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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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.

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Taking the First Step….Literally

My typical modus operandi when I try to correct the wrong of letting myself get heavy again is to start with the food and not the exercise.  I’ve always thought that would be easier. If I eat right for a couple of weeks, I can’t help but see the scales go down a few pounds, thinking I’ve gotten too big to effectively do any exercise. And if I lose a few pounds first, THEN I can incorporate exercise when I hit a plateau. For some reason, this time was different. CDR Logo

I have known for months that I was out of control.  I have a full length mirror. I knew what I looked like.  But I just kept shoveling food in my mouth.  I thought if I started walking again it wouldn’t help me lose weight, but maybe it would help me not gain any more weight.  See, these are the kind of things that you justify in your mind when you are in this harmful and constant state of denial.   That being said, back in late Spring I decided I was going to do the Charleston Distance Run on Labor Day weekend.  It is a 15 mile race…with hills! I did this race in 2015 and killed it, as a walker not a runner.  But that was also 50 lbs ago.  In my mind, I had to have a goal or I wouldn’t be committed enough to make it happen. And the goal had to be something I would have to really work for, not something I knew I could accomplish without trying, like walking a 5k.  Signing up for the race would force me to get in shape and be ready in 5 months.  Seems like a long time, but when you start so far behind the starting line, you need as much time as you can get.  As usual I started out very enthusiastically.  And so the first steps were taken.

With my friend Jennifer at my side to encourage me and train with me, after a month or so my enthusiasm waned as it often does.  But Jennifer was still there to push me and train with me.  And Labor Day still seemed so far away, plenty of time to work up to where I needed to be. Just when I thought I had it under control, I remembered….HILLS!  I hadn’t done any training on hills and time was quickly running out.  I decided to look at the race website and see what the time limit was.  It was a 4 hour time limit, which equals a 16:00 mile. In my heyday, hills or no hills I could do a 16:00 minute mile with my eyes closed. In fact, I would have been completely disappointed if my time wasn’t under 15:00 with the hills.  But, times change and I just didn’t think I could sustain that speed for 15 miles plus the hills. Granted, you can still finish the race even after the time limit.  However, from a mental standpoint I never want to finish a race after the allotted time.  It just makes you feel like you failed in some ways, as opposed to feeling like you just successfully completed a 15 mile race.  Now I had to decide, do I want to regroup or do I want to bail? In the past, when I’m in this state of mind, I would have bailed.  This time I chose to regroup.  Turns out there is a relay for the 15 mile race- 3 mile flat leg, 5 mile hills leg and finishes with a 7 mile flat leg.  I just needed to come up with 2 teammates. My mind goes into game plan mode. I knew I wanted to do the 7 mile leg because I am all about the distance, not the hills.  I knew Jennifer would do a leg.  She loves hills because she burns more calories that way. When I mention it to her, she agrees immediately.  Who will round out the team with the 3 mile leg?  Who else to be by my side besides my “twin”, aka my sister. I wasn’t sure if she would be as enthusiastic because she had also become pretty sedentary.  But I asked and she said “I’m in!”  The team has now been formed and we need a name. That one is obvious- Team Walk Fiercely, of course!CDR Donna action

Even after having the team in place, I had conflicting feelings.  On the one hand, I didn’t quit.  I found a way to make it work.  But on the other hand I was still upset with myself for not working harder to accomplish the original goal and one I had completed before.  I believe this is a normal phenomenon that most people would feel.  I also believe it is this same reaction that falls under “don’t be so hard on yourself”.  And I agree.  Why do we beat ourselves up about these things?  It is still a step, literally, in the right direction.  So embrace it, be proud of it and make it the best 7 mile flat race you’ve done.

I had no worries Jennifer would kill her 5 miles.  She is a fierce competitor and when she sets her mind to it, she just does it.  It’s one of the things I admire about her most.  I have some of that drive in me. But it comes and goes. Both my sister and I were worried about our times.  We said we wanted to keep it under a 15:00 mile.  And we didn’t want to let Jennifer down.  She had sacrificed a day of her holiday weekend that she could have been with her family camping just to do this for me.  We trained up until race day, with lots of hopes and prayers that we would perform well.

