She may be a grandmother, but don’t call her old.
Ernestine Shepherd, 74, of Baltimore has been crowned by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest competitive female bodybuilder ever.
She told the Washington Post: ‘Age is nothing but a number’.
Ms Shepherd has impeccably toned ‘six-pack’ abs that are the marvel of her Baltimore fitness centre.
Her husband of 54 years, Collin Shepherd, says he ‘has trouble keeping guys away from her’.
The Shepherds live in Baltimore with their son, 53, and grandson, 14.
Ms Shepherd does some modelling and teaches fitness classes, and told the Washington Post, ‘If you are going to try to motivate people, you have to live that part’.
She also trains rigorously with Yohnnie Shambourger, 57,a former Mr Universe who won the gold medal in bodybuilding at the Pan American Games in 1995.
Mr Shambourger told the Post: ‘The six-pack is her signature. When she walks in a room and you see her six-pack, you say, “Ohh! Okay!”
‘You are a champion’, he told Ms Shepherd during a gruelling session. ‘I will train you like what you are’.
Ms Shepherd wakes up at 3 a.m. every day to meditate, then hits the trails in a local park to run 10 miles before lunch.
She eats only plain brown rice, bland chicken breast and vegetables, washed down with a glass of raw egg whites, three times a day.
She told the Post she has no ‘desire’ for sweets.
Ms Shepherd has appeared on ‘Today’ and ‘The Mo’Nique Show’ and has been featured in ‘Essence’ magazine.
On ‘The Mo’Nique Show’ she told the audience they can get fit, too: ‘Because we are determined, dedicated and disciplined to be fit. You can. You can do it’.
Over the past 18 years, Ms Shepherd has run nine marathons and won two bodybuilding contests.
But she wasn’t always so fit. Ms Shepherd told the Washington Post she was a ‘couh potato’ until she was 56 years old, when she and her older sister, Mildred, discovered their bodies had started going soft.
The sisters, who grew up very close in Baltimore as the children of a carpenter and schoolteacher, started working out together at a local centre.
They liked the results, and started pushing themselves, eventually entering some bodybuilding contests.
After Mildred died suddenly of an aneurysm, Ms Shepherd was devastated. Her grief started spiralling out of control, until she remembered a promise and a ‘pinkie swear’ she had made her older sister.
The sisters had promised to push themselves to be competitive bodybuilders, and Ms Shepherd decided to keep up that legacy.
So she trains, and eats a restrictive diet, and it helps her remember Mildred.
Their younger sister Bernice, a school principal, told her: ‘Every time you feel like you can’t make it, lace up your tennis shoes and get out and go walking’.
According to the Washington Post, when people tell Ms Shepherd she is destined to die soon herself, she says ‘We are all going to die.
‘But it’s the quality of life while I’m living’.
And when Ms Shepherd’s cell phone rings, its the theme from the movie ‘Rocky’.
She says Sylvester Stallone is her idol.
Not exactly your typical grandmother.
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