What began as a vow between two sisters more than 17 years ago is kept alive by the surviving sister.
Ernestine Shepherd, 56, and her sister, Mildred “Velvet” Blackwell, 57, made plans to attend a church picnic and purchased swimsuits for the event. Both were dissatisfied with how they looked in the attire and vowed to get fit.
The sisters overheard someone saying there was an exercise class at Coppin State College and began to exercise. “We had vowed that we were going to be two of the fittest senior ladies,” said Shepherd.
After several years, Blackwell died from an aneurysm and Shepherd, in mourning, stopped working out.
Six months later and with the encouragement of her friend and trainer, Raymond Day, she started again and has not stopped. She has participated in body building competitions, run marathons and appeared on the Baltimore City channel for Be Fit Baltimore.
“At first, when she died, I couldn’t really do it because I lost my spirit and everything,” said Shepherd.
Getting Back to Work
Her diet consists of 6 to 7 small meals a day consuming mostly liquid egg whites, chicken, tuna, vegetables, boiled egg whites and lots of water. “Well I eat in a crazy way, I don’t ask everyone to eat like me,”she says.
Her cousin, Thelma Brooks, began walking after her doctor told her to begin walking to alleviate back pain. Now they run at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore City every morning.
“She is very inspirational and that’s the reason I am here today because she just keeps on encouraging you and letting you know that whatever you want to do, you can do it and she is “determined, dedicated and disciplined,” says Brooks.
Brooks started about three years ago along with a couple of other people and has since run in two marathons. “We just enjoy each other, that’s the beauty of it and it’s a pleasure to get up in the morning just to come out and be with her,” said Brooks.
These ladies are fit and beautiful. There bodies are shapely and would compare with any woman 30 to 40 years younger.
After teaching a fitness class at Energy Fitness in Randallstown, Md., some of the participants shared how Shepherd inspires and motivates them.
Emily Walton has been working out with Shepherd since August and says Shepherd’s appearance makes you feel that you can achieve whatever your fitness goal is.
“I leave this class feeling stronger, I may be a little sore, but it’s a good sore, I’ve noticed changes in my body as far as toning up goes,” says Walton.
Natalie Graham has been working out with Shepherd for two and a half weeks and says she feels great. “It’s been a life-changing thing for me, I suffer from high blood pressure and this has really helped me, I feel relaxed and stress-free and she is really an inspiration,” says Graham.
Hattie Harris, 71, looks fantastic and says she should look the same as Shepherd because there is only two years difference in their ages. “I had to come from out of the house to motivate myself because I could not do it at home,” said Harris.
At the end of each class she has gentle words of encouragement for the class as soft music plays during the cool-down period and asks if anyone has any questions.
“Remember we are determined, dedicated and disciplined to be fit,” says Shepherd. “And I love you all,” she adds.
“You have to love yourself, I don’t mean in a bad way…and of course you have to pray, you can’t do anything without prayer. I prayed a long time to do this and God has blessed me and I decided what I wanted to do from these wonderful blessings is to inspire and try to motivate other ladies to be fit and so far I’ve been able to do that,” says Shepherd.
Shepherd says strength training is an anti-depressant. She never wants to skip a workout because exercising keeps her close to her sister, Velvet.
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