CDR Jen actionThe day came. The forecast called for lots of rain.  But that morning was not too hot, cooling overcast and no rain- perfect conditions for a race. Donna started out first as Jennifer and I waited for her on the Southside Bridge.  When we saw her coming up the bridge, her arms were pumping, her legs were moving in rhythm and she was determined to get to the hand-off.  Jennifer takes off. In less than an hour she is coming down Louden Heights to hand off to me for the final leg. I take off and just pray I can keep my pace the whole time.  Most people who do a race, whether they run or walk, change their speed throughout.  But I tend to start at one speed and stay there. I followed the route through downtown, actually passing some people, taking in the sites of our beautiful city and keeping my eye on the prize.

I told my sister I would probably get to the finish around 11:00.  Well, she missed it.  Why?  Because I finished much earlier than I thought!!  As I crossed the finish line I look at the clock.  The unofficial time says 3:17:37.  The official time was 3:17:27!  That might not sound like a great time to you.  But when I compared that to my time when I did it all myself, we actually beat it by 7 seconds. Woo Hoo!!  The best we could tell with our split times, my sister had an average of about 14:45, Jennifer’s was under 11:00 and mine was about 13:50.  We ALL performed better than we thought we would.  Such a proud moment for us!!

CDR Sis and I finish lineI think the lesson to be learned here is that the idiom of “just put one foot in front of the other” holds true.  Without taking that first step, you will never get to the finish line.

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How Did I Let This Happen?

In July 2015, I had to get my driver’s license renewed. That meant the dreaded trip to the DMV, waiting for what seems an eternity and taking the photo that always looks like a mug shot.  No one enjoys this experience. Except for me.   You see, in 2010 I had my hair chemically straightened (I know, crazy, right).  It was the worst mistake of my life!  And it was immortalized in my license photo.  So for 5 years I had to suffer with that picture being what every airport worker, bar bouncer, retail worker and cop (yes, in 5 years I did get pulled over for speeding) saw.   I had waited for this moment for so long, to change back to the real me, with my unruly curly dark brown locks. And the time had finally come.  But that’s not even the best part!  The best part is as I was looking at my old license before turning it in, I noticed that my weight was listed as 160 lbs.  I am sure that was somewhat accurate in 2010.  But in the 5 years since, I had done my usual gain, gain, lose, gain, gain, lose routine.  On this day in July, as I sat down to say cheese, my smile was genuine because I was actually going to be the weight listed on my driver’s license.  It was such a happy moment.  I couldn’t stop smiling….at the DMV…which led to some odd looks from the rest of the miserable bastards waiting their turn.  Sadly, that is where the good times ended.

I can’t exactly say when it all started going downhill or why.  At the beginning it was gradual.  One bad meal here, one missed walk there.  Next thing you know, as it always does, it snowballs into always making the unhealthy food choices and making every excuse in the world not to workout.  No one can justify laziness like I can!  If there was an Olympic event for that, I would win gold.  Hell, they may even add a platinum award just for me.  I’m that good at it.

Sugar How Sweet it isThe food is probably where I fell the fastest.  I eat out a lot, I mean A LOT, usually using the excuse that it is hard to cook for one.  I travel for work so I eat all my lunches out.  Even when I am in the office I go out with coworkers because it is fun and I love my coworkers.  Dinner time is more of a convenience excuse, “I’ll just pick up something on the way home.”  Or there is a function or social event I have to go to.  If given a menu, how am I supposed to choose the healthy option when the menu is full of delicious fried foods, appetizers, sauces, carbs, dressings and of course, desserts? Don’t get me wrong, I love healthy food- chicken, fish, vegetables, yogurt and cheese.  But given the options, I don’t choose well.  I have absolutely no will power or self-control.  This is painfully clear whenever I am put in a situation with a buffet or a party where the food is always sitting out.  I just graze like the cow I let myself become.  On occasion I will get a stroke of consciousness and decide to get healthy foods from the grocery store.  I am a once a week shopper.  So when the next week rolls around and most of the food I purchased isn’t good anymore, I get more upset with myself, throw it out and calculate in my head how much money I have wasted.  But that doesn’t stop me from turning around and doing the same thing again the next week.Carbs Hello Lover

