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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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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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Happy Anniversary Walk Fiercely!

Happy Anniversary glitterMy labor of love is celebrating one year in publication this week!  I am so grateful to everyone who has read, shared, commented and supported Walk Fiercely in any way.  I couldn’t have continued to do this week after week without you.

I’ll be honest.  This is hard.  Coming up with a new topic every…single… week that has some relevance and can keep people’s attention is not easy.  I can admit that there were weeks I struggles with that.  And I can go back and tell which ones I was passionate about and which ones I felt like I was just “phoning in”.  I know I probably shouldn’t tell my readers that.  But you are all intelligent people and I’m sure I am not telling you anything you didn’t already figure out on your own.One year in time

At the same time, Walk Fiercely has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done. It has brought people into my life I would never have met, given me a drive that I wouldn’t have found otherwise, had an opportunity to inspire people and opened doors that wouldn’t have opened otherwise.  Granted, some of those doors closed before I was able to walk all the way through.  But that is part of the process you learn from as well.

I really just want to take the time to share the highlights over the last year- the good, the bad and the ugly.  Let’s start with the ugly and work our way up.  The “Naked and Afraid” blog on May 19, 2015 took an eye-opening, and likely TMI, look at what I saw when I looked in the mirror.  Not something I ever thought I would be sharing.  But I know there are so many people that feel the same way I do and I wanted to give a candid account of my experience.  What I learned from that post is that no matter how thin, tall, attractive or strong you are, everyone has aspects of their body they would like to change.  None of us are perfect.  But we need to always love ourselves- imperfections and all. And who can forget my riveting account of a very close call in “Shit Happens” on July 7, 2015. Instead of making any quips about that, I will suggest you go back and read that one for yourself.  Finally, “Don’t Sweat It” on November 10, 2015 discusses the composition of sweat, why it’s important to sweat and the fact that I am the queen of sweat.  And believe me, it is not pretty!

I hate to use the word “bad” to describe these next posts because there is definitely something to learn from all of them.  But bad does seem to be appropriate to characterize them.  The biggest fail I’ve had over the last year was the plank challenge.  This was chronicled in “If at First You Don’t Succeed” on August 25, 2015. I tried a plank challenge and it did not go well.  I knew that was a lofty goal for me.  But I was ready to go for it. Epic fail.  At the end of the blog I vowed to try it again in the future.  And I did, I just didn’t write about it. Why? Because I failed again.  Lesson learned- don’t try a plank challenge until you’ve done more ground work on your core to prepare. “The Struggle Is Real” from December 8, 2015 talks about holiday eating temptations and the challenge to make good food choices.  But the reality is that’s a struggle I deal with every single day!  On February 23, 2016 I posted a two part series about injuries.  I shared my own injuries and how I cope with them.  In addition, I talked about how to prevent and treat injuries. logo

Now the fun part, the good!  So many things fall into this category I can’t possibly name them all.  I’ll just try to hit some of the highlights. First and foremost are the races I’ve completed over the last year starting with “The Flying Pig”, blog date May 5, 2015.  What an incredible experience!  My first sanctioned full marathon, my first experience hitting the wall, my first experience having someone complete the whole race right by my side (thanks Maryanna!) and my first out of state race. I wasn’t thrilled with my final time but I met my goal of completing the race and, therefore, was able to get my first tattoo at age 44, blog post from May 12, 2015.  The next race was the Charleston Distance Run dated September 8, 2015.  The 15 mile distance of this one makes it unique.  I had ran the 5K event in 2008 and the 10K a few years later.  But I had never attempted the 15 mile showcase event.  I am happy to say that was a successful race as well.  That was followed by the City of Oaks half marathon in Raleigh, NC from November 3, 2015.  At first I was a little disappointed in myself because I had originally signed up for the full.  Due to starting a new job and not being able to train as hard, and the fact that my race partner got mono during training, we had to drop down to the half.  Definitely legitimate reasons, but couldn’t shake the feeling that I settled in some way. That all changed when I decided to make the most of the half and try to beat my best time in a half marathon.  To quote the King of Pop, I “beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it. No one wants to be defeated”- and I wasn’t.  I beat my time by 6 whole minutes.  What a great feeling!  And most recently the University of Charleston half marathon, which I blogged about just a few weeks ago on March 22, 2015. There was jogging involved. I beat my half time again by 5 whole minutes.  So, in the course of 5 months I had reduced my half marathon time 11 minutes.  ELEVEN! Just saying.

