Keystone Habit graphic

Everybody has their one thing. Something that when you do it, it makes other good decisions happen. That’s your keystone habit and it is the secret to unlocking a healthy life.

You know those days when everything just seems to click. You are on fire! Maybe you started your day with a really healthy breakfast. Maybe you got in an amazing workout or broke away for a mid-day yoga class. Maybe you spent the first 5 minutes at your desk pinpointing your top 3 must-do priorities for your day instead of checking email. Whatever it is, there is a magic in finding your keystone habit.

In one of my favorite books, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, numerous studies are cited about willpower and discipline. Just reading those words can feel exhausting, right? One more thing to do? And this time of year, when most of us have reached the end of our willpower bucket trying to achieve often lofty resolution goals, it can feel overwhelming to think about creating another habit.

But the beautiful thing about building a habit is that it automates and makes doing a task easier. Who doesn’t want life’s daily tasks to be easier?

Tweet: By creating a habit, you automate a daily task – making it easier to complete with less effort.

And a keystone habit has a unique ripple effect. The research shows that when we make one right decision – like getting in that morning workout instead of hitting snooze, we strengthen our willpower muscle, if you will. We then have the ability to resist the donuts at the office with greater confidence. We are better able to filter comments to that annoying coworker. And we have the discipline to have a glass of sparkling water when we get home rather than a glass of wine.

So what is your keystone habit? For me, it is working out in the morning…but not just any old workout. When I do an intense workout – like Insanity (my current favorite because the results are sick!), I find that I want to eat a healthy breakfast, I start drinking much more water than I normally would have and after several days I have more energy that makes me want to move throughout the day.

Of course you don’t magically become a healthy decision machine after one bowl of oatmeal. But after practicing your keystone habit for several days (see the discipline building in that?), then you have the muscle to make more right decisions.

So now I’m dying to hear from all of you. What is your keystone habit? Join the Facebook conversation about this topic. Share your best tips. You don’t want to miss the discussion.



photo credit: Keymaster (HDR) via photopin (license)

What's Hot about Hot Yoga

It’s clear…yoga is hot! In almost every city you can find a multitude of yoga studios; many of them are offering hot yoga.

Hot yoga is basically the practice of yoga in a hot, humid room; generally between 80-95 degrees. The twist on this centuries’ old practice is intended to help warm your muscles so that you can more easily stretch and hold postures that you might otherwise have difficulty holding. I personally think the trend is particularly hot because we are moving into an era of extreme sports.

Whether pushing ourselves to extremes through programs like Insanity, participating in races like Tough Mudder, or even turning up the heat in your traditional yoga class, it seems that we have a real thirst for our exercise to be intense, challenging, and far from boring.

So I decided to give hot yoga a try. Luckily, I have a friend who opened an adorable new studio (shout out for Twist Yoga @TwistYogaLO) which made it all the more alluring to test out this trend. While I have long been a lover of yoga – although not always consistent in my practice – hot yoga is a variation that seemed a little intimidating to me. So I called a friend and experienced yogi to join me in my initial try.

Twist Yoga

To start, I wanted to make sure I was clear on what I was signing up for. Some yoga studios offer Bikrim Yoga, which is a specific class with a set series of postures that happens to take place in a hot studio. “Hot Yoga” as a more general term, can mean any form of yoga, just in a hot space.

Walking into the room for the first time, it felt as if I’d open the door to the beach. Warm, humid air hit me immediately and I felt instantly relaxed. It didn’t take long into the class for that relaxed feeling to wane into a serious workout. If you’ve never taken yoga of any kind, you’d be mistaken to think it is only about touching your toes or twisting like a contortionist. Sure, there is a great deal of flexibility that comes into play, but the strength needed to hold certain postures is the real secret. It wasn’t long before I was dripping with sweat. Ah, like a free facial!

Our instructor, Kristin Fondran, would add absolutely motivating statements such as “breathe in what you need (.ie. strength, confidence) and breathe out what you don’t (i.e. self-judging, worries).” This is where the mind part of this mind-body exercise becomes so addictive. Every “practice” (a great reminder that you don’t have to be perfect at this) ends with a relaxation that involves lying on the floor. To me it is the absolutely reward for the hard work you just put in.

