Travis Stevens Could Definitely Kick My Ass… but…

Last week I saw an article shared on Facebook. It was an interview with a World Champion Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Judo practitioner Travis Stevens and was focused on his thoughts on CrossFit. The article was shared with the following quote from Travis: “It’s like trying to get and education by going to the library to read a few books.” and then the poster comment, “Best metaphor I ever heard on the subject.”

I saw this & thought to myself, “Yeah, I like that. Looking to better yourself in a way that is psuedo-self-guided while having access to many resources that you can vet and consider whether or not you want to incorporate. Sounds like what I like about CF!” So I clicked the link and… Turns out Travis is not a fan of libraries. The article was titled, “Travis Stevens: ‘I’m an Olympian, and I will never do CrossFit’.”

Now before I continue, Travis Stevens is an amazing athlete who has accomplished feats few other people will. His dedication to and achievements in the sports of BJJ and Judo are undeniable. I am not implying… I CAN NOT imply that I have anything to offer near what he can in these pursuits. However… I wouldn’t ask my carpenter to fix my car… especially if he’s Amish. I use this analogy since it seems clear to me that Travis has never been in a CF Box, but simply speaks on what he’s heard about them. Here’s the article and it’s not a long read, judge for yourself.

My reply to the poster was, ” I think as fitness pros, we should look to teach people how to identify when things are done right. Saying, “I’ve heard stories of broken backs, pulled muscles, and other injuries.” can be said about any method, and is truly ignorantly opined. Honestly, when someone diminishes another’s method (without saying why/how theirs is better) they lose credibility in my eyes.” A few agreed with my comment, but most went on to criticize CF for many different reasons. 

So here’s my replies to all the internet commenters…

“So you’re saying Travis should do CrossFit?” No. Travis does not need Crossfit. Would it beneficial to him? Probably if he had a good coach, but it looks like we’ll never know. But no one “needs” CrossFit. No one “needs” Judo, or BJJ, or bodybuilding, or strongman, or any particular method of health and fitness programming that exists today. But they all are useful for getting people moving. And they all become dangerous when the ego gets involved. Especially when it’s the instructors ego. Here’s a list of world class athletes who do use CF and tout its benefits. There’s also all the games competitors. Yes, they follow a progressive strength program. But their conditioning is obviously CF. “Well they’re all on PEDs!” Some are, but all sports at the world class level will have PEDs. All of them. No, that sport is not an exception. Neither is that one. All of them.

“Why do you love CrossFit when the injury rate is so high?” First off, I love my wife, my family, and my friends… and my dog(s) (depending on when you read this, I may have 1 or more). My love is reserved for living things, not brands. I enjoy incorporating CFs methods in an intelligent way to get me in and out of the gym as quickly as possible so I can enjoy as much as life has to offer me. I believe the idea of a high injury rate exists since CF grew in popularity in the same timeframe as social media. And let’s face it, people are much more likely to share a “fail” post. If social media were around in the 80s & 90s (when I was coming up in gyms) I feel you would have seen the same phenomenon in the name of bodybuilding; Ego driven people “exercising” past the point of diminishing return is NOT a new thing. And it’s egotistical to think you’ll stop it.

“It’s primary principle it randomness.” This is not true. What people are referring to is the concept of “constantly varied”; This is not random. Constantly varied should be planned.

  • Random: ran·dom /randəm/ – adjective – chosen without method.
  • Varied: var·ied –ˈ/verēd/ – adjective – incorporating a number of different types or elements.

Randomness is however rampant in gyms. In my almost 2 decades as a Fitness Pro, when a gym goer would explain to me why they were doing an exercise far too many times the reason would be, “I saw (insert hot person’s name) doing it.” Let’s assume “hot person” knew what they were doing; In most cases, even if the exercise purpose was understood by the gym goer, scaling or redesign was the best course. Even still, “constantly varied” is not the primary principle. The first thing taught in the Level 1 Certification is as follows: MCI. Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity. Learn the pattern, practice it to perform it well repeatedly, then add appropriate intensity. This is a great outline for practicing any fitness method intelligently.

