If you want to meet someone who truly exemplifies the “age is just a number” philosophy, look no further than Ernestine Shepherd.
At age 83, Ernestine is a personal trainer, a model and a bodybuilder. In 2010, the Baltimore, Maryland resident became the world’s oldest competitive female bodybuilder, a title bestowed upon her by Guinness World Records.
She hasn’t always been so fit, however. According to her website, she used to be “a sedentary, well-padded school secretary and ‘slug’ who had never worked out a day in her life.”
All of that began to change for Ernestine at age 56. One day, she and her sister, Velvet, went shopping for bathing suits. As they tried on different suits, they laughed at each other – and realized it was time to get in better shape.
The two sisters joined a gym and started working out together. Soon after, Velvet died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. Devastated, Ernestine didn’t go to the gym for several months as she mourned the loss of her sister.
Then a friend pointed out to Ernestine that Velvet would have wanted her to continue what the two of them had started. Ernestine returned to the gym, more determined than ever to get in shape.
Over time, she completely transformed her body. At 130 pounds, the 5-foot, 5-inch Ernestine now has about 9-10% body fat. She takes no medications and has more energy than many people who are decades younger.
Her life has transformed as well. Ernestine’s work now involves training mostly senior women five days a week, with the goal of helping them reach their physical potential.
While most of us aren’t looking to become bodybuilders, Ernestine’s training regimen and outlook on life offer useful lessons to anyone who seeks to implement a second act, whether it’s starting a business or another endeavor. Here are a few key takeaways from her success:
- Get up early. This gives you a few hours of quiet time to focus on a task without ringing phones and other interruptions. Ernestine is out of bed by 3 am to get in her 10-mile runs and strength training.
- Enlist the support of your family. Ernestine’s husband, Collin, prepares her food and makes sure the fridge is always stocked with her seven small and balanced daily meals.
- Let yourself recover. Long hours spent on the gym floor – or behind a computer building a business — can deplete you physically and/or mentally. Get the rest your body needs.
- Try to have a positive attitude about everything. Ernestine views her workouts as fun and sees her work as being on a “long, happy journey.”
- Know where you want to go. Everyone needs a purpose. Define what you want to accomplish – and what motivates you. For Ernestine, that source of inspiration is still her sister.
On her website, Ernestine writes that she is having the time of her life “at an age when many folks see themselves as declining and getting old.” What will this remarkable woman accomplish in her next decade? Stay tuned.