By David Raterman
Sun Sentinel Correspondent
December 27, 2010
Willard Shepard has played sports and exercised for most of his life. Although he's now a television journalist, law-school student and reserve fighter pilot, he still finds time to work out almost every day.
In January, Shepard suffered a heart attack but has bounced back. He boxes regularly, lifts weights — and feels better than he used to.
Why do you keep fit?
To keep healthy, to keep up my energy, to perform better in the military, and I just like to. I played sports my whole life — basketball, tennis and track, and football in college.
Which exercises do you do regularly?
Boxing and weight training mostly. I exercise five or six times a week.
About 10 years ago, I tore the meniscus in my knee and the doctor said, "If you keep playing basketball, you'll need a knee replacement." A buddy told me about boxing and how difficult it was, so I started that. I also do Muay Thai (Thailand-style kickboxing). I do about 90 percent boxing and 10 percent kickboxing.
Why do you like boxing?
It's the most physically exerting sport I've ever done. You need the stamina of a marathon runner, the ability to explode like a sprinter or football player, and the strength of a weight lifter. If someone wants to lose weight or improve their physique, boxing is great. Boxing is murder. You can't waste a second. In wrestling, if you get in a certain position you can rest for a second, but not in boxing.
What's your typical boxing workout?
There are three different workouts.
The first is sparring. We have a group of guys and we'll rotate to get seven to 10 rounds of sparring each. We spar two- or three-minute rounds.
Another is taking a class with a big group of people. This involves strength training, jumping rope, a lot of lunging and hitting the boxing bag. And it may require some running, too.
The third is in the ring with one of the trainers, where we're working with the hand mitts for all combinations: jabs, hooks, rights. It includes a lot of abdominal work.
Do you lift weights?
I generally lift four days a week, about 45 minutes each time, at the gym in my home. Some days I do bench [press], some days flies, curls. I don't lift super-heavy weights after pinching a nerve in my neck from the military press four or five years ago. I do a lot with dumbbells, which are easier on your joints because they're not locked into one position. And I'm big on working the cables.
What are your fitness requirements in the Air Force Reserve?
Twice a year, we take the Air Force physical fitness test. It includes a mile-and-a-half run, which I stink at. But I'm good at the push-ups and sit-ups. I can match those for an 18-year-old kid. And they check our body fat with a tape measure.
Do you have a personal exercise or sports motto?
Hail to the victor!
Have you had any physical setbacks?
I had a heart attack in January. After boxing with this guy, I felt tired but kept working out — I didn't want to be a weakling. When I went to shower, I laid down. When I got up, I drove to Mount Sinai [Medical Center] and said, "I've got to be at work in three hours." But two hours later they said, "You had a heart attack." I had no clue.
The crazy thing is they said, "We can't let you go because we can't figure out why you had it. Your cholesterol is not high. You're not overweight." I was in the hospital five days. They did exploratory surgery and found one of my arteries was narrower than it should be from plaque buildup. And another artery was slightly clogged.
How are you after the heart attack?
I have a stent now so that artery will never be clogged again. I'm better than before.
What's your typical diet?
I eat right, no fried food or cheese. I never ate a lot of red meat, but now I eat none.
For breakfast, I'll have cranberry juice and a protein shake. It's whey protein with a fruit like strawberry or banana that I put in with low-fat milk, and I dump in low-fat yogurt. Then I work out. I eat a lot of chicken, so lunch might be chicken in a dish or a salad. Then I'm on the road and dinner depends on where I am at the time — maybe a tuna sandwich at a restaurant.
What have you learned about health and fitness?
Everyone is dealt a different set of cards, but if you keep in shape you're better prepared to recover from any adversity. You have to do what you can to live healthy. My exercising and the busy routine that I keep, instead of leading to a degradation of my work and studies, give me energy to keep up.
Do you have an inspiring weight loss story? How about a go-to workout that you trust when you need to shed a few pounds? Do you have a fitness routine that's kept you healthy for years? We want to hear your stories and see your photos. In addition to being featured online, your story may appear in the Sun Sentinel's print edition. When you tell us your story, be sure to answer at least some of the following questions: Where do you like to workout? What are you favorite types of exercises? Why is fitness important to you? What is your top fitness accomplishment? What fitness advice do you have for others?