When the workout is tough, you can be tougher

The idea is that working out is supposed to make you feel great. But there are just some days when even a simple workout seems too tough to handle. This happens to almost everyone at some point, no matter what state of fitness they are in. So what should you do?

Whatever you do, don’t quit. Instead, have a plan that will help get you through those rough patches. It’s easier than you might think. Just make a list to remind yourself of everything that motivates you to be healthy and stay fit. But be sure to write it down, either on paper or stored on your phone or tablet, because it’s guaranteed that you will forget each and every one of these motivators when you are having a bad day.

Where should you start?
The best way to come up with your list is to jot down all the positive psychological and physical and attributes of working out. These are things that probably already go through your head when you are having a good day.

Have you ever been out for a run when the weather is perfect, the wind seems to stay at your back no matter which way you turn and every muscle in your body seems to be working together like a fine-tuned machine? Yes! That’s the day to make your list, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

Psychological benefits of working out
It’s not always easy to make the time to exercise, so remind yourself to make the most of your workout so you feel good about using your time wisely. Also, it never feels good to be a quitter. When it comes to other areas of your life, such as your job or your family, you always find a way to get through the tough times. So, when it comes to a tough workout, just remind yourself you have done it before so you can do it again.

Physical benefits of working out
There is no denying how awesome you feel after a great workout, but for those days when the after part can’t come soon enough, just focus on how much energy you will have to get through the rest of your day’s to-do list. Lastly, while exercise is important for you overall health, the way it makes your clothes fit can boost your confidence like nothing else. So remind yourself that you probably didn’t have a small salad for lunch today, and you will tackle that workout with ease.

Reward yourself for your success
Using these, or your own, reminders will help you get through those really tough workouts or even those not so tough workouts that just seem harder because you are having an off day. If you are having an exceptionally bad day, try breaking your workout into segments and using your list of reminders to get through each segment. Instead of lamenting how much you have left to go, congratulate yourself for each segment you finish.

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Movers and Shakers

If you like to spend more time on the sofa than on the treadmill-blame your mother. New research suggests it’s not your fault. You may be genetically programmed to be sedentary, while skinny people are just naturally motivated to get up and dance.
Good news for couch potatoes and jumping beans alike-no more need to feel guilty-evidence suggests your activity level may be genetically pre-determined.

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT appears to be a defining characteristic of body type. Think of NEAT as a switch controlling activity level. If you overeat, it increases energy output, and helps burn those extra calories. When it fails to engage, calories accumulate as fat.

Obese people seem to have a faulty switch, which accounts for their more sedentary habits -that’s the finding of researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, (http://www.Mayoclinic.com). The overweight are biologically programmed to sit, no matter how little or great their food intake.

A team headed by endocrinologist Dr. James Levine, measured the expenditure of calories in a study whose participants were instructed to carry out their regular, daily activities-wearing sensor-equipped underwear. Calculating a person’s NEAT requires precise measurement of every movement, no matter how innocuous.

Ever wonder how many calories you burn while driving, or watching television? The answer can be found among the millions of lines of data downloaded from the sensors, which were recorded non-stop over a ten-day period.

Twenty people were monitored, half of them obese and the other ten lean. All were healthy, lived in Rochester and were instructed to conduct themselves normally. Diet, however, was strictly controlled, with all food intake supervised by the clinic. The obese subjects were placed on a calorie-reduced diet, the lean ones overfed. Loss of weight had no impact on the activity level of the obese. They remained sedentary, whereas the lean subjects became more energetic, the calorie increase triggering greater movement.

Dr. Levine has concluded that every person has a fixed NEAT, or programmed response to calorie intake. It would seem obese people are at a disadvantage, one that diet alone cannot address. Call them NEAT-challenged- lacking in the impulse that compels others to burn calories.

Since it appears less active people are genetically programmed for a more sedate lifestyle, is it possible their bodies are better equipped to handle excess fat? It’s worth noting that the 10 obese subjects in the Mayo study were as healthy as their lean counterparts.