Eventually my bad habits became the norm and I added new self-sabotaging behavior to the mix.  I start eating more and more, making sure I have something sweet and something salty on hand at all times.  And I don’t mean fruit and olives.  I mean chips and chocolate! I’d have breakfast and make it through to lunch without more food, just a cup of coffee at work. But then I am starving at lunchtime and eat until I am absolutely miserable. I followed that with an unhealthy snack in the afternoon and an insensible dinner.  When I ate dinner at home, I would have whatever was planned for dinner and then think I needed something salty (chips).  Well after salty, I craved sweet (chocolate).  By the end of the night I had eaten enough for at least 2 people and nothing healthy.  When you start that cycle, you eventually get to the point where you never actually feel full.  I could literally eat all day and not think twice about it.

Fat CatFrom a physical appearance standpoint, you also find ways of making excuses. You know you are gaining weight.  But you start telling yourself, “Well that still fits so I’m doing okay.”  One day it doesn’t fit.  Then you break out the elastic or baggy clothes that are the same size to convince yourself everything is still okay.  When those get too small, you move up in size but look at yourself in the mirror and think “I don’t look that different.”  Next thing you know, even your fat clothes don’t fit and you’ve outgrown the largest sizes you have.  That is a swift slap in the face.  Yet, not enough to change my behavior.  Instead I just go shopping at Gabe’s so I don’t have to spend a lot on my new “must have” wardrobe because nothing else fits. Now when you look at yourself in the mirror the things you see are repulsive- more than one chin, a thicker neck than a defensive tackle, side boob everywhere, two additional rolls of fat before you get to the primary stomach roll, a FUPA (look it up if you don’t know what it is) that you didn’t have before, the strong muscular legs you prided yourself on aren’t as sculpted.  The sight makes you sick.  Yet, still not enough to change your behavior.

Simple activities are harder- shaving your legs, walking up steps.  Breathing is harder because of the extra weight. Your body has aches and pains you can’t explain.  You sit for too long and it takes you a few steps to stand upright and walk straight when you get up.  Yet, still not enough.

I don’t think there was one specific thing that flipped that switch to make a change.  I guess I finally got to the point where I said I am ready to help myself!  It took too long to get here.  But I am grateful that I finally made it.  Now the transformation can begin.

Read next week’s blog when I talk about taking the first step.

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The Bitch is Back!

Bitch is Back

If you’ve ever read my blog, you will know that I often referenced music.  As I resurrect my blog after more than a year, I felt it appropriate to give homage to Elton John in my title.

You may be asking why I decided to start writing Walk Fiercely again.  The answer is simple.  I had to do it for me.  I hope others will read it and get something out of it.  But the truth is I’ve let myself get so far off track that I need to do anything and everything to “get my groove back”. Stella has nothing on me! Every time I think about it I just can’t believe I let it happen.  Even as I would be eating enough for 3 people at each meal, I would be disgusted with myself and yet I just couldn’t stop.  It is a terrible feeling and wrecks you emotionally and mentally.  Now is the time to regain control over my health. That starts with getting back to what worked for me in the past. This blog is an essential part of that plan.