I’d like to think I have been able to bring some encouragement, humor and motivation to my readers.  With that, I introduced two of my own principles that I thought might motivate others to get out of their comfort zone. “The Half the Distance Principle” from May 26, 2015 suggesting that a way to get through your long workouts is to look at it as only having to do half the distance. Because the reality is once you get halfway, you gotta turn around and come back.  I have to tell you that I use this principle every single time I have a long walk.  This weekend was a 14 mile walk and I mentally thought about those first 7 miles, what my route would be, how many hills I could tackle, etc.  And then I turned around a came back.  Try it, it works!  The second principle was “5 To Stay Alive”.  I posted this one twice because it is a little more detailed and involves getting other people involved. Those posts were “August 4, 2015 and February 16, 2016.  But the thing I was most proud of was my squat challenge, dated January 1, 2016.  The month of December I committed to do a squat challenge, starting day 1 with 50 and ending on day 30 with 250.  By the end of the month I had done 3295 squats.  To be clear, that is a lot of squats and my quads and hamstrings felt every one of them. Totally worth it!

With all the experiences- good bad and ugly- I would have to say the most rewarding part are the people I have come in contact with as a result of Walk Fiercely.  There is a guy that takes the boxing class before me.  I had no idea he even knew about the blog.  But one day he came up to me and said “aren’t you the girl that did the squat challenge?”  Why yes, yes I am. We started talking and he wants to do it too.  Robert’s Running has also referred a couple people to me that have been in the store and mentioned that they wanted to walk a race or do a marathon.  They contacted me and I hope I was able to help.  If not, I am just glad I made two new friends.  And then there is Felicia Marshall (Felicia, I hope you are reading this one).  She has been a huge supporter and faithful reader.  I am not even sure how she heard about the blog.  I don’t actually know her. I’ve never met her in person.  And I want that to change soon.

Thank youI guess I just want to say that my heart is full of thanks and gratitude that you have allowed me to share my story and hopefully encourage others.  I am looking forward to what the future holds for Walk Fiercely.  If you have any suggestions for post topics and/or would like to share your story with me, please comment through the website- www.walkfiercely.com.

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The 10 Mile Experience

When: April 2, 2016

Where: Charleston, WV

Route: Train station, across South Side Bridge, east on Kanawha Blvd, up Greenbrier St to NorthGate, to the very end of NorthGate (the very furthest end of the Ticket Master parking lot), filled in with about ½ mile more on the boulevard and back to the train station.

Wow, it was a very eventful 10 miles, even though I was by myself.  I missed my walking partners. One was on a cruise, poor thing, and one had a wedding to go to.  For me, the biggest advantage of having a workout partner is the social aspect.  It really makes the time go by faster.  But being alone also has its upside.  It gives you time to think. And you get a chance to appreciate the beauty and scenery that surrounds you as you get your miles in (see photos). In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, we have the most beautiful Capitol in the country, including DC.  But I wasn’t totally alone.  During the 10 miles I passed some of my favorite people along the way- long-time friend Steve L., college friend (so also “long time”) Sarah Crandall Fletcher and one of my mentors who is always supportive and encouraging, WK Munsey.  Seeing other people working toward their goals, definitely motivates you to step it up and work toward your own goals. Sky on walk