What about those in the general population who regularly gain and shed weight? What’s their category? Is it likely that people whose weight continually fluctuates may be genetically hay wire?”

“Bingo-possibly,” says Dr. Levine.

His primary goal now is to devise methods of supercharging people’s NEAT.

“A drug is a possibility, but I am not a great fan. We think that motor neuronal plasticity occurs-the brain changes with more NEAT to crave more NEAT and so on. If we are right, obesity will disappear in the next twenty years.”

To achieve such an ambitious goal, people need to focus as much attention on their energy levels as they do food. Dr. Levine determines that on average obese people sit two-and-a- half-hours longer a day than those who are lean. They are burning fewer calories, on the order of 350 every twenty-four hours. Over time that adds-up-hence the urgency of Levine’s message, and its underlying simplicity:

Just move it!

NEAT Freaks:

Given a choice between sitting at a desk or walking, Dr. Levine opts for a stroll every time, something he can do on the job because of a unique work station that features a computer mounted over a treadmill. So he’s literally on the go all day, thanks to a little ingenuity and a great deal of resolve. In his case, technology is working for him, a claim few others can make. Look backward instead of forward when seeking ways of increasing your NEAT:

  • Use a push mower to cut the grass.
  • Discard the leaf blower and grab a rake.
  • Hide the car keys and walk to the corner store.
  • Disconnect the microwave and cook a meal from scratch.
  • America On the Move (www.americaonthemove.org) wisely advises people to incorporate an extra 2,000 steps a day into their routine, which is the equivalent of walking a mile.

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Get Happy and Get Healthy

Everyone wants to be healthy, and most people would like to be happy.
But does being happy make you healthier or does being healthy make you happier?
While this question may be difficult to answer, the two do seem to go hand in hand.

Power in positive thinking

Happy people have a positive outlook on life. Even when faced with difficult obstacles such as divorce or job loss, optimistic individuals always see the bright side. Having a positive attitude certainly makes it easier to move forward in the face of adversity, but it’s also believed to have an effect on physical wellness, as optimists seem to become ill less often than pessimists.

Food for your mood

It’s no secret that what you eat can affect your health. Consuming too many processed foods that are full of saturated fat, salt and sugar can lead to chronic problems such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. An unhealthy diet can also impact your energy levels and ability to focus. It’s hard to be in a good mood when you’re feeling tired and having trouble concentrating.

However, some foods can have a positive effect. Eating a balanced diet full of fresh, unprocessed foods can help you get the healthy fats, vitamins and minerals you need. This will also help keep your energy levels more stable throughout the day, making drastic mood swings less likely.

Sleep it off

It may seem obvious that not getting enough sleep could impact your mood. But many people don’t get adequate rest on a regular basis. While missing a few hours here and there may not have dire consequences, not getting enough sleep for an extended period of time can also affect your health.

Slow things down

We’re all guilty of it. We zip through life, trying to check things off of our “to do” lists that only seem to get longer every day. Repeating this behavior on a daily basis simply leads to frustration and dissatisfaction. For an instant boost in happiness, slow down and appreciate the little things life has to offer.

The good kind of contagious

A little kindness can go a long way when it comes to making someone else’s day. But it can actually make you feel happier too. The next time you go out for your coffee, let that person that looks a little frazzled go ahead of you in line or put a little extra in the tip jar on the counter. When you get to work, offer a friendly greeting to the first person you see, and maybe compliment a coworker on their new shoes or haircut. But don’t be surprised when you suddenly find yourself in a good mood.

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The Link Between Insomnia and Alzheimer’s Disease

A recent study has indicated that poor sleep may not just be a symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease, but also a contributing factor. Research indicates that poor sleep may cause an increasing number of amyloid plaques to build up in the brain, and these plaques are associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Scientists took measurements of the brain waves of 26 older adults who did not have Alzheimer’s while they were sleeping. They found that the ones who did not sleep well had brains with more amyloid plaques in them than did the ones who slept well. The researchers also found that the adults who slept poorly and had amyloid plaques did worse on memory tests administered both before and after sleep.

