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Welcome to Walk Fiercely!

My name is Christa Hamra and I am just an ordinary middle- aged woman living in West Virginia, the most unhealthy state in the country. I have titled my blog “Walk Fiercely” because I have come to use that as my mantra. I might not be an athelete…but I am determined! I’ve found that the only way for me to be successful in staying active and healthy is to continue setting new goals for myself. If you think you can’t do it, you CAN!

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Feast-mode or Beast-Mode?

How many times have you said or heard someone say, “I put on so much weight over the holidays” or any reference to overeating, gaining weight, needing to work off the food but not getting enough exercise? We’ve all said it. We’ve all done it.  It’s like we give ourselves a free pass to just go bat-shit crazy from as early as October 31st through January 2nd.  Not the 1st, because we all have to eat cabbage rolls for luck and have our final indulgences.  Why do we do that?  And when did that mentality start?  The bigger question is how do we prevent it or change it?   Of course, I don’t have the answers.  I have been a victim of this cycle every year just like everyone else.  All I can do is share with you my insight and experience so far this year.

In late September I started eating a ketogenic diet (more on that in a future blog), which is essentially high protein, high fat and low carbs.  I keep my net carbs (carbs – fiber) at 30 or less.  I do get a cheat meal once a week.  Not a full day, just one meal. This has worked very well for me, with the support of my trainer/nutritionist and counselor.  I have fallen into a routine of what foods work best and have even created some “Christa classics” by just throwing stuff together and seeing if it works.  My specialty is quesadillas. You can pretty much put anything in a (low carb) wrap with some cheese to bind and it will be delicious.  One even had leftover keto chili in it.  It’s been easy to stay on track, cutting back on eating out and prepping food on Sundays.  I’m grateful for the success I have had. BUT, I haven’t really been challenged….until the holiday.

My challenge, if I chose to accept it, was to get through 4 days of being in Arizona with my family and staying on plan.  It would require good decision making, planning and being okay with the fact that meals wouldn’t always be in my control.  I didn’t come this far to throw it all away in 4 days.  So after consulting with my team to make sure I had the tools to be successful, I accepted the challenge!

Off to Tucson we go. We were traveling on Thanksgiving. The day started with my usual breakfast- eggs and bacon- then a snack of almonds.  Upon arrival it was time to see the family and have Thanksgiving dinner. Remember, I am allowed one cheat meal per week.  You can bet your sweet ass, this was it! I had 2 rolls, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing, crackers and 2 desserts.  And I savored every bite. Pork dinner

Day 1: Success

Friday morning rolls around and now I get to see what I’m really made of, besides sugar and spice of course.  My brother made me eggs and bacon, which were delicious.  It was a late breakfast so I only had some almonds in the afternoon.  He and my sister-in-law were hosting a party for us that evening. He made delicious BBQ!  The idea was to make a sandwich. No can do. Laura made risotto salad and bean salad.  No can do.  Of all the options, what I can do is have the BBQ sans bread, slaw, marinated artichokes and cream cheese stuffed peppers.  Delicious!  Did I mention there was dessert?  Some was store bought, which I can easily walk away from.  The other was homemade brownies.  Those were calling to me.  I took one of them and moved it over to the other side of the serving plate they were on, just to give me a little time to think about whether I truly wanted the brownie.  I walked away.  By the time I thought about it again, all the brownies were gone.  Alleluia!  I’ve been saved!

Day 2: Success

Saturday is another fun day of walking around town, taking the streetcar, doing some local shopping and seeing the Symphony.  We started with breakfast at a local restaurant that is a favorite of my family.  After looking at the menu, I had a breakfast sandwich, again sans bread, with greens, roasted red peppers, 2 eggs and cheese. I also added a side salad to bulk up my veggie intake.   After walking all over town and getting more than my 10,000 steps in for the second day in a row, we decided to stop and have ice cream for lunch.  Ice cream is not on the approved list.  But I chose to have the ice cream.  Unlike the old Christa who would have gotten the largest size afraid she may never eat again, this Christa chose the smallest size knowing that now I have the tools to deal with hunger and I would, in fact, eat again.Ice cream  The biggest challenge came Saturday night.  Dinner was just a family affair at my brother’s house. But the theme was Italian.  Yep, you guessed it… pasta and garlic bread!  Are they trying to torture me?  Not just pasta, but pasta ordered from an Italian restaurant that catered my niece’s wedding.  If it’s good enough for a wedding, you know it is some damn good Italian.  Fortunately, Laura made an amazing salad to go with Sat Dinnerit.  As hard as it was, I had (a ton) of salad and leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.  No pasta, no bread.

Day 3: Success

Sunday rolls around and we are wrapping up an amazing trip. But not before one…more…meal. We go to a mariachi brunch.  Ole! The menu is limited.  But I can almost always find something.  I ordered chicken wings with a dry rub to share with the table.  They were super yummy!  And I ordered a steak salad, also tasty.  Time to go to the airport.  On the 3 ½ hour plane ride from Tucson to Atlanta, I had some almonds.  It was 9:00 pm when we got to Atlanta and I was starving!  So we ate at the airport TGIFriday’s. My last official vacation food challenge.  I had a burger, no bun and a side Caesar salad, no croutons.

