It used to be 200kg weights that kept police officer Mike Baxter in shape but after his successful powerlifting career was ended by injury and he became a self-confessed couch potato.
However, he’s managed to get back in trim and it’s a 5g shuttlecock that has helped him fight back to fitness.
The former champion is now hoping to add some muscle to the fight against heart disease and diabetes in County Durham by inspiring people to take up badminton as part of the county-wide Move in to Sport programme, that offers beginners courses in a wide range of sports and activities.
Mike, a collision investigator with Durham Constabulary, was the reigning British Police Powerlifting Champion for seven years and represented his country at the 1999 World Championship. On route to a title in Glasgow in 1997 he lifted the trophy despite bursting blood vessels in his eyes during a 220kg squat lift.
But a shoulder injury playing golf in 2000 that required five operations followed by the loss of his best friend and coach George Stephenson to cancer led him to retire from the sport and as a result became a self-confessed couch potato. Then two years ago he took his son Dan along to a meeting of Durham Swifts Badminton Club and walked out as the club chairman.
Now the flourishing club is supporting County Durham’s Move into Sport programme that aims to tackle cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes through exercise and is offering special beginners classes to people looking to improve their health and fitness from just £2 a session.
“When I stopped powerlifting, my weight ballooned,” said Mike, 48, who lives in Brandon, Durham, with his wife Lesley.
“I went from training in the gym five to six times a week to doing almost no exercise for 10 years. I became a complete couch potato.
“I’d played badminton in my teens, but never thought of taking it up again until I went along with my son to the Durham Swifts meeting as he was interested in joining. I ended up coming out as the chairman.
“Once I started playing again and realised I could still hit a shuttlecock I was hooked and I’m now a qualified umpire too. The emphasis at our club is on fun and having a good laugh and as a result you don’t realise you are actually exercising. Our members range from five-year-olds through to people in their 60s and everyone plays together and there’s a very social atmosphere.
“The weight soon started to fall off and I just feel so much better. I’d found myself struggling to walk up the hills in Durham city, now they are no problem.”
The course is taken by level II coach Kay Grenfell who is nominated for Durham’s Coach of the Year, as well as Mike’s son Dan who is a Level I coach.
Kay added: “Badminton is a very social game and a lot of people don’t even realise how much exercise they are doing until they get to the end and feel muscles that they didn’t even know where there before. It’s also great for getting the heart rate up as it involves short bursts of high intensity exercise.”
The 12 week adult beginner course with the Durham Swifts takes place on a Wednesday evening from 6pm-7pm at Framwellgate School, Durham.
The Move into Sport programme is one of 14 programmes across the country aiming to get local people active through a range of sporting opportunities.
Funded by Sport England through a £5.8m Get Healthy Get into Sport Fund. Durham County Council’s Public Health department also fund the programme which has been tailored for those who are either not active enough, overweight or have a family history of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
To find out more about Badminton sessions across the county or the wide range of other courses on offer including table tennis, rowing, climbing, cycling, running, swimming and golf visit http://www.countydurhamsport.com/physical_activity/move_into_sport