October 22, 2020

Maggie Daniels/ Jamie Ritchie

Jan. 9, 2011
Maggie Daniels: Changing lives in Petoskey ... one muscle at a time
By Anne Stanton

Maggie Daniels’ life changed when she stopped smoking Tareyton cigarettes
at the age of 28. She took up the habit with a couple of rebellious high
school friends, but one day -- and she doesn’t remember why -- she stopped
smoking, just like switching off a light. If she had the urge for
nicotine, she’d get on the floor and do sit-ups. The pain, the headaches,
the cravings all stopped in a matter of two weeks. And in their stead,
Daniels discovered a lifelong passion for fitness and health.
Daniels laughs and cringes at just how far her passion took her. One
summer day, she read in a magazine that her nearby neighbor, Jim Harrison,
was having a hard time quitting his unfiltered Camel cigarettes. So she
decided to make a personal visit to the author’s home tucked away in Lake
Leelanau. She intended to tell him that cold turkey wasn’t as bad as one
might think it is -- he just needed to find something to substitute for a
cigarette. She walked up his driveway (past the sign that said, “Do Not
Enter This Driveway Unless You Have Called First! This Means You!”).
Linda, his wife answered the door and told her, “You shouldn’t have come
here,” and said good-bye.
Oh well, It was worth a try, says Daniels.

 All this was some 30 years ago. Before Daniels owned a Jazzercise class
in Leelanau County, before her years as a personal trainer and a
five-mile-a-day runner, before coaching medically challenged clients, and
before earning a nursing degree in her mid 40s so she could more deeply
understand anatomy and physiology.
Still with her trademark long brunette hair and trim figure, Daniels, 59,
 serves as director of the Student and Community Resource Center at North
Central Michigan College. Along with a small and talented staff, she could
arguably be described as changing the health habits of thousands of people
who live in Petoskey.
Last year alone, there were 25,000 sign-ins to walk or run the track
around the gym.  When Daniels took the job in 2002, there was really
nothing in the way of athletic facilities at the community college. She
built the program from the ground up, relying on advice from other
successful college programs and fitness experts. Now there is an aerobic
room, weight room, gym, and a .9-mile running and walking track that runs
high above the gym. Close to 1,000 people are signed up for classes and
gym time, including elementary kids, high school sports teams, college
students, and adults.
 Part of Daniels’ strategy is to make fitness accessible to all income
levels. “The track is free to anyone to use. And seniors who live in Emmet
County as year-round residents can use the fitness room and classes for
just $38 for four months.”
 “This fits nicely into our budget,” said Sue Gunderson, a retired teacher
who often works out with her husband.

Daniels is quick to say that lifting weights isn’t for everybody. People
need to follow their bliss. If you do what you love, you’re more likely to
succeed. For some, it’s running the track, Pilates or yoga. For others,
it’s playing basketball, volleyball, pickle ball, or badminton.  Her
newest offering is called Eclipse Ball—“Like volleyball, but bigger and
lighter so you don’t sting your fingers. Families will love it.”
She also tells people that exercise is a good start, but a few hours in
the gym each week isn’t enough. Good health is also what you eat and
choosing to live a calmer life. If you’re seeking out advice for the New
Year, Daniels shares her hard-won wisdom.
• Read it and feel energized. Daniels is talking about the “China Study,”
the nation’s most comprehensive look at nutrition and its impact on
long-term health. The study found that Asians live the longest and
healthiest lives, eating a diet of vegetables and little meat. But if they
grow up in the United States and eat fast food, processed food (like
potato chips and white bread), and salty fare, they are also plagued with
the same levels of cancer and heart disease. In other words, their health
advantage isn’t genetic, but diet-based.
The study, conducted by Cornell University, discovered that it’s possible
to reverse a condition of clogged arteries by simply eliminating animal
products from the diet. Daniels was convinced and became a vegan a year
ago, eating vegetables, beans, complex carbs like whole wheat bread, and
nuts. She brought down her cholesterol from 248 to 170 without a single
pill and lost 14 pounds. “If you can get your cholesterol level down to
150, you don’t ever have to worry about a heart attack caused from clogged
arteries,” she said.
• The China Study also points out the protective benefits of plants
against cancer. “Dr. Campbell (a study author) said that meat and fat have
something do with a higher level of breast cancer. Plants don’t get
cancer. Have you ever noticed that? They have something that protects the
inner cells of the leaves. They say if you eat plants, you gain protection
from the cancerous cells that could invade your body at any time. … Our
nation’s health model is based on healing the sick, rather than looking at
the wonderful power of prevention and diet. Our country is going down the
wrong way on a one-way road. “
• Daniels also learned from the China study that the notion of eating
cheese and drinking milk to build bone strength is simply wrong. Animal
products are acidic and throw off the body’s pH balance. The body leeches
calcium from bones in order to bring the body back to its normal pH level.
The result, ironically, is weaker bones. “This nation has the highest rate
of hip and spine fractions among post-menopausal women in the world,” said
Daniels, who drinks almond milk.
• Daniels believes that working out an hour a day is simply not
sustainable for most working adults. People would be wise to give
themselves an achievable goal, say walking at lunch every day, than
setting up impossible expectations and feeling bad about failing.
• Don’t run on concrete or pavement. Daniels did for years and injured her
foot. Now she swims and walks—very quickly.
• Thirty minutes of exercise can change your mood more quickly and
effectively than any drug on the market.  And it makes your arthritic
joints feel better. “Motion is the lotion,” said Daniels, who suffers from
arthritis. She blames the heavy trays she carried during her waitress
• Read “The Pleasure Trap” by Douglas Lisle. You will learn why fast food
hits all your pleasure receptors, why it’s harmful, and how to end the
• Her last words of advice? “Find what you like. Don’t worry about your
heart rate or even whether you’re very good at it. Just change your
clothes and get right in there. If you can get up every day and continue,
that’s what people need to work for.”

