Tag Archives: weight loss

Building Blocks: Mastering Less as More

It’s been a long week and you’re probably wondering how it went, given my dreaded Month of Suck admission last week.

I’ve spent this past week slowly recalibrating myself, lowering my expectations, ditching my guilt, and focusing on the individual steps to take rather than being overwhelmed by the bigness of my journey…

Found on SciFiTV.com.And it’s been much, much better.

My workout with Le Physique’s Nik Yamanaka last Monday was really an empowering start to my week. She was empathetic, didn’t dwell on my admitted failings, changed the game up a little, challenged me, and provided great positivity, support, and encouragement during the workout. She also brought The Funny, and we like The Funny.

It wasn’t that she was babying me, not by a long shot. She pushed me enough, and god knows I felt it the next night as the Screaming Thighs of Fury set in a day after the epic “Let’s try some lunges” experiment, but she didn’t push me past what I could take.

Who cares about the Screaming Thighs of Fury, though?

Face it, anyone who doesn’t have killer-sore legs after doing their first-ever triple-set of lunges is probably immortal. We don’t like those people.

We really, really don’t like those people. But I digress.

Aside from letting me ditch my guilt and shame by playing me her version of the “everyone has reversals” record, Nik also provided a lightbulb moment when it came to stretching.

I think I know better than most people the profound difference that can come from tweaking a stretch angle by a few degrees, so I was really surprised to find that, a) I’m still being uber-overzealous in my hamstring stretching, b) it’s probably a huge part of why my hamstrings never stretch out, and c) it’s likely instrumental in why I have recurring back issues on a small scale all the time.

Nik drove the point home that the hamstring is a very gentle stretch, and one of the most important ones we can do. She said to wait while the hamstring naturally extends itself. Stretch the leg to the point of feeling it, hold, as it releases and resistance lessens, extend slightly further, hold, repeat, etc.

Okay, whoa, hold them technique-horses a moment.

This needs saying: I’m not a licensed kinesiologist, I’m not edumacatin’ you on stretching, and you shouldn’t be doing anything by way of my limited explanations here. This was a trained professional explaining the best way of stretching for MY body. Your body is a whole ‘nother thang, and this is why certified personal trainers are a wise idea for anyone embarking on a new life of fitness: Because every body responds a little differently.

(But if you’re like most people, you probably should be stretching those hamstrings more, honey.)

Anyhow, that slight adjustment, less-kamikaze approach has been making a difference in my legs and back this week, but there’s another stretch that’s proven monumentally important to me, now that I’ve been hearing Nik’s voice in my head all the time: “Drop your shoulders. Drop your shoulders.”

I’ve always had my shoulders up too high during stretches — and now I realize my stretches are probably largely responsible for the “tension headaches” I get, or at least as responsible as other things, like carrying too many groceries or wearing heavy shoulder bags.

By keeping my shoulders down during the stretches, I’ve greatly reduced the headaches that were seriously cramping my style. Whew. Fantastic.

So, where didn’t my week go as ideally?

Well, everywhere, of course.

But “perfect” wasn’t my goal.

Sure, I didn’t exercise the “Full Nik Yamanaka Kicking-Ass-And-Taking-Names” routine, but I decided to cut myself slack and instead just focusing on Doing it Right and Feeling Good Later. Nik seems to approve.

I still haven’t stretched often enough, eaten as well as I would like, but I really don’t care.

I really don’t — because I’ve done everything better, I feel better, and I know I can still do better.

The difference is, this time I feel like doing better isn’t going to kill me. I don’t feel the dread and fear I was feeling for a while, when I kept paying for my efforts with negative fall-out (thanks to the trifecta of overdoing it, poor sleep, and bad stretching.)

Now I think “doing better” might even have me feeling better overall.

Working out through my pneumonia recovery has proven challenging, but I’m finally at the point where pushing cardio may still have me spent and asleep on the sofa by 8:30, but a good night’s sleep recharges that battery, and I find myself with more to give the next day.

That’s a new thing — having more to give — and a good thing.

