Monday, January 30

21 Days To Form A Habit | Virgin Active Gym Experience


I've just completed my first consultation with a Personal Trainer and I'm here to share my journey with you over the next month. So, *deep breath* here's to being one of those people joining a gym first week of January! Not going to lie, I'm nervous and excited all rolled into one...

Before I begin, I've never really been a committed gym-goer. For various reasons, I've always just quit out of boredom, laziness or lack of results. I'm not a quitter normally, and I know I enjoy fitness (otherwise I wouldn't join to begin with!), but have really lacked the right place to suit me and right time in my life too. I've also had a bad back and injured it end of last year, so I put fitness on hold until my chiropractor said so.

I've recently become in a position that I work from home/freelance and I don't move much! I'd like to lose a little bit of weight, strengthen my back, and generally feel fitter, with higher energy levels to get me up and out. Plus, I'd like to have the gym as part of my lifestyle and routine. Especially now I'm alone more and working from home.


Just before Christmas, Virgin Active got in touch and asked if I'd like to try their gym in 2017. They have kindly provided me with a complimentary membership and six PT sessions in return for sharing my experience in this post. They say it takes 21 days to turn a goal into a habit, and have challenged me to form a long lasting one which makes me feel good. I have a simple goal: to visit twice a week. My personal trainer and I felt twice is a good goal, with the aim to increase to three if I can.

This is a completely honest and open experience I'm sharing, from a very unfit 22 year old girl looking to change her fitness and more importantly, lifestyle! I don't want the gym to feel like a chore, I really want to enjoy it. I want to learn how to use the equipment correctly, see (and feel) results, and visit regularly. It would have been silly of me not to accept this opportunity and experience. So...LET'S DO THIS!

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WEEK ONE

Wednesday 4th Jan
I'd never been to a Virgin Active before but was very kindly greeted by the staff and shown around. With a great sized gym, an indoor and outdoor pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, tennis/squash courts and a restaurant (with free wifi!), I'm already totally in love with the place.

I met with James, my new Personal Trainer, to discuss my goals. He gave me three things to work on including cooking a couple of meals from scratch, aiming to visit the gym twice a week, increase my water intake and decrease my caffeine. James has recommend Green Tea, and dusting off my Lean In 15 book to help encourage me to cook.

Our first session starts next Monday, so as I was there and dressed in my gym gear, I went for a power walk for half an hour on the treadmill. I would have gone longer but it's been a while since I've worn my gym trainers and they started to give me blisters. Ha. What a novice. After a brief session, I sat and worked from the restaurant and got a good feel for the atmosphere. So far, I feel pretty content and excited to get started. Until then, I might squeeze another session in later this week.


Thursday 5th Jan
The next day. I'm back already. I didn't take much convincing did I? I had a real urge to get out the house and decided to spontaneously go late afternoon. I did 1 hour on the running machine and cross trainer. I did it. And I enjoyed it. Win.

Sunday 8th Jan
I couldn't resist any longer and went for swim. It's a Sunday evening, so the pool was nice and quiet and I had the 'slow lane' all to myself for lengths up and down. I went at my own pace, before enjoying the sauna after. The changing rooms have beautiful power showers (with a really nice body wash!), and a mini tumble dryer for you swimwear! I sat and dried my hair with the GHD Hair Dryer and Straighteners, whilst I tweeted that I think I'm going to spend more time showering and getting ready here than at home it's so nice. I felt pretty fab coming home and ready for a good nights sleep.

TOTAL VISITS: 3

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WEEK TWO

Monday 9th Jan
MY LEGS. Oh myyy. I casually said goodbye to James but my legs felt like jelly as I walked down the stairs. I actually had to hold the handrail. Ha! He didn't push me too hard, but hard enough to obviously feel the burn. More importantly, I really enjoyed it. We took my measurements and we'll do them again in 3 weeks time. The 1 hour session consisted of a range of exercises James had me trying including the Woodway Curve, a self powered treadmill, using no motors or buttons. We also did lunges using a ViPR, TRX ropes/suspension trainer, a few machines, a Stability Ball to bring over my head and lower to the ground into a squat on each side, and finally some stretches using the Power Plate. I worked from the restaurant again and ordered Fajitas for dinner. Their food menu is amazing, super tasty, so many great choices and really good value for money too.