How does sleep deprivation cause brain damage?
The brain needs sleep in order to maintain metabolic homeostasis. Prolonged wakefulness stresses the mitochondria in our cells, and sleep deprivation cases neurons to degenerate.

In one study involving mice, the scientists kept them on an inconsistent and erratic sleep schedule akin to that experienced by many human shift workers. The mice suffered significant and irreversible brain damage, for 25 percent of the neurons in their locus coeruleus decayed. The locus coeruleus is a part of the brain stem that controls wakefulness, arousal and some cognitive processes. Scientists have also found that the brain shrinks over time in someone who doesn’t get enough sleep. The process is quicker and more severe in people over 60.

In addition, the lymphatic system and the brain’s glial cells work together to clean toxins and waste out of the brain. They do most of their work at night. In fact the glial cells and lymphatic system are ten times more active during a person’s sleep than during their waking hours. Among the toxins they clear out are proteins linked to Alzheimer’s.

Researchers studied yet more mice and divided them into two groups. One group was exposed to 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light while the other group was exposed to 4 hours of darkness and 20 hours of light. Both groups were bred to develop dementia and had amyloid plaques, but the second group displayed more and more severe memory problems. The researchers concluded that insomnia is a trigger of the processes that cause dementia to develop.

Sleep problems in the US

Many Americans sleep poorly. Forty percent of the country’s adults have reported falling asleep during the daytime without meaning to, and another 5 percent have reported falling asleep while driving. Some people do have sleep disorders, but many others simply don’t go to bed early enough.

Other health problems caused by insomnia
Lack of sleep affects the immune system in the same way that chronic stress and illness do. Sleep deprivation increases the chances of developing certain chronic illnesses. For example, the risk of developing high blood pressure is tripled in people who sleep less than six hours per night. Insomnia also increases the chances of developing cancer, slows down neuron production in the brain, and contributes to premature aging.

Tips for getting a good night’s sleep

  • Stop watching TV or using the computer an hour before bedtime.
  • Sleep in complete darkness.
  • Keep the temperature in the bedroom below 70 degrees. The optimal temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 68 degrees.

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Is Your Salad Good or Bad?

Salads are often thought of as something bland and boring you have to eat when you’re on a diet. Fast food restaurants have cashed in on this mindset by offering taste-tempting salads that are anything but boring. Unfortunately, they’re also anything but diet friendly, as many of these creations pack more fat and calories than some of the burger and french fry combinations.

But this doesn’t mean that all salads are either boring or diet busters. With the right ingredients, a salad can make a delicious, healthy meal that hits all the right food groups.

Greens are good, but some are better
Of course, having lettuce as a base for your salad is nothing new. But other dark leafy vegetables, such as kale, chard and spinach, would be perfect for a healthy salad. They have lots of flavor and are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Fat – the bad

Where a good salad often goes wrong is when it’s covered in store-bought dressing, deep-fried croutons or chicken that has been breaded, fried or saturated with a high-fat sauce. This is the type of salad you often find at fast food or chain restaurants. However, most places do have healthier options that contain mainly fresh vegetables and lean grilled or broiled meats. Just be sure to steer clear of creamy dressings made from unhealthy oils and chemicals, or skip the dressing altogether.

Fat – the good

What’s surprising to most people is that not all fats are bad. We actually need high-quality fats to help our bodies absorb certain nutrients. These can be added to your salad in the form of eggs, avocados, coconut or olive oil, and other similar ingredients.

Make your own

The easiest way to make sure you’re getting the most nutrition out of your salad is to make it yourself. It’s also the best way to make sure your salad will be a flavorful meal that you’ll really enjoy. Try experimenting with different combinations of all your favorite fresh vegetables and lean proteins. Just be sure to choose organic vegetables and grass-fed proteins to avoid adding pesticides or other toxic chemicals to your healthy meal.

Dress it up

Dressings are often used to add flavor to salads that may not be all that fresh or are lacking quality ingredients. But salads made from fresh and flavorful organic ingredients are often more delicious without added dressings. If you feel the need to add a little something to top of your salad, try mixing up your own dressing using fresh organic herbs and spices with a little olive or coconut oil, and apple cider vinegar.

