Celebrating Ernestine “Ernie” Shepherd

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“Getting in shape shouldn’t be a punishment. It’s an amazing and empowering lifestyle decision that anyone can make.” – Ernstine Shepherd


Today, we recognize and celebrate Ernestine “Ernie” Shepherd


Originally from Baltimore, MD., also known as Ms. Ernie or Granny Six-Pack  to some, she is an American bodybuilder at just 86 years young, former world record holder in bodybuilding, trainer and motivational speaker for AARP and United HealthCare.  She is also an author and is now a songwriter.


At the age of 56, after what most would consider an average day-to-day interaction with her sister, Ernie and her sister Mildred made a commitment to get in better shape and started working out together. Sadly, shortly after they started their wellness journey together, her sister died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. Initially she took a step back from her physical goals to mourn the loss of her sister. When she did return to the gym she was more determined than ever to improve the overall quality of her life.


She continued her wellness journey slowly and asked for help along the way. With guidance from expert personal trainers and nutrition coaches, she improved her overall wellness through fitness and good nutrition one step at a time and even went on to become a personal trainer herself.


In 2007, Ernie had a new goal in sight. She wanted to train to become a professional bodybuilder and sought out the help of former Mr. Universe Yohnnie Shambourger. Within seven months of training, she signed up for her first contest and took first place in her class.  


In March of 2010, at the age of 73, Ernie was named the of World’s Oldest Performing Female Body Builder by Guinness World Records in Rome, Italy. While her record was broken two years later, she laid the foundation and created a movement of inspiration not only for senior women of color, but also for any individual who may have seen age as a limiting factor in their fitness goals. Part of her mission is to help others see that age is just a number and that wellness can be tackled at any age in many different ways. “Being out of shape” especially as we age is a personal choice.  


Throughout her 20+ year journey, Ernestine says that she has never had a serious injury due to her fitness routine and has no aches or pains whatsoever. She attributes her wellness success to several factors which includes a great support system, asking for professional help, prioritizing rest and recovery, having well-balanced nutrition with an emphasis on protein, and maintaining a positive mindset and attitude through any aspect of her life. 


In addition to strength training and bodybuilding, Ernie is also an avid runner, having competed in many races, including at least 9 marathons, and at one point was running upward of 80 miles a week.


Today, Ernie continues to coach strength and flexibility training as a personal training and a remote coach. Additionally, she continues to live by her mantra: “Determined, dedicated and disciplined to be fit.” “As long as I am healthy, I will continue doing this. I really want to help as many people as I can, to let them know don’t let life pass you by. You can be fit”. Ernie encourages others to “not to give up on whatever you intend to do. It is not too late to start. Have you started but it is not working? Pause, review and restrategize but don’t quit. It will happen when you least expect it.”


To honor the legacy that Errnie Shepherd has built in the fitness community, we will be doing some body building during our forge piece today at Tradewinds. 


We hope you take some time today while you’re moving your body in any way to pause for a moment and appreciate your ability to move. Appreciate everything your body can do, has done, and anything your body has overcome to get to where you are today. Take some time to reflect back at any progress you have made throughout your life, regardless of where you are today.










Image: Photo from Ernestine Shepherd’s instagram @shepherdernestine


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