We’ve been told that as we age our body breaks down and our age gets the best of us. We’ve been told that our healthy hormones decline, our bone mass decreases and our body struggles to maintain it’s youthfulness. But is that the case? or is this simply a story we’ve been told. Are we told that we age and our bodies breakdown and decline so we simply accept it? Or are we actively challenging that narrative?
We’ve all seen people well into their 50’s and even 60’s that are fit, and sometimes even fitter than us in our 30’s and 40’s.
Ernestine Shepherd is one of those rare gems. An American bodybuilder who is best known for being, at one point, the oldest competitive female bodybuilder in the world, as declared by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2016 and 2017; as of 2016 she is 81 years old and still an active, albeit no longer competitive, bodybuilder. She’s also a personal trainer and professional model. In 2010, she was crowned the World’s Oldest Performing Female Bodybuilder by Guinness. Today, we caught up with her and asked a few questions about her fitness career and what keeps her determined, dedicated and disciplined to be fit. See what inspires her here:
I first got into fitness with my sister, Mildred Blackwell, when I was 56 years old. We went swimsuit shopping one day and were unhappy about the way we looked in the mirror.
Instead of lamenting about our bodies, we decided to make a change, get into shape and become the best version of ourselves.
We started going to the gym together and it became a routine for us. We would match our workout clothes in different colors and it was a way we bonded together. We were so close to each other. It was actually her idea for us to become the oldest female bodybuilders and we would stand out from the rest because we were sisters.
I made a promise to my sister to live a healthy lifestyle and inspire others to do the same, she adds.
Mildred started having health problems and shortly passed away. After her death, I was devastated and my health condition became very poor. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fell into depression and was on a ton of medications. One night, my sister came to me in a dream and told me to get up and fulfill our dream. I woke up the next day and became determined to overcome the challenges I was facing and decided to keep that commitment and continue what we started. I thank God everyday and am grateful to my family who helped me get through that tough time.
In order to get fit, I had to eat healthy, drink plenty of water, do strength training, and incorporate lots of cardio. That is still my routine till this day.
I met former Mr. Universe, Yohnnie Shambourger, who trained me to become a bodybuilder. He mapped out different exercise programs and changed my eating plan. I followed it completely. I drank plenty of liquid egg whites and water and ate a lot of protein — egg whites, tuna, chicken and turkey — no beef. I also ate baked sweet potatoes, brown rice and all veggies with no preservatives. I don’t crave anything sweet, but on rare occasions I do enjoy unsweetened cherry flavored jello.
When I’m not exercising, I make sure I’m giving my body plenty of rest. I love going to church each Sunday — I’m in a choir and I love to sing. I enjoy spending time with my husband and enjoy modeling clothes. I find the most joy in helping others and I do that daily by training senior women and men to reach their physical potential.
It’s been a wonderful journey earning the title as the World’s Oldest Performing Female Bodybuilder by Guinnesss World Records. I know my sister would be so proud for achieving that award. After winning multiple bodybuilding titles and running several marathons, I’ve inspired others to start working out and it’s been my life goal to motivate others to live a happy, healthy and confident life.
Always remember, you’re never too old or too late to start exercising. Age ain’t nothing but a number, and you can always get fit!
Now, at 85 years old she’s still putting in the work! You can follow along with Ernistine’s journey on her instagram profile here: https://www.instagram.com/shepherdernestine/