I started Walk Fiercely because I was excited about where I was with my health and fitness at the time.  It was a wonderful year of writing and sharing.  But it was hard to think of topics every week.  So I gave it up.  My last post was May 16, 2016.  Since then, I have had a huge setback in my goals.  Over the last 16 months I have faced many challenges, mostly emotional.  I tried not to use them as excuses.  I am responsible for what I put in my body and exercising regularly.  But everyone else kept saying “you’ve been through so much” and I started believing it. I would feed (pun intended) into that theory by adding with everything going on I just don’t have time to focus on me, eat well, workout, etc. Total crap!  It has always been a constant struggle for me to eat well and exercise.  At the slightest upset to my schedule, I would get off track and had to crash into something before I could get back on track. Every time, like most people’s stories I hear, I ended up heavier than I was before.  No more!  I can’t let this continue.

I’m not saying my challenges weren’t real.  To put it in perspective, over the last year and a half my sister (who is my soul mate and best friend) was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatments, my brother lost his job and was unemployed for 9 months, my mother fell ill with dementia, had some other problems and ultimately passed away, I had a dear friend pass away from a very rare case of bile duct cancer and I struggled with my own health issues and loss of taste/smell. I have to admit, that is a lot for someone to go through without any side effects.  Consciously I never thought I was reacting to all of that.  Realistically, I’m sure that was part of it.  The good news is my sister is cancer free and thriving, my brother has a job, we gave my mom the greatest send off to her final resting place and my health issues are being addressed.

feet on a bathroom scale - isolatedNow it is time to get real.  I would normally never reveal my weight to anyone, much less in a blog that is on several social media forums. But the point of the blog is to put it all out there, as honestly as possible, making it a cathartic experience.   Since March 2016, I have gone from 170 lbs (I was already on my way up) to today, weighing in at 224 lbs.  Holy cow that is hard for me to say!  I almost choke on the written words. This is the heaviest I’ve ever been in my entire life.  Every time I think about it I just can’t believe I let it get this out of control.  I ate when I was happy, sad, bored, depressed, socially and any other excuse I could find.  And “portion control” wasn’t even in my vocabulary.  I have been eating everything in sight. I was never full, carbs and sugar were my best friends.

But the disappointment and disgust I have in myself has finally surpassed my love of food and bad habits. So I am taking steps to get back to a good place.  Below are just a few of them and will be explored more in future blogs.

  • Seeing a counselor who specializes in living a healthy lifestyle
  • Made a vision board to remind me of my goals
  • Returned to the gym and started an exercise program
  • Starting a new nutrition plan
  • Changing my mindset to know that I deserve to be happy and healthy

I hope you will follow me through this new journey and see where it takes us. We are in this together.  As was before when I wrote the blog, I am always interested to hear your feedback, blog topic suggestions and own personal experiences.

Look for next week’s blog, How I got here. Believe me, it will be a whopper.  And sign up to receive the blog every week on the website.

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Thank You…and Goodnight

It is with a heavy heart that after 52 Walk Fiercely blogs I am taking a hiatus from writing.  I loved writing them and the support I’ve gotten from everyone, the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made and I hope the humor and help I’ve given the readers.  But it is very hard to find relevant topics every week and the time to write about them. So I am taking a break to regroup and recharge.  I can’t say for how long.  There might be sporadic posts if the mood, or topic, strikes me.  Don’t rule me out completely. And if there is a topic you want me to write about, let me know.

Let me leave you with this thought.  Today on a local radio station (V100), they said based on a survey of West Virginians, 32% said they could run a marathon without training for it.  I call bullshit!  Having trained for marathons more than once, I can tell you it ain’t that easy.  Below are some statistics (source: statisticbrain.com and Runners World, Everyday Health).

Marathon Statistics
Percent of the U.S. population that has run a marathon 0.5 %
Record time for the fastest marathon ever run 2:03.59 hours
Total number of U.S. marathons held annually 570
Total number of people who finished a marathon annually 581,811
Average cost to run a marathon $67
Number of marathons that cost over $100 to enter 41
Average number of calories a woman burns during a marathon 2,880
Number of miles in a marathon 26.2 miles
Average number of miles ran per week during marathon training 40 miles

I’m thinking if only half a percent of the population has even run a marathon, then the ones who say they can do it without training are clearly ignorant to what is involved in such a task, both mentally and physically.  I am proud to include myself in that 0.5%.  Looking at the other statistics and how I stack up, I complete a marathon in about 3x the time it took for the fastest ever marathon. I am pretty sure I’ve paid more than $67 for most of my races, whether it was a half or a full. The calories burned sounds about spot on.  Although since my reward after a race is usually Tudor’s Biscuit World, I pretty much blow those calories shortly after the race.  I fall behind a little bit on the average number of miles per week.  I usually average about 30 miles a week. But for me, it gets the job done.

