I work with a lot of women to improve their body compositions from their 20s up to their 60s and have seen all kinds of real body shapes. When I found Iris Davis on Facebook, I was blown away that this woman in her 70s could maintain a body of a 20 year old…if not better. So I got curious and wanted to learn her secrets to longevity and kick ass body.
Iris is a personal fitness trainer and an international champion body builder with 11 titles and over 45 years of experience. Ok, we aren’t all going to become super athletes, but there are some things we can learn from Iris nevertheless. As a sport nutrition coach, I understand that maintaining the physique of a competitive body builder long term is not actually healthy nor sustainable. Leading up to competition there is a lot of extreme habits in nutrition that need to take place in order to win. I get it. But Iris is still around at 74 and kicking up her heels, so there’s something she’s doing right.
At 5 feet tall and 100 pounds of pure muscle, Iris has found balance and health in her 50s, 60s and 70s where many of us in North America are struggling with the opposite extreme suffering from heart disease, obesity and other lifestyle diseases that age us faster than we want to. So how does she do it? Let’s take a look at some of the questions I asked Iris in our e-interview.
MEET IRIS DAVIS
Hi Iris. Tell us a little about yourself and where are you from?
I was born in Ireland, one of 14 children, to a family that was not very well off. I married at 17, lost my first child to crib death at two months, moved to England, had another child, but lost my husband when I was 22 of natural causes. You can understand how I fell into a deep depression in a time where I had no access to grief counselors or anti-depressants. During these dark times I walked a lot and found this exercise helped me to cope with tragedy.
I moved to the US a widow with a 6 month old and joined my first gym at the age of 23. I knew I wanted to stay in shape, but I had no role model. I was struck again with tragedy in my 40s when I woke up one day and couldn’t remember who I was. After five months I was diagnosed with encephalitis caused by chronic stress and overwork. I was told I would never walk again, but after two and a half years I found the strength to return to the gym and regain my health using my mind and body. One year later I entered my first body building competition at 50 years old competing with 20 years olds…and won! The rest is history.
When did your interest in health begin?
At age 23 to combat depression.
What was the spark that ignited your interest in body building?
Self preservation and to staying alive. I joined a gym at age 23 and at that time the gyms did not allow female members, so I had to search for a gym. They were hard to find, not like today where there are gyms on every corner and adverts all over the place about health and fitness.
How much time do you spend training in the gym and what does your fitness routine look like?
I am lucky my lifetime of fitness has allowed me to share my passion in the form of personal training. Three young men who I trained have become champions and now they motivate others also. I spend at least one hour working on myself daily and often this hour becomes three. What can I say, some days I have to throw myself out of the gym.
What other factors contribute to your amazing physique and how you hack your age?
I surround myself with younger friends, I also enjoy the company of my peers, and I am quite often amazed at how much younger they act and look. I am lucky with my shape. I only buy my clothes at teen and pre-teen clothing stores. I have an amazing outlook on life and I think I am 25! I really do. I also never stop dancing, my elixir of life.
What does your diet look like on a normal weekday?
Very bland. Eggs, oatmeal, toast and coffee for breakfast, because that is what I love. It’s no hardship and no longing for anything else. I have lots of snacks in the form of apples, bananas, nuts, protein bars and cups of tea. Dinner is very bland also. I don’t like to cook so its usually chicken, rice and sometimes French fries, vegetables and tea again. I don’t eat deserts, but if I do, it’s half of Klondike bar. This may sound boring but it’s not to me. I hardly ever eat out.
Do you eat any particular foods or take supplements that help you reach this condition?
Nothing special. I take a pre-workout [supplement] only because it makes me drink lots of water. I also take some antioxidants to help with arthritis in my hands and arms. If anything is going to stop me, it will be arthritis! LOL! I pray every day it’s not so.
What is the tool/technique do you find indispensable to get you in such good shape?
Music, more music, and again it’s current club music, all fast with a great beat.
What would you do differently if you knew then what you know now?
Not a thing. I am blessed with a good husband, son and grandkids…and health, of course.
What is the best advice you ever received?
I honestly cant think of any. I have always been my own best friend, my own motivator.
What is your biggest indulgence?
