The Learning Project: Lessons Learned

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Well, the final results are in. Not bad. 18.4 lbs down over the course of the semester ( I started at 226). I wanted to get to 205, but I am well on my way.

Well this is it. It has been a wild ride. When I first started this project, I thought it would be a linear sequence of events. 1) Follow a diet 2) Select a workout regimen 3) Track results. Simple right? As it turns out, this learning project was not quite  as straightforward as I originally thought

My earlier blog post focused on learning I had acquired reading a some blogs I found online ( most notably Tim Ferriss). It was this foray into the world of blogging that I learned the tenants of the Slow Carb Diet (SCD).  This was a good start because it got me thinking about my diet and caused me to explore options for a resistance training regime.There were two problems with my approach to this project in the early going, 1) My posts were quite focused on what I was doing as opposed to what I was learning and 2) Upon reflection, my goals could have been more specific. More on that later.

My second blog post was my first attempt a “vlogging.” I must admit that there was a steep learning curve here. Unfortunately it had little to do with health and fitness and more to do with how to actually produce a YouTube video. I learned to set up an account and how to record a video on my ancient laptop.

More importantly I learned that the process of blogging (or in this case vlogging) was a very intimidating process for me. It really did take me out of my comfort zone. It was a good learning experience. I’m a fairly introverted person. I learned that in the early going, this tenancy I got the idea to try a video of myself after watching An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube. I really identified with Dr. Wesch’s quote ” It feels like everybody is watching and yet nobody is there.” It was a bit of a surreal knowing that I would be inviting other people into this learning experience with me. An even stranger experience is watching these videos a second time. I’m watching myself reflect on my learning experience, which caused me to re-reflect on that experience. I hope that this makes sense. What I have learned from this experience is that perhaps YouTube could be a powerful  tool for engaging in self-reflection.

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Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/YouTube

My next post outlined the initial resistance training program that I began at the gym in my workplace. It didn’t take me long to realize that consulting the internet on resistance training was like drinking water from a fire hose.

 

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I decided to consult a trainer that works in the gym. He met with me and helped me develop a resistance training program that was based on compound lifts involving major muscle groups divided into a upper and lower body split routine. This was valuable because is showed me how to incorporate training into my life. I was able to train in the weight room four days a week on my lunch break. This was not as simple as it sounds as the gym is not located in the same building as my office. What I learned was in order to successfully incorporate this regimen into my work life, I had to manage my time more effectively and become far more organized (for example ensuring I had a change of clothes handy and a few easy lunch choices ready to go).

It also taught me the importance of going to the gym with intention. Knowing that I had a time limit of 45 minutes caused me to focus and get in and out within my time limit. This was a big change because in my 20’s going to the gym was much more of a social experience for me. There was no time for socializing this time around. It was a bit of an adjustment but eventually learned to enjoy the solitude of putting in my ear buds, shutting off my brain and moving heavy things.

This post also marked my first foray with using my fitness pal. At first I found it helpful. It acted as a hub for solid health and fitness information and it caused me to be more mindful about what I was eating. However, there came a point where I realized that I could get too focused on tracking my intake. The lesson I learned here was that technology can be helpful to a point. I actually found I had more success with weight loss when I focused less on tracking and more eating foods that promoted weight loss in a way that worked for me. I hope this makes sense.

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Source: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.myfitnesspal.android

My next post served as more of an update than anything. It was marked with some frustration for me because at this time I was not seeing sustained success in terms of weight loss despite having a training plan and diet. As the semester progressed, the demands on my time increased. I needed to alter my approach. The truth was what I was doing wasn’t working.

In the post Every Little Bit Counts, I started to experiment with body weight exercises (push ups to be precise). I learned about the concept of greasing the groove . I didn’t know it at the time but this was going to be a major step forward in helping me to successfully incorporate physical training into my work day in a way that was meaningful and did not place extra demands on my shrinking reserves of time. This protocol allowed me to look at strength as a skill . That is something you get better at by practicing it. Learning this caused a major shift in what I was thinking. It sounds dumb but I started to look at training as a way to practice being strong as opposed to something I was doing to lose weight. This actually ended up being a major shift in how I was viewing the physical training component of this learning project. In retrospect, I hadn’t started to really put it all together. That would come soon enough.