I’m throwing down this challenge.  To anyone who wants to do a marathon without training for it, join me in doing the Hatfield & McCoy Marathon in Williamson, WV on June 11th.  Gives you enough time to by some new shoes and get a “cute” new outfit for the race.  But not enough time to train and condition.  The first person to take me up on this challenge, I will pay your entry fee.  You think you’ve got what it takes, BRING IT! You can email me at christahamra@gmail.com or comment through the website.

Until we meet again, stay strong, stay active and always Walk Fierecly!

sleeping baby meme


Boston Strong!

boston_marathon_logo_smallLast week was the 120th Boston Marathon.  A race steeped in tradition and history, as well as adversity with the 2013 bombing.  It is one of the top marathons in the world, currently ranked #6.   Several members of the Tallman Track Club competed in the race, making Charleston, WV proud.  As a marathoner myself, and one who knows she will never get to Boston, I am fascinated by the experience. So I decided to do something a little differently this week, a Q&A with a few of the participants.  You’ve probably read about WK Munsey in previous posts as one of my mentors.  I have known Sarah Fletcher since college.  If you’re doing the math that’s about 25 years (ugh!).  Both of them have completed the Boston Marathon numerous times.  TW Moore is a member of the track club and competed in his first Boston Marathon this year. Getting his feedback as a first-timer was also intriguing to me.

Let’s meet our esteemed panel of fierce competitors.

WK Tutu memeWK is an avid runner, having started in 1983 so he could go up the 6 flights of steps at his elevator-less office without passing out. Since then he has completed 28 marathons! He has been involved with the Tallman Track Club in Charleston since 1986 and took over the leadership role around 2005. Asked how the club has changed over the year, he sites electronic technology as a game changer, making getting the word out to members and prospective members much easier through email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.


Sarah Fletche MemeSarah was a 400 and 800 meter runner in college, and a damn good one!  But running a marathon never crossed her mind until years later.  Her first marathon was in 2004, 10 years after graduating from Marshall Unversity. Since then she has completed a total of 7 marathons, 4 of which were Boston and the Marine Corp Marathon, #12 in the world.  She is definitely a “go big or go home” kinda girl. And in that spirit, she has also completed both traditional and off road triathlons, adventure racing and the WV mountain bike series.


TW memeTW was on the cross country and track teams in middle and high school, but didn’t get back into running until 2009 when he and his wife moved to Charleston and he decided to tackle the 15 mile Charleston Distance Run, a challenging race steeped in history in its own right. His first marathon was the Marshall Marathon in 2012.  Since then he has packed a punch completing a total of 6 in 4 years.  This being his first Boston, he notes that it was filled with emotions from both ends of the spectrum. But he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world, with his family there to cheer him on.


Question: What has been your favorite race and why?

WK: The Boston Marathon.  The Boston race is one where everyone in the town takes ownership.  The organization, volunteers, spectators and the course itself all make it a standout race.  Plus you have to qualify for the privilege to run. A close second is the 15 mile Charleston Distance Run

Sarah: All-time favorite race would be the Ironman in Chattanooga (told you she was fierce) because the training was such a commitment but the accomplishment is unmatched. It is the longest Ironman at 144.6 miles where the standard is 140.6.  Favorite marathon would be Boston because of the fan support and volunteers.  Throughout the whole 26.2 someone is always cheering for you.

TW: The Chicago Marathon because the course was flat and fast and this race was my qualifying time for Boston.  Favorite all-time race is the Charleston Distance Run because it is a great showcase of our town and the history of the elite runners participating in the earlier years is pretty amazing.

