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Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Cliff

Picture yourself standing on a cliff. Look over the edge and realize that you don’t want to step over the edge. You step over the edge and you are dead. Plain and simple you fall to your death. One step forward and its lights out. Forever.

Do you take that step?

Do you?

Pretty stupid question.

Or is it?

Let me ask the question again. You are standing on the edge of a cliff looking over the abyss. One step forward and you die. Do you take that step?

Before you answer let’s add one more element to the equation.

Your family is standing there with you; your spouse; your kids; your parents and siblings.

You are standing on the cliff. Do you take that step?

Of course you don’t.

Now let’s look at it a different way. You are a mile away from the cliff. You can’t see the cliff. You know it’s out there but you aren’t sure where. Do you take a step in that direction? Two steps? Three steps? The cliff is out there but you have no idea how far. How many steps do you take today?


The next day?

How far is the cliff?

You may have figured out by now that I am not talking about a cliff. I am talking about the end of your life. Death will come to all of us. The manner that it arrives may be unknown but the end result is. Death is out there. Just like the cliff.

Somewhere it’s out there.

If you were to do one simple thing that meant your death would you do it?

Would you step off the cliff?

If drinking a Diet Coke was sure to kill you would you drink it?

What if drinking the Diet Coke brought you one step closer to the cliff would you drink it? How far away is the cliff?

Did you ever notice that not as many older people smoke? Why is that? Well it’s because people eventually realize that smoking pushes you closer and closer to the cliff. Eventually we just get it. When though?

Picture life as walking down a path. The beauty and joy is all around you. Your journey through life is along the path. Every night as you lie down for sleep you first have to fast forward a set certain distance based on what you did to accelerate your life. If you smoke or due drugs you miss a few steps. If you drink Diet Coke or doughnuts then it’s a few more steps.

The journey down the path can be wonderful but for you it just keeps getting harder. The weeds get higher and the rains bring mud. Sickness looms. You get hurt. You get poison ivy. Darkness prevails.

For every dark day there are days of sunshine and warmth. The path is clear. The path is easy to follow. The good seems to last forever.

I hope that you understand the path of life metaphor.

We are all on this journey. Now I want you to think of it in yet another way before I tie together the whole analogy.

Picture the path having forks. You decide which fork to take based on basic information. Sometimes it is clear and sometimes it isn’t as clear. There are, however, always choices. Some choices are simply lessons and some choices change your path altogether.

Some of your paths may be tough but those are the paths that you chose.

Back to the cliff.

Standing on the cliff none of us would take that last step.

Most of us will take the step that brings us 10,000 steps closer when we can’t see the cliff.

Life is here for YOU to enjoy and appreciate. You get one shot at it. There is no manual BUT there are some simple rules. Actually I have 3 simple rules.

Before I state the rules I will give you one caveat. The cliff will come. You will get to the edge of the cliff and be forced off; THAT you have no control over. When will you reach your cliff?

Well I can tell you that it will take a lot longer if stop RUNNING at it.


1. Have a GREAT attitude. I talk about this all the time. If your attitude sucks then so do you. Be positive and you will be positive. Think the worst and the worst will come. Accepts life’s challenges and relish in anticipation for the next one. Live for the day and remember that your future is perfect. Attitude is EVERYTHING. Live this.

2. MOVE your body. When you lie down tonight to sleep ask yourself this question: Did I move my body in a functional manner today for a least an hour? Did I walk? Did I sweat? If you answer no that you just lost a day off the back end. May not seem like much now but in 10 years you’ve lost 10 years that you can’t get back. That sucks. Move your body for at least 60 minute per day.

3. NOURISH your body the right way. For every snack, soda, alcoholic beverage, or serving of processed food you have today you stripped away an hour from your life. (I made up this number, by the way. Same with the one above. This is to prove a point not be scientific) The hours will add up. I promise you this.

This is what we all need to do. As you lie down to bed at night evaluate you performance in the 3 areas above. Did you have a good attitude today? Do you move today? Did you nourish yourself in the right way today?

If you have any “no” answers then you need to change that tomorrow. Do that every day like you KNOW. Ask and answer the questions like the cliff is coming. You will move towards the cliff. This you cannot change. It’s the speed that you can work with. Take a slow stroll towards the end and enjoy life so it gets here at the proper time.