“CrossFit is a sport, not a training modality.” This is not true either. Yes, the games do exist, but the training method came first, still exists, has evolved since its inception, and will continue to evolve. Also, and this purely my opinion; I don’t follow the games. When I express this, most CrossFitters look at me like I have two heads. If they’re on I’ll watch. The athletic display is impressive. But I really prefer boxing and MMA. But to be clear, the sport and the training method are different.

So…

Is CrossFit perfect? Nope, but the perfect fitness plan doesn’t exist. But its as good as any method out there and better that most for general health. It’s strengths are that its community based, has an emphasis on eating intelligently (promoting food as more important than exercise), focuses on abilities over aesthetics, and encourages the pushing and highlighting of small wins, not egomaniacaly driving people everyday. This is an important difference between good and bad coaching.

Do not quote this next sentence unless you quote the whole paragraph. You can show me bad CF coaches, bad boxes, and people who were injured following ego; But for every one of those there are countless boxes that have had a marked improvement on the health of their community, people who have gone from being obese to being fit and maintained it for years, senior citizens that can outperform the average 20 year old (not that outperforming the average 20 is impressive nowadays.) And you can look to any brand… in any industry and point out “what’s wrong”. Do it too long and that’s all you’ll tend to see.

-B

Coaches, clients, gym goers, & owners… Can’t we all just get along?

Anyone who’s spent time in a gym (of any size) knows that there will be drama at some point. Relationships gone awry, competition getting out of hand, or just general douchery it’s going to happen. Good coaches and owners know how to deal with it and to do so quickly. If they themselves are the problem… that’s another issue all together but that issue will solve itself when the doors close quickly. I received a query from a frustrated gym goer today who may have been dealing with douchery. Here’s an excerpt that conveys the gist:

“At my gym, the staff either tries to sell me a personal training package or won’t answer any questions at all. I don’t feel like going to the gym anymore. How do I handle this? I have a 24 month membership. Have been a regular for the past 2 and a half months and I’m trying to lose weight. I have lost around 10 lbs. But I have come to realize that the instructors are only looking to make money out of it. How do I find good guidance for my goals?”

Here was my response:

Good job on getting started. That is the hardest part as I’m sure you can remember. In order to not have to start fresh again you have to do the second hardest part… keep going. And you’re doing great so far since you’re made it past the average 3-4 weeks when most drop off. Just keep in mind that in pursuit of any achievement, you will have things, people, and moments that discourage you. Successful people are able to overcome these points by staying focused on the end goal and (while they have a well thought out game plan) they remain adaptable to changing their plan if & when change is needed.

It sounds like you’re looking to change by building up your support system in living healthily, but having trouble finding someone to partner up with. So here’s my advice: I hope you understand that professional guidance will bear a cost at some point but I agree that it shouldn’t break the bank. I can understand both sides of this challenge as Trainer/Coaches come in several different forms. Some are good, some are not. I will say the best, first metric for qualifying a good one is this: Are they insured? If they are, then they are looking to be professional and make sure everyone is taken care of should the worst case happen. If not, then they are just looking to grab money & probably aren’t investing into themselves to be better. There is more to look at beyond this, but make sure this is covered first.

When it comes to education, degrees are good, but not necessary. Having done this as my profession for almost 2 decades, this is not a side job for me. I invest time & money into my profession with continuing education certs regularly and am always reading something related to my personal development but do not have a degree in the field. There are also those in the industry that do this as a side job. I know a few “part time” Fitness Pros that I would recommend, but they are few & far between. Then there are the total obvious scam artists. They can sell ice to eskimos and just copy and paste their programs for everyone. I hope you’re not dealing with this type of Trainers but it sounds like you may be.

Now, I know that not everyone can afford a personal trainer every time they workout. This is why the good ones offer coaching, remote or in person. We meet with the person via phone, video or face to face at the agreed upon times and give them a program to do on their own. If your Trainers don’t offer a variation of this, then they aren’t really able or interested in helping people and unfortunately probably don’t understand exercise enough to build a long term program.

On the flip side, there are gym goers that are always looking for free advice. As I said before, I do this for a living & it is how I put food on the table. I have no problem giving a free session, but I do so for a few reasons: in part to help people get comfortable in the gym, but also to showcase my depth & breadth of knowledge in exercise, health, fitness, and nutrition. So if I’m working with someone (whether it’s a free or paid session) and someone interrupts the appointment to ask me their one hundredth “quick question”, then they aren’t valuing my time or the time of my client. These people can fuck off.