Will I manage the Full Nik Yamanaka Kicking-Ass-And-Taking-Names program this week?

No, probably not, but I can get closer, do it better, feel stronger, and have the feeling that I’m adding to success rather than kicking myself when I’m down.

I’m listening to my body with exercise, and soon I know I’ll be listening to it for food, too. That’s always a 1–2 thing for me — I get the exercise sorted, then figure out the food.

All in all, it feels like the pieces are falling into place — or, rather, that I’m kicking ass and throwing them into place.

This week, less has been more.

By doing less and feeling like I’ve executed it better, or more well, or more promisingly, the emotional gains and the confidence I now have in going forward is both a pivotal and welcomed change in my life.

I knew I’d get here, but it was just such a rocky road with so many obstacles, and me with my lack of objectivity at the time.

Recalibrating, lowering expectations, and focusing on technique but working through obvious pains while trying to reduce unnecessary pain, have been a key in my week of regrouping.

Going into this week with a little less fear and a little more confidence will be a nice change, provided I remember that it’s doing less, but doing it better, that’s being my “more” right now.

Baby steps, baby.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.
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Bouncing Back from The Month of Suck

If you enjoy this, or any of my posts, please hit the “like” button at the bottom, because sharing it on Facebook helps me get readers, which is kind of the point. Thank you for your support!

October was My Month of Suck.

Things went badly at the end — personally, financially, physically, spiritually.

Times like that, my struggle is with Emotional Eating. Growing up, if there was something we’d celebrate or mourn, we’d do it with food.

At 37, it’s still my battle.

Another struggle is the pressure I put on myself and the self-damning I do when I don’t meet those lofty standards.

What happens when I get angry or disappointed in myself? I eat.

When I eat, what happens? I get fat or feel like it — equally dangerous to morale.

My first mistake in October was not saying sooner that I’d bitten off too much, regarding my post-pneumonia recovery.

The problems with me getting something like pneumonia is, it’s easy to think the pneumonia’s just some “thing” I’ve created to get out of shit, regardless of how sick I actually was.

As a kid, yeah, I was in and out of hospitals, but I was also a lazy kid who loved the excuse of illness — I hated exercise. When it came to exercise, I was happy to play the “I’m too sick” card.

The last five years, the greatest “getting fit” struggle I’ve faced was overcoming “I Can’t” and those old excuses.

In so doing, when I thought I couldn’t do something, I often did better than I expected. When I thought I was too weak, I was strong. If I wanted to improve my time in how long it took to cycle someplace, I did. When I thought I was too tired or too sore, I proved I wasn’t. That’s how I lost 70 pounds on my own.

Sure, I beat “I can’t,” but I’m still not an “I Can” girl — and that’s what I want to be, via my work with Nik Yamanaka from Le Physique.

I want say “Sure, I can do that!” without blinking. Now? Not so much, more like “Maybe?”

A lot has to do with the “I Can’t” Girl legacy.

In October, when I first thought I was doing too much too soon, I didn’t take a break — I didn’t want to use the “I’m not well” excuse or to make allowances for being sick or recovering. I didn’t want to admit I’m weaker or less strong.

Now I’ve paid for it through too sore muscles, too tired body, and the emotional fatigue that comes from the too-much-too-soon lethargy one suffers after trying to bounce back post-illness or injury.

***

Today I see Nik for the first time in two weeks. She knows I’ve been ass-kicked by both life and myself of late. I think I really need a session to get my head from Where I Was last month to where I’d rather be now.

For me, returning to anything after injury or illness is a struggle. The longer I’m out of the game, the harder it is to get back — especially when my body doesn’t like the pace I set, since I normally like to take my angst out on a workout, but my body doesn’t like that approach.

That said, almost every time I “return,” I do too much too soon.

I warned Nik that a former chiro labelled my tactics as “KAMIKAZE”. I mean, I know I do this shit.  I told her, “I know this about myself, I’m gonna be careful”, but, boom, there it is: History repeating.

This time, my bounce-back wipeout coincided with Heavy personal stuff on a few levels, and a bout of food poisoning, all within 10 days. I got knocked on my ass — hard.