Tuesday 10th Jan
James encouraged me to keep my body moving so my muscles don't seize up. Despite feeling pretty tired after yesterday, I accepted the challenge and went for a power walk on the treadmill and the Curve. My legs were too sore to run but I walked fast enough and inclined the machine to get my heart rate up. Headphones on with my new motivational playlist on Spotify. 

I also bought new gym clothes today. There's nothing quite like a new outfit to keep you motivated, right? Plus, I've found I'm naturally living in my gym bottoms and sports bras now, they're the first pieces of clothing I put on in the morning. I'm a changed woman and it's only been a week.

Thursday 12th Jan
What a great day! I told James my quads have been killing, so we started the session using a Foam Roller to massage them and release the knots. It really helped and I was then ready to start our session. We took to the battle ropes and despite how hardcore they were, I really enjoy them! We did frog squats and crawling back and forth on all fours across the grid, used the TRX ropes again for some side lunges, before my first time trying dumbbells! James was right behind me to adjust my grip, reposition my wrists and most importantly, keep pushing me with support and encouragement. We finished up with some stretches. I wasn't quite ready to leave today though, so I did 25 lengths of the pool in about half an hour. I even dipped into the outside pool which was really refreshing, as the air was cold but the pool was warm. 

I was so pumped that I spent two hours working from the restaurant again. What a surprise. Notice a routine yet? I managed to get my account and Virgin app all set up today too, so booked a Body Balance class for Saturday. I've never tried it before, but was sold on the description about being a mix of Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi, which relaxes your mind as you control your body and breathing. I'm really looking forward to giving it a go.


Saturday 14th Jan
My first class and I loved it! It was face paced, lots of stretching and the instructor Gabby was really nice. I got chatting to some ladies next to me who made me feel at ease. It really tested my balance and I felt really good after. Can't wait to go again next week!

Sunday 15th Jan
I went to bed at 2.30am last night after several glasses of rosé, but still managed an hour session today! My legs were jelly by the time I finished my last lengths of the pool. I practised my backstroke and front stroke too and absolutely loved it. This is my 5th session this week, bearing in mind my goal is twice a week, I don't think I'm doing too badly.

TOTAL VISITS: 5



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WEEK THREE


Tuesday 17th Jan
I woke up and didn't feel 100% today, but was determined to make my PT session. Power through and all. James and I did circuits and I have to admit, it's the first time I've felt absolutely EXHAUSTED. We alternated between lunges with the ViPR, squatting with a weighted ball and battle ropes. We completed a round, had a quick breath, then started over. It’s fast, challenging and perfect if you want to mix up training or switch it up a gear. I felt unbelievably tired, and James recommend trying the Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Avocado bagel for lunch, with a peppermint green tea.

Thursday 19th Jan
I was booked for a PT session this morning but James was poorly. As I was up, dressed and already eaten a banana at 6.30am, I went anyway and absolutely loved the feeling of getting up and out so early. I was heading to London later that day, and it was really nice to start my morning with a workout and swim. I took to the outside pool again too, following the jacuzzi and sauna.

Friday 20th Jan
I ate really badly whilst in London (cocktails, pizza at 1am and a McMuffin breakfast...sorry James.) I felt the guilt so came home, worked until 5pm, and honestly couldn't wait to go to the gym. I've never looked forward to something so much.

Sunday 22nd Jan
Body Balance again! I loved the class so much and saw the same ladies from last week. I did cardio and a swim after, and tried the berry protein smoothie. SO good. I was pretty much in the gym for most of the day and when I got home, Virgin had kindly sent a week's worth of food from Soulmatefood. I can't wait to have so many delicious dishes during my final week of PT sessions!

TOTAL VISITS: 4


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WEEK FOUR

Tuesday 24th Jan
Another hour session with James today. We did lots of similar things but he mixed it up and taught me deadlifting. My back was a bit sore, so we worked on my glutes and used a barbell for hip thrusts whilst leaning my shoulder against a block. In comparison to my first couple of sessions, I didn't feel too burnt out today. Received a nice encouraging 'well done for today' text from James too.