Ultimately health & fitness is a culture of self efficacy & communal respect. Coach or client, gym goer or owner; If one doesn’t understand this then they are hurting their own health & that of their community.

As I said at the beginning, great job on getting started! It really is the hardest part. Now you just have to do the second hardest part: “Keep-ing” Keep going, reading, learning, working, trying, and appreciating what you’ve accomplished so far.

I hope this helps. If you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out.

Online question: What are the advantages of weightlifting?

Got this one in my inbox earlier this week and my first thought was: an easier question would be, “What are the downsides to weightlifting?”, because there really aren’t any. You can say that I’m biased, but let me make my argument first. Here was my reply…

Here’s a quick rundown of a few: There’s the obvious advantages of being stronger, but let’s talk about what that actually means to real life. It means you are more capable. All the physical things you “have to do” just got easier. Strength has the greatest carry over to all other physical skills, so a few intelligently applied hours a week really will have a tremendous positive impact on your life.

Another additional benefit is decreasing injury susceptibility. Everyone thinks of strength training as making muscles stronger/bigger, but a properly applied strength program will increase bone density & strengthen ligaments & tendons. So far we have do more, with less chances of injury. I’m in!

But it doesn’t stop there. Assuming you’re eating halfway decent, strength training will have a positive effect on your hormone profile and will help with your overall mood. Here’s a study that shows a progressive resistance training helping older adults with depression. Ok, do more, less injuries, and happier!?! GREAT NEWS!

If you still need another reason, here you go; It’s good for your brain. A study out of the Georgia Institute of Technology showed that as little as 20 minute a day had an average 10% increase in the memory of healthy young adults.

So to review; more capable, less breakable, happier, and smarter. Have I convinced you yet? Either way, I’mma go move something heavy!

Will Supplements Help With Depression?

I got this question today and was quickly hit with the urge to recommend 3 or 4 supplements that can help. But, this isn’t a simple yes or no questions. There are plenty of factors to be considered.

First; Start with your core nutrition. Supplement, by definition means, “In addition to…” Supplements were meant to fill gaps, not replace food. So if you’re not eating quality protein, veggies & healthy fats, then the supplements you take will be less effective than if you were.

Second: Sourcing & manufacturing are important. Do not look to cut costs when it comes to food and supplementation. Do your research and find quality supplements that are built to address your needs. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be spending a fortune or that more expensive products are better, but I can assure you that the cheapest products on the shelf are (for the vast majority) useless. Working with a Coach to find the best path for you & help you stay on it is advisable. Again, do your research to find a quality Coach.

Third: Make exercise & activity a priority. A properly progressed exercise program will do wonders for your mood. This has been proven in countless studies & can be proven by going outside right now and doing 5 rounds of :30 second sprints with :90 seconds or rest.

Lastly: Social interactions with quality people. There’s is an old saying (i don’t know who said it) but it goes, “Before you diagnose yourself as depressed, make sure you’re not surrounded by assholes.” We all will have to deal with one or two at some point, but do your best to purge them from your life. Move, quit your job, hang out in a different place, or just have an awkward conversation like, “Could you please stop doing X, Y, Z…” All this may seem difficult to initiate, but your well being is worth it.

To answer your original question: They can, but there is no magic pill.

If you have any further questions feel free to reach out & please share if you think this could help someone you know.

The 28 things I’ve learned in 39 years.

28x39

I turned 39 a few weeks ago and was asked if I was going to write a “40 things I’ve learned by 40” post. “HELL NO!” For 1, life is never that organized to teach you 1 thing a year (mine isn’t anyway) and 2, why wait for 40? There are sure to be a few you disagree with and probably some contradictions if you dig. If you do, I’d love to hear what you find. Also, while I consider these all to be true, some are comical and some will get dark. So fair warning. Here are the 28 things I’ve learned in 39 years:

  1. Having a backbone isn’t about aggression, it’s about character.
  2. There are 3 limitations in life. # 1 & 2, only you truly know. # 3 you’ll never know.
    1. Your imagination
    2. Your determination
    3. You lifespan.
  3. Don’t work for anyone but yourself. Work WITH others and be selective. This doesn’t mean you have to be self-employed, just make sure your value is understood.
  4. Bring value.
  5. When looking at past performance
    1. Past performance is the best indicator for future performance.
    2. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.
  6. Staying in a safe place makes you less healthy & fit. Progressing health & fitness makes you safer in more places.
  7. Choose quality over quantity. While this sounds cliché, it covers everything: Goals, friends, food, experiences, opportunities… I have yet to find the exception.
  8. Communication is paramount in all relationships. This has less to do about talking than you may think. Listening to understand others points of view is a skill that must be developed. Entertaining additional points of view should be practiced. (especially those opposed to yours)
  9. Those that often point the finger at others as “bad communicators” are typically bad listeners.
  10. There are only 3 times it’s appropriate to wear skulls on your/as clothes:
    1. You have earned them…
    2. They’ve been given to you as a gift…
    3. You’re at Comicon.
  11. Sex first thing in the morning is better than sex just before going to sleep.
  12. Those complaining about a lack of work/life balance need to work on the balance in their life.
  13. Regardless of what all the science & facts say; if something feels right, do it. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. Science once told us the world is flat, 9 out of 10 Doctors preferred Camel cigarettes, and the 4 minute mile was considered impossible.
  14. If someone is always looking over their shoulder, you shouldn’t feel comfortable with them standing behind you.
  15. Everything is negotiable.
  16. There’s a time to study the root and a time to gather the fruit. Get good at both.
  17. If you’re offended by something on the Internet, you deserve it.
    1. Probably true outside of the internet as well.
  18. There are a few phrases you should never say: The 2 most common are; “You don’t understand” & “I don’t care.” The first implies you fully understand the others entire existence. The second isn’t true if you took the effort to say it.
  19. Everyone has thought about suicide. Realizing this is true should provide hope during dark times.
  20. The world is a mirror; you get out what you put in.
  21. Reality TV is for suckers. Yes, that show too.
  22. Sugar is a drug and is much worse for you than marijuana.
  23. Put your grocery cart back. There may be an exception or 2 to this rule but if you’re trying to come up with them, the rule was written for you.
  24. Someday quickly becomes never. Either set a deadline or let it go.
  25. Anyone who says, “It doesn’t matter what you meant, it’s what you said.” Probably won’t ever say anything meaningful.
  26. If you borrow a car, return it with a full tank. Both literally and figuratively,
  27. Everything I need to know about life, I learned through marksmanship: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Learn the fundamentals; focus on getting better at them. Then compress the fundamentals. If you try to be the “fastest gun in the west” you never will.
  28. If there is no risk involved, there is either no pay off or the venture isn’t completely understood.

Would love to hear your thoughts. Please share if you enjoyed it.

The 11 General Orders Of Health & Fitness

The 11 General orders of fitness.

These standards are meant to be a guide for conducting yourself in a fitness facility. They are based on the following 2 principles: 1.) Health & Fitness is a culture of self-efficacy & communal respect. 2.) Enjoy your journey.

Should the person(s) overseeing your facility have a rule that contradicts these, adhere or go elsewhere.

  1. Leave your ego at the door. It is your enemy in this environment.
  2. Know your goal. Have a time bound plan to achieve it. Be adaptable.
  3. Know the difference between training and competition. Listen to your body in training so you can use your body to win in competition.
  4. Respect all Athletes, Exercisers, Gym-goers, Trainers, & Coaches. Do not compare their goal or programs to yours.
  5. Be personally hygienic.
  6. If you don’t eat or sleep well, don’t expect to perform well.
  7. If you are/maybe contagious, stay home.
  8. Some equipment is meant to be dropped, some is not. Learn the difference.
  9. Curling in the squat rack is the equivalent to killing kittens. If a 9 year old does it, he will be talked to, guided to appropriate resources, and monitored. If an adult does it, they suck.
  10. Clean up & put your equipment away in its proper place. (This may not be where you found it.)
  11. Do not give the staff a hard time.

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Why you should make an effort to be healthier immediately.

Battle_Tested

You may have read that title & had a few reasons pop into your head that push it back to Monday… or next month… or … New Year’s is right around the corner. I mean, I’ve got a HUGE project going on right now… & my coworkers are going out for happy hour this friday… & I want to enjoy the holidays…

So let’s set the record straight: Health, fitness, & nutrition are all about getting more out of life. More joy, more experiences, more knowledge, more energy & yes… more time on this earth. So every excuse you just made is actually a reason in disguise.

