A 79-year-old single mom, Iris Davis, has earned the title of the world’s oldest female bodybuilder. Her remarkable achievements have turned her into an internet sensation, and she enthusiastically shares her inspirational story with people of all ages and backgrounds.
In response to trauma and depression, the 79-year-old single mom embarked on an exercise journey.
Born in Ireland, Iris grew up with 14 siblings in a cramped two-bedroom house. This humble beginning led her to start working at 14. At 16, she left for London in pursuit of a brighter future.
Married at 17, she became a mother within a year. Tragedy struck when their infant succumbed to pneumonia after two months. This pivotal loss drove Iris to embrace her enduring passion for physical exercise, a powerful coping mechanism.
Her journey began with a single, tiny step.
“I had no idea how I was going to survive. I was poor, we didn’t have social services back then, and I had no idea how I was going to feed the two of us. I lay in bed hoping to die, but after a few days, I realized I wasn’t going to die. I had a broken heart, but it wasn’t going to kill me,” says Iris.
Remarkably, Iris initiated a walking routine, leading to progressive improvement in her well-being. “The more I walked, the more I cried and talked to myself,” she explained, “and that was better than just lying in bed. It became my church and sanctuary.”
Iris Davis stepped into her initial gym experience upon relocating to the USA.
At 22, Iris welcomed another son. Tragedy struck when he was only two months old – her husband passed away abruptly, leaving her alone to care for a young child with no support. “I looked at people in my situation, and they were all sad and lonely,” she recalls, “but I wanted to be different.”
To provide a better life for her child, she courageously pursued a nanny job in the USA. Within two weeks, she secured the position and relocated. It was in the U.S. that she stepped into her inaugural gym experience.
Back then, the notion of a woman becoming a bodybuilder was beyond imagination.
Amidst battling severe depression, she sought solace in walking until stumbling upon a gym. However, in the 1960s, women faced gym restrictions nationwide. Undeterred, Iris embarked on a pioneering journey, aspiring to empower women as the first female bodybuilder. Today, she stands triumphant, the world’s oldest bodybuilder.
Back then, women entering a men’s gym was unconventional. Yet, Iris had no alternative. Despite the stares upon her entry, stepping into that gym lifted her depression instantly.
“I realized I wasn’t depressed in the gym and I never stopped,” she says.
However, she disregarded bodybuilding manuals, relying mainly on Schwarzenegger’s content, as those techniques weren’t entirely suitable for a woman. Thus, she modified and mastered her workout regimen, making herself the ultimate experiment.
Iris Davis consistently faced competition from much younger bodybuilders.
At 50, she entered her inaugural bodybuilding competition, the lone woman among younger men. Despite their assumed advantage, Iris secured second place, eventually amassing 12 first-place victories in two decades.
She persists through daily challenges without surrender.
At 47, Iris faced encephalitis, a challenge that deeply affected her. Yet, she persevered, gradually regaining strength. By 50, she entered her inaugural bodybuilding competition.
Despite being married for nearly three decades to a man 17 years her junior and having a son with two grandchildren, she remains in a struggle against depression. Through the years, she has weathered three nervous breakdowns, crediting her exercise routine with saving her life.
“Every day is an effort. That’s my message to people — if you want it enough you’ll do it,” says Iris.
What do you think of this 79-year-old single mom choosing to exercise in battling depression? Share your thoughts and experiences with us!