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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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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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It Packs a Punch

If you read my first round of blogs, you may remember “In a Rut, Mix it up”.  In that blog I talked about if your workout routine gets stale, you should find other activities to keep motivated and see different results.  It was then that I shared with my readers that I had found a new workout obsession- BOXING!  If you had told me that I would ever take a boxing class, I would have said you had lost your damn mind.  And if you had told me I would love it, I would have slapped you in the face and screamed “Liar”!

It started back in 2015. Some friends were taking this boxing class and kept asking me to try it with them. I kept politely declining.  But what I really wanted to say is, “when pigs fly out of my butt!” I just kept thinking about how ridiculous I would look trying to box.  On top of that, these friends were already in tip-top shape.  No way could I perform at their level.  And finally, the class was in Cross Lanes after work.  To paint a picture, you would be more excited to have a colonoscopy than to drive in Cross Lanes rush hour traffic.

Because the class was just 4 people and all my gym family, I eventually gave in and said I would try it, dreading it the whole time.  The day came and I reluctantly showed up with fake enthusiasm.  The class is set up as 4 stations, 3 minutes each station, 3 rounds with a minute rest between each round. That’s a total of 12 stations, about a 45 minute class.  The instructor introduces himself, shows me some basic boxing moves and we get started.  After the first round I was HOOKED, jabbed and uppercut, to put it mildly.  I was knocked out at how much I liked it. I had never felt so alive and near death at the same time. I even bought my own boxing gloves.Boxing gloves meme

Then another race came up and I started focusing on just walking and training for the race and stopped going.  I missed it.  But I had to focus on the race and not risk any avoidable injuries.  After the race was over there were other excuses.  If I haven’t mentioned it before (I have), I am the best at making excuses and convincing myself they are legit. They never are.  After a while I just forgot about it and had to focus on family responsibilities.

Flash forward to about a month ago.  I was at the gym and saw some folks taking a boxing class. I decided I was going to do it the next week. We started by warming up with some footwork exercises. Then we did some punching moves in the air.  Finally we got to punch the bag and spar with the instructor.  From the first contact, it was like I never stopped.  The adrenaline was pumping. The fists were pumping.  The blood was pumping.  And I realized how much I missed it.  I took it one or two other times. This class was much more subdued than my previous experience.  I felt like it was a great stepping stone for me, as I was getting back into being active. I needed to work my way up to the hard core stuff.  With the foundation from the gym classes, I decided to get serious again!Boxing Fit- Freddy

One of our original class mates, my friend Tracy, was still taking the class.  I reached out to her and she was thrilled that I wanted to come back.  I also contacted the owner/instructor who was equally as enthusiastic and supportive.  And since the first time, the studio had moved to Nitro, much more accessible and no more rush hour road rage.  I had no excuses.  Don’t’ get me wrong, I was still nervous because I hadn’t done that intense of a class in 2 years.  What if I have a heart attack? Even worse, what if I embarrass myself?  That would be tragic!

The new location is so much bigger, with more equipment and better air circulation. Again removing some of the obstacles I used for excuses before.  Of the 7 people that did the class, including myself, 5 were familiar faces from last time.  That’s a pretty impressive retention rate! It also helped me to relax a little bit knowing that those folks would encourage me for the things I could do, not judge me for the things I couldn’t. The time had come. I mentally put on my big girl panties, gloved up and we got started.

As I remembered, the stations were pretty much the same.  Also as I remember, if you can’t do something just modify.  The key is to just keep active.  One of the stations combines jumping rope and a :30 power play with the ropes. I can’t do ropes because of my neck.  So I do a wall sit during that time.  I know you’re asking yourself, how hard is it to sit on a wall?  After jumping rope for 2:30 minutes, your legs aren’t exactly fresh and staying at a 90 degree angle for :30 isn’t easy. Another station is 20 pushups and 20 squats before you start working the bag.  I can’t do pushups because of carpal tunnel.  So I just do 40 squats.  And there is an ab station that is used as a “working rest station”.  I get very dizzy lying on a mat after that level of excursion. So instead of abs I do jumping jacks and calf lifts.  Not exactly “resting” but it’s better for me. The other station is my favorite.  That’s when we get to spar, hit stuff!  I love the feeling of hitting the mitts and hearing the sound of the contact.  Oh my God it is the best! The truth is, even though I love it, I am a terrible boxer. My form and speed need a lot of work. I know I shouldn’t be hard on myself because I’ve only been back at it for a few weeks. But honestly, I wasn’t great with form and speed before.  It doesn’t take away from my enthusiasm. And the instructor said he would work with me a little bit before each class to help with that.  I mean, if I’m going to do it I don’t want to settle for “this is good enough” when I can try and get better, faster and tougher.   Honestly, just writing this blog is getting me pumped for the next class.  I’m visualizing my punches while I’m writing. How weird is that?

Boxing Class- After picI only take the class once a week because it is pretty intense and I don’t want to get burned out.  When class is over I am a disgusting mess. Seriously.  Drenched in sweat, breathing heavy, red faced and usually my arms are shaking.  I have been known to wonder how I was able to drive home because my arms weren’t fully functioning.  Then to come home and find that washing my hair was also a challenge.  After awhile I realize I’m just putting my hands on my head to rest them, not actually scrubbing the scalp with the shampoo.  But at the same time, I’ve never felt better.

I am so grateful to Boxing Fit and Freddy Frye for bringing this amazing opportunity into my life.   I can’t say enough about the class, Freddy and the feeling of accomplishment you have afterward.  I would encourage everyone to try something they never thought they would do.  If boxing is that thing for you, I recommend Boxing Fit and will help you get in touch. Look them up on Facebook.  Whatever it is, don’t knock it until you try it.

For extra credit this week, see if you can find the boxing puns in this blog.  Hint: there are 4.

Website: www.walkfiercely.com

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