Do you have this all in your mind now?

Do you understand what I am saying?

Good. Now envision your kids watching and following you. When are they going to get to their cliff?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I like it when people get results. Being better on week 12 than week one is the absolute pinnacle of fitness success.

No education today. No cleaver quotes. No research. Today it’s cold, hard facts.

People succeeding. Awesome.

In 12 weeks Ellie, a lady in her late 4o’s improved her push-ups score from 17 to 52 and her sit-up score 34-62. Nice.

Christine proved that hard work and effort can move mountains. While losing 12 lbs she improved her mile time by one minute! Also, her push-up score went from 15 to 41! That’s fantastic!

Kim Baggett has been an amazing success story. Kim made a commitment to improve and improve she did! Here is what she did in the course of 6 weeks by COMMITTING to doing well in a team challenge: (in her own words cut and pasted!)

Did 1,000 burpees
Did 2 5K races
I came to four of your workouts a week for 10 weeks of the challenge (missed only one day).
I brought 1 friend to the program (Jim)
I came to two of your workouts in one day.
I am your friend on Facebook, joined the fan page “Lake County Spring Trail Running Series” and joined “The Fitness Journey”.
I did 100 burpees in one day 2 times.

How is that for getting it done big time? Oh yeah. At the first assessment she couldn’t do the whole mile so she did a half mile in 6:03. Last night she ran the entire mile in 11:20. Her push-up score improved from 39 to 61. I guess the icing on the cake was the 14 lbs that she lost. Make sure to check out her story at:

Shane Sherman lost 9 lbs in 12 weeks. Nice. Going from 27 to 85 with his push-up total was more impressive though. Shane is a runner but still managed to improve his mile time by 44 seconds. Unbelievable!

What a trooper Darlene has been! She has worked so hard! In the first assessment she, like Kim, didn’t even try the whole mile. Last night she RAN the whole thing in 10:23! Darlene also did her first 5k a couple of weeks ago and it was a trail race! I guess the fact that her push-up score improved from 49 to 70 is pretty good as well. I guess. (!!!)

Losing 5 lbs is no easy task for ladies that are already less than 130 lbs. That’s just what Shellie Gold did! From 40 push-ups to 60 push-ups is no small task as well. Oh it gets better. Mile: 13:44 to 11:05. Holy CRAP. Wow! That’s over 2 and a half minutes! AMAZING!

Cindy did some amazing herself. Losing 5 lbs is a good. Improving form 22 to 50 with push-ups is nice. 30 to 53 with sit-ups is a good score. Cindy is another person that really improved with her running. First assessment was a half mile in 7:14. 12 weeks later she did the entire mile in 11:36. Who says that you can’t improve when you are in your mid-50’s!!

Dana Jones improved both push-ups and sit-ups. 32-46 and 30-46 respectively.
Shawna Sherman at the first assessment did 40 push-ups on her knees. In just 12 weeks she went from her knees to full push-ups on her toes and did 10 more. That’s right; she blasted out 50 MAN push-ups! That’s AWESOME!

The results I just listed: They were spectacular!

Is this a culmination of years of hard work? No.

Are all these people from all the years that I’ve been doing this fitness thing? No.
This was last night and three months ago. This was one class.

Almost everyone is the program had a spectacular result. Some people like Kim (14lbs) , Cara (10lbs), Shane (9 lbs), Karen (6 lbs in 4 weeks), and Kelly (8 lbs in 4 weeks) have lost weight.

Others have gains strength.

Still others have gained endurance. Improving your mile time by 45 seconds or more?

That’s crazy.

Hard work.





Add to that the proper coaching and you get a group of people that are succeeding at the highest level. If the above isn’t motivational than I don’t know what is.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Watch out for SNAKES and BEARS and GATORS in class!!

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it many times again. I’ve done this for a very long time. I’m been in fitness basically my entire life. I have heard it all. I have heard all the excuses and all the reasons that people aren’t healthy or aren’t on board their fitness journey.

I was in a store a few months back and bumped into “Big Mike”. Mike had been in my Boot Camp class but had just stopped coming. From him I actually got a little honestly. He told me, “I guess it wasn’t my time.” A little honesty from a 300 pound man is a good thing. I just hope that it becomes his time to get going before it becomes his time to go; if you know what I mean.

