The Remarkable Story of the Oldest Female Bodybuilder

Her routine is mind-boggling.

“I wake up at 2:30 every morning. I say my devotions, I eat 10 egg whites … 16 ounces of water, and a handful of walnuts.” That’s how Ernestine Shepherd starts her day—the oldest female bodybuilder in the world, now at 79 years old.

Shepherd explains that she got her start in pumping iron through her sister, Mildred, with whom she was very close, when they were both 56. Mildred came up with the idea that they would be in The Guinness Book of World Records. But she died from an aneurysm in 1992. “When she died, I didn’t want to do anything. I ended up with high blood pressure, panic attacks, acid reflux, depression. It was just an awful way to live.”

Then one day her sister came to her in a dream, Shepherd explains, and told her to get up, stick with the program, and keep bodybuilding. She entered a competition in Washington, D.C., and won in her age group. Soon after, the publishers of Guinness called and deemed her the oldest competitive female bodybuilder in the world.

Her routine is mind-boggling. Along with the 2:30 a.m. wake-up time, she drinks four bottles of liquid egg whites a day. But it’s her involvement with her Baltimore community that is most inspiring. Shepherd teaches classes that are transformative. “I say to my senior ladies and my men, age is but a number, and you can get fit.”