My next post (Intensity, Interval Training, Body weight Exercises: What I have Learned) marked the point in this project where the lights really turned on. Here is the Cole’s Notes version of what I learned:

1) Intensity is a key factor in physical activity for weight loss.

2) Interval training is a great way to bump up intensity and shorten workout times

3) ” Intense” is different for everyone.

I was going about this all wrong. Here I was slugging it out in the gym lifting weights at a moderate level of intensity when I could have been cutting my training time down and boosting my ability to burn fat. I learned that I needed to get clear on what I wanted out of this process. I initially started out wanting to lose fat and gain lean mass . That was too much. I was going to have to pick one goal here. I chose to go with losing fat. This was another valuable lesson. Get specific with your goals to help you guide your behavior! It is embarrassing typing that. I’m a nurse, I help client’s come up with goals all the time. Yet here I was doing a weight training program to promote muscle growth and wondering why I wasn’t losing weight! My behavior didn’t match my goal. This was when things started to come together for me.

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The Bodyweight Training app was an example of how technology could help me engage in more effective and meaningful training for the purpose of fat loss. It allowed  me to develop a personalized interval training program that I could do anywhere with no equipment.

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Source: https://itunes.apple.com

 

I had mentioned interval training in my earlier posts the cold hard truth is, I obviously wasn’t doing it right. This app changed that. Using it allowed me to increase my intensity and decrease my workout time significantly ( I was training in the gym 45 minutes 4 times a week. This changed to 20 minutes of effective interval training 2 to 3 times a week). This small change got me back on track towards losing weight again.

My post Nutritional Additional helped me to demonstrate a deeper level of learning regarding using the SCD for fat loss, learning how to make cheat days work for me and allowed me to reflect on my experience of using a Facebook support group dedicated to people using the SCD for fat loss. Here is a summary of what I learned :

1. The SCD does offer a variety of whole protein rich foods that can promote fat loss. However, I found the amount of beans and legumes prescribed to be a bit much.

2. Once a week cheat days were not my cup of tea. I learned that I would be better off planning one cheat meal a week. This would allow the benefits of the cheat day in a much more controlled fashion, without the wheels completely falling off.

3. Swapping out starches and simple carbohydrates is an easy way to manage overall carbohydrate intake and increase dietary fiber.

4. Not all social media learning communities are created equal. I gained appreciation for the supportive nature of our Google Plus community as a result of my foray into the world of Facebook groups dedicated to the SCD.

Now for the secret weapon. In my post Protein a Great Whey to Lose Fat? I learned how effective whey protein can be as a supplement to help me lose fat. I was able to learn the difference between 3 common protein supplements ( whey concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate) Here is a summary of points that I learned from the post:

1. Whey is an excellent means of supplementing your diet with extra protein.

2. If your goal is fat loss, the type of protein you select doesn’t really matter. So pick one that is cost-effective and has little side effects.

3. A shaker bottle is portable and means you can have snack or meal pretty much anywhere. I usually mix mine with coconut milk.

Protein helps rev up your metabolism, fills you up and can help curb sugar cravings it also helps to build lean muscle . If your goal is reduction in body fat whey protein can help.

Finally I shared an easy way to prepare chicken that I picked up from a Buzzfeed video. Although I did touch on food preparation in my first post , I felt this was a good example of how social media ( I should mention this showed up on my Facebook feed) helped me to learn an effective method for preparing chicken ( which is was key to my diet).

So there you have it. A summary of the learning I underwent as a result of this project. I apologize for the length. It took longer than expected. I have enjoyed this journey. It really came together in the last 5 weeks or so. I went from being stuck at the 214 to 216 mark to 207.6 lbs as of Monday. I wanted to get to 205, but I’ll take this!  All the best!

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Chicken Ala BuzzFeed: Social Media Inspired Meal Prep.

I just wanted to drop a quick note on meal preparation. This was another area of growth for me. Learning to prepare food quickly and effectively for this diet was key. This trick was a BuzzFeed inspired undertaking. This video came across my Facebook feed and I tried this method of cooking chicken of few times it worked well. That’s right, the people who broke the Trump dossier taught me how to cook chicken. This was an example a unexpected way in which social media contributed to my learning for this project.