Coupled with emotional baggage and the caloric hell that is Halloween, it’s been a doozy of a three-week stint in which I’ve been visiting all manner of feeling like a Failure.

We’ve all been there.

Still, I know my abilities and what I’ve learned about my food relationships, and my physical accomplishments with cardio and strength-training over time.

Believe me, I know. That’s why it’s so hard to accept such a rocky return.

Up side? Nik’s got a crash course in Steff’s Fitness Foibles 101 — my determination, roadblocks, how connected food is to my emotions, how I pay for my stubbornness.

Down side? It’s a disheartening start to what I hoped would resonate with awesomeness from the get-go. I have to recalibrate my expectations, and I will.

The I’ll-take-it side? I’m reminded I’m not God, I’m not even immortal, and while deities might allegedly be able to create whole worlds in seven days, we take longer to create what we dream, and more realistic aspirations make the road less arduous.

***

I’ve had a hard time writing this piece. I’ve started it six times now.

Why? I despise admitting that I’ve failed myself, but it’s more disheartening that it came after I tried too hard and hit the wall, only to fall back into old habits just ‘cos I emotionally roll that way.

That’s what I had a hard time with: feeling like I was being punished for working too hard. It’s tough to swallow that you’ve achieved what you wanted to do, but then suffered consequences as a result — and then revisited bad habits of old out of weakness.

To whatever end, it all comes back to listening to the trainer when he/she says “Listen to your body.”

They don’t say “Listen to your neuroses.”

Woefully, my neuroses speak loud and clear. Listening to that’s hard not to do.

And sometimes we don’t understand our bodies. Don’t understand? Or maybe we just don’t listen. Success usually isn’t a switch we can flick on overnight.

Some learn these lessons harder than others.

My lesson is in finding a middle ground between what I want to be Tomorrow and what I’m able to be Today, and for me it can be the hardest part of fitness.

Part of a trainer-trainee relationship comes from learning where you’re at with each other, and the trainer knowing when you’re really trying or when you’re just phoning it in. This is a tough beginning, and I know Nik’s being challenged with having to interpret that about me. I can respect that.

Still, my journey’s not just the physical roadblocks I have to contend with. I know I’ll be in a difficult place emotionally for a while, so my food struggle will be tough. That’s when training will be good, and social media/blogging also helpful, so I can get advice, support, friendly prodding, and experience accountability to others.

Because I can’t work out at 100 per cent, I’m learning I never overcame my food demons, despite having lost 70 pounds.

I didn’t. Food’s the devil, always was. This is the reality check I needed.

Waiter, there’s a fly in my aspiration soup. Check, please.

Yet, Food Demons can be beaten into submission. People do it all the time.

And, pneumonia can only hamper my efforts for so long. I’ll get there a little more each week. I’m just impatient.

***

So, today? Training looms.

My Catholic upbringing makes me dread facing people after I feel like I’ve failed them or myself, so showing up to see Nik will be a bit heavy at the beginning, but another part of me can’t wait to just get in there, see her, and turn the page on my October.

Something I’ve learned in recovery/rehab, and forgot until now: It’s best that I do cardio at the end of the day so I can recover after, rather than early in the morning, when it might take a lot out of me, since, frankly, post-pneumonic life isn’t brimming with energy just yet.

Sometimes we need to find new normals.

I’m finding mine.

***

Failure happens. We don’t choose when. Life’s tough, we deal where we can, and sometimes fall down elsewhere.

At the end, know what matters?

Not that I ate badly or didn’t exercise sometimes, but that I’ve been more honest with myself about food than I have in months, and that I’ve been active more regularly than I have in a while.

I’ve improved. That’s the point.

I haven’t improved as much as I’d wanted, as quickly as I’d hoped, but I know why I haven’t, where I can improve still, and now I’ll do better than I did last time.

In the end, sometimes just continuing to improve is the best result we can hope for.

For now? I’ll take it.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.

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Ratcheting It Up After a Slow Afternoon

Yesterday I cycled 42 kilometres.

