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Year of the axe

Nancy Hawkins turns 50 on May 27—and her goal is to be in axe training shape

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"I'll be 50 in May and I'm going to arm-wrestle everyone." Nancy Hawkins bursts into laughter as she says this, but it's quite possible she's not joking. "I'm not trying to get in shape to wear a bikini, it's to be strong and independent. I don't want to be a burden to anyone at any time. I want to keep my life. I have a physical job. I don't care what I look like, I care about how I feel."

For her, 2015 won't only be the year she turns the big five-oh in ass-kicking shape, it'll be the year she learns how to throw an axe. It's a very specific goal that she filed away after hearing a CBC story about The Lumberjack AXEperience, a skills development camp in Barrington, NS, and part of her inspiration for hitting the gym. "He said, if you're ever stuck in the woods the one tool you'd want is an axe: you can make shelter, you can kill and skin an animal—not that he's teaching those skills. I just thought, that's so empowering," says Hawkins.

Shaping up to hurl axes is about more than prepping for a zombie apocalypse or a nature walk gone wrong. "When you learn new skills you are empowered in a different way," she says. The knowledge gained is just as powerful as what you can do with it—it's heavy lifting for her mind, too.

"My idea was if I get into shape, I can go to axe training. And I won't sit around and do nothing and feel like crap. Or have a bad back, or whatever," she says. "It makes me want to do other things."

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