Most people aren’t that honest. Fear is emotion that people use to scare themselves right out of working out.

When I owned a workout studio in New Hampshire I remember a teacher won a free 5 session package of personal training with the Guru. That’s a valuable prize! Mutual friends had told me that she wanted to work out with me but didn’t call me because she was scared.

SCARED? WTH. Could some please tell me what that means?

I’m jesting, of course. I know what it means. It’s still not a good excuse.
I heard the same thing again a few weeks ago about a person that wanted to come to class but was “scared”. To those people and others that may be “scared” I would ask this:

What is the worst case scenario?

In other words what are you scared is going to happen? Is a snake going to bite you? Are you going to fall off a cliff? Will you have you speak in public? Die?

Do you know that when people list their fears more people are afraid of speaking in public than of dying? That means that most people would rather be in the coffin then delivering the eulogy. People are crazy. Anyway.

What I wanted to do with this article today was to dispel some myths about that I do and what my program is all about. I hope that this will encourage some people that have been on the fence to get involved! THAT is the key!

When a new person comes to my class I tell them three basic things:

• Workout in your bubble. Do NOT worry about ANYONE else.
• The goal is to just MOVE for the hour.

Now before you even learn any specifics about what goes on in a class shouldn’t this put your mind at ease. The first thing that people need to realize is that the point of the class is for the person in the mirror to get better and be better. That’s it. There is nothing to be scared of. No monsters or snakes here. (THAT would be scary!)
When I teach a class I would estimate that 70-80% of the movement patterns that we do are functional body weight exercises. This means no resistance and weights.

Sometimes we do add some kettlebells and or bands for variety but not all the time. For the most part you are simply moving your own body as best you can. It is yours after all.

There are valid issues that people have that restrict certain movements. This is actually quite common. Usually it is general weakness that can be overcome but often times it is a more serious issue that needs to be watched. Specifically this usually involves knees, backs, and shoulders. We currently have people in our programs right now that have serious problems with one or more of these issues. Just because there is a road block doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way around it.

One example is Elle. Elle had a pretty serious shoulder ouch. We go around this road block by substituting extra leg exercises for the shoulder stuff. Debbie has a knee ouch. Sorry Deb but the priority of losing the weight overrides the knee pain. We have agreed that she needs to push through the discomfort and get on with it. Kelly and Tracy both have disk issues. We are SUPER carful with them. We are going around those road blocks.

Injuries are a reason to readjust not an excuse to hang your hat on.

So what does a typical class look like?

I don’t know. I’ve never seen one. We do a lot of creative and different things. Sometimes we do lots of repetitions and sometimes not. We do circuits and countdowns. Count-ups and games. Challenges and contests. Some of the workouts are fun and some, well not so much. All are results driven and functional. Sweating is required.

Yes we do some running. Some people can’t run. That’s fine. They walk. We do push-ups, sit-ups and squats. Most can do these. As discussed already the ones that cannot get to do something else.


What’s that?

“OK, all together now, 25 jumping jacks. BEGIN 1, 2, 3… you’re not keeping up Mary…” We just don’t do that.

With my class it’s more like this, “45 seconds of jumping jacks. GO!” Mary might do 10 while Jim does 25 while Debi does 75. Everyone encourages each other. Remember the bubble thing I mentioned before. Everyone does what HE or SHE needs to do to get a good workout.

What is most important is not how many jumping jacks you do but how many you do NEXT TIME! That’s the key. Getting better is the goal.

I hope this gives you a better idea of what my fitness classes are like. They really are for almost every one. It’s amazing to watch a star athlete do a workout next to a green beginner know that both are getting what they need from the workout. (AND ECOURAGING EACH OTHER!)