Thursday 26th Jan
The best session so far. James repeated some circuits we did last week and to both of our surprise, my stamina was much much better. I found I wasn't as tired, so we pushed through and got way more done in the hour! I played an hour of Tennis with my brother after, before finishing up with a competitive swim in the outside pool. We stayed for lunch and I left feeling so good.

Friday 27th Jan
Today is my last personal training session with James. I'm honestly a bit gutted, as I've really enjoyed training with him. I doubt this will be our last one though! We took my measurements and had a great session lifting kettlebells, using the leg press and cable triceps. James asked I removed my shoes during leg presses, as my right foot was turning in. We noticed that bare feet was better for me, and I had much more control. I then did Body Balance again and felt ready for the weekend!

Sunday 29th Jan
All on my own now! I did an hour in the gym with the knowledge I'd picked up from James, then hit the pool for 20 lengths, before feeling very ready to take a nap. It was so refreshing to spend my morning at Virgin, I even had lunch with a new friend I've made since joining, who's encouraged me to join her for workouts and classes. We're going to battle the weights area together, and we've even booked a day to London for next week to get to know each other outside of the gym too. Who knew I'd meet new friends?

TOTAL VISITS: 4
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Results
It was important to me to track my success and measure my goals when I've worked so hard! James and I always agreed it was better to track by measuring my arms, legs, waist and hips in centimeters, but I did weigh myself too. Virgin have Boditrax machines which allow you to see your body fat percentage and BMI, with an app to login from anywhere too. I absolutely adore it. I've lost 6 pounds since starting, half a stone! We also saw 12cm overall off my body, with 5cm off my hips. I still have a long way to go, but I'm really pleased with the results.



Personal Training
I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the gym in general, and was relieved to know I had someone to show me what to do. As I have a bad back, it's really important my workouts are tailored so I don't injury myself again, something James was always very aware and good at acknowledging.

His style of personal training made me appreciate that fitness and exercise doesn't have to be painful or a chore necessarily. You can really go at your own pace, with your own style, and still get results. I really needed James to show me how enjoyable the gym can be, and push me to limits I didn't even know I had.

I also didn't realise how much I'd appreciate the little things during our sessions, including the way he'd time/count for me, encourage me to keep going or tell me when I only had 10 seconds left etc. I need this style of motivation, because I'm so rubbish at motivating myself to stop and start a rep or set. He also appreciated when I might need water/a rest as after all, I am mega unfit! Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say. He understood I'm not superwoman, but he pushed me just enough that I could feel the burn and enjoy it at the same time.

I also wanted to add that I wasn't injured once during the whole month, and have James to thank for keeping a watch on my wrists, turned toes and a bent back. We used foam rollers and gentle stretches to keep my muscles and body happy, with rest days to recover too.

James, if you're reading this, thank you so much. You're ace.



MONTHLY VISIT GOAL: 8

TOTAL MONTHLY VISITS: 16


Socialising
As I mentioned, I made a new friend during my first month here (thank you Olga!) and I'm really looking forward to continuing my fitness journey with her motivation and support. It can be really daunting when you're still new, and it's nice to form new friendships. I liked seeing the same ladies in my Body Balance class each week too, and even started to recognise some of the other PT's and Fitness Coaches, who kindly asked how I was getting on (shoutout and cheers to Dean for the extra encouragement!).

Support
I have to say a HUGE thank you to all my friends, family, manager, subscribers and fellow Virgin Bloggers for your support and encouragement. (Special thank you to Charlotte, Charlie, John & Ed, you guys well and truly smashed it!) There is something really special about having people say "well done" or "you've inspired me to exercise!", so thank you if you've left a nice message to me on any of my videos or social media, it hasn't gone unnoticed.