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Throw down some parchment paper.
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Add some olive oil.
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Season the chicken. I put salt, pepper and garlic on the right one and paprika and salt and pepper on the left one.
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Bake ’em. For 40 minutes. Remember to flip them half way.
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Eat ’em! There you have it BuzzFeed chicken. Throw in some frozen vegetables and you’re in business.

If you have a chance to watch the video, it presents some pretty interesting ideas on how to prepare low carbohydrate meals. I did this with six chicken breasts. The video gets pretty fancy with asparagus and tomatoes. I’m not that classy. It did allow me to season the chicken in different ways and required very little clean up. I found these types of videos started showing up on my Facebook feed after I started searching for subjects related to the Slow Carb Diet and fitness advice. Thanks Facebook algorithms!

Using this method, I could cook a week’s worth of food quickly with very little clean up. All I needed was some frozen vegetables or a salad and I was ready to go. Talk about your unexpected learning opportunities on social media! Anyway, I thought I’d just add this to the blog, hopefully someone else finds it useful. thanks for reading!

 

 

Protein! A Great Whey to Loose Fat?

I think it is time that I level with the internet. The Slow Carb Diet (SCD) is really just another take on higher protein low carbohydrate diet. I know, I know let’s all try to keep our composure.

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There are many reasons why protein is good for you. What about whey protein? What’s the deal there? Before this project all I knew was that people who go to the gym take protein. Of course I knew protein is needed to build muscles. That was about the extent of my knowledge. Since I’ve been doing this program I’ve used 2 types of protein powder. Whey Gourmet protein isolate and President’s Choice Natural Source whey protein isolate ( both vanilla flavored ). Don’t know what protein isolate means? Neither did I really. Check out this video by The Health Nerd. I found it to be an excellent primer on fat using whey protein for fat loss.

Mmmmmm cheese byproduct fat burning drinks. When you put it that way it doesn’t sound as appealing. Honestly, I did not know there were other options other than protein isolate. Allow me to share a little of what I’ve learned.

Whey concentrate is a cheaper type of protein than the other two discussed in the video. This is makes it a good option for folks looking to supplement their diet without spending a lot of money. Some people have difficulties digesting whey concentrate which can result in bloating and gas.

Whey isolates are quite common but more expensive as compared to the whey concentrates. They are absorbed by the body quickly. Isolates are lower in sugars making them a good fit for low carbohydrate diets.

Hydrolysate protein is very high quality and the most readily absorbed type. It is very easy on digestive tract. It can also be considerably more expensive ( this information is from Bodybuilding.com. The full article can be found here.)

If your main goal is adding muscle, a hydrolysate protein might be ideal. However, like the video says if it is fat loss you are after, the type you choose doesn’t really matter ( it is nice to know about potential side effects as well as potential savings).

As I mentioned I have used two types of protein during this project Whey Gourmet ( a mixture of both whey concentrate and whey isolate) and President’s Choice Natural Source Whey Protein Isolate. Whey Gourmet has 5mg of carbohydrate per a scoop whereas President’s choice has two grams of carbohydrate per scoop and is sweetened with stevia. I found Whey Gourmet blended better. However it was more expensive and I got less product (680g of Whey Gourmet compared to 900g of President’s Choice. I should mention that Whey Gourmet retails for $83.99 for 908g as compared to S35.99 for 900g of President’s Choice).

At that price I’ll take President’s Choice and do a few extra cranks with the old shaker bottle.

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Never underestimate the power of green protein stalks, I read somewhere that’s how The Hulk stays bulked up and a lovely shade of green. Oh, wait that’s celery…carry on.

Speaking of shaker bottles, I bought this beauty at Winners for $6.00. I’m so glad the video mentioned this piece of essential kit. I have a carton of coconut milk in the staff fridge. A scoop or two of whey and I’m on my…whey? That was terrible. Also pictured is my other secret weapon cottage cheese. Although not technically allowed on the  SCD I find it has been a great way for me to fit in 30g of protein (especially within 30 minutes of waking as prescribed by the SCD (which admittedly can be difficult).