That’s the fifth time I’ve ever bested 40km in a day. It felt pretty awesome, because it’s the first time out of all those times that I managed to Finish Strong.

Fitness, for me, isn’t just about health. It’s about proving things to myself. It’s about saying now that “That can’t beat me anymore.”

It’s about saying “I Win.”

There was a time when cycling a round trip of 7 km to my bookstore job would add about 40 minutes to my day. It once took me 74 minutes to cycle 12km home from downtown (with about 4-5km uphill), not including “catching my breath” breaks.

Now I can do it in about 34 minutes.

Being athletic isn’t about where you start, it’s about where you make it go. It’s a mindset, a way of life, a credo, and a pursuit. It’s about taking control of your health and dominating something, ANYTHING, in life.

Me? It’s been a long, long time of slowly improving and constantly setting new goals. “Okay, I did that. Now what?”

The only problem I run into, though, is who I was versus who I am.

I wrote once about how Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of The Tipping Point applied to me, personally, with my weight issues. Gladwell asserts it takes 10,000 hours to gain expert proficiency at any one thing.

Well, I spent 218,000-plus hours chasing the “expert” status in Being Fat. I mastered that shit. I came pretty close to being The Funny Forever-300-Pounds Friend.

Now, with all my weight-loss efforts, I’m probably over the 10,000-hour mark for Kicking Ass and Taking Names, but the 218,000-plus of fatty-school hours did some pretty intense conditioning to this Bear of Little Brain, I tell ya.

This week, though, I measure myself and learn I’ve lost 2 more inches off my hips and 2 more off my waist. Somehow, there’s this band in between that isn’t yet giving, but hey, movement in the other areas is fantastic. I’m closing in!

Today I’m learning about diabetes, and I’m reminded just how preventable that disease is.

I’m loving that exercise is such a major factor in how likely you are to prevent or reverse its occurence.

I’m loving that I can now describe myself, most weeks, as being “active”.

I can’t tell you the satisfaction of yesterday doing a ride that killed me years ago — when I used to do a 20km shorter version of it, and tackling on an extra 10km on an already-50%-longer route for the hell of it because I had “more left in me”.

It’s with a great deal of smugness I can casually state what I’m capable of doing these days, when the opportunity to talk about it comes up — only because I know how hard I’ve tried to get here. I’m the one on the other side of painkillers, ice bags, chiropractor appointments, and everything else I’ve had to learn to use to my advantage as I suffer through the acrimony of Becoming UnFat. I’m the one on the other side of asthma.

I don’t know.

I don’t know what I want you to take from this, why I’m writing it. I guess I ultimately hope that anyone who’s out there who’s not fit or active can learn what it’s taken me a long time to work through — that you don’t need to remain who you are today, that exercise does hurt but it’s supposed to, and it’s in that struggle and pain and recovery that we become new, better, more confident people.

Even if you’re “skinny-fat”, inactivity kills people every day, and the lack of self-esteem from being inactive cripples people every single minute of every day.

My athletic accomplishments make me stronger in every single life experience I face, because I know the mental fatigue I can overcome, and the physical strength I’ve shown. I KNOW it now. I’ve proven it to myself.

It’s not about filling 30 minutes with walking because the doctor says to do so. It’s your opportunity to set a goal and kill it.

If you’re not huffing, puffing, sweating, and wheezing, then you’re simply not exercising hard enough — whether you’ve got 10 minutes to do it or an hour.

Leave everything on the floor, and you’ll know it.

And a few hours later, then a few weeks later, and then a few months later, you’re gonna increasingly love it.

Today, I’m recuperating a little. Soon, after a healthy meal, a healthy snack packed, and hydrating a little more, I’m off to ratchet up at least another 25 km today.

Come Tuesday morning, I want to feel like I won the Weekend Warrior challenge.

It’s the athletic version of the old saying “Why do I keep hitting myself in the head with a hammer? Well, ‘cos it feels so good when I stop.”