Sunday SaladDay 4: Success

I have to say, I was very proud of myself.  I took pictures of everything I ate so I could report back to Anthony, my trainer, and Alicia, my counselor. A little obsessive? Yes.  But until I get the hang of it, I am just more comfortable having the reassurance that I am making good choices. I got the thumbs up from both of them. Although I can tell you, I would be okay if I don’t eat another almond for a while. I weighed in the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and again on the Friday, a week after Thanksgiving.  I am very pleased to announce that I lost 3 lbs!!!  Not only did I meet the challenge, I slapped it around and made it my bitch!

Sunday WingsConfession:  I am going on an all-inclusive vacation for 4 days, 5 nights this week.  All bets are off!  I will try not to go crazy and keep my carbs and desserts to a minimum.  But, I also plan to enjoy my vacation and not be so rigid. Wish me luck!

I could have very easily sabotaged myself and gone into FEAST-MODE for 4 days. Feel terrible about myself afterward.  Let it get into my head and ruin the positive attitude I have been creating throughout this process.  OR, I could go into BEAST-MODE, feel good about my decisions, know that I can tackle any challenge (and win), stay on track and keep the positive attitude I’ve been working on.

I know we have all gone through the holiday indulgence pitfalls.  And I know we have all failed at one time or another.  Just know that you can choose which mode you want.  If you give it true, thoughtful consideration, I am certain you will choose to be a beast!   Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve…they are all just days. A Tuesday, Thursday, Monday and Sunday to be exact. Just another day. Make each day your BEST day!


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Without Vision, You’re Flying Blind

With my history of bouncing back and forth from living a healthy lifestyle to being a total slob, every time I decide to get healthy again I follow the same pattern.  Don’t get me wrong, it usually works.  But this time it was like a light bulb went off and I decided that I needed to change my usual pattern. Mix it up and see what happens.  Add some different tools for success. Among other things, this time I decide to do… A Vision Board!Vision Board

The definition of a vision board is a tool used to help clarify, concentrate and maintain focus on a specific life goal. Literally, a vision board is any sort of board on which you display images that represent whatever you want to be, accomplish or have in your life. When I read that I said to myself “THAT is what I need!”  I’ve always been aware of what a vision board is and its purpose. But to be honest, until now I thought they were kind of hokey. I’m sure part of that was because I was always too lazy to make one and maybe didn’t have a good enough focus on what I wanted my specific goals to be.  This time I knew! And this time I was determined not to be lazy in any aspect.  Before you know it, I’m making a vision board.

Goal Setting 2First step was to decide what I wanted the messages to be.  The primary message was on health and healthy living. But I also wanted it to include being a better person. I can definitely make strides in that area as well. I go to the greatest resource in the world…Google! I search images using topics, sayings or thoughts.  After finding the ones I wanted and making them “vision board ready”, I had to have the actual board.  I started with a cork bulletin board and covered it with white poster board. I also went to Michael’s and got some motivational stickers to fill in some of the white space.  There are lots of ways to make a board.  You can cover every inch with stuff or you can space things out.  I chose to have some white space left. To me, it just looks cleaner.  I cut out my images and do a dry run on how I want it to be laid out. Once I am satisfied with the layout, I start gluing it together, making it permanent.  There is something therapeutic about watching it all come together and knowing this is going to be a part of my success.

Positive ThinkingSome of the motivational messages I used were: 10,000 steps, positive thinking, goal setting, be stronger than your excuses, happy life, practice kindness, mindful eating and no body shaming.  A new one that I heard lately, I wish I had incorporated- “if you think you can or if you think you can’t, you are right!” To the outside world, I am a positive ray of sunshine. But the truth is I’m a fairly negative person.  Hearing that quote makes me realize that I am in control of my destiny.  It kind of goes with the old favorite “can’t never could”.   Now I choose to follow the mantra of the Little Engine that Could.  “I think I can, I think I can.”

After putting it all together, standing back and admiring my hard work, the second step was to decide where to put it.  It needed to be prominently displayed where I would see it regularly.  But I didn’t really want it to be visible to guests.  Living in a townhouse there isn’t a lot of extra space.  I contemplated and pondered over where it should go.  I finally decided to put it on my bedroom wall, right beside the dresser I get ready in front of every day.10,000 steps

No Body ShamingAnd the final step, make sure I look at it, study it and live it.  That one isn’t as easy as the first two.  I do look at it every morning.  I try to decide which ones are going to be the most challenging to overcome that day and get in the mindset that I will succeed at whatever comes my way.  Some days are better than others.  For example, I don’t get 10,000 steps every day.  Frankly, I don’t get them in most days.  But I am physically active, working out regularly, trying to push myself harder each time.  So I try to keep it in perspective.