Please allow me to summarize what I have learned about whey protein.

1. Whey is an excellent means of supplementing your diet with extra protein.

2. If your goal is fat loss, the type of protein you select doesn’t really matter. So pick one that is cost-effective and has little side effects.

3. A shaker bottle is portable and means you can have snack or meal pretty much anywhere. I usually mix mine with coconut milk.

Protein helps rev up your metabolism, fills you up and can help curb sugar cravings it also helps to build lean muscle . If your goal is reduction in body fat whey protein can help. What do you think? I would be very interested to hear your thoughts. As always thank you for your comments and taking the time to read!

 

Nutritional Additional: What Cheat Days Taught Me About Myself, The Six Pack Tax and Internet Diet Dogma: Lessons from the Slow Carb Diet

This has been quite the ride. If you ever find that your life just isn’t confusing enough, I would highly recommend looking for nutritional information on how to lose body fat on the internet. I’m telling you right now it will set your brain on spin cycle. I’d like to take a moment and talk about some of the points I’ve learned throughout the semester. Here we go!

I started out this journey intent on adhering to the Slow Carb Diet (SCD) as prescribed by Tim Ferriss.

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Here is a simple graphic that sums up the SCD fairly well. (Source: Pintrest)

Generally, the foods are fairly enjoyable. I agree with Ferris that it greatly simplifies the eating process when you eat the same meals repeatedly ( in my case I’ve eaten a lot of chicken breast, chicken thighs and stir fry) I don’t mind the repetitive nature of it. In fact, I find it takes the guess work out of meal preparation. I found the foods quite satisfying.Meals were generally simple and easy to prepare.

Another concept of the Six Pack Tax was also helpful. The Six pack Tax basically is deals with paying extra money to have starches ( like rice or potatoes) substituted with vegetables when you are dining out. It makes sense. Apparently I need to pay more tax because I don’t have a six pack. This concept of replacing starches with vegetables was simple and easy to employ in my own food preparation. Frozen vegetables ( I used a stir fry or Califoria mix) are an afforadable means of adding vegetables to your diet.

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Here are some of the staples I’ve been eating. Eggs, tuna and cottage cheese have been particularly helpful because they are good sources of protein and fairly reasonably priced. I’ll have more information specifically in my next post. Also buying a pork roast and chopping it up, then freezing it in baggies was a cost effective way of adding some protein.
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A big old bag of Costco peas was essential for me. Boil the for nuke them and you have a green side reading to go. The aforementioned frozen vegetables are not pictured but they are an affordable filler that add fiber to my diet.

One challenge I found with the SCD is that Ferriss typically recommends eating a large amount of beans and legumes. There is only one problem. I hate beans. I think it is also fair to say my family hates me on beans. Although there are benefits to eating beans that aide in fat loss, I had trouble with the texture and flavor after a while.

 

 

I can’t believe I’m writing this but I had a lot of difficulty with the cheat day. This is suprising because understandably, this was a feature of the diet I was most looking forward to (I mean the idea of 24 hours a week to eat whatever you want still appeals to my inner 12 year old).

I tried it once and felt like garbage. I actually felt hungover. What’s more, I gained 4 pounds as a result ( this after losing 2 pounds that week).

Again, not actual footage (Source: GIPHY)

I’ve since learned that the gain (and the hangover feeling) in weight I saw was likely in part to the bolus of salt and simple carbohydrates I crammed into my body during the cheat day. Okay, but the psychological effects are undeniable. I ate well, lost some weight, then gained it all back and then some. It was a bit of a downer. So are cheat days worth it? You guessed it! It depends!

 

This video sums up the positives and negatives of cheat days fairly well. Although there are some very real benefits to cheat days, this experience taught me that I didn’t value them as much as my inner 12 year old. For me, it was too much. Too radical a swing in behavior and too contradictory to everything I was doing before the cheat day. I like consistency. I like it in every aspect of my life, including what and how I eat. I guess that’s it. I didn’t  truly understand that until I typed this sentence. I would be better implementing a cheat meal. Something planned where I ate in a shorter designated time (like a single seating). This process makes more sense for me. I could go out for supper and go hard. That way, I have the benefit of a defined time period and I wouldn’t have to contend with having shall we say tempting food in our house. Yes, upon reflection the 24 hour time period was too long and truthfully really wasn’t worth how I felt the next day (very much like a conventional hangover).