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Choose Natural and Organic to Fuel up Your Workout

The importance of eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise have been promoted to the general public for some time now. Consumers seem to be getting the message and are hitting the gym in record numbers. But the health benefits of daily exercise may be hampered by the fact that most consumers’ balanced diets don’t actually include very much real food.

As crazy as that sounds, it’s true. Mechanized farming and genetic modification have actually reduced the overall quality and antioxidant value in many of the fresh fruits and vegetables we consumer. But what’s even worse is that many time-strapped consumers turn to prepackaged, processed foods and drive-thru restaurants for a majority of their meals. This is not real food.

What’s the difference?

Conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and grains are typically genetically modified and use dangerous toxins such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and traditionally produced meats and seafood often contain added growth hormones and antibiotics. Consuming such toxins is something everyone should avoid, not just athletes and gym goers.

In addition, processed foods tend to be high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats, which have been linked to increases in obesity, various diseases and chronic ailments.

However, real foods, such as organic fruits, vegetables and grains, grass-fed meats and wild-caught seafood do not contain any of these toxins, and in some instances may have higher nutritional or antioxidant values.

Why we need real food

Food fuels our bodies, and while the quality of foods we choose is important for everyone, it’s especially important for athletes and exercise enthusiasts who need to replace vital nutrients and energy expended during a workout.

In addition, consuming high levels of antioxidants has been shown to decrease the risk of certain diseases.

What you can do

Increasing your daily intake of real foods isn’t all that difficult. A good place to start is by choosing organic fruits and vegetables. While organic produce can be a little more expensive, it’s easy to mitigate the higher costs by buying what’s in season in your area instead of paying extra for out-of-season produce that had to be transported.

Another good idea is to avoid processed foods whenever possible. While this may mean a bit more meal planning and cooking at home, you’ll likely see an increase in your energy level, which will make it well worth it.

Lastly, try to stay away from foods that are high in unhealthy fats, salt and sugar. This is a tough one for most people, as it usually means avoiding fast food altogether, but you’ll see big improvements on the scale if you’ve been working out in an attempt to lose weight.

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Stop Wishing and Get Working on a Tighter Butt

If you’re like most people, now that summer is finally here you’re probably thinking you should have spent more time at the gym this winter. This may be especially true for anyone who heads to the beach on weekends or lounges poolside during the summer months and wishes they had a firmer butt to show off their new swim suit.

Although wishing won’t get you the shapelier butt you’re longing for, there are a few great butt-firming exercises that are almost that simple.


Squats are one of the simplest exercises to perform, but there’s no denying they will work your glutes from all sides.

Start out in a standing position with your toes facing forward and your feet about shoulders’ width apart.

To perform the squat, hold your upper body as vertical as possible and press your heels into the ground as you gradually bend at the knees. It should look as though you’re cautiously sitting down. As you lower yourself into the squat, aim for getting your legs to a 90-degree bend, but don’t let your knees extend past the tips of your toes.

Return to the starting position by pushing your heels into the ground again and using the same slow and controlled movement to straighten your knees.

Do two sets of 10 – 20, depending on your ability.

Stationary lunge

The stationary lunge is an easy but effective way to lift sagging butt muscles.

Start out in a standing position with your arms at your sides and your feet together.

To perform the lunge, hold your upper body as vertical as possible and step forward with your left foot. As your left heel hits the ground, slowly bend your knee to a 90-degree angle as you lower your torso. But be sure your knee doesn’t extend beyond your ankle. Your right leg should now be extended out behind you with your right heel slightly off the ground.

Return to the starting position by pushing your left heel into the ground and straightening your knee as you bring your feet back together.

Do 10 – 15 reps, either by alternating sides or completing an entire set with one leg at a time.

Hydrant lift and side extension

The hydrant lift and side extension will give your butt that firmness you’re looking for.

Start out on all fours with your arms bent so that your knees and elbows are on the ground.