Let me explain; Your primary purpose on this earth is to be the absolute best you that you can be. And NO ONE on this earth doesn’t want to be the best them they could be, right? This means the best son or daughter, brother or sister, significant other, partner, provider, contributor or (place the positional noun that you aspire toward here) that you can possibly be. Eating right with consistent activity can… nope… WILL make you a better you. So let’s look at why people make excuses.

Fear.

Fear of failure, ridicule or simply not knowing what to do. First, do not be afraid of failure. It will happen everyday. I’m sorry if no one ever told you that but its true. Just accept that it will happen at some point & you will move on from it.You might skip a day at the gym, you might give in to that piece of pie for dessert. Don’t get hung up on it. Michael Jordan says that he owes his success to continual failure. Why? Because you can always learn more from a loss than a win. It should force you to analyze your game. What could you have done differently to be better? (The best ask that same question after a win) And when you do win, you won because you pushed yourself to failure over & over again when your competitor was sleeping in & eating bad food.

Fear of ridicule? You are simply putting too much stock in the opinion of people that don’t matter. If someone mocks you for putting sincere effort into becoming better, that person’s life is a wreck. I don’t say this to make you feel better. It is a fact. Understand that they are undoubtedly in such a sad state, they truly have so little real meaning in their life that you should feel pity for them. This doesn’t mean you should go it on your own. Find a support system. Build your schedule of going to the gym, stick too it & talk to people. If you don’t find supportive people, find a new gym. *Side note* This can be an important decision & should be considered. The big chains will have their “brands” so if you’re joining one consider whether or not it will fit you. Do they offer “Free Donut Friday”? (Yes, I’ve seen gyms do this & even heard the manager say he creating repeat customers) Do not go to this gym.This is where personal studios have an edge. Sure, they will tend to be more expensive but if you do your research & find a place that get people results, isn’t that worth it vs. paying the “fat tax” that most gym memberships end up being when the well intended members don’t go and pay for a year or more?

Now… what to do? Start with what you like: Basketball, shoot some hoops; Boxing, do some :30 rounds on a bag; can’t think of anything, take at least 20 minutes a day & walk around your neighborhood, the park or the local strip mall or plaza. I guarantee it will brighten your day & be something you look forward to. Do keep in mind your activity level over the past year & be smart. Don’t go for an olympic performance on day 1.

From the nutrition side; I get it! There is so much misinformation out there & much of it coming from seemingly reputable sources. Read something health & fitness related everyday. Stay away from magazines or any source that claims to be “all you need”, read SEVERAL different sources, vet your fitness professionals by asking for references & just make a commitment to learning about fitness & nutrition for the rest of your life.

So here’s the point, just start! You will fail & that’s not bad! Giving up on something that you want is bad, failure is the sign you need to lift your foot to the next step in the staircase. Ridicule? Walk on! You’ll make a new friend right down the street and they’ll be headed in the same direction. What to do? Stop reading this right now & go.

If you liked this article and thought it may help someone you know, please be sure to share it on social media.

18 Tips to Kickstart Your Morning Workout

Had the pleasure of doing an interview with Livestrong.com. Here’s the link, but you can read my blurbs below.

18 Tips to Kickstart a Morning Workout Routine | LIVESTRONG.COM#slide=3#slide=3 NoneNoneNoneNone

11. Force Yourself Out of Bed

If your alarm is right by your bed, you’re more likely to reach over and hit snooze repeatedly. “I set my phone’s alarm and put it in the bathroom — not next to my bed,” says personal trainer Shane Allen. “This means I physically have to get up, stumble into the bathroom and turn my alarm off. By then, I’m already up. Might as well stay up!” But don’t be too hard on yourself early in the morning. “Try to use an alarm note that is as un-alarming as possible, but will still wake you,” says Brandon Mancine, Texas-based NASM-certified personal trainer and Level 2 CrossFit coach “You want your movement to wake you, not a sense of emergency. This will spike your stress response and leave you sluggish the rest of the day.” Try an app like Wake Me Up or a device like Philips Wake-Up Light HF3550.