Diet & Food
I've naturally wanted to eat better and 'make better choices' due to working out. I've loved Bounce Protein Bars (I bought a bulk load...24 to be exact), Green Tea, Satsumas for snacking, Peanut Butter & Apples and using my Rogue One Star Wars cup for upping my water intake. It might sound crazy, but it's a solid colour bottle, and I can't see how much water is left, meaning I drink loads through the straw all day. Having meals from HelloFresh & SoulmateFood was amazing, it kept me on track and encouraged me to cook from scratch. I'm now really concious of what I eat, as I don't want to ruin all my hard work. My wine, chocolate and sugar intake has dramatically decreased, and I'm now exploring the world of protein shakes and meal prepping. I know, it's mad. But also really great.

Clothing
I have LOVED shopping for new gym gear this month. It's almost getting a bit silly how much I now own. I've found my favourite brands are Pink Soda (JD Sport), ASDA, Sports Direct and H&M. You don't have to spend a lot to look and feel good. Tip: if you're buying new leggings, trying squatting in them in the changing rooms first. Trust me! I also picked up a new swimming costume from Primark, and I'm saving for a nicer pair of Nikes moving forward. I got a mega cheap yoga mat and water bottle from TK Maxx, and other purchases included Kayla Itsines 28 Day Healthy Eating Lifestyle Guide, Joe Wicks Workout DVD, a skipping rope, several fitness apps and a mini microfibre towel. I was also kindly gifted Bath Salts from Westlab to help with my muscles.

Forming A Habit
I think it's fair to say I smashed my 'twice a week' goal, going double what I imagined. I learnt over the month that it's not just about the fitness for me, the gym really has helped battle my loneliness, and gives me a place of purpose to get out the house. I now enjoy working, eating, relaxing, swimming, socialising, learning, meditating, escaping, laughing, sweating and most importantly, smiling when I'm there. Virgin is such a great all-round club, it honestly feels like my second home. I can't wait to work on my fitness, build my stamina, continue seeing results and making the gym a place I WANT to go to. In all honestly, I feel like I've only just begun.


Huge thank you to Virgin Active for quite literally, changing my life. I honestly don't know what I'd do without the gym now, and will continue to be a huge advocate and stick to my new habit! Plus, if you're thinking of joining the gym or getting into fitness just remember, if I can do it, so can you. Don't let anyone tell you differently. "Believe you can and you are halfway there."

*This post is kindly sponsored by Virgin Active, who have gifted me a yearly membership.
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Sunday, January 29

A Better Night's Sleep | This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray


My sleeping pattern has been all over the place recently. I started as a freelancer this month and therefore work really random hours, often avoid setting an alarm, and have struggled to switch off. This doesn't help that I'm clearly lacking routine and not leaving my work behind at 5pm anymore, but I joined a gym and have been working out a lot, so I thought that might make me absolutely exhausted when it came to falling asleep at night. I read, I put my phone away, I drink lots of water, but I've still struggled. A few weeks ago, I grabbed my favourite product for solving my sleeping, and it hasn't left my bedside table since. The Deep Sleep Pillow Spray* by This Works.

We all know how important it is to have a good night's sleep. It's crucial for our mind, body, routine, general well being, and even our skin. This period of physical and mental rest is when our skin moves into repair mode. It creates new cells, replaces aged cells, removes harmful toxins and renews the skin. If sleep is disturbed, this whole process is thrown off. Hence the reason behind the creation of the Deep Sleep Pillow Spray.

Since This Works launched this genius product in 2011, it has become a global bestseller, with its impact felt in many countries including the US, Australia, Germany and France. But the question is, does it actually work?


This Works initiated its second large independent user trial with over 200 people with sleep issues in July 2014, with the following clinically proven study results:

99% slept better than normal**
89% fell asleep faster**
98% felt more refreshed in the morning**
100% would recommend to a friend with a sleep issue**

The product is infused with 100% natural essential oils of Lavender, Vetivert and Wild Camomile, and smells exactly as relaxing as how you imagine. It's not a synthetic scented lavender, but one you'd expect in a spa or hotel. Really luxurious.

You simply spray onto your pillow or bed cover before you go to sleep, and use to promote rest and relaxation. The spray bottle has a really good nozzle too (if that doesn't sound too mad!), you only need a few spritz and it distributes the product nice and evenly. For me, it instantly helped calm my body and mind, and prepared me for a much better night’s sleep than I've been having. I've been waking up feeling so fresh and full of energy the next morning, that leaving the house at 6am for a 7am gym session is proving much easier!