To perform the hydrant lift and side extension, keep your torso parallel to the ground and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your leg at a 90-degree angle, slowly pivot your hip, raising your left knee toward the ceiling until it is parallel with the ground.

From this position, straighten your knee and extend your left leg out to the side.

Return to the starting position by bending your knee and lowering your leg back to the ground.

Do two sets of 15 – 20 on each side.

Glute kickback

The glute kickback is another way to give your butt an extra lift.

Start out on all fours, with your arms bent so that your knees and elbows are on the ground.

To perform the glute kickback, keep your torso parallel to the ground and slowly extend your left leg out behind you. Flex your foot and keep your leg straight as you raise your leg toward the ceiling. Be sure to squeeze your glutes and pause when your leg is parallel with your torso.

Return to the starting position by steadily lowering your straight leg to the ground and then bending your knee to pull your leg forward.

Do two sets of 15 – 20 on each side.

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Get off the Bench for a Better Chest Workout

The classic bench press is a great exercise for building chest muscles, but always repeating the same exercises only targets the same area again and again. To get better results you need to mix it up.

While there are many great chest workouts that involve free weights or high-end machines, you really don’t need fancy or expensive equipment to get great results. Believe it or not, classic pushups are not only one the best exercises for building solid chest muscles they’re also one of the most versatile.

Pushups are easily adaptable for both beginners and advanced bodybuilding enthusiasts, and with only a few modifications you can work your entire chest. But best of all, you can do them just about anywhere.

Start with the classic

Classic pushups are a great way to build muscle, but maintaining proper form can have a big impact on your results. Before you incorporate any modified versions into your workout, be sure you’ve mastered the basic technique.

Proper form

Start with your hands on the ground just slightly further than shoulders’ width apart. Straighten your arms and stretch your legs out with your toes pointing downward. Your feet can be as far apart or close together as you like, but your weight should be balanced on the palms of your hands and your toes.

Keep your entire body in a straight line, with your chin toward the ground and your eyes forward. Beginners can slightly modify this technique by keeping their knees on the ground.

One rep at a time

From the starting position, brace your abs to keep your body in a straight line and steadily lower yourself by bending your elbows. Your elbows should remain close to your body and your legs should remain straight.

While there’s no exact measure for how low you should go, keep your distance the same for every rep so you can accurately assess your progress. For example, stop when your arm bends to a 90-degree angle or when your chest touches the ground.

Hold that position for a second or two then raise yourself back up to the starting position.

To get the best results, make sure you’re in control of your movements and not flopping to the ground on every rep. Even if you can only do one or two complete pushups at first, maintaining good form will help you get stronger faster.

Take it to the next level

After you’ve mastered the classic pushup technique, you can incorporate various modifications to work different areas of the chest.

For both the classic version as well as any of these variations, keeping your hands further apart than your shoulders will work the outer chest muscles, while keeping them at shoulders’ width will work the inner chest muscles. If your hands are closer than shoulders’ width, you’ll be working more on your triceps.

Staggered pushup – more challenging, as they target one side of the chest at a time

From the classic starting position, place one hand a few inches more forward than the other. Perform pushups using the classic form, but be sure to alternate hands between sets.

Single leg pushup – works your chest muscles and engages your core

From the classic starting position, lift one foot just a few inches off of the ground. Perform pushups using the classic form, but alternate legs between sets.

Plyometric pushup – activates the fast-twitch muscles in your chest

From the classic starting position, begin pushup by lowering yourself using the classic form. But instead of rising slowly, push up from the ground in one explosive movement, using enough force to lift your hands off of the ground.

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If you don’t ask, you’ll never get what you want

Dividing up the household chores is one of the most difficult aspects of living with another person. Most people think only newlyweds have this dilemma, but it’s something even older couples, life-long friends and college roommates struggle with when they live together.

Most people don’t enter into a living arrangement thinking they will simply get the other person to do all the work around the house so they can just relax and enjoy the weekend. Quite often, when two people decide to live together, they get right to work making joint decisions on what color to paint the walls, what type of furniture they want to have or where to place the TV.