Question: Tell me about your experience in this year’s Boston Marathon.

WK: The first thing is not to get too amped up. The crowds are incredible and if you have your name displayed on your bib get ready for the spectators to scream it the whole 26.2 miles. And if you are a 60 year old man rocking a tutu, you better be ready to own it!

Sarah: My favorite moment from this year’s race was when the female winner, Atsede Baysa, gave her trophy to Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon. This was the 50th anniversary for women.  Took them 70 years before women could run the race.

TW:  This being my first Boston Marathon as I made my way to my corral I went through a serious of emotions- excitement, anticipation, anxiety, nervousness, impatience, hunger and worry were just a few. I was happy with my overall race, but will be much better prepared if I attempt it again. Having “Heartbreak Hill” at mile 21 after 3 other hills in sequence just seems cruel.  A notable aspect of the race is the spectators. At 3:00 pm I had finished the race, made it back to my place and showered, I was standing in the kitchen and asked my wife what that noise was.  It was the crowd a block away still out cheering for the runners.  It was incredible!

2016 Boston Marathon medals. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

2016 Boston Marathon medals. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Question: If someone wanted to train for a marathon, what advice would you give them?

WK: Be consistent in your training. The body likes routine and in the last 3 weeks really hone in on your marathon goal pace.

Sarah: My advice would be to get fitted for correct shoes and replace them often. Start your training slow and gradually build your mileage to avoid injury.

Question: This one’s for TW. We all know the saying “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.”  So how do you get to the Boston Marathon?

TW: Practice, practice, practice! Practice on a consistent basis. If the practice becomes a habit, great things will follow.  Practice with people, especially people faster and more experienced than you. Faster runners push you outside your comfort zone. Experienced runners can give you advice and motivate you. I was much more comfortable before each marathon because I talked about the course strategy with runners who were more experienced than me. Practice alone.  Running with others is great.  But running is inherently an individual sport. You have to concentrate on your training and that requires a lot of focus on what you are asking from your body and how it responds.

Question: Finally, is there anything else you would like to add or advice you would like to give?

WK: Running has been an incredible gift.  And to enjoy running you don’t have to be the fastest, strongest or the most gifted, you just have to be willing to get out the door and go!

Sarah: Exercise on any level promotes good health.  So my advice is to get out and move! Quality of life improves with exercise.  Encourage exercise on any level and set the example.

TW: If you run, you are a runner.  Do not be intimidated by where another runner is in their development. We are all somewhere on the running continuum and we all have the same struggles and triumphs.

There is so much more wisdom that these three have shared with me.  And I could go on forever.  But I know I need to keep it a reasonable length.  I hope this has given you some insight into the dedication, commitment, joy and fun that running, walking, staying active and having goals can bring to your life.  If you want to know more about WK, Sarah or TW or have specific questions you would like to ask them, let me know and I will try to connect you.

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Throwdown Thursday

You should give your all to whatever you do every day of the week.  But for me, Thursdays are special.  That’s when you get to flex your muscles, literally, and show everyone what you’re made of.  Every Thursday my gym, Anytime Fitness in Kanawha City, has a competition among the members called Throwdown Thursday.   They choose one exercise and encourage all members to test their strength by taking the challenge.  There is a male and female winner, with prizes. I have participated in the past.  But have gotten discouraged lately because it seems the challenges have focused on upper body.  I can’t compete in upper body due to my neck issues and lack of general upper body strength.  For those days, I just cheer on my fellow gym rats and enjoy watching the others flex their muscles.

Throwdown Thursday Yoda

Last week I walk into the gym ready for my regular training session, and Josette, one of the very supportive gym employees, asks me if I am going to try TDT today.  I said, “Uh, no! It’s always upper body.”  She quickly corrected me and said today was lower body!  I didn’t even ask what the exercise was.  I just said “YES!  I’ll do it!” and I started jumping around with excitement.

