"EYE-OPENING, POWERFUL AND EMOTIONALLY NUANCED."THE DAILY BEAST
A SUNDANCE TV ORIGINAL SERIES
starring Angela Rockwood, Tiphany Adams, Auti Angel, Mia Schaikewitz and Chelsie Hill

Bodybuilding grandma Ernestine Shepherd pushes past the competition

Shepherd accepting an award at a bodybuilding competition.

At 75, you’d think Ernestine Shepherd would be in retirement, perhaps volunteering with some local organizations and puttering in her garden. But you’d be wrong, because she’s actually the Guinness World Record holder for oldest female competitive bodybuilder; and she only started training at 71! Did I mention that she goes on a 10 mile run every morning before hitting the gym, and that both of these things probably occur at hours when most of us are asleep (or staying out late)? And if you think Ernestine is a fluke, check out Tao Porchon-Lynch, who happens to be the world’s oldest yogini and yoga instructor at…wait for it…93.

Yeah, safe to say that these ladies are putting me to shame, though I don’t know about you. Nobody sticks grandma in the stereotype corner!

Shepherd isn’t just focused on training and competing, although this can eat up a lot of time for a bodybuilder of any age, as illustrated by her grueling schedule. She’s also interested in mentoring people who are interested in making health and lifestyle improvements, and considers that her real mission. Her life story isn’t that of a fitness bunny, either. In fact, Ernestine was pretty sedentary for much of her life, and only came to exercise later, spurred by an invite to a party involving bathing suits and pressure from her sister, who died of a brain aneurysm. She decided it was time to get in shape and take pride in her body, and apparently didn’t go by halves. Ernestine says:

If ever there was an anti-aging pill, I would call it exercise.

I’m inclined to believe her, because she definitely does not look like a 75-year-old woman. She says that bodybuilding has made her feel better than she did at 40, and I’d say her abs look a heck of a lot better than mine at 27. She takes her high energy, belief in fitness, and love for her community with her as a personal trainer and class teacher who helps other women focus on fitness, though not necessarily bodybuilding.

Geraldine running down a wooded lane, back to the camera.
(image via The Washington Post)

Shepherd’s defying social expectations as a seriously ripped and powerful older woman with extreme dedication and drive; unsurprisingly, a lot of people are shocked to see her at competitions, and wonder what an older woman is doing up there on stage. Until she starts strutting her stuff, at any rate. I love that she’s taking her passion for exercise and fitness into her community to empower women who might be feeling out of shape, depressed, or out of touch with the younger generation, though people of all ages are welcome in her classes.

Someday I’d really love to drop by her church in Baltimore and take a class with her…even though she and the rest of her students would probably be running circles around my wheezing behind by the end of class.

If you can’t stand up, stand out! PUSH GIRLS airs on Mondays at 10P.