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"Believe it or not, I used to be a couch potato," Ernestine Shepherd says. She became a competitive bodybuilder in her 70s.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Shepherd with her trainer Yohnnie Shambourger in Fort Washington. \

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Shepherd with her trainer Yohnnie Shambourger in Fort Washington. "The six-pack," Shambourger says, "that is her signature. When she walks in a room and you see her six-pack, you say, 'Ohh! Okay!' "

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

The former Mr. Universe began helping to train Shepherd at age 72 in 2007.

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The former Mr. Universe began helping to train Shepherd at age 72 in 2007.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Shepherd began exercising with her sister Mildred when they were in their 50s, eventually starting to tone their muscles with weight training.

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Shepherd began exercising with her sister Mildred when they were in their 50s, eventually starting to tone their muscles with weight training.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Shepherd instructs a body sculpting class in Baltimore.

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Shepherd instructs a body sculpting class in Baltimore.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Shepherd does pushups before going onstage at the University of the District of Columbia last May. Years after her sister Mildred died, Shepherd got back in shape and began to compete in bodybuilding contests.

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Shepherd does pushups before going onstage at the University of the District of Columbia last May. Years after her sister Mildred died, Shepherd got back in shape and began to compete in bodybuilding contests.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Shepherd, 74, center, backstage at a bodybuilding show in Washington last May. When she traveled to Rome last year to participate in the ceremony for the Guinness World Records, she carried her sister's ashes.

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Shepherd, 74, center, backstage at a bodybuilding show in Washington last May. When she traveled to Rome last year to participate in the ceremony for the Guinness World Records, she carried her sister's ashes.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

I spread those ashes,\

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I spread those ashes," says Shepherd, here onstage at a competition. "[The world record] was something we dreamed about. I try to keep that dream alive. Now, it's my dream.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

When Shepherd was a child, her main goal was to \

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When Shepherd was a child, her main goal was to "sit and look pretty."

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Shambourger hands Shepherd one of two awards she won in a bodybuilding show last May.

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Shambourger hands Shepherd one of two awards she won in a bodybuilding show last May.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Shepherd's diet includes egg whites as well as chicken, green beans and cups of plain brown rice.

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Shepherd's diet includes egg whites as well as chicken, green beans and cups of plain brown rice.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

She runs at least 10 miles every day in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore.

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She runs at least 10 miles every day in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Shepherd leads a body sculpting class in Baltimore. \

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Shepherd leads a body sculpting class in Baltimore. "Age is nothing but a number," she says.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Over the past 18 years, Shepherd has completed nine marathons and won two bodybuilding contests.

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Over the past 18 years, Shepherd has completed nine marathons and won two bodybuilding contests.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Shepherd has been married to Collin Shepherd, 80, for 54 years.

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Shepherd has been married to Collin Shepherd, 80, for 54 years.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post