This 86-Year-Old ‘Iron Nun’ Is All the Fitspiration You’ll Ever Need

Photo: Nike/youTube

Photo: Nike/youTube

What’s the first thing you think when you hear the word “old?” For many, it probably conjures up a frail, gray-haired man or woman whose best fit years are long gone. But Madonna Buder is killing it still, even at 86.

A member of the non-canonical Sisters for Christian Community, the “Iron Nun” (as she’s been dubbed) has completed 40-plus Ironman triathlon competitions (each one entailing a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run), and is staring in Nike’s new “Unlimited Youth” commercial.

The spot is a part of the larger “Unlimited” campaign, which celebrates 2016 Rio Olympians and also encourages everyday athletes to have #limitlesspotential when it comes to their athletic goals.

The ad follows Buder through her daily prayers and kick-butt training. All the while, a narrator repeatedly doubts Buder’s fit choices and abilities—but he is quickly proven wrong. As Buder sprints toward the ocean at the start of an Ironman, cloaked in a black wetsuit and red swim cap and surrounded by a group of men and women who are clearly much younger, she yells to the voice-over, “The first 45 didn’t kill me!”

Talk about fitspiration! Here is a woman who didn’t even begin running until her late 40s. Now she regularly competes in one of the toughest feats of athleticism around. Did we mention that not only is Buder the oldest woman to ever complete an Ironman, but she also holds the record for fastest finishing time (16 hours and 32 minutes) for the 85 to 89 age group? #Boss!

But it hasn’t always been easy, Buder admits in a video interview on the Nike website. “There are a lot of times when I had to think about failures and not reaching the goal I may have set for myself,” she says. “But then I realized that the only failure is not to try, because your effort in itself is a success.”

Buder is living proof of Nike co-founder Bill Boweman’s old saying: “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” She is inspiration for us all to get (and stay!) active, no matter our age.

Kudos, Nike, for using your platform to show the world that anything is possible.


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