For more information, call mdaniels@ncmich.edu. And for even more
inspiration, visit the website leanberets.com.

Inspired by prayer…
Snowmobile crash victim walks slowly to recovery

By Anne Stanton

Jamie Richie had always craved speed with a particular penchant for
motorcycles and snowmobiles.  On the early evening of January 30, 2010,
she climbed onto her snowmobile and went zipping south along U.S. 31 near
the Pellston Regional Airport. She missed a turn and smashed into an icy
snow bank.
“I was doing about 55, and I went airborne and landed on real hard ground.
I landed and rolled, and the snowmobile landed and rolled and landed on me
in the end.”
Richie doesn’t know whether her injuries were caused primarily by the
impact of the fall or the snowmobile, which is relatively light at 450
pounds for the machine. She is simply living with the reality of the
aftermath.  Her upper legs have a trace of feeling, but her lower legs are
still paralyzed.  Pain will periodically flash though her body, flooding
it with excruciating pain that she describes as a surge of 220 volts of
Her spirit and determination to walk again, however, are completely
intact. You can find her most days at the .9-mile indoor walking track
that is built above the basketball courts of the North Central Michigan
University gym.
It takes her two hours to go twice around,” said Maggie Daniels, who
oversees the college’s athletic facility. “You can’t really make an excuse
for not getting out there yourself after seeing her sheer determination.”

Richie, 43, said she broke every rib, her left hand, her clavicle, and,
most significantly, she nicked her L-1 vertebrae.  Both lungs were
punctured. The luckiest part of the accident was its proximity to the
airport, where an emergency crew is based and had the ability to
immediately respond. Richie spent nearly two months at two different
“I would lay in the hospital and pray. ‘Oh, God, I think you screwed up. I
know you never give anyone too much to handle, but you gave me too much to
handle.’ I was in so much pain,” said Richie, wearing a delicate gold
cross around her neck.
As word got out about the accident, she was flooded with letters and
messages from across the country from people praying for her recovery—and
still are.  “Everyone here wanted me back home,” she said.
She was able to leave the hospital in about half the expected time, in
part, because she insisted on doing everything she could as soon as she
could. Sitting up. Dressing herself. Putting on her shoes. “That was
hard!” Laying in a hospital bed was not acceptable to her. “I’m ADHD and
OCD. You cannot put a person like that in a wheelchair.”  Before the
accident, she used to cut and stack wood and help her husband with his
house moving business. And she also managed a number of houses in
Petoskey, which the couple owns. “I was always on the go,”she said.
Richie can’t drive, but only because of the episodic and overwhelming
nerve pain that can arrive either every 10 minutes or every five hours.

The indoor track each day has been a godsend for her. Her husband and
friends often accompany her as she makes her two-hour trek around the
track. She leans on the walker, the effort obvious, as she watches her
foot step forward to make contact with the ground.
“I believe in power and prayer. People are praying for me, Catholic
children are saying the rosary and the Stations of the Cross for me. There
had to be 500 people in Northern Michigan, prayer chains all over the
“I’m not a corny, faithful person, but I’ve been stopped by four people
here, who have told me, ‘You don’t know me, but I’ve been praying for
you.’ I see my old teachers, medical staff from the hospital, people I
grew up with. I love to listen to the kids playing basketball. Coming here
lifts my spirits.”
Once she recovers, Richie has no plans to get on snowmobile or motorcycle
“I was an avid rider. I went fast all my life, and I crave it now. But
when I look at the pain I’ve been through, I know I’m not doing this


Straight Outta Hamtramck

There it stands, in downtown Cedar: The Polish Art Center. Some paintings of the Old Country probably, maybe some Polish p... Read More >>

The Queen of Underground Country Returns

The last time Rachel Brooke released a full-length solo album, things looked very different — both in the northern M... Read More >>

Patience Required

It's going to be a very long election night. Voter fraud will have nothing to do with it. Every state has some form of ea... Read More >>

The Long Goodbye

Last week, President Trump sowed confusion within his government — and amongst our allies — by tweeting t... Read More >>