If you don’t know that feeling, isn’t it time you started?*

*The first 3 weeks will suck. The best antidote to stiffness and sore worked-out muscles is to do it all over again. Ice. Advil. Whatever the common prescriptions are for overcoming training, go for it. In a few weeks, they’ll not be necessary anymore. You, too, will be a fitness machine, grasshopper. If I could do it? SERIOUSLY, you can.

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Game On! Back to Success

Ed. Note: I often forget many of you are new here — so, a nutshell: From Jan ’08 till May of ’09, I lost 70 pounds. The hard way. Myself — no trainers, diet organizations, nothing. Hard work, honesty, and self-awareness.

I burned out after 8 months with a killer back injury. So, I took the year off and gained 8 pounds back. But, I’m back, and knowing what it takes to be successful, here’s my reflection on beginning that experience for the second time. Hopefully some of my methods can sustain others, too.

RAWR, BITCHES.

After a disappointing first weigh-in because I’d gained two pounds — there’s only so much of that you can call “muscle tone”, methinks — I’m now down 2 pounds off my “starting” weight. So, 4 pounds, but I’m calling it 2.

But I’m down 6 inches off my waist! 2.5 inches off my hips! Yeah!

I know a lot of people have the “ohmigod, I’ve gained weight” experience at the beginning, so I want to share a few observations I can make after having been down this road successfully three times in the past.

First is, obviously I gained weight. For me, if I start exercising more, I start eating more. It’s simple math.

You get complacent and used to inhaling X amount of food when resting, so you psychologically think you need more when you start working out. It happens. Get over it.

That, for me, is where it starts. Let’s face it, becoming an active person is probably the most important goal any of us can set — the second should be eating truly healthily, and the third should involve weight/size.

People get the priorities wrong and think it’s about the weight.

It’s not. It’s about changing your life. Remember that, and it’s easier to deal with the weight hiccups that WILL come your way.

For whatever reason, I naturally gravitate to eating more when I begin hardcore workout phases. There comes a point where I realize my methods are broken, and I’m gaining weight from the muscle tone and eating all that I’ve been burning.

I buckle down and get serious, then I get true results.

Buckle down” means that I get this epiphany of “HOLY SHIT, I’m working WAY too hard for THAT result.”

When you’re doing two hours and 15 minutes of cardio in a day like I have done a number of times of late, and you have a burger, fries, and two beers, well, on the one hand, yes, if you’re gonna have a burger, that’s the day to do it, man.

But think of the PAYOFF for not having that burger and beers!

Me, I’m NOT cutting out burgers or anything. I’d rather work harder, make smarter choices, and monitor what I’m eating so I know EXACTLY how bad I can be (and be bad much less frequently), and instead of downing Bad Food X with guilt and worry, I can enjoy it with the knowledge that it Fits into my day. It just fits. Therefore, it’s all good.

Weight loss is almost ALL head game.

It’s a head game when you think you’re too tired to cycle further.

It’s a head game when you think the wonky thing in your lower back means you shouldn’t exercise.*

It’s a head game when the numbers go in the wrong direction.

It’s even a head game when you’re trying to understand how you got to X-weight in the first place.

It’s ALL a game.

Calories-in, calories-out” is an oversimplification of what I’m doing, but it’s about right. I monitor my intake, and I work like shit on the rest.

The difference, I think, between athletes, serious weight loss types like myself, and the average person who sort of works out and they don’t know why they don’t “see more results” for their “five hours” of cardio in a week, is just sheer effort.

I’m bone-tired when I’m done working out. When I get finished, I tend to know I’ve had myself in “moderate to intense” mode since the gate opened. THAT’S what it takes. It takes gasping, wheezing, and pushing forward ANYHOW.

Think you can’t go further and you won’t. It’s all attitude.

Exercise is supposed to hurt. It’s supposed to have you gasping and crying for Mommy. It’s supposed to make you think twice about having any plans for the rest of the week.

There’s a big difference between folks who have a weight to maintain versus if you want to lose it. You want to lose weight just through food? All right, well, that’s about 80% of the deal, if you listen to some folks.

