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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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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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