Once upon a time a smug young reporter tried to nail down old-time film star Mae West on her actual age; the unflappable Mae responded using her famous deadpan delivery, “It ain’t the age sonny boy…it’s the mileage.” We all
know people who look a whole lot older then they actually are. These unfortunate folks age prematurely and take on the characteristics of someone much older. Stress, poor health habits, lack of exercise, bad genetics and illness can all contribute to premature physical aging. We all know people that look, act and feel much younger than they actually are. These freaks of nature bounce and bound and pad about with the coiled energy of a fit twenty-year old. The scuttle-butt whirls around these folks wherever they go as people secretly attribute the preserved condition to something other than brains amplified by hard work; plastic surgery being the most commonly mentioned. Onlookers cannot be convinced that such unbelievable results can be obtained by something as simple and natural as adopting the bodybuilder lifestyle. Bodybuilding procedures dramatically retard the aging process and real results always occur when a sound fitness game plan is combined with hard physical effort and disciplined eating.
Few people have the gumption, grit and tenacity to find the right program and then work hard enough to turn the plan into reality. In the city of Baltimore 66-year old Ernestine Shepherd has discovered the right combination of training and eating and effort and wrestled the hands of her biological clock to a standstill. Ernie, as her friends and family call her, was sixty-two years old in 1999 and registered a body fat percentile of 32% body fat – not bad! In 2003 at age sixty-six she has whittled and chiseled down to a lean 19% body fat. She looks decades younger than her actual age. Outstanding progress when you consider that when Ernie was born Hitler was just getting started and The Great Depression was still raging. Ladies like Ernie Shepherd and another Parrillo-powered golden oldie, 72-year old Kelly Nelson (see Sept. 2001 issue), along with men like Bill Pearl and Arnold (now 55) are redefining our definition of old.
These well-preserved elders all share common practices: they all lift weights hard and heavy, they all perform cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis, and they all practice precision eating. If you can correctly combine and balance all of these interlocking disciplines, muscles grow, posture improves, body fat decreases, mobility and endurance improve dramatically. The truth is plain to see that anyone who lifts weights, does consistent cardio and modifies dietary habits for the better will experience a significant physical change for the better. That’s just plain common sense. Most people talk a good game of fitness but when it comes time to bust gluteus maximus in the gym, few are willing to expend the effort necessary to trigger gains.
Ernie Shepherd works like a plough horse in planting season when she trains: her favorite form of cardiovascular exercise is power-walking. She walks for two solid hours a day, five days a week, rain or shine; she walks for four straight hours on Saturday. That’s no typo. “I love to walk outside and during the week I get up at 4am, put on my Walkman, go outside and speed walk for an hour around my neighborhood. Then I turn around and speed-walk back home for another hour.” Asked if she had any favorite music for her power-walks – and half-expecting that she would indicate Duke Ellington or Count Basie – Ernie responded that, yes indeed, she did have a favorite tape, “I speed walk to a Marine Corp platoon tape training cassette. Sergeant Joe Bob Cobb calls out the cadence and I walk with the Marines! It’s quite inspiring!” On the weekend Ernie walks for four solid hours around scenic downtown Baltimore. She puts her cardio training to good use, “I will be entering the 26-mile Baltimore marathon in October of 2003.
I wanted to enter the race last year but had to miss it on account of a scheduling conflict.” At the 2001 Baltimore Marathon the modest Mrs. Shepherd entered and won her age group by finishing the 26- mile race in a little over six hours. “It was such fun and I was disappointed I had to miss last year but I intend to enter this year and improve upon my previous marathon best.” Ernie works at a local elementary school as school secretary during the workweek and puts in a long, full day. After work, most nights she heads to the local gym. Three nights a week she weight trains herself and two nights a week she works as a personal trainer teaching others. “On Tuesday I work as a personal trainer at Sherita’s bodyon- line and on Thursday I work with clients at Kenny Reid’s Fitfor- life facility.” Ernie weight trains three days a week and sessions last upwards of two hours. and four sets per exercise; staying in the 6-10 rep per set range. Her training partners are serious male bodybuilders and Ernie’s training is hardly a mellow senior citizen body pump class.
Her training mates, Raymond Day and 72-year old Ernest Jones follow a serious bodybuilder training routine and they demand of Ernestine what they demand of themselves. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Ernie said. Top sets are nearly always taken to failure and occasionally forced reps are used to increase intensity. Her cardio is done first thing in the morning to maximize body fat oxidation. Science has shown that performing cardio before eating breakfast (in the absence of glycogen), causes the body to burn stored body fat at an accelerated rate. Is it any surprise that Ernestine uses the eating and supplementation tactics of sport’s nutritionalist Todd Swinney? It seems anyone of any note connected to bodybuilding and living in Baltimore or the surrounding suburbs has a connection to Todd. “I met Todd at a Mr. Olympia competition a few years back and began working with him on my diet.