14. Ease Into Your Morning Workout

Your body has just been at rest for seven to eight hours; don’t force it into an intense workout right off the bat. “Don’t start with marathon sessions,” says personal trainer Brandon Mancine. “If you’re strength training, get a few (one to two) major moves in with one to two assistance moves and work your way up. For your cardio, start at about 50 percent. See how you feel the rest of the day. With both, make sure you allot time for warm-up and cooldown.” Or start even simpler from the comfort of your own home. “Start with a 10-minute workout you can do at home before work,” says Santa Barbara-based fitness trainer and motivational speaker Jenny Schatzle. “It’s proven that even 10 minutes a day changes your brain.” Try her 10-minute body-weight workout. Do each move for 45 seconds, write down how many you did, rest for 15 seconds and start the next movement: squats, push-ups, jumping jacks, triceps dips and crunches.

Goal setting 101

GoalSetting101

A recent study stated that 73% of gym joiners in January have a weight loss goal and over a 365 day period only 14% of those will succeed. Let’s talk about how to up the success rate. Without a doubt, setting the right goal is the most important part of your fitness journey. Read any piece about success; what it takes to get there, who did what & how. All will come back to some version of, “Start with the end in mind.” This makes overcoming obstacles along the way easier especially the more desirable the end result is.

Change is difficult. Very difficult. People make the decision to change when their current situation is more uncomfortable than their perception of the change. Since 2001 as a Fitness Professional, when I ask people any variation of, “What are your goals?” or “What are you training for?” The standard reply is…”Lose weight & tone up.” (LW&TU). If this is your goal I have one request; DO NOT join a gym. Let me explain why. Someone with a LW&TU goal wants their life to change, but they haven’t yet decided to change their life. If that last sentence didn’t click, read it again. I’ll wait.

So let’s look at something most can relate to; Consider two people who want financial success. One wants to, “Be rich”. The other wants a successful career in Law. The first commits to buying at least one lottery ticket every week and checking in on the numbers. The latter knows he is not where he wants to be and sets forth on a journey to find the missing links. He will meet new people, see and experience things he never imagined. He may also make missteps along the way but hopefully knows that is not just the cost of taking steps but a lesson in and of itself. The former will become entrenched in a community of shortsightedness and selfishness. Each ticket they buy moves them further into a position of entitled victimization that becomes harder and harder to return from.

It doesn’t mean they can’t be coaxed.

The fact is many will bring me the LW&TU goal over the next few weeks. To which I will reply, “Why?” This usually spirals into a cycle of generic answers vs. quick Why replies… like, “Because my doctor told me I have to lose weight” Or “So I can run a 5K.” Or “Because I want a six pack like (favorite celeb).” or any of the defensive BS that people put up, until I hear a little bit of truth. Something like, “Because I want to feel better!”

JACKPOT!!! Understand that this isn’t the total answer that I’m looking for. But it is the crack in the built up wall that can lead us to the truth. As soon as I hear anything along these lines, The tempo of the conversation changes. Instead of the sharp Why!?! replies, I let their statement sink in. I’ll then ask, “Can you tell me more about that?” “When is the last time you felt really good?” Or one of my favorites, “Paint me the picture of you feeling GREAT.” This is where they tell me about time playing with kids, activities with friends and experiencing LIFE! The life they want back! NOW, we can come back to their current positions and start building daily tasks to get from here to there. Now we build their plan.

This is where it gets really interesting. This is where they come back to me with “next level” goals. I’ve had people bring me, ‘Climb Kilimanjaro’,’Be a competitive Fencer’ or my personal favorite; ‘compete and place in Ballroom Dancing competitions’. This was a woman who had never taken an athletic venture in her life. 5 months after joining the gym she placed 2nd in her category. How many times in those 5 months did she step on a scale? 0. She felt better, she looked better, she had more confidence; so who gives a shit what the scale says. By the way, when she finally did step on a scale, the BMI charts scored her as over weight. But the beautiful part was she no longer cared. She was too busy becoming what she wanted to be. I should also note that her Doctor was amazed at the up turn in all her health markers.

Now, to come back to your goal for this year; close your eyes, picture 10, 20 or 30 years from now. Who do you want to be? Get that crystal clear picture. Then start your plan.

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