Even after a long stare, one would never look at Ernestine Shepherd and guess her age.
The 82-year-old has a set of well-defined triceps and a carved out six-pack. The secret, she said, is “discipline, determination and dedication.”
“I am out running/walking at 3:30 a.m. in the morning with a group of people, seven days a week. I eat very healthy and eat five meals a day every day,” said Shepherd, a personal trainer, model and bodybuilder. “My gym schedule consists of going five days a week and doing a variation of 100 sit-ups per day.”
Shepherd, who was declared the world’s oldest bodybuilder by Guinness World Records in 2010 has not always been the athletic model that she is today. She went through a healthy transition both physically and mentally, and Shepherd plans to share the details of her journey with other seniors in South Florida. She will be presenting her tools at A Better You, a health and wellness educational event on Saturday, April 6, at the Miramar Cultural Center.
“I want other seniors to know they can achieve a healthy lifestyle at any age,” said Shepherd.
The bodybuilder started her fitness journey 26 years ago. One day while shopping with her sister, they tried on bathing suits. They found themselves poking fun at each other, but it was not really a laughing matter, said Shepherd.
“I was what you call a skinny-fat,” said Shepherd. “I had very, very large hips, a small waist, a lot of cellulite in my legs and on my arms was a lot of fat.”
Shepherd also had a recurring back and leg pain. She knew she had to do something about her body. Shepherd and her sister, Velvet joined a gym and started working out together. A short time later, Velvet died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. Devastated by her sister’s death, Ernestine stopped going to the gym.
After some months of mourning the loss of her sister and on the advice of a friend, Shepherd returned to the gym with a reignited determination to get fit.
She started slowly and building her body step by little step. She lost the weight and the aches and pains disappeared. Exercising also helped Shepherd overcome the grief and depression associated with losing her sister.
“When I started working out and getting out walking and then using weights, all of that changed for me,” said Shepherd. “Today, I feel so much better than I’ve ever felt before.”
Shepherd spends most of her days in Baltimore, Maryland training classes of majority women in her age range, five days a week. She said that she “lives to inspire senior women to reach their physical potential.” That’s why she has joined forces with UnitedHealthcare to participate in A Better You.
In addition to hearing about Shepherd’s motivation behind her bodybuilder’s body, attendees will also get a chance to be educated on the basics of Medicare.
Medicare is a federally medical insurance program available for individuals who are 65 years and up and some people living with disabilities.
It was established by the federal government to help working-class seniors keep their medical insurance cover after retirement age.
UnitedHealthcare professional Rita Tolbert said at 65, people should be trying to find out what options are available to them whether through their employer, a private insurance company or both.
“It could affect them financially if they do not make the right decision,” said Tolbert, who has more than 25 years of experience in the health and life insurance industry.
Tolbert will facilitate the Medicare education portion of the events. One-on-ones will be available to discuss the different parts of the program, eligibility requirements and enrollment windows.
“We try to demystify some of the myths about Medicare out there,” she said.
In addition to Medicare and fitness education, attendees of A Better You will be also offered spiritual guidance from Reverend Arthur Jackson III of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. There will be a bonus treat — a performance from the legendary vocal group, The Persuasions, known as the “Kings of A Cappella.”
The event at the Miramar Cultural Center is open and free to the public. There will be a session at 10 a.m. followed by another at 2:30 p.m. RSVP is not required.