I joined a SCD support group on Facebook at the beginning of the semester. I thought it would be a beneficial means of sharing and receiving information information about this approach to eating. There was a lot of that. However, there also was a lot of people telling others everything they were doing wrong and debating the dogmatic tenants of the SCD.

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This is where many have come to worship at the digital alter of Slow Carbology. Also 2.5% effort? I don’t know about that. Learning a new way of eating does take effort. Let us not short change ourselves.

I don’t know, it might be me but after a time I found it a bit irritating. Once you’ve read 50 posts about what people ate on their cheat days, it got old. Also our Google Plus community would put this group to shame. I asked a number of questions and didn’t recieve much in the way of responses. It was a bit disappointing. It sure did make me appriciate our class and our willingness to share and answer each other’s questions. Looking back this has been a very positive example of an online learning network that is supportive, open to sharing thoughts, ideas and information (which in the end is what the class is all about). Without those attributes we could be a bunch people celebrating the fact they ate a whole cheesecake or arguing if a pea is a fruit or not.

Apologies this is a much longer post then intended. Please allow me to summarize what I have learned

1. The SCD does offer a variety of whole protein rich foods that can promote fat loss. However, I found the amount of beans and legumes prescribed to be a bit much.

2. Once a week cheat days were not my cup of tea. I learned that I would be better off planning one cheat meal a week. This would allow the benefits of the cheat day in a much more controlled fashion, without the wheels completely falling off.

3. Swapping out starches and simple carbohydrates is an easy way to manage overall carbohydrate intake and increase dietary fiber.

4. Not all social media learning communities are created equal. I gained appreciation for the supportive nature of our Google Plus community as a result of of my foray into the world of Facebook groups dedicated to the SCD.

That is all for now. Again I apologize for the length of the post. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bodyweight Training App: A Review

In my last post, I wrote about my experience with interval training. In this post I would like to review an app that has been helpful in allowing me to use a body weight interval workout routine it is called the Bodyweight Training App by Mark Lauren . Let’s take a look at it shall we?

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The title screen for the app give you two options, you can choose from a number of body weight workouts that come with the app, or you can build your own to suit your skill and fitness level ( that has been my approach). The exercises option gives you video of how to perform over 200 exercises.
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This is the selection screen for exercises. You can learn how to perform exercises from any of these categories. The progressions option gives you step by step plans for mastering some of the more challenging movements (e.g. pull ups, handstand push ups and one-armed pushups).

 

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You can build your own workouts based on your own skill and fitness level. You can then add them to your favorites list.
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This is a simple 3 exercise interval routine I made using the workout builder option. One feature I really like is that the app doesn’t just act as an interval timer. You track how many repetitions you complete each round.  Personally, I like this because it makes me focus on how many repetitions I am doing rather than wondering when the round will end. It sounds like a minor difference, but I swear it makes a big difference.

I will mention that this program works on 1 minute intervals for each exercise with the goal of 12 to 14 repetitions per an exercise. The faster I complete the repetitions the more time I have to rest between sets. I find this to be an interesting way of approaching interval training. It encourages intensity almost by using rest as an incentive ( I hope that makes sense). I find this to be quite effective. I should mention that these intervals are repeated 3 times for each exercise. On paper this doesn’t look like much but, I don’t mind telling you that I find it challenging.

 

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The app comes with a number of guided workouts that you can perform over a 10 week period. Again, these programs are arranged in a progressive manner. The app also supplies a quick workouts option. With this option the app randomly assigns a 4 exercise Tabata workout based on your fitness level and the length of time you want to workout.

Strengths: Overall, I found this app quite intuitive and easy to use. As mentioned I think a real strength is the way exercises are presented in a progressive way that allows for people of different fitness levels to perform these exercises. The other feature of the app that is helpful is that all of the workouts are adaptable. If you need to alter any of the workouts you can (e.g. add/remove exercises and rounds and alter interval times to suit your needs). The videos and written descriptions of the are helpful. Using this app has taken the guesswork out-of-body weight training for me.  The app also syncs with Apple music  to supply a song list to play during the workout. The app can also link with the Health app on Iphones to track activity (the app is also available for Android).