Make sure to look at the testimonials page on my website to see what ACTUAL peoples think of the program that I teach:

I leave you with one final thought. I don’t like to bad mouth other instructors or other programs and I won’t here. I don’t need to. I’m the best and nobody will argue with that. Please remember this fact when you are choosing a program to launch your fitness journey:

“My life’s mission is to do what I do. Each and every second of my life that I breathe air I am focused on making YOU better. If I’m not actively teaching a class or training a client I am writing or blogging or updating my Facebook status with the aim and goal of getting you into my program so that I can help. THIS IS MY LIFE! I do not have a job and teach a class. I live my life to teach my class and it shows in the quality of my program. My life’s mission is this: “To inspire and motivate others to be and do their best.” This includes YOU! This is why I am here. I’m not here to do this part-time. I’m not here to get rich. I am THE FITNESS GURU. My life has a true purpose and I am blessed in that way. Now how can I help you?”
12 week program begins June 1st. Do you want to be part of it?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

If your attitude is rotten the so are you

Take your clothes off. Walk to a mirror. Check yourself out. Up and down. Front to back. Top to bottom. Side to side. OK, put your clothes back on.

What do you think?

Really. Good feeling or bad. Did you walk away feeling like a million bucks or did you want to cry? For most of you this is not a good experience. Most people aren’t happy with their bodies. Since almost 70% of Americans are overweight or obese I can see why.

Are you happier with your body today than a year ago? Again, for most of us the answer is no!

The answer really doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do about it. But what can you do?

I believe that to have the body that you want and deserve comes down to three things. Each category can be broken up BUT I really like to simplify things. Here are the three things in an order that isn’t really relevant.

1. Attitude. If your attitude sucks well then so do you. If you have a great attitude then you will also be great. Napoleon Hill says that your thoughts are the only thing in the entire world that you have true control over. I would agree with this. Do people with a good attitude usually have a lot of “stress”? Nope. Do people with a good attitude set and achieve goals faster and more efficient that those that do not? Oh yeah. Your attitude determines your altitude. I chose to have a good attitude.

2. Movement. The more that you move your body the more fit you will be. Would anyone like to argue with this one?

3. Nourishment. Nourish your body to thrive and not simply survive. Try going without sugar for a week and see how much better you feel. Try a month and you are guaranteed to lose body fat.

I have been doing this fitness thing a long, long, long time. I can tell you without hesitation that every single person who achieves any kind of long lasting results is willing to invest time, money and energy into the above three things.
Time is the vital element.

Does this mean that you have to work out 8 hours per day like on the biggest loser? No, but investing time working out is crucial.

You need to invest time in all three to be successful. Most people aren’t willing to do that. Thus the obesity rate in our country is nearing two thirds. That’s sick and wrong.

To achieve the body of your dreams and to feel like a million dollars every day when you wake up is a simple process. If you are willing to invest your time in moving an appropriate amount, eating the right foods at the right time and your attitude is good then you will succeed. There is no question about that.

How much time is needed in each area? I don’t know. You tell me. Are you where you want to be?

Don’t forget or ignore any of these three areas. Without one the others will not work. You cannot just work out more if you eat like crap. You can’t eat well and not workout. (No matter what the commercials say) If your attitude is rotten then so are you.

When people finally DECIDE that it is time and they become willing to put in the time then THAT is when they get results. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. Look at the testimonials on my website: . You will see examples there of people that put in the time and thus find true results.

Putting in extra time working out is one way to improve. How else can you use time to your advantage?

 Plan your meals.
 Count your calories.
 Research nutrition.
 Pack your lunch.
 Read a book or two on anything inspiring, educational or motivational.
 Start a walking club.
 Do a fitness video at night.
 Train for a marathon.
 Attend a seminar.
 Become a personal trainer.
 Read fitness magazines and websites.
 Complete fitness challenges.

The list goes on and on.

I’ll leave you with one last thought. What if all you did for exercise was a fitness class twice per week? Is that enough? What if all you worked was 2 hours per week? What if you could only watch TV 2 hours per week? What if you were only allowed 2 hours per week to be with your family?

That’s crazy, right?

Invest the time to improve your attitude, eat right and move. Then you will truly be who you were meant to be.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Functional Training: Breaking the Bonds of Body Building

Look in the mirror today and ask yourself this question: Am I a bodybuilder? For most of us the answer is “”

Then look in the same mirror and ask yourself this question: Why do I go to the gym two to three days per week and train like a bodybuilder? (Three sets of 10-12 repetitions etc.) The answer to that question is not cut and dry.

Most people would say “Well, that’s what they told me to do at the gym.” or “That is what the muscle magazines say.”