Karma shirt

Overall, I would say that hot yoga may help you to feel a little more limber as compared to regular yoga. Any yoga practice should be a progression and if you don’t like it at first, give it a few more chances before you throw in the yoga mat. You should dress appropriately (cropped yoga pants and athletic tank are good…remember no shoes), bring plenty of water, and you may want a yoga towel to cover your mat – because you are going to sweat! And in ANY kind of exercise, you have to listen to your body. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or in general not right – just come to your mat. Yogis are extremely forgiving.

If you are a complete newbie, get there early, tell the instructor you are new and let her know of any injuries you may have. Blocks and straps are helpful yoga tools that help you achieve poses if you aren’t quite flexible enough. Humility is another great tool to bring. Leave your self-judging at the door and understand that it is ok if you don’t get everything right. You may be tempted to look around the room, but realize there might be people in the class who have done yoga for years – so don’t compare.

I have never once regretted the time I’ve taken to be at a yoga class. It really is one of those exercises that makes you feel good in body and mind. It is refreshing in a way that the treadmill is not. I don’t consider myself an expert yogi by any means and I certainly like the variety of many different kinds of exercise in my fitness plan, but yoga has stood the test of time for a reason. Hot or not, I encourage you to give yoga a try.
photo credit: Amber Karnes via photopin cc

Are Your Workouts Intense Enough to Get Results

When it comes to the secret of getting REAL results from your workout, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that you can get amazing results in a short amount of time! That’s great for all of you who are time-strapped with the demands of life…that’s pretty much everyone reading this, right? The bad news is that you are going to have to step up your effort.

Wait…don’t stop reading yet! This doesn’t mean you have to quit your day job and become a gym rat to have any kind of muscle definition. Hear me out…

We’ve all heard the recommendations for physical activity and we are well aware of the incredible benefits of regular exercise. Yet, only 5% of American adults actually meet these recommendations, because it can be hard to figure out how to make physical activity fit into our lives.

I’m going to break it down for you, show you how you CAN make it a part of real life, and tell you how to get the most from your effort.

Just so that we are all on the same page, here are the recommendations for physical activity.

Physical Activity Recommendations

See, if you can bring that intensity level up to vigorous, you can cut your time in half! Of course, it is good for cardiovascular benefits to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity in a session, but you can see health benefits in as little as 10 or 15-minute bouts.

In fact, a recent study at the University of Utah proved that higher intensity activity is associated with lower BMI (body mass index), where lower intensity activity didn’t have the same reduced risk of overweight and obesity. One researcher said “The intensity of the activity matters more than the duration.

Now, we can’t all jump into Insanity-level workouts (although I have to say those videos are amazing!), but the goal is to increase your intensity small bits at a time. Instead of going for a leisurely 30-minute walk, research suggests you are better off jogging for 5-10 minutes, running for 1-3 minutes, and back to jogging or walking. Throwing a few bursts of high-intensity exercise adds more interest to your workouts too, and it allows you to finish in shorter amount of time or in fewer days each week.

As always, you need to listen to your body anytime you are working out. Challenge means work, but it shouldn’t mean pain. Yes, you can be sore the next day, but the soreness should be in your muscles not your joints. If you aren’t sure about form or proper intervals for intensity, seek the help of a trainer or exercise professional. But, if you are sick of not seeing any results for that daily walk you’ve been doing for months, for your standard 3-mile jog you’ve stuck to since the new year, or whatever work out you’ve been stagnating on, it might just be time to increase your intensity!

So back to the “How am I’m going to fit this into my real life?” question.  Here’s how! Pick 4 days this week. It’s better to space them out throughout the week, but really I’m not going to be picky here. Let’s say you choose Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. On Tuesday and Thursday, you put on some running shoes during lunch or after work and go for a 30-minute walk/run. Alternate walking for 5 minutes followed by running for 5 minutes until your 30 minutes are up. Then on Saturday and Sunday, go for a 10-minute walk followed by the 10-minute Full Body Mix workout. (See spelled out plan below) 

Sample workout plan


In 30-minutes or less 4 days per week, you’ve done it! Increase the amount of time in vigorous exercise and you can cut that time even further…or see results faster. Your choice! Drop a comment below if you give this or another workout plan a try.  Do you have your own way of ramping up your intensity? I’d love to hear it.