But when it comes to maintaining the home and the yard, paying the bills, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning many individuals simply start doing whatever it is they’re most comfortable with, without much discussion at all. And that’s exactly where the problem lies.

Silence isn’t the answer

For example, if you love to cook, you might be excited to prepare the first few meals in your new home. After only a short time, you find you’re doing all the cooking, and it’s just become part of the routine. The other person may not offer to cook a meal because they don’t want to offend you or because they know how much you love to cook. But in the meantime, you’re getting annoyed because they haven’t even asked.

All of this could have been avoided with a simple conversation about who’d be doing the cooking once you moved in. Just stating that you’re excited to try out the new kitchen may be enough to get the conversation started. But be sure to speak up and suggest a plan to share the responsibility if it doesn’t come up automatically. You can apply this same tactic to just about any ongoing chore that’s likely to become a source of frustration if only one person is responsible.

Communication is easier once the lines are open

While it’s always a good idea to have these types of discussions ahead of time, it’s important to keep in mind that once you’re all settled in you may need to make some adjustments to your preplanned routine. Maybe one person’s commute is longer than originally thought, or maybe you decided to get a dog. However, having already had discussions about sharing responsibilities, it will be much easier to discuss what may need to change.

Some people may be resistant to the idea of discussing responsibilities in the home, because they think it seems too ridged. But the truth is, having clear-cut roles makes it even easier to be flexible, especially in the short term. For example, you see that the other person is struggling with something (e.g., a big project that’s keeping them at the office late or a cold that’s keeping them on the couch). If it’s their turn to make dinner or take out the trash, be sure to offer to step in. Just make sure you’re genuine in asking if you can help out, as you don’t want them to feel like they’re not keeping up their end. Also, by asking if they need help, you’re setting a precedent of pitching in when needed, and the favor will likely be returned when you’re in need.

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Should you panic over skipping a workout or two?

You’ve missed out on going to the gym for the second time this week, and you’re starting to feel a little panicked about what will happen to your fitness levels. Even though panicking won’t really help you out here, you may be right to have a little concern.

Maybe you were stuck at work or you caught a head cold from the kids. Whatever your reason, you can’t undo the fact that you just couldn’t make it to the gym for a few days. The good news is that if you’ve only missed a day or two, you won’t likely noticed much difference in your fitness ability. But, missing much more than that could be a bigger issue.

There are a lot of variables in figuring out how quickly you might get out of shape if you slacked off in your regular workout routine. You would need to consider your age, height and weight as well as how long you’ve been exercising regularly, the type of workout you do and your overall fitness levels. In fact, you’d have to factor in so much data that it’s pretty near impossible to come up with an exact formula.

Instead of trying to figure out how quickly you’ll get out of shape, it might be more important to figure out what’s keeping you out of the gym in the first place. If it really was due to work or a short-term illness, then there’s probably no cause for concern. But if you seem to be having a mini crisis that keeps you out of the gym at least a few times a week, there may be something else going on.

Feeling guilty

It’s impossible to be in two places at once, and if you have family at home, maybe you’re feeling guilty over spending an hour at the gym every evening instead of being at home. If so, try talking to your spouse or even your kids if they’re old enough. Ask them if anyone has concerns about the time you spend working out, and make sure they understand how important it is for your physical and mental health. There’s no better way to teach your kids about the importance of staying fit and healthy than by being a good example, and you may be surprised to find out they’re actually supportive of your fitness goals.

Crunched for time?

Maybe you really are just having trouble fitting everything in. Instead of skipping the gym altogether, try a different workout on days you feel crunched for time. Instead of an hour-long yoga class, you could go for a 20-minute swim or get in a few miles on the treadmill. While you may not burn as many calories, you will burn off your stress from the day. Another alternative would be to add a short high-intensity workout to your weekly schedule. At least you’ll know that’s one day you’ll be in and out of the gym in less time, and you’ll still have the benefit of a great workout.

No matter what your reason was for skipping a workout or two, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just accept that it happens to even the most dedicated people now and then, and make sure you have a plan for getting back to the gym as soon as possible.

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