I can't rave about this product enough. It really is a bedside table essential, and I've recommended it to my mum, who has gone and purchased it for friends too. So if you're struggling to sleep at the moment, this one's for you.


EXCLUSIVE TO QVC. LAUNCHES FEBRUARY 1ST 2017.

*This post is kindly sponsored by This Works however, I have been using this product for months and genuinely adore it.
**In a study of 217 men and women versus a placebo.

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Monday, January 23

HelloFresh | Classic Box Review


I admit, I'm not much of a cook. I live alone and often struggle with inspiration, motivation and ultimately, the fundamental practice of producing a meal from scratch. I'm on a health kick/fitness journey right now, where I'm going to the gym several times a week. I'm MEGA HUNGRY all the time (much more than normal) and my personal trainer is trying to drill a better diet into me.

So when HelloFresh got in touch and asked if I'd like to try a box, I quickly said "YES PLEASE!". I was up for the challenge! It arrived in a large brown biodegradable box, with great, recognisable branding.

How does it work?
Every week, Head Chef Patrick and his team create new recipes with photos of every step for you to cook quick, delicious, nutritious meals at home. You don't have to worry about the planning or creation, just the easy home cooking and eating bit. (Which is what I do best).

HelloFresh help you to scrap the supermarket shop. They source all the ingredients for your recipes from some legendary suppliers, and pack the exact quantities you need. There’s no waste and they hunt down speciality produce that you won’t find in the supermarkets.

Then it's delivered! You pick either a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Thursday and it's free. No added delivery costs. Woo!

Finally, it's time to cook. Using the step-by-step recipe cards, it makes the whole process really damn easy.


The fridge food and meats came in a bag with a 100% wool liner, so you can put them on your compost heap. However, if you don't have one like me, and you want to recycle these beautiful liners, you can send them back for free. They also use ice packs which are completely non-toxic, filled with water and nothing else. Once again, recyclable!

On first impressions, all the meat looks really fresh and great quality, so I didn't even hesitate to pop it all in my fridge and look forward to cooking.


I went for the Classic box with three meals, and was really impressed with how you can see what recipes are available for that week, and the week ahead. You can even download the recipes for free from their website!

Everything looked really colourful, tasty and I LOVED how it was individually bagged according to each meal. Talk about making your life really easy.


Ta da! I MADE A MEAL. From scratch. Admittedly I didn't have a rolling pin or flour, and the clingfilm and wine bottle trick didn't quite hack it, so my pizza was pretty thick! Nonetheless, I DID IT. It was really easy, took around half an hour and most importantly, tasted really good too. There was enough for two people, so I saved the rest for lunch the next day.

It's £39 for a box however, if you use my code 'HelloBrogan', you can get £25 off your first one! Making it an absolute bargain to give it a go. So, what are you waiting for? Getting cooking with me and order yourself a HelloFresh box! You won't regret it.




*This post is kindly sponsored by HelloFresh.
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Saturday, January 21

Why I Like The Contraceptive Pill


Oooh, slightly controversial topic from me but one I've wanted to discuss for a while. There's been lots of new research, debate and general information about connections to a higher risk of cancer by taking the Pill, with a lot of people making the decision to come off it.

I'm a huge advocate for the pill, it's worked well for me for years, and I think it's important more people start talking about these kind of topics. 

I totally understand everyone is different, you might have a different form or contraception of none at all, I'm just here to share my own story and experience. 

Enjoy! Please share with anyone who might find this interesting!

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Monday, January 16

Citroën C1 | The Perfect Urban Car


The Citroën C1 is such a perfect little car. Despite it's size, it's fun, really comfortable and has never let me down. Having owned a C1 for years now, I feel pretty confident in sharing this review for you.

Before we begin, let me share a quick back story.

When I turned seventeen and learnt to drive, my first car of a choice was a C1. I looked at lots of brands and styles but chose the C1 for it's neat little size (especially for parking!), style, comfort, fuel efficiency and other general low costs like insurance and no road tax.