Edited photo original credit: Louish Pixel via photopin cc


Is the Weather Making You Fat

The East coast just got get hit with yet another. ruthless. winter. storm. Newscasters say this is the 15th storm this winter leaving many of you longing for the days when that grey snow melts away and you can enjoy being outdoors again.

60% of the country is dealing with snow, which means that many of us are struggling to stay fit. (if you agree – Share on Twitter!)

Having recently experienced a weekend limited by snowy and icy conditions in the Pacific Northwest, I can sympathize with the limitations the weather puts on your attempts to be physically fit. Aside from trying to entertain stir-crazed kids, it is easy to find yourself in a state of hibernation. I myself, watched TWO movies in one day – I mean, when was the last time I watched ONE movie at home? Were my closets completely organized? Were all of my well-intentioned projects completed? Did I spend the day creating scrapbooks for my children? No! But I found time to watch TWO movies! That’s not to mention the bored snacking that goes on when you are stuck inside. I understand the lure of hibernation. Really, I do.

But here’s the real kicker (and gift) about living well. You don’t have to be perfect! You just need to spend most of your time in a way that supports health. So while I really loved the time curled up with my kids and husband watching movies, I also really valued the time sledding with them, going for a walk in the snow with a friend, and carving out time for ME to exercise. When you are faced with the MANY days indoors that this fierce winter has demanded, you can’t stayed curled on the couch every snow day.

I know, I know…your workout choices are limited. No doubt.

Just because you can’t get to the gym, doesn’t mean that exercise is no longer an option. It’s always wise to have a plan B for exercise. In case you are fresh out of ideas, I want to share with you a super simple plan B. So simple, you’ll think “why didn’t I think of that”.

 10-minute solution - The Weather-Buster


This workout is perfect for a hotel room or snow day when you need a quick burst that requires no equipment, no electricity (maybe you want to print this one in the future?) and no trainer. All you need is your own commitment to make it happen. In just a few minutes, you can go back to that movie… until you feel the need to repeat the workout again. Oh, and when you are done and have so much time on your hands, leave me a comment, pin it, or tell your snowed-in Facebook friends about it. I can’t wait to hear what you think of this one?

10-minute solution - The Weather-Buster

Want more 10-minute solutions? Want other workout ideas? Let me know…I can’t read your mind! 🙂 Just leave a comment below. 


snow day photo credit: mnotta via photopin cc

10-minute solutions photo credit: nicola.albertini via photopin cc

21 Ways to Stay Fit this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be a foodie’s favorite day and a dieter’s dread. It all comes down to how you look at this holiday. While significant weight gain never occurs from one meal or one day, there are several small choices we can make to curb the damage that this feast can do. I have a list of simple ideas that will help you stay slim.

21 Easy Ways to Keep Fit this Thanksgiving

Whether you choose to follow all 21 tips or select your top few, make a choice to enjoy the holiday for what it is – a celebration of abundance and realize that we all have more than we need. Wishing you a day full of thanks!

photo credit: laffy4k via photopin cc

10-Minute Solutions Full Body Mix square

A lack of time is the number one reason people give for not exercising. With the holidays upon us, the demands on our time are even greater, making getting in the necessary physical activity all the more difficult.

Rather than write-off exercise until you are faced with a resolution on January 1, learn to make the most of limited workout time by increasing the intensity. Recent research indicates that high intensity workouts have better results than lower intensity exercise, such as going for a walk. So, ramping up your effort might save you time AND give you the results you want more quickly. Bonus!

I have created a sample workout that is perfect for beginners to advanced exercisers, because you do the number of reps you can in the allotted time and repeat the circuit for added challenge. This simple 10-minute plan meets the needs of even the tightest of schedules, so there are no excuses. Start at your level of fitness and increase slowly making an effort to push yourself, but not past the point of pain or injury.

This 10-minute plan works all major areas of your body while getting in a cardio workout. It really is the best way to get maximum results in a short period of time.

