We had to run fast to catch up with Sister Madonna Buder—aka the Iron Nun—who is still training hard at 90 years young. Buder is a Roman Catholic nun and the oldest woman to complete an IronMan Triathlon at the age of 82. Her impressive fitness resume also includes holding several Senior Olympic track records, 5 Boston Marathons and completing 45 IronMan Triathlons.
When she’s not counseling prison inmates or raising money for various charities, Buder enjoys being outside running, biking or swimming, “I love being out there in God’s cathedral.” The Iron Nun thrives on the discipline of both her spiritual and athletic vocations, “I know that God has given me a gift and I have to make the most of the gift.” Buder recently shared some of the secrets of her success and longevity with the Health IQ Team.
A: How has the global pandemic/COVID-19 situation affected your life and your training?
IN: I’m dreading being encloistered this winter, so it’s wonderful everyday I get out to sniff the real air. But it’s the idea of staying active and involved in any way, whether it’s creative, in helping and serving others or doing your daily duties such as getting outside and sniffing the air is probably the most productive thing you can do.
A: Do you prefer exercising outside?
IN: I’m going to push myself even in the winter, even when it’s cold and I don’t like cold anymore at this age, but I will still get outside. You know even if you have to run in place inside, the important thing is to keep circulating and don’t forget to breathe while you’re doing it.
A: Absolutely. Don’t want to get light headed. Has your routine changed a lot kind of over the years?
IN: Why you bet! When I used to do over 45 Iron Man distances I had very long bike rides. Now everything is cut down to a smidgen of what it used to be, but I’m still doing it and that’s the important thing, like I said just keep circulating the best way you can.
A: Are there any tips or tricks that you have for being able to do that and continue to perform at such a high level?
IN: I think it goes back to the 6D’s. First of all you have to dream it. Dream what it is you want to do, so then you can then desire it. And once you desire it, you start putting in the discipline. And with the discipline comes the dedication and with the dedication comes the determination and with the determination comes the daring to do it.
A: I love that. I want to write that on my wall so that I can look at it every single day.
IN: Sometimes when we get to this vast age we concentrate on “Ohhh…how old I am.. How hard things are to do that I used to do so easily, etc. etc. etc.…” The thing to remember, especially when you’re out exercising and it becomes a little awkward, just imagine that you’re a little child. Don’t ever, ever lose your child. It is the purest, most unadulterated, creative, imaginative self you’ll ever have. So never lose your child.
A: What are some of the issues you see people struggling with on their journeys toward health?
IN: We need to live a balance of mind, body and soul. Some of us are top heavy with the intellectual. The others of us are building the body and nothing else matters but the body. Well, no, we need to be balanced. And our spiritual nature is as important as our physical nature. And the combination of both is what is meant to be our human nature and we ignore it. And when we don’t ignore it we get this extra assistance because we are making ourselves aware that it exists.
A: What advice would you give someone trying to start a healthier, more balanced lifestyle to help them stay motivated on that path?
IN: Like I said in the beginning you have to have the desire. If you don’t even care about your health, well nobody can care for you. It’s your own doing. We are the only ones of God’s creatures who are given the gift of the freewill and sometimes we use it and sometimes we abuse it and sometimes we absolutely ignore it. So with this gift of the freewill we are responsible. But it takes practice. So if you want health, you’ve got to do something about it. There are many, many ways to stay healthy, but it’s up to you to explore the methods and find out what is most helpful for you.
A: What do you think has been your biggest accomplishment in the work that you do and the message you share?
IN: I just don’t think in those terms. I do what I do at the moments it’s required. And I can say when I look back on my life that I have absolutely no regrets. That doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes, but you learn by your mistakes and making mistakes is the best way to learn. So anything I do on a given day is accomplished the way it is meant to be.