Todd customized me an eating schedule that I have adhered to for almost four years and with excellent results. My diet is high in protein, very low in fat and with a good amount of carbohydrates.” It comes as no surprise that Ernie is remarkably disciplined in her eating. She eats the same basic foods each day: lean protein, fibrous and starchy carbohydrates and not much else. What is surprising is how much food this 5-5, 135-pound woman consumes; she eats often and she eats a lot. “It seems as long as I eat good clean food, I don’t get fat.” Todd’s tactic is to use multiple meals and super select foods in ample quantity to “build the metabolism.” Todd eliminates all sugar, all manmade refined carbohydrates and dietary fat intake is reduced to a negligible 5-10%. “My husband Collins does the cooking and prepares my meals and oh my, can that man cook!” The expert home cooking makes it even easier to love the cook. It’s a heck of a lot easier to stay on a strict bodybuilder-style diet if the foods needed are prepared in tasty and expert fashion.
The problem with diet foods is the menu of acceptable foods is limited and a real challenge to prepare different dishes in imaginative ways using a limited number of ingredients. Ernie is lucky; her Trophy Husband knows just how to put taste and pizzazz into the small rotation of repeat dishes that a serious bodybuilder must continually contend with. This 66-year old can pack away the victuals: she eats a 9-eggwhite omelet plus a baked potato and a chicken breast for breakfast. Then she eats this same identical mighty meal again three short hours later. This sleek elder eats twenty-seven egg whites each and every day; along with three pounds of skinless, boneless chicken breast and a small mountain of steamed vegetables. Ernie has built a blast-furnace metabolism and her body thrives on lots of super clean calories. Ernie has been featured in Essence Magazine and appeared on the ‘The View’ with Barbara Walters and Star Jones. She was scheduled to appear on Oprah in September of 2001 and has yet to be rescheduled.
Her amazing physique has attracted considerable attention in the local Baltimore newspapers and several have done feature articles on this amazing athlete. It seemed only natural to ask if we would ever see her compete in a bodybuilding competition. “I’ve been asked that question a million times and have been told by people whose opinions I respect that I could do quite well. I love to watch bodybuilding and perhaps if I had started as a young person I would compete but I would feel terribly uncomfortable posing onstage now.” Ernie and a small group of friends travel every year to the Mr. Olympia extravaganza and have been doing so since Lee Haney was winning back in the late 80’s. “Our group goes every year and I love to watch all the bodybuilding shows; men, women and fitness…we have a wonderful time and I had a lovely conversation with Ms. Olympia Lynda Murray last year.” With her dynamic personality, fantastic physique and upbeat outlook on life, Ernestine Shepherd is truly redefining our definition and expectations of advanced age.
The bodybuilder lifestyle as practiced by Ernestine Shepherd is without doubt the finest system ever devised for improving the quality and extending the duration of life. Ernie, Todd & John Ernestine has been influenced by John Parrillo both directly and indirectly. “I use John Parrillo’s Optimized Whey every single day. It tastes wonderful and contains 33- grams of protein (and only four carbohydrates) in every serving.” Ernie uses the Parrillo approach to diet and supplementation as taught her by master trainer and nutrition guru, Todd Swinney. “I visit Todd often and he checks my body fat percentile and we might make some adjustments in my diet plan.” After four years, the Parrillo approach, as taught by Todd, has become second nature to Ernie. “I have great energy and I think that this is because even though I train very hard and have a full-time job, I eat plenty and I eat often; this seems to recharge me as I go through the day.”
Her weight training is intense and serious and as a result her bones, usually weakening and becoming brittle in females her age, are instead thick and
osteoporosis-resistant. Ernie’s high intensity cardio has ensured her heart and lungs are in peak working order. She flushes nutrient enriched blood through her circulatory system six days a week. As a result she has the endurance of a steam locomotive and her low fat intake keeps saturated fat globules from coagulating in her arteries and clogging heart valves. All in all, Mrs. Shepherd has custom devised for herself a nearperfect life-extension system, ironically as an unintended sideconsequence of adopting a serious bodybuilding regimen. Ernestine Shepherd is a walking talking billboard, a testament to the advantages of maintaining a serious approach to fitness in our golden years. “I love to train and walk and so value the camaraderie of the regulars at the gym.” Ernie’s advice would be to fall in love with the “process” and the rest will take care of itself.
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- Bodybuilding after Y2K
- Vitamins and Minerals Part II
- Shape Up in Eight Weeks The Easy Way
- Kelly Greene
- Parrillo Bars for Every Fitness Need
- Regaining Your Weight Loss “Oomph”
- Jennifer Hendershott > USA Fitness Champion
- Intensity, Psyche, Concentration and the Mind
- The Five P’s