I found out that the exercise was a wall sit, basically leaning up against the wall in a 90 degree position.  But there is a twist, as always.  You can just wall sit for as long as you can and record that time.  OR you could add 45 lb. weight plates to your lap.  And if you make it a full minute, every plate you add counts as an additional minute of time.  For example, one minute plus 3 plates is a 4:00 time.   I thought there was no way I could put even one 45 lb. plate on my lap and survive a minute.  But how many times have I said the only thing I’ve got going for me is my legs.  This was my chance.  Let’s do this!My TDT pic

My trainer was actually timing people when I got there.  I went to watch and cheer everyone else on.  One lady, Missy, the usual favorite in TDT, was getting ready to do it.  She did 3 plates for 2:09, time recorded was 5:09.  Now I am thinking there is no way I can put 135 lbs. on my lap and not collapse.  But Micah assures me it will be fine and I can do it.  I trust him.  So, here we go.  I just hope my legs don’t let me down. I get in position, they load up the weights and time starts. (see picture of first attempt, forgot to get pic of second try)  I was surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  After the first minute I’m feeling pretty good.  After a minute and a half, I’m holding my own.  There are folks standing around watching, including Missy.  I look at her and in my “friendly competition” voice and a smile say to her “2:10 if it kills me!”  I continue to breath and pray.  At about 1:50 both my legs start shaking uncontrollably.  But I stay in position, close my eyes as I will those last :20 to come. I hear Micah say 2:10.  And I immediately drop.  Now I should probably point out that for safety reasons, there was a small box stepper under us so when we were done we could just collapse onto it without hurting ourselves. As they take the weights off you can see my legs still shaking.  I had to sit a minute before I could stand.  But it was all worth it.  All I could think was I DID IT!  I knew no one would be able to catch Missy or me.  So I thought I had this one in the bag.  I went on to my training session.

Not so fast sunshine.  I heard Missy say she was going to do it again.  I give props where they are due.  And Missy and her husband are both fierce and dedicated, working out regularly.  Now I start to doubt that I can pull off the win. She comes in the training room a few minutes later and says, “You need to beat 1:20 with 4 plates. And I will be cheering you on.” (Did I mention one reason I love my gym is the support you get from everyone.)  She left the room.  I looked at Micah, sweaty and breathing heavy, and proclaimed “She’s going down!”  After the training session, I was ready to give it another try.  Micah suggested that instead of 4 plates for 1:21, I should just do 5 plates for one minute.  Easy for him to say!  But I trust his opinion so I figured, go big or go home.

TDT prizes memeI’m ready to try again.  Missy, her husband and a few others are watching. I give Micah very specific instructions- don’t tell me what the time is or how much longer I have left, just tell me when it’s over.  I get in position, they load up 5-45 lb. plates (225 lbs) on my lap and time starts. Breathe, breathe, breathe.  Legs start shaking.  I am starting to think I can’t make it.  I ask Micah to tell me the time.  I was at :51, only :10 to go.  I start snapping my fingers as a distraction.  Finally, Micah says TIME! I drop to the seat. Again my legs are shaking as they take the plates off.  But damn, I felt great!  Missy comes and gives me the double high 5.  Micah congratulates me as well.  Victory is mine!   This might be the one and only Throwdown Thursday I ever win.  But it’s still another accomplishment under my belt.  Every positive experience, no matter what it is, motivates us to do better and push harder.

It is worth noting that Missy’s husband was the male winner with 10 plates! And that another trainer, Kevin, did 13 plates.  He isn’t eligible to win because he is an employee.  Kevin is a beast.  And I am pretty sure he has been genetically altered and not 100% human.  This is him.  He doesn’t even have the box under him.  He’s got this.  Just another day at work. WOW!Kevin's TDT pic

Not sure what the next Throwdown Thursday will be or what other challenges I might have to face in my life.  But I do know that whatever they are, I will face them head-on and do the best I can.  That’s all any of us can do.  Stay fierce, my friends.

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