Courtesy of: Marvin Joseph, The Washington Post
Ernestine Shepherd holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest competitive female bodybuilder in the world.
Ernestine Shepherd holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest competitive female bodybuilder in the world. Courtesy of: Marvin Joseph, The Washington Post
It is almost impossible to believe now, but Ernestine Shepherd admits she used to be a couch potato.
One day, she and her sister were invited to a picnic, where they were told they could wear bathing suits. At that time, Shepherd was 56 and her sister 57.
"We put the bathing suits on and looked at each other and laughed and said, 'Well, we need to do something about this,'" Shepherd recalls.
And they did. It started with aerobics classes and later on moved to lifting weights.
Today, at 74, Shepherd has a sculpted body from head to toe, including a flawless six-pack and perfectly carved biceps. She's now a fitness instructor. Guinness World Records cites her as the oldest competitive female bodybuilder.
"Age is nothing but a number," she says. "All you need to do is to be determined, dedicated and disciplined and you can do it."
But it was not an easy ride. Shepherd lost her sister suddenly to an aneurysm and her death affected her profoundly.
"I lost my faith. Then I thought that I was sick. I developed panic attacks. But I sat around for a while, then I got myself back together and decided to follow the dream that she said that she wanted us to fulfill," Shepherd says.
The dream was to inspire and motivate people to live healthy and confident lifestyles. But the dream also included becoming part of either the Guinness book or the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! list of attractions.
The perfect body certainly came with a strict diet. No desserts, no s'mores and no hamburgers. Shepherd eats chicken, turkey, tuna fish, brown rice, white baked potatoes and frozen vegetables. She says she enjoys everything she eats.
"My main thing — I drink liquid egg whites," she says. "And that isn't a supplement. I drink that to keep myself lean and strong."
Now Shepherd wants to reach another goal: to be featured on the cover of a fitness magazine, to show that seniors can look good in sports clothes, too.
In 18 years, Shepherd has won two bodybuilding competitions and has competed in nine.