Guest Speaker: 78-year-old bodybuilder Iris Davis

Iris discusses overcoming tragedy, breaking barriers, and her fitness journey

At 78, Iris Davis is a self-taught bodybuilding champion and TikTok influencer. She’s won countless awards in her field including the Fittest Senior in the USA in 2006 by the Nintendo Corporation and a Pioneer Award by the World Women Leadership Congress

She competed in her first bodybuilding show when she was 50, going up against younger male bodybuilders and coming in second. She went on to take 12 first place medals in National Physique Committee bodybuilding shows over the next 20 years. 

She also became a pro with the prestigious International Federation of Bodybuilders. She was the oldest national champion in the USA and most likely the world. 

“It took me 55 years to achieve. But the most important thing is I did it, and I broke down barriers while I was doing it.”

Overcoming tragedy

Married and a young mother at 18, tragedy struck when her infant son died at two months old. She went on to have a second son, and when he was two months old, her husband died. Grief-stricken, she fell into a deep depression. In an effort to ease her sadness, she began walking and found that the physical activity combined with the time to reflect helped her mental well-being.

When her son was 6 months old, she immigrated from Ireland to the US to become a nanny for a widower with four children. Gyms were almost unheard of then, and those that existed were all male. But, she knew that staying active was the key to both physical and mental health so she started working out with the guys.

“I went on to develop my own style and learn what was working for me. When I was in the gym, I never had a minute of depression. 56 years later, I'm still going.”

Breaking barriers

She did her first bodybuilding show when she was 50. There was no category for women, so she had to compete with the men. She came in second! 

“I did not know I was setting a standard. I did not know I was going to be a pioneer. I did not know I was going to break the barriers for many women of all ages.”

At 57, she was asked by a much younger male bodybuilder to partner with him to compete in mixed pairs. Despite her doubts, she agreed and they went on to win first place.

At 66, after Aging Evolution highlighted her record-breaking 21 women's pull-ups, she started to get lots of social media followers. She used this newfound fame as leverage to persuade bodybuilding competition promoters to add a category for seniors, where she won three first-place awards.

She wants older adults to retain their vitality. And, she suggests if they’re looking to become more active start by moving.

“Maintain a healthy diet and move. It doesn't matter what kind of movement, just move.”

Join Iris Davis - 78-Year-Old Body Builder to hear her story of overcoming hardship and become inspired to start your own fitness journey.

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