The Full-Body Mix 10-Minute Workout

I have links to video explanations of some of the exercises, in case you are unfamiliar with the movement or proper form. There are a few ideas to increase the intensity too. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Push ups

Spider plank (although keep your rear end in line with your body – straight as a board, just like a regular plank)

Butt kickers

Jump squats (make sure to keep your knees behind your toes)

Triceps dips 

Hop over the line (AKA Lateral hop – this example is a more advanced example of clearing a raised bar, but you can hop over a jump rope, imaginary line, or something substantial like a yoga brick. Choose the intensity that works for you.)


High knees




Edited photo credit: nicola.albertini via photopin cc

Using Exercise Buddies to Maintain Motivation

We are entering some dangerous times, my friends. Not only are stores teeming with Halloween candy and other fall “treats”, but October is also the month with the lowest gym attendance of the entire year. While you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, it seems that any fitness momentum new exercisers gain over the summer months tends to wane a little as we enter fall. Cooler temps and fewer daylight hours can bring on new barriers. And let’s be honest, it isn’t going to get any easier as we enter the heart of holiday season.

It a crucial time to step up your fitness routine by finding an exercise buddy. Yes, the secret to staying fit isn’t a new gadget or fitness routine, rather it is increasing your accountability to help you KEEP exercising. I know for myself, when I’m in the habit of exercising, I don’t like the feeling of missing a day. I’m more sluggish, irritable, and I don’t have the same enthusiasm for doing other tasks in my day. But, get in a workout and magically I’m happy me again. However, when I miss several days in a row, it is really hard to back into the routine. Just getting through that first workout can be the hardest step. Staying consistent with exercise prevents the need to muster up motivation to dive back in, AND it is one of the best ways to reap serious fitness benefits from your workouts.

Yet, we are prone to slack off when there is little accountability. I have noticed in working with clients that those who choose online methods of losing weight or choose to exercise alone are more likely to have higher body mass indexes (BMIs – a measure of appropriate body weight) and are more likely to drop out because it is less embarrassing to fail in private.

A recent survey showed that 77% of adults prefer to exercise alone. I get it. You are busy and you have to fit in exercise when you can, not when your buddy can meet up with you. Or you might be cutting costs by nixing the gym membership. You can still improve your odds of fitness success.

Adding the power of an exercise buddy can come in many forms. It could be a friend who meets you for a walk every day or the personal trainer that you hire at your gym. It could also be your sister in another state with whom you trade workout success stories or your Facebook friends that follow your progress as you train for your first 5K. The point is to tell the world about what you are doing. Don’t exercise in secret. Heck, start a blog about it or just challenge your spouse to get in more steps than you do each week. Once you have other people aware of your fitness goals, they will not only help you to stay on course, but they can also celebrate your success with you making the positive reinforcement for your fitness even greater.

So, if you don’t already have one, find an exercise buddy this week. Help each other to stick to fitness throughout the holiday season and you’ll be ringing in the New Year with one less resolution!
photo credit: Edson Hong via photopin cc

Fitness Identity Sabotaging Success


We all have an image or an impression of ourselves in our mind. Call it self-esteem, self-awareness, or an internal identity, but we all have it.

We determine what kind of person we are – ex.” I am considerate”, “I am shy”, “I am a social butterfly”. We have assumptions about our appearance – ex. “I have big thighs”, “I have no rear end”, or “Everything I eat goes straight to my middle”. And we hold beliefs about how we behave – ex. “I would never do that”.

Yet, sometimes our mental identity can limit us.

I caught myself the other day replying to a friend in a way that revealed a lot about my identity. She commented that she sees me running in our neighborhood and said “you must be a runner.” I almost instinctively fired back with “well, I run, but I don’t consider myself a runner.”

Why not? Doesn’t the mere act of running make someone a runner? I my mind I thought a “runner” was someone who was long and lean (I was not born with a “runner’s body” at 5’ 3”) and liked to run 8, 12, maybe 20 miles at a time. If that is the standard, then I certainly am no runner.

But determining that I am not a runner does the same work to one’s psyche that a positive affirmation can do. When you tell yourself something enough, eventually you’ll believe it.

Telling myself that I’m not a runner limits me from considering more challenging races, pushing myself to run farther than I might have tried in the past, or even seeking out advice of run clubs and coaches…since a non-runner wouldn’t need that.

