Bodybuilding together at 50

Jodie Wagner / Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) /

Published Jan 11, 2013 at 04:00AM

JUPITER, Fla. — Married 26 years and the parents of six children, Mark and Cat Shepler have shared numerous interests during their time together.

Until recently, though, working out was not among them.

A longtime fitness enthusiast, Mark, 51, began working with Cat, 50, this summer after she asked him to train her.

A small-business owner, Cat had stayed fit through the years through aerobic exercise and light weight training, but never took her fitness regimen seriously.

“I used to do step classes, that kind of thing,” Cat said. “But I wanted to do more. I wanted to be more fit. I was looking at myself in the mirror, and I wasn’t pleased with what I was seeing. I asked Mark if he would train me at the gym.”

After hesitating initially, Mark agreed.

One month later, Cat had lost six pounds and was feeling better than she had in years.

“I noticed that I was stronger and I wasn’t as tired,” she said.

She and Mark, who works in the financial services business, then decided to enter a bodybuilding competition — the first for both — after consulting with their trainer, pro bodybuilder Debi Laszewski.

In November, Mark competed in the Men’s Masters Bodybuilding class. Cat entered the Women’s Masters Figure Competition at the Florida Gold Cup Natural Bodybuilding Championships and the annual National Physique Committee Amanda Marinelli Fitness, Figure, & Bikini Classic at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

The Sheplers were Florida’s only NPC Master Class (age 50+) husband-and-wife entrants in the dual competitions, which drew about 100 competitors.

“We’ve been training solid for five months,” said Mark, who survived a heart attack in 2009. “We’ve gotten through all the discipline, and we’ve arrived at this point to where we’re prepared to get up on the stage and actually do it and get through it. That’s ... a feat in itself.”

In order to prepare for the competition, Mark and Cat adhered to a strict training and diet regimen.

They worked out twice daily, for 60-90 minutes per session. Their diet consisted of lean meats or fish, broccoli, rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and egg whites. Meals were every three hours. Sauces and fats were prohibited.

“The eating schedule, the foods you have to make, the exercising and the time away from home — it’s tough,” Cat said.

But it’s been worth it, both agree.

“Working out together has been very enjoyable,” Cat said. “It’s been fun. With six children, we don’t have a lot of alone time. Even though we’re in a gym with 100 other people, it’s alone time. It’s time we can talk to each other.”