Good shoes, and fashionable clothes that don’t cost a lot, but look like a million dollars me. And very tight gym clothes.
What is your greatest achievement or thing you are most proud of?
There are a few. Eleven times NPC [National Physique Committee] bodybuilding champion, fittest senior in USA in 2006, capturing an armed robber at age 64, 21 Pull-up on live TV. My grandchildren are my proudest glory, but it is their parents who deserve the credit, not me.
What has been the biggest obstacle in reaching this amazing physique?
Going back to the gym at age 50 when I had spent the previous two and half years in bed suffering from encephalitis. I was hardly able to open the door and I could only use two pound [dumbbells]. BUT I was on stage later that year in my first competition and up against 20-25 year olds and walking away – well walking on air actually – a winner.
Do you ever get any criticism and, if so, for what? How do you handle it?
Yes, and it’s usually from jealous neighbors…I am currently going through that with a neighbor. I was happy to reminder her, that her mistake was in thinking I was like most grandmas. LOL! She accuses me of thinking I am better than anyone else because I am a Champion. I use hate as motivation. That’s my biggest motivation of all. I was born a warrior, with 14 siblings, I had to fight to get a slice of toast before school. I let myself be bullied for years and then I found out how to attack. Now, if I get attacked in any way, I don’t go on the defense. I immediately go for the jugular.
What is your biggest interest(s) outside of body building?
Dancing, and dancing. I love playing and interacting with children. I adore all children.
Do you have any work, family or other commitments you need to balance your time with? If so, how do you manage it all?
No. I am very very lucky that my husband gives me full support 100%. He cooked all my meals when I competed. We love each others company and have a handful of real friends.
What are your personal aspirations and goals for the next few years?
I am going for another world record this year. I am not sharing what it will be, because I want to make sure I can do it first. So, once again, my training is going up a notch. I always have to have a goal. I am also training a young man for stage in May this year . And I am hoping for great results with my clients.
Do you believe you can maintain this physique for the next 10 years? Is it sustainable?
I am pretty certain I can, as long as some hidden illness does not knock me down. I always say, “If I have clients, why would I stop?”
Who are you most inspired by?
I have a young lady on Facebook whom I have never met. She has lost 150 pounds and I follow her journey. She is my inspiration. I never had to lose weight and I have the greatest respect for those that do and take it to a level of fitness they never ever dreamed of. So in a way, she is even more spectacular than me. Her name is Bridget Camilliry and I only know her from Facebook, so I admire her from afar.
There were no role models for me to look up to while I was in the gym so I only had myself and never knew that one day I would be inspiring others, or that anyone would ever want to hear my story. All I ever wanted in this life was to get rid of my debilitating depression and never be traumatized again. A team of doctors once asked me (when I was in hospital for one of my breakdowns) what was the most important thing in life, and my answer was, and still is, “a smile on my face”.
What are you totally into now?
I love to tell women how pretty they are and I do that almost daily. I saw a lady in the supermarket. She was about 350 pounds, however, she was so pretty and glamorous I could not help it. I walked up and said, “I hope you don’t mind me telling you, but you are absolutely gorgeous. From you beautiful shoes, to your perfect make up.” She almost fell over. She told me that no one had ever told her she was beautiful, and I said, she was the most beautiful person I had seen that day. She cried, and I cried with her. And it was all true. She was the most beautiful I had seen that day. And I still remember her beauty.
What is the one thing that you do everyday that makes the biggest difference in your life?
I don’t have an answer for this. I am a motivator and I derive great satisfaction by being the best personal trainer and having my clients achieve results they never thought possible
What is your secret to longevity?
Thinking I am 25! LOL! And Dance and music.
Who do you follow in media/podcasts/books/or other?
I don’t really follow anyone, I am not interested in Hollywood types. I am more likely to follow the local school teacher who changes lives and the server at the local food bank who donates time to help the needy.
Is there anything else you would like to add or share with us?
I have something, but I am not ready to share. If I ever do, then I will know I have finally grown up!
Do you want to hack your age like Iris? Download The Longevity Master Plan online program to looking and feeling younger than you are now.
*Photo courtesy of www.agingevolution.com