Limitations:  I the workout history  feature a bit lacking. It simply tracks the exercise you performed and the number of repetitions. This could be strengthened by supplying a graph or some kind of visual to help the user track their progress.The app also is not connected with the Bodyweight training blog which you can find here. Again it is a small detail but I think it would add to the user experience. The cost was also a bit high at $7.99.

Even considering the above limitations I would recommend this app to anyone interested in incorporating body weight exercises into their training regimen. For those of you who are interested please feel free to few this video I made demonstrating the progression ( beginner to intermediate, I’m not at advanced yet )of the exercises I’m using in my workout. I thought it would give you a better understanding of what the Bodyweight Training App offers. Plus you don’t have to shell out 8 bucks.

As always, thank-you for your comments and suggestions. A shout out to Shelby for her mention of the Nike Training Club app for those of you interested in a free fitness app! Thanks again for reading and try not to laugh too hard if you watch the video. Also a big thanks to my friend Dan for helping me film this ( follow him at @Dan_Lee80 . He’s awesome.) Happy push ups everyone!

NOTE: In the video I mention that dips work your lats. Although, they are recruited a bit in the movement of your shoulders a pulling excercise would probably work better ( i.e. a pull up of lat pull down) Sorry. It was a long day at work.

 

All I want to Do is a Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!

This week I wanted to write a review of Zoom, the web conferencing platform we use for our class. I have to say I have been extremely impressed with this service.

I have found it very easy to use. The app is easy to set up and I had little trouble orientating myself to the features of the service. The group chat is easy to use. I have never hosted a meeting but from what have seen, the process for capturing video and screen sharing seem quite seamless. I know many of you are reading this and saying to yourself, why is Matt so impressed that a video conferencing system just works? Well, gather around and let me tell you a tale.

I work in a small psychiatric nursing program. It is a two and a half year diploma during which our students are in four rural sites for their second year clinical placements. The majority of their class content is taught from Regina via video conferencing. The problem is more often then not we experience trouble with the equipment. There are a number of issues to contend with. In two of our sites we are interfacing with a video conferencing system in health regions that do not use the same equipment that our school does. This can result in connectivity issues and presents challenges for faculty looking for technical support.

In the final analysis these challenges can result in lost class time for students and faculty and place an increased demand on our information technology support as they need to be on hand to try and troubleshoot the challenges.

Then we used Zoom. Like I said. It just worked. I was able to orientate myself to it simply by signing into the room and playing around with the features. I found the interface easy to use. The video and sound controls are intuitive (the only issue I had was having was remembering to shut off my audio when I sign into the meeting room.

 

 

 

 

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I found the Zoom interface extremely easy to navigate. Source: http://commons.aaahq.org

The other aspect of the Zoom service that I found surprising was the cost. I had the opportunity to chat with Alec regarding the cost for the service and how it is incorporated at the university of Regina.

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Based on the size of our program, we could likely implement Zoom for the cost of one of these plans. Source: zoom.us

Based on these numbers in the business package  we could utilize Zoom for roughly $3500 US dollars a year ( which converts to $4448 Canadian dollars). This would likely be more cost effective then the current arrangement. Given this estimate Zoom could be an viable option for meeting our video conferencing needs.

When I look at Zoom as a service I see a reliable cloud based video conferencing system that is simple to operate (based on my experience). It appears to be an affordable option as well. As a student, I appreciate that it is free for me to use the service. I have had very few issues using Zoom. I have had to re sign into a meeting once or twice  during the semester. I did have some difficulty with the audio (I could hear others in the class but they could not hear me) towards the end of one meeting, but at that time my wifi was spotty at best. One criticism of Zoom that I found is that it currently lacks a real time document sharing option . If this was necessary, a person could choose to use a google doc to meet this need.

What are your thoughts? Has anyone else out there found effective solutions to the challenges of videoconferencing? Let me know! Thanks for reading!