Those of you that are fitness professionals might even talk about increasing lean body mass and raising metabolism, which is all true.

There are, however, more facts out there that most personal trainers and front desk staff at the health clubs aren’t going to tell you. The truth is that if you want to be fit, you don’t need to work out like a body builder. Let me repeat that: YOU DO NOT NEED TO LIFT WEIGHTS LIKE A BODYBUILDER. As a matter of fact, many exercises that you do in an attempt to gain muscle mass and become more fit (because “the magazines or the trainers said so”) are working against your true goals of INCREASED FUNCTION and INJURY PREVENTION.

Let’s just forget every thing we know, or think we know, about fitness and start from scratch.

We move every day, all day long, right? With this accepted as fact we can now define “how” we move. To do so, we put movement into categories or “pillars.” There are four basic pillars of human movement. Every movement that we do with our bodies falls into one of these categories.

Pillar # 1 : Bipedal locomotion. We move. We may go forward, backwards to the side but no matter what direction we go, we move.

Pillar # 2 : Pushing and pulling. Whether we’re picking up the laundry basket or pushing our toddler on the swing, we push and pull each and every day.

Pillar # 3 : Level changes. Tying our shoes, sitting down and getting up off the floor are daily activities which require us to raise and/or lower our center of gravity.

Pillar # 4 : Rotation. Almost everything we do requires rotation. If one foot is in front of the other we are rotating. If one arm or shoulder is in front of the other we are rotating. Stacking wood, shoveling the driveway, throwing a frisbee, all rotation.
The next question you should ask yourself is: The last time I lifted weights how many of the four pillars of human movement did I utilize? Before you answer please read on because there is another important lesson to learn about human movement!

To properly exercise your body you need to be aware of how our muscles act upon our joints. Most fitness people will be able to tell you that the muscle shortens to move a joint. This is very important. But, alas, there is more to the story. Our joints move through three planes of motion : the sagittal plane (front to back), the frontal plane (side to side), and the transverse plane (rotation). In the real world every time our joints move they move through ALL THREE PLANES of motion.

Now, the last time you worked out at the gym did you train all four pillars of human movement while utilizing all three planes of motion? Most people would answer NO. Do not fret, however, because there is an alternative out there. It’s called Functional Training.

Functional Training is not a new concept. In fact, it’s been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The essence of functional training is this : “When you work out you need to do exercises that will prepare your body to perform, injury free, throughout the course of your day.” With functional training you train movements and NOT muscles. In the gym we do various exercises that target a specific muscle group like the chest or the back. With functional training you would do exercises that integrate different PUSHING and PULLING moves. When we lift weights like a body builder, we work out and isolate muscles in an unnatural or nonfunctional way, just to increase their size. By doing this, we are limiting the muscles ability to perform when needed.

When you train a muscle functionally you train it in conjunction with other body parts and always with the CORE. If you train your muscles to be strong WITHOUT working the core you are setting yourself up for injury because your kinetic chain (a series of muscle, joint and nervous system actions that work in synergy to create specific human movements) is only as strong as your weakest link. Thus people may be able to bench press 200 lbs and still not be able to shovel snow for 30 minutes without pulling their back or hurting their shoulder.

Here is an example: In the gym we sit on a bench and push dumb bells over our heads. This traditional weight training exercise is called the overhead dumbbell press. Sometimes we even put our back against some sort of pad and do the same exercise. How does this exercise mimic real life? Do you ever lift anything with just your arms? Besides the fact that the compression on your spine is damaging to your back, the move just isn’t natural. In real life we always, always, always rotate and/or use our legs to lift things above our heads. Think about it.

The above described exercise is, of course, a shoulder move. When my trainers have clients work their shoulders we ALWAYS tie in another movement to make it both more demanding physically and more like a situation we may encounter in real life. Here are some variations of the same overhead press exercise (you can use a medicine ball or one or two dumbbells):
1) One arm w/full body twist
2) Two arm w/twist (A real burner!)
3) Curl w/press
4) Squat w/press
5) Squat, curl w/press
6) Squat, curl, press w/twist. (Gets the heart going!)

As you can see you can come up with quite a few variations if you think outside the box.

