Two unrelated things worked hand-in-hand to alter Lynette Ritchie’s life, and the State Farm analyst is forever grateful.
Those events have also, in part, landed her in Las Vegas this weekend, where she is competing in her first International Powerlifting Association World meet.
The events occurred almost simultaneously about seven years ago, according to Lynette.
“I was coming here for a meeting, and I was millimeters from having to ask for a seat belt extender in the airplane,” she said. “I tried everything before that to lose weight—every fad and every exercise—and I just said, 'No, I’m done. This is ridiculous. I’m not going to ask for that seat belt extender.' I didn’t want to be that person who needed it.
“By then, I had been going to the gym for six years, not getting many results. But the real kicker was that I was taking care of my grandma’s finances, helping her with houses and getting her into assisted housing. I spent a lot of time with her, and when I would go to events with her and her friends, nobody talked about what they did.
“For me, everything had revolved around my career and my daughter, and none of that really mattered. It was what they did and what their life experiences were, and many of them had massive regrets for not doing the things they wanted to try. I didn’t want regrets.”
So what led her to powerlifting?
“I got promoted to a leadership position at State Farm, and I was getting heavy and not exercising,” she said. “My husband got me into exercising probably about 10 years ago. I had always enjoyed the lifting part of exercise but always hated the cardio.
“I was overweight (pushing 300 pounds). I was about 48 percent body fat. I did mini-triathlons. I did 5Ks, anything I could do to get the weight off, but nothing would do it and I hated it. It was drudgery.
“Then I met Sandi (Foli), who was a big influence on me, at the gym. She was 70 and just had the courage to do it. I thought, 'What the heck? If she can do it, then I can do it.' I was only 49 at the time.”
Foli, who lived in Secor, competed in "America’s Got Talent" in 2015 at age 75 as the Powerlifting Granny before passing away later that year.
“I worked with my dad on a little farm growing up (in Santa Cruz, California),” Lynette continued. “I could always move stuff. My body type is more conducive to powerlifting than triathlons. I’m not a fast runner. I’m not a fast swimmer, so I found something that fits for me.
“I ended up changing roles (to a powerlifter) and found a role I absolutely adored and have been doing it since 2010. About three years ago, I entered my first powerlifting meet, and I was hooked.
“I don’t know why I like it. The competitive part, probably. I always just wanted to see if I could lift more than the person next to me.”
Lynette, who holds four world, national and state records, will compete in the Masters and Open divisions this weekend. Her records include squat (363.76 pounds), bench (225.97) and deadlift (446.44). Her goals this weekend are 400 in the squat, 230 on the bench and 500 in the deadlift.
“I set really big goals for myself,” the 6-foot, 240-pound 52-year-old said. “I’m not positive I’ll make them this time, but there are more after this one. I compete twice, three times a year maximum because it takes a long time to get ready to build more strength than you had last time.”
The competition consists of three lifts with three attempts in each category.
“I want to win,” said Lynette, who will compete in the 50-54 age group in the Masters category. “In the Open category, I’m competing against some women in their 20s. There are times I’ve competed against women who outweigh me by 60 to 80 pounds, so it’s hard to keep up with them because weight can move more mass.”
Lynette said she doesn’t know if she’s addicted to powerlifting, but she goes to the gym six days a week for a one-hour workout.
“I only lift five days,” she added.
Her current trainer is Zac Turner, who she trains with two days a week.
“When I met with Zac, another trainer (at the gym) was having a very direct conversation with one of his clients, who was grousing about not seeing results,” added Lynette. “His trainer told him he wasn’t doing the work. He wasn’t doing what he was told, so he didn’t get to complain about it.
“He told him if he didn’t like it then leave because we don’t have bad attitudes around here. It scared the bageebies out of me and that was a massive turning point.
“What if I just do what I’m asked every single day and eat what I’m supposed to eat and be done with this? Now I see the results. I quit making excuses. I don’t miss doing any part of what Zac sets up for me in my training program because I’m afraid if I don’t do a piece of it, I won’t be prepared for something that’s maybe two or three weeks down the road. I don’t skip, and I don’t allow myself excuses.”
Lynette is also on a stringent diet now.
“When I started going to the gym in the beginning, I hadn’t figured out you can never out-exercise a bad habit,” she continued. “I hadn’t figured out the eating part. Now I meal prep every Sunday for the week.”
Her diet consists of 200 grams of protein, 200-plus grams of carbohydrates, and somewhere around 80 grams of fat.
“I move it around, depending on what the day entails, so that’s usually about five meals a day,” she said. “I eat two eggs in the morning and maybe a granola bar or piece of toast. Then I eat chicken and broccoli and rice or a sweet potato around 11. At 3 o’clock I eat again; more chicken or ground turkey. When you get sick of it, you just change up the seasoning you put in it or (add) more vegetables or carbs.
“I have a protein shake at about 5, then dinner and more chicken and more vegetables. Once I found something I was so into, changing the diet to meet it wasn’t a big deal.
“It became more about performance than what I looked like. My body fat has changed from about 48 percent to around 30 percent. I still wear a similar size, but my body mass is just solid. I eat between 2,600 and 3,000 calories.”
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