Heart disease has claimed most of Lynn Ritter’s relatives on her father’s side of the family, but she is determined not to be another statistic.
FirstHealth’s Exercise is Medicine (EIM) program has helped her with that goal as well as with another one – being around to watch her grandkids grow up.
“The program does work,” she says. “You have to put in the effort, but it does work.”
Ritter and her husband had just welcomed their first grandchild when she made the commitment to improve her health. Shortly afterward, she showed up for one of her semi-annual visits with her doctor with a copy of FirstHealth magazine in hand. One of the features was about EIM.
“I saw the program, and I thought, ‘This is my accountability,’” Ritter recalls. ‘“If I do this program, I’m going to have to go to the gym. There is no excuse.’”
Ritter’s physician agreed and wrote the necessary referral for an EIM consultation. Within a couple of days, someone had called to set up an appointment. A few days later, she was at the FirstHealth Center for Health & Fitness-Pinehurst talking to exercise physiologist Terri Crider about a personalized exercise plan.
Ritter is now a different person, and she attributes it to EIM and Crider. Her personal health improvement story wasn’t always easy, though.
After experiencing some good success with her original exercise plan, Ritter began to feel that her progress had plateaued. That’s when Crider suggested that she add running to the program. When a friend agreed to run with her, a not totally convinced Ritter began slowly, just as Crider had advocated, starting with one lap around the track at the Center for Health & Fitness and then two – gradually adding more laps as she built up her running time and her stamina.
“Once I got up to five minutes, it was not so bad,” she says. “At 15 minutes, I hit that runner’s high.”
In March, Ritter ran her first race ever, the Shamrock ‘n’ Roll 5K in Whispering Pines. She finished second in her age group. In April, she ran her first half-marathon, the Diva Half-Marathon in North Myrtle Beach, finishing in two hours, 52 minutes and 26 seconds.
She is currently training for a mini-marathon in October.
Crider describes Ritter as “the exception to every rule.”
“Lynn is willing to try anything, which has been the biggest asset to her success,” Crider says. “When we started working together though the EIM program, I had no idea how far she would go, but I knew she would not quit. EIM proved to her that exercise truly is medicine. She inspires everyone around her to be healthier and, if that is something she has learned from EIM, then the sky is the limit.”
These days, Ritter is in the fitness center five days a week and walking or running in her neighborhood when she isn’t. She has lost 38 pounds, takes no medication and sees the doctor only once a year for her annual checkup.
More importantly, she expects to be around a long time for her now 2-year-old granddaughter and the new grandson the family expects this fall.
“It’s not an easy process,” she says about a fitness plan that began with EIM, “but if you really want to feel better and are willing to put in the time, you can succeed.”