Wind was a huge challenge on several levels.  It really picked up when I would walk on the boulevard by the river.  Now, it could have worked in my favor…but it didn’t.  I could have had a tailwind when walking up hill, helping me propel to the top, and a headwind going downhill so it wouldn’t be so bad.  But NO.  Just the opposite.  Headwinds to further challenge me up the hills and tailwinds to make me just slightly off balance coming down.  The other joy that the wind brought was more allergy issues.  At times it looked like it was snowing with all the leaves blowing off the blooming trees.  Good thing I used the inhaler before and after.  I’m sure that helped.  But the breathing was labored at times.  And finally, the wind was so blustery that it kept blowing the earbuds out of my ears. No lie!  I had to keep putting them back in and once I got the right one in, the left one would pop out.  Not the end of the world, but so very annoying! I wasn’t actually wearing my usual earbuds because I lost them.  These were shaped differently and not in a good way, obviously. Northgate sign on walk

Enough of the bellyaching!  Let’s get to the good stuff. When you’re all alone, what is a girl to do?  SING!  I was listening to ‘70’s Funk on Pandora.  Nothing better to get your groove on.  As if Pandora knows when I need a pick me up, they always play something inspiring when I need it.  Today was no exception.  As I am walking up the last leg of Greenbrier St. before reaching NorthGate, I was huffing and puffing but refused to slow my pace.  What song comes on? Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’.  Damnit!  I hadn’t gotten enough yet.  I needed to get up that hill!  So The Gloved One ad I got it done.  Even NorthGate has a couple of little hills to conquer.  I was heading back on the return 5 miles and hit one of those hills.  Again, Pandora comes through for me.  ‘Baby Come Back’ from Player came on.  And this is where being in an isolated area comes in handy.  My favorite part of the song is “Have you used up all the love in your heart? Nothing left for me, aint’ there nothing left for me-hee”. I sang it at the top of my lungs on the top of the mountain.  I’m telling you, if you’ve never rocked that lyric, you are missing out on life. Other notable tunes that kept a spring in my step were Al Green ‘Let’s Stay Together’, Wild Cherry ‘Play That Funky Music White Boy’, Marvin Gaye ‘Let’s Get It On’ and Hall & Oates ‘Sara Smile’.  That one isn’t upbeat,  but I just love Hall & Oates. Capitol on walk

Stats of walkI have to give partial credit to the wind for the next positive of the walk.  Because I was rockin’ to the oldies and keeping up the pace, I was able to finish the hilly walk with an average mile time of under 13:00.  I think that’s the first time that’s happened. The other factor was that I jogged a little portion of the route.  Every little bit of time with a faster pace helps the final time.  I’ve been trying to incorporate some jogging with a future goal of jogging a whole half marathon. You just might read a blog about that in the future.

I have strong leg muscles.  But at 45, the backside seems to be sliding down my legs a bit.  Recently, I have asked my trainer(s) to help me raise that up to match the muscles that are underneath.  Walking the hills definitely helps.  I sort of do my own little evaluation after each walk.  After this training, I could feel the glute muscles very prominently.  So I text Micah, my trainer, and said “I may never get an Allison booty (the other trainer).  But my muscles underneath are fierce. If it wouldn’t be inappropriate for you to touch my ass, I’d prove it to you!” His response was “Haha I can tell working with you that they are all muscle.”  That is just the kind of relationship we have.  When it is time to work, we work hard.  And when it is time to laugh, while still being supportive and encouraging, we do that too. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And finally, if you use a Fitbit you know that one of your goals is to hit 10 flights of steps per day.  I usually hit that goal because my house has steps.  But when you train on hills that is not a problem!  Yesterday, on the walk alone, I earned 85 flights of steps. For the whole day I had 104 flights. It’s relatively accurate.  It is calculated by a combination of elevation and arm movement. So, unless you’re flapping your arms around in an elevator or on an airplane, the Fitbit knows not to count that. City Skyline on walk

Overall, it was a great training day with only a little over 2 months until race day.  I will continue to add mileage to my long walks and continue to push myself on the hills.  My hope is that all the conditioning will make the actual race a piece of cake.  Remember to keep your goals in sight and never give up.

Next week, Walk Fiercely will be celebrating 1 year of publication! I hope you’ll stick around and read that too. Don’t miss it! Sign up through the website to receive the blog in your email every week.

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