You want a hot body? You’ll likely need to work for it. And I mean work.

I double what people do to “maintain” weight, when I’m losing it. It takes me 5–8 hours a week of working out, but that’s usually just the cardio of what I’ve done — then there’s stretching and here-and-there freeweights in front of the telly.

I hit plateaus, sure, but my body keeps improving, and my fitness does too. That’s my goal, not some number on a scale. Work through the plateaus. Change your food intake or your water, but try to work through it.

Not everyone’s gonna be a size four, so get over it here and now, and the journey will be a whole lot more rewarding for you.

It can’t just be “Did I lose weight this week?” It has to also be “How much better did I perform on that bike ride? How do I feel at the end of my day? Was climbing those stairs easier? Holy, look how much better my breathing is. And, damn, that bag of potatoes feels like air!”

Focus on what IS changing, rather than what you hoped you’d see.

Measure yourself. Monitor your fitness levels. Remember how hard that jogging was the first week you started. Think about the strength you feel in your back now, how much more symmetrical your body feels. Think about how much more lung capacity you have when you’re just sitting at your desk and working on the computer. Appreciate how those jeans feel, focus on that sensation you get with cool crisp clean jeans over just-worked-out-for-90-minutes legs. Damn, it’s nice.

Get over the fucking shit the media wants you to think about.

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE NUMBER.

It’s about your body’s changing state, the acquisition of health and strength.

Know why Jenny Craig wants you on their diet? Because you WILL gain the weight back, but you’ll have “lost it before” so you’ll be a repeat customer.

All they’re doing is counting your calories. Take the power. Learn it yourself. Live with it for the rest of your life.

You wouldn’t take a road trip without knowing how far you had to go, how much fuel you need to arrive safely, and how long it takes, right? Then you know you have to drive, and there are no shortcuts between There and Here. Why is losing weight any different?

Work out as hard as you can a few times a week, and take lazy easy activity in between, with as many hours of sleep a night as you can get, at least one day a week off where you relax, and a balanced diet that’s respectful of the calories someone of your height/weight/age should be consuming on a daily/weekly basis. Enjoy a blow-out meal of things you love on your day off, and KILL IT the next day.

That’s MY secret. And, hey, it’s no secret. Every other system leads to a likelihood of repeating your past ills.

Learn. Act. Believe. Achieve. Simple.

Party on, Garth.

* I’ve learned a really hard workout resets all my back muscles and alleviates backpain, personally. Days when I thought I should rest, rest didn’t help — but cycling for 50 minutes did. Not walking and namby-pamby shit, but stuff where I’ve got to activate my core muscles and push hard. But that’s just me. Learn about your body, but don’t presume you KNOW.

**Disclaimer? Uh. I’m a blogger. Talk to your doctor about this shit. There are risks. I’ve had medical guidance (though not trainers, etc) through all of this and I’ve educated myself along the way. Proceed at your own risk.

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Hanging Up on Hang-ups

Funny how we get so hung up on our hang-ups we sometimes don’t even notice when they’ve disappeared.*

I was fucking floored Thursday night when I realized the varicose veins I’d been loathing for the last year had suddenly vanished in the last couple months, thanks to my awesome new fitness regime. Poof, gone.

Ironically, I’d already bought some spring clothes last month — and no shorts shorter than knee-length. For what mighta been something that didn’t even need hiding. Silly, silly.

It makes me wonder how often we get stuck in our insecurities, fears, loathings, all out of habit, rather than reality. Is it as bad as we fear? Are we merely choosing to dwell in shadows rather than turn the light on and see what we’re really judging? Continue reading

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Existential Excavating: What Made Me What I Was

The hardest part of losing weight, I’m finding, is the challenge of identity.

Being fat isn’t just something that happens over the course of a month. Being fat, becoming as fat as I ever got, took me 25 years exactly. 25 years of daily contributing to an obviously ever-growing problem.

From an eight-year-old spending a summer with an unlimited flow of Mountain Dew and Pepsi at my aunt’s for the first time, I began the journey of Becoming Fat. Continue reading

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