To be fair, I have seen ALL KINDS of body sizes and shapes run. Even challenging races such as marathons have participants who you wouldn’t think of a “runners” completing the race. In fact, marathon finishers will often tell you that a majority of the success is all mental.

We have to be careful about the fitness identities we hold so that they don’t limit. Mentally talking ourselves out of trying new exercise options, holding back on our efforts to do what we have always done will just make exercise boring, less rewarding and can often diminish our success.

My full fitness identity is that I’m a curious fitness advocate who loves to try, explore, and experience variety in activities. What identity are you holding that either hinders or helps you reach your fitness goals?

photo credit: HckySo via photopin cc

Busting through Barriers to Exercise

We all know of the multitude of benefits from exercise and yet on a day-to-day basis, it can be a challenge to get in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity we are supposed to get each week (in case you didn’t do the math – that’s 30 minutes 5 days a week). And that is just the minimum amount recommended.

There are so many excuses reasons that come to mind for why we just don’t seem to move enough. We have good intentions, but sometimes our notion of what is acceptable exercise can be the limiting factor.

Many people think they have to go to a gym and exercise for 30 minutes to an hour for the activity to be worth anything. We get confused by messages telling us to exercise at a certain heart rate zone for fat-burning, or to lift heavy weights for minimal reps, or workout in intense intervals…and so on. While some of this information is valid, it leads to overwhelm. We get a complex about how we work-out that can lead to NOT working out.

Research shows that the less restrictive the fitness regimen, the more likely you are to continue.

I am a strong proponent of scheduling exercise on your daily calendar, so it doesn’t become an afterthought for when you have “free time”…because there is no such thing. Yet, being able to adjust for life’s unexpected schedule changes is a skill that will allow you to adapt fitness into a realistic lifestyle – and throughout many different stages of your lifespan.

Simplifying or being flexible with the when, how long and in what way you exercise opens the door to options, rather than spotlighting all of the barriers. If you are used to exercising in the morning, be able to adjust for an afternoon workout when work demands call for an early-morning staff meeting. If you prefer to walk with a friend, be willing to walk solo when that friend is unable to show for your normal time. If you are in the habit of doing laps in your pool, be able to pick up an indoor sport like basketball during the winter months. Lastly, if you are used to running for exercise, be able to find an alternate exercise when you experience an injury, rather than being sidelined all together (with your health provider’s approval, of course).

As you are able to focus on options rather than an “either-or” predicament, you’ll find that being active is a much more realistic and enjoyable part of your day. After all, some movement is better than none at all.

If those barriers continue to percolate to the top of your mind, here are some possible ways to bust through.

Common Barriers to Exercise

Possible Barrier Busters

  I don’t have the time
  • Break up exercise into smaller increments of time (example: walk for 10 min. in the morning, 10 min. at lunch and 10 min. after dinner)
  • Do jumping jacks during commercials of your favorite show
  • Walk around your child’s soccer field while he/she has practice
  • Walk the length of an airport concourse while on a layover
  • Do a 4-min Tabata workout, even when you don’t have time for your full workout routine.
  I can’t afford a gym membership
  • Walk in your neighborhood or in a nearby mall
  • Do flights of stairs at work or in your home
  • Make use of a local park or playground for activity
  • Look up resources available through your local Parks and Rec department (some even have pools or free/low-cost exercise classes)
  • Utilize hiking trails in your community
  I’m not sure what exercises to do
  I’m self-conscious around fit individuals
  • Workout with a buddy who is similar in size or look for a female-only gym/exercise class
  • Invest in new workout wear that makes you feel confident
  I can’t seem to get motivated to exercise
  • Find an exercise buddy and commit to holding each other accountable
  • Try a different kind of activity that seems more enjoyable like Zumba, swimming, or yoga
  • Get your mind off of exercise by listening to upbeat music that you like or an audiobook you’ve been meaning to read
  • Set a goal like participating in a race that requires a training schedule to keep you on track
  It’s too hot, cold, wet, or otherwise   uncomfortable to   exercise outside
  • Dress appropriately and hydrate as needed.
  • Have indoor options for plan B (and maybe C or D) exercise
  • Who says you can’t exercise in the rain? As long as you are safe, challenge yourself to be uncomfortable. Moving beyond what you are used to doing might give you new results.