This functional training idea sounds good but how do I implement it into my training routine? Well, it can be very simple or it can be very complex depending on your level of creativity and knowledge. Try this simple move to get a taste. Next time you work out your chest, instead of doing the bench press or the chest press find a nice mat on the floor. Go into a push up position with your arms and legs straight and your core tight. Hold that position for 30 to 60 seconds (you’re working on stabilization strength here!). Then do a push up but instead of doing another push up, lift one hand way up in the air until your arm and body are perpendicular to the ground and hold for a split second. Bring the arm softly back to the mat, do another pushup, and repeat on the other side. Try doing 20 repetitions. Try doing this same exercise with dumbbells in your hand. Try doing 100 repetitions WITHOUT the pushup. Easy? Try it!

Let’s look at your back. Most weight training routines will include some sort of rowing exercise. Usually your sitting straight up on a bench and pulling on a handle from a big selectorized machine. How can we make this a more functional exercise? Pull ups are an excellent way to work the back muscles. Most people can not do unassisted pull ups, but with the help of a competent trainer almost anybody can do assisted pull ups. A recline pull is an exercise that takes some creativity based on what you have for facilities, but it can be a fabulous core and back workout. First you find a place where you can lie down on your back and reach in front of you to grab something solid (I’ve found a Smith Machine or a squat rack works well). After doing a quick isometric hold, keeping your body straight, pull yourself up as many times as you can.

Some of the best exercises you can do for your core and your back involve resistance tubing. With a light resistance band wrapped securely around something solid, grip the handles and raise one arm straight up in the air while you bring the other arm straight to your side. It is called the Alternating X and it really makes the backs of your arms and shoulders burn!

For another good exercise start standing up holding the resistance tubing in front of you. First, bend straight over at your hips (Not your waist). If you keep your back straight you feel an awesome stretch in your hamstrings and lower back! Proceed by standing straight up and then executing a basic row. For some variety you can do a twist at the top of the motion by simply pulling with one arm like your pulling a bow to fire an arrow. Do three or four exercises with 15-20 reps each and your back will be plenty fired up.

Let’s now look at how you could spend your time at the gym without being bored and dreading your workout. Here is a quick routine that will last 15 minutes or less and will make your heart pound and your muscles work. Execute this circuit with as little rest as possible between exercises. If possible go right from one to the next with NO REST!

1) Warm-up: Leg Crank Circuit, 1 ½ to 3 minutes
- Body weight squats - 24 reps
- Front lunges (alternating long step to the front while bringing your back knee close to the ground) - 24 reps
- Jumping lunge (just like the lunge except JUMP from left to right) - 24 reps
- Squat jumps - 12 reps (same as squat except with a jump at the top)

2) Dolphin Circuit: 5 minutes (repeat circuit 3-5 times)
- Plank (hold 60 seconds)
- Pike (from plank position push hips in air and return to starting position) 10 reps
- Hip drop (from plank position drop hips almost to floor and lift to starting position) - 10 reps

3) Push - Pull circuit: 5 minutes (repeat circuit 3 - 5 times)
- Pull ups (assisted or unassisted) or recline pulls - 10 reps
- T-stab push up - 10 reps
- Bent over row with twist (resistance tubing) - 10 reps
- Dumbbell chest press from stability ball bridge - 10 reps

4) Cone run: 3 minutes
- Place 2 cones on the floor 10 to 30 feet apart.
- Start in the middle and see how many times you can touch each cone running back and forth between then (sidestepping in the frontal plane) in 30 seconds.
- Rest 30 seconds then repeat and beat your score or challenge your friend.

This routine is, by no means, thorough but it is a quick way to try out functional training in the gym or even at home. Do it with a friend and you’ll have some fun! When you get away from the principles of body building and start to think outside the box you will really see results as soon as you start.

Functional Training is not about “working out” its about preparing you body for the expected and unexpected challenges you face when you leave the gym. By implementing functional training you will see that you don’t need the “Nautilus Circuit” or the bench press to be truly fit. Your remarkable body can be used as resistance to make your workouts really mean something. By adding just a couple of very simple tools such as resistance tubing, stability balls or medicine balls you can create a workout that will both challenge you and prepare you for what your health club dues do not: The real world.

Take one last look in your mirror now and ask yourself one more question: Will I benefit from functional training? Here’s your answer: YES.