6 years later and I'm on my THIRD C1. That's right, I've had three.

I got my first one on a two-year finance. Once the two years were up, I turned nineteen and upgraded my white one (see a pic at the bottom of this post!) for a grey version with alloy wheels and a bluetooth system, it was beautiful. I told the salesman in Citroën that I thought I'd be bored of the same car after 4 years, and there was no way would I want another C1...

...Yet there I was, two years later, in the garage upgrading it again. This time, Citroën had made some mega improvements and I was instantly sold. There was no other competition for me. The C1 had my heart and it was time to upgrade! I picked the 5 door 1.2 PureTech Feel, in a new blue colour, with a mini-convertible roof (aka the Airspace), with a three year finance deal because I adored it so much.


Design
The Citroën C1 is known for being a car of bright, original styling. I was quite particular about the colour of mine however, and wanted a sleek blue with black contrasting, silver dashboard, and pin stripe seats. The blue colour continues between the windscreen and side windows. As a final touch of modern, urban chic, it is also available with 15’’ alloy wheels.

There are eight eye-catching body colours to choose from, including Blue Lagoon and Lipizzan White, and LED daytime-running lights. The vertical lights on the front create an upbeat, hi-tech light signature that showcases the car's style and innovative character.

The dashboard is designed in clean, uncluttered lines, and has a 7 inch touch-screen system built in. I make calls and play the radio and my music via this, with some newer models having navigation connected for maps too.

Airscape
The Airscape soft-top is great for the city and available in 5-door versions. It was a no-brained going for this option for me! The exceptionally large top is made of canvas and has easy-to-use opening/closing controls. It's never leaked on me when it's rained, and I've never had problems opening and closing it. During the winter, it's absolutely fab having it open and driving by the beach. I've seen lots of other people in Bournemouth do the same.


Comfort
Designed to make everyday life easier, the functional 780 litres boot is easy to access, with the parcel shelf lifting out of the way when the tailgate is opened. The back seats easily fold down too for extra space. I can get all my food shopping, clothes shopping and bits and bobs in here, but store a blanket, de-icer, scraper, cleaning clothes and a first aid kit where the spare wheel is nicely hidden under the boot. 

The car also has a range of features available that are designed for extra comfort, including air conditioning, height-adjustable driver's seat and multiple storage compartments.



Road Holding & Safety

The C1 delivers a really enjoyable driving experience on all types of road, with great suspension and comfort whatever the circumstances. I honestly believe it is one of the most versatile and compact city cars on the market. With six airbags as standard, (front, side, curtain) and an ESP system that keeps it on course if it loses grip, I never feel unsafe. Fitted as standard, the hill-start feature can be very useful in Bournemouth town centre or when leaving an underground car park, as it holds the car steady for two seconds for an easy start on slopes. Due to it's nifty size, I find the car really easy to park too.



Prices
It terms of price, I paid an upfront deposit with a monthly fixed fee. At the end of my finance, I always get the choice to either upgrade to a new model (part-exchange) or pay the 'balloon payment' to keep the car, which I hope to be the plan by March 2018, as I've previously exchanged my last ones.

My insurance is around £200 a year, which is really low for a 22 year old with 4 years no-claim bonus. A full tank of fuel is around £36, which honestly lasts me ages. Sometimes up to two weeks! There's no road tax, and I don't pay MOT as it's a new car. It goes for a service after the first year or once it's done 10,000 miles, which costs around £200. I have Citroën roadside assist, where I can call a number and someone will come out to me! I've needed this once when my battery failed, and it was replaced and fixed really quickly.

Overall
I love my car and I love to drive. I've done 12,000 miles in two years and took it to Watford recently, the further drive I've done with total ease. If you're looking for a nice little Urban Car, maybe your first car or a run-around with kids, then then C1 is for you.

If you're interested in discovering more about the C1, visit citroen.co.uk here.


Rounding up this post with a picture of me back in 2011, aged 17, with my first C1. 
My pride and joy!
*This post is kindly sponsored by Citroen.
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