Challenge yourself to think alternatively to exercise, have an activity-focused mindset and break through any barriers! Let me know how you break through barriers or which ones still stand in your way.



photo credit: Abdullah AL-Naser via photopin cc

5 Tips for Banishing the Belly Bloat

With July 4th holiday past us, we are officially in the heart of summer. Warmer weather means less clothing and a whole new level of evaluating our physical selves. You can’t quite hide those less-than-flattering areas in the same way, so the self-deprecation begins. While we are all very quick to pinpoint areas of our bodies that don’t look the way we’d like, it seems that the abdominal area takes (or shows) the cake most often.


Whether it was from having children or turning 30, 40, whatever…something has happened in that area and it is not pretty. Beyond wanting to look good in a swimsuit, carrying fat around your middle puts you at greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Specifically, if your waist circumference measures more than 35″ for women or 40″ for men, you need to get serious. Aside from promoting health, maintaining a strong core can help prevent back pain and injury, and it helps you do everyday tasks like lifting children or loading a cart at Costco just a bit easier.


But having a strong core takes some dedication. To be honest, most people aren’t willing to do the work to get (or maintain) Jillian Michaels-style abs…and that’s ok! You just don’t want to walk around with a muffin top either. So, here are my 5 tips for realistically banishing belly bloat.


1. Avoid simple sugars and carbs – I’m not taking away all pasta and bread, I’m just saying if it is white and fluffy it might make your abs that way too. Instead, choose high fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts that will fill you and not go straight to your midsection. Remember that simple sugars and carbohydrates are not just found in breads and pastas. That frozen pina colada served pool-side is a nightmare when it comes to the amount sugar- it easily contains 40 grams or more per drink! Juices and sweetened beverages including sodas, teas and sports drinks are trouble too. Remember that honey, agave nectar and cane sugar (organic or not) are all in the sugar family, so don’t be fooled. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the #1 source of added sugar in the American diet and the #3 source of total calories for children and adolescents. Ouch!


2. Limit alcohol – Yeah, I know I said realistic tips but alcohol is a real culprit in the battle of the bulge…for any area of your body. Try to alternate alcoholic beverages with water and find some great low-calorie mocktail recipes  or flavored waters that make you feel as if you are still drinking something special all the while knowing that you are rocking a solid middle. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day also helps your digestion work better allowing you to feel less bloated even on a healthy diet.


3. Reduce extra air – As silly as it sounds, using straws, drinking lots of carbonated beverages and even chewing gum frequently can cause you to ingest air which might cause a slight bloat. We aren’t talking about 50 pounds worth, but it can be the difference between pants fitting comfortably and pants feeling a little snug.


4. Don’t skip your cardio workout – It doesn’t take a genius to know that excess abdominal fat is a result of too many overall calories. Don’t beat yourself up over past mistakes. Reduce portions and add a strong cardio component to your fitness plan to help you bake away the muffin top. Better yet, go for high-intensity exercise which has the added benefit of decreasing your appetite!


5. Manage stress – So much easier said than done, but chronic stress will make you gain more around your middle. Learning how to manage stress of daily life is an essential skill we all need. Decide what works for you – listen to calming music, journal, go for a run, talk to a friend, do yoga or just sit in peace and quiet (if you can find that in your house). Any of these will help to limit those stress hormones that contribute to abdominal fat. Try to change your perspective so that fewer things bother you and learn to say no to those commitments or people that cause extra drama in your life. When you feel the need to worry, ask yourself if it will matter a week, month or year from now. If the answer is no, it isn’t worth stressing over.

Don’t spend the next few months afraid to don that swimsuit because of a less-than-flattering midsection. Decide which of the 5 tips above you’ll work on today to help you shed your muffin top for good.

While you can’t spot reduce (a fancy way of saying exercise the fat away from a particular area of your body), you can work to strengthen your core. Here are some of my favorite exercises. They are a great compliment to your cardio workout.


List of some of the best ab exercises – exercises that give you the best results
10-minute ab workout – Good old Fitness Blender video that is no-nonsense but effective
Jillian Michael’s full-length ab workout video – literally click on this and go to work building abs



photo credit: Malingering via photopin cc

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