most men.

His usual routine consists of some time spent doing a series of chest press reps.

He usually starts at 125 pounds; 30 reps.

He rests, then adds 30 pounds and does another 30 reps.

Another rest, another 20 pounds, 30 reps.

Then he adds yet another 30 pounds and does 20-30 reps.

That’s 205 pounds, so he says. He claims the bar is only 15 pounds. His coach says it’s a 45-pound bar, but who’s going to argue with George?

Another rest, then onto the nautilus section for some work on his pecs.

One hundred and fifty pounds on one machine; 130 on another.

An hour or so passes, and he’s on his way out the door, a sweat barely broken.

“I think I will head downtown for a while today,” he says, then climbs into his Hyundai and drives away. Yes, he also has a valid driver’s license.

In short, George Bieber is living the life the likes of which most people only dream. It’s the ultimate healthy retirement, and it’s been going on for 31 years.

“I guess I’m pretty lucky,” he says with a shrug. “I’ll tell ya, if I felt any better, I wouldn’t be able to stand it!”

British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association registered trainer Jill Nelson has walked through Bieber’s program with him and says that while some of his exercises are unique, he’s doing everything right, in regards to not over-exerting himself.

“He showed me everything that he does,” said Nelson, who is also a third age (seniors) registered trainer. “With the weights, he doesn’t go through the whole range of motion, but he does it ‘his way’. The chest presses for example… he just does his little chest presses without bending his arms too far. That’s ‘his way.’ But the way he did it was fine by me.

“He can even do hanging chin-ups, which are very difficult to do. And you can’t cheat on those. You can either do them or you can’t and he can, which is amazing.”

Bieber knows his bench presses aren’t the orthodox method, but he doesn’t care.

“I’ve had guys tell me I am not going all the way down and I tell them ‘well, you try it my way’ and they all just walk away,” he said with a laugh.

“He’s been doing it that way for years. Who am I to tell him to change it now?” said Nelson. “His body is used to it, he’s happy, he’s healthy and he is an incredible example of someone who is remaining fit. He’s amazing. It’s all based on one thing – his attitude. He is a happy, healthy, friendly guy.”

Fitness has always been a part of George’s life. He’s a born and raised farm boy from Saskatchewan.

“Grew up on a dairy farm, so it was milk the cows, stacking bales of hay, chores every day – kept me honest. And of course I walked two miles to school every day, naturally, uphill both ways,” he adds, laughing again. “But I’ve belonged to a gym since my early 20s I guess.”

Familiar story

George’s story is not that different from most men of his generation. He did his chores, went to school, and when the war came, he enlisted.

“I wanted to be a pilot but my eyesight wasn’t good enough, so I went into aero-engine mechanics. I thought it would be easy because I’m not that bright – dumber than straw, to be truthful,” he said. “But that was a tough trade. A lot tougher than I thought it would be.”

George eventually joined the Air Force and was stationed in Britain. That’s when he really took to running.

“My mates used to go to the mess for what they would call a liquid lunch, but I was never much of a drinker. So I would grab an apple and go running.”

5th Street Mile winner at 80

Running was a big part of his life, for a long time.

When George first moved to the Comox Valley, in 1997, at the age of 78, he was still running.

And he was fast. He’s in the record book for the 5th Street Mile, Courtenay’s annual Canada Day race.

He won it in 1999.

“I remember the race announcer called me after the race and said ‘congratulations! You won the race.’  recalled Bieber. “I said ‘now just a minute. I wasn’t the fastest. Other people passed me.’ But he said when the age handicap was calculated, I was the overall winner.

“I won a pair of really good runners from Extreme Runners. They are so good, I still have them. They are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. And by the way, here they are,” he said, pointing to the runners he wore to the gym the day of the interview.

Broken neck at 86

The last time Bieber ran the 5th Street Mile was in 2005, at the age of 86.

So why did he stop?

“In December of that year, I was in the gym and fell on my neck and broke my neck in five places,” he said.

He was in Victoria hospital for a month, then in a medical bed in his home until June of the following year. He has the holes in his forehead from the halo as a lasting reminder.

“My doctor told me I could have either been a quadriplegic or I could have been dead,” said Bieber. “It’s all healed up now except for one bone. But they said I can’t run or jog anymore.”

So he took to the bike for his cardio.

He’s been doing the bike, the weights and the nautilus machines ever since.

He performed his entire chest press routine for the Record the day of the interview.

The video of his final series of reps, can be seen at bit.ly/1cKQ48C

He ends the video by saying:

“You mean to tell me this is something extra-ordinary?”

Indeed it is, George Bieber.

 

Just Posted

Ronan and his son, eight-year-old Erwan Teyssier ran The Cumby together this year. Photo supplied
Cumby Trail Race raises $15,000+ for Cumberland forest protection

The theme of The Cumby 2021 trail race was ‘Celebrating This Land’… Continue reading

From left, Karen Cummins, Suzanne Gravelle and Ted Grainger pose with the winner of this year’s Comox Valley Nature Tree of the Year contest - a western yew, located in the Cumberland Community Forest. Photo by Dianne Grainger.
Comox Valley’s ‘Tree of the Year’ unveiled

By Kerri Scott Special to The Record For the first time in… Continue reading

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
Comox Valley shellfish operator fined $10,000 for violations

Fisheries Act charges against three others in same case were stayed

The design of a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Rodello Street and Comox Avenue. Photo submitted
Town taking a second look at Comox Avenue roundabout

The idea first came to fruition in late 2014 for the intersection of Rodello Street and Comox Avenue

Noella Rousseau of CVCDA’s Project Inclusion Program checks out the garlic bed at the Free To Grow Community Garden. Photo supplied.
Comox Valley Child Development Association program unveils new community garden

There’s a new community garden in the Comox Valley, which is doubling… Continue reading

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Most Read