Astonishing Story of a 79-Year-Old Single Mom Who Started Working Out to Cope With Her Depression
79-year-old Iris Davis is now called the world’s oldest female bodybuilder. And due to her impressive and truly outstanding results, she’s became an internet sensation and now is always glad to share her inspirational story with all the people of all ages and overall background.
She started to exercise to cope with trauma and depression
Iris was born in Ireland, where she lived with another 14 siblings in a two-bedroom house. Such a humble background made her start working at 14, and in 16 she decided to move to London in search of a better life.
At 17, she married and in a year she and her husband had their first child. Unfortunately, after just two months, the baby died of pneumonia. And that was the exact moment when in order to cope with the trauma of losing a child, Iris dived into her life-long love for physical exercises.
It all started with one literally small 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,” says Iris. “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.”
Surprisingly enough, Iris just began walking and it made her feel better and better. “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.”
She entered her first gym only after moving to the USA
At 22, Iris had another son, but when he was just two-moths-old, another tragedy happened — her husband died suddenly, and she found herself alone with a little kid and nobody to support her. “I looked at people in my situation, and they were all sad and lonely,” she recalls, “but I wanted to be different.”
So to take care of her child and bring him up in a better environment, she made a brave decision and applied for a job as a nanny in the USA. She got hired in two weeks and moved to America. And it is there where she entered her first gym.
At the time, it was unthinkable for a woman to become a bodybuilder
As a distraction to her severe depression, she was still walking a lot when finally came across a gym. Yet, in the sixties, women were not allowed to join almost any gym in the country. There were no female bodybuilders to look up to, no books on the topic, and so on.
Hopefully, it didn’t stop Iris, and she decided to become the first female bodybuilder to empower women through her passion and ambition. And it seems like she’s accomplished the mission despite everything: now she’s believed to be the world’s oldest bodybuilder.
At the time, it was unheard of for a woman to go into a men’s gym, but for Iris there was no other option. Of course, she would get looks and stares, when she was allowed in. But when she first walked into a gym, she realized she wasn’t depressed there anymore. “I realized I wasn’t depressed in the gym and I never stopped,” she says.
Yet, she never went by bodybuilding books, except for some materials by Schwarzenegger. Simply because copying all those techniques wouldn’t work for a woman. So she had to adapt sessions and teach it all to herself. All in all, she is fully her own experiment.
She always had to compete with far younger bodybuilders
She participated in her first bodybuilding show when she was already 50. And since she was not only the oldest but the only female bodybuilder at the time, she had to compete against far younger men at first. Of course, they were expected to be stronger and better. Yet, Iris still was able to win the second place at 50, and went on to take 12 first places in the next 20 years.
Life is still an everyday struggle for Iris, but she never gives up.
Once, Iris was even diagnosed with encephalitis when she was 47. She remembers that it ’completely floored’ her. But she fought it and slowly built her strength up and by the age of 50 was already competing in her first bodybuilding show.
She reveals she still battles with her depression, though she is now married for almost 30 years to a man 17 years younger than her, has a son and two grandchildren. Nevertheless, over the years, she says she had three nervous breakdowns and without her exercise regime probably wouldn’t be alive today.
“Every day is an effort,” says Iris and every day she has to struggle and make herself a bit closer to her ideal. And she still is winning despite everything! “That’s my message to people — if you want it enough you’ll do it.” And hopefully, there are many more people out there who prove that age is just a number.