When I was in the middle of this process I told my bestie what I was doing.  In turn, that prompted her to make her own vision board.  Her focus was different because her challenges are different. But the end result is the same – a tool to help us cope with our daily challenges.  I am proud of her for doing it.  And I hope she is getting as much satisfaction and peace with hers as I have with mine.

Whatever your challenges are, you can overcome them.  A vision board could be one of the tools you find helpful as well.  As the title says, without vision we are all just flying blind in this world.  Life is short and should be the best life we can make it.  Find your vision.  If you can see it, you can be it!


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You Can’t “Half”-Ass It

Recently I got a wild hair and decided I was going to do a half marathon in November.  The reason? I liked the medal. Simple, and a little weird, but true. I have said it before and I will say it again.  My favorite race of all time is the Hatfield & McCoy in Williamson, WV, population less than 3,000.  The Tug Valley Road Runners Club does such a great job with races and events all year long.  What I have realized is that they also have the best medal designs.  I really wanted to do the Killer 5K at Halloween because of the medal but had a scheduling conflict.  So I decided to do the Fall Harvest half marathon in November because that medal was super cool too. Still, race day was approaching fast and I wasn’t going to have the time to properly train. No big deal, I thought.  How many races have I done before? And walking is my thing, right?  This should be easy.Killer 5K medal

I should probably mention that I have a bum knee right now and walking from one room to the other is sometimes a challenge.  Pssshhh. Who cares about a little knee pain? I talked to my trainer and my chiropractor.  Both agreed that if I thought I could do it I should go for it!  I still had a few weeks to prepare. The plan was to walk 5, 7 and 10 miles over 3 weekends.  If I could do the 10 miles I could easily do the 13.1, taking into account the adrenaline push and the encouragement from the crowd and other racers.  With the plan in place, I enthusiastically start with the 5 mile walk. Piece of cake!  My time could have been faster.  But I felt good and although I felt my knee it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.   The next weekend rolls around and it’s time for the 7 miles.  This time I decide to see just how fast I can push it.  In top form I can do a mile in under 13:00.  You can imagine my excitement when I finished the 7 miles in an average of 13:42.  Not bad for an old lady with no training and a bum knee.  That being said, it was much harder than the 5 miles and only by sheer stubbornness did I make it. The whole time I was thinking that 10, much less 13.1, might be more than I can do.  The next week rolls around and it’s time to put up or shut up. Can I do 10?

I was so serious about doing this race that I even took ½ day vacation on Friday afternoon because it was going to rain on Saturday and I had to know if I had the chops.  Friday was beautiful. It was 75 degrees at the end of October. I start out.  Rocking along to my 70’s music like a champ.  As I get closer to 5 miles I slow down.  I am at my halfway point and have to get back to my car.  I start heading back.  With each  ½ mile, I slow down more.  Until I realize that I am now going so slow that I won’t meet the time limit of the race.  You have 4 hours to do the race, which is a 16:00 mile.  It killed me to know that I couldn’t do it.  Granted, I could have made it back to my car at a snail’s pace.  But I had plans that night to see my friend’s daughter in a play and I wasn’t going to let her down. If I had walked back, I wouldn’t have made the play in time.  I had to think about how I was going to get back to my car.  I decided to call my friend’s husband (she was at work). He lived less than a mile from where I was and only about a mile in the other direction to my car. I had made it 7 ½ miles.

Harvest Half MedalThere were several things that attributed to not being able to make it.  First, it was hot as hell that day and I hadn’t been in the heat for that long in months and certainly not on October 30th.  Another thing you don’t take into consideration is your arms swinging for that long.  I know that sounds silly.  But runners hold their arms much closer to their bodies and much less swinging.  For someone who hasn’t “swung” for a long time, that makes a huge difference. And the faster you go the faster you swing. Finally, as I said before, I hadn’t done any real training, just 2 prior random walks.  Yes, those were successful.  But that’s why you keep pushing to make sure the rest is also successful.  And this time, I wasn’t.

Now I could have gotten really down about my “failure”. But I decided not to let that happen. I have been making great strides in a lot of areas of my life recently (more on that later) and this was just one little setback.  I chose to look at it like this. If I had trained like I normally do, like I ALWAYS do, this race would have been a breeze.  But I didn’t. So naturally the results were different.

What’s funny is that I always get so annoyed with people who say “I could do a (fill in race distance here) without training”. NO YOU CAN’T!  It’s not easy to do.  And that is why you train.  There is conditioning and stamina and breathing and pace and so many other factors to consider.  So what do I do?  I turn into one of those people, and like Nike, decide I can “Just Do It”.   You will not hear me say this often, so pay attention….I was WRONG!Half assed effort

I guess what I am trying to say is, you just can’t half-ass something you want to do or something that means a lot to you. Could be a race, could be a relationship, could be taking a cooking class or anything. Point is, if it is important enough to you, it is important enough to do it right!  Now I am looking at a race in May and will start training at the appropriate time.  The goal is to be prepared and finish strong!


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