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Jeff's Thoughts

  • The Ennis Effect

    10 December, 2012

    With the Olympics now well behind us we can look back on the amazing wins, athletes and  highlights of the London 2012 games.  Many of us have been inspired to get into better shape and one of the most talked about bodies is that of British Gold Medal winner for the Heptathlon – Jessica Ennis (well at Studio41 at least).  So how do we do this? How do we get a body that looks like this – toned, lean and athletic, all the attributes that most people would die for.

    1. Have the genes

    Sorry to put this in but if you ever have the chance to choose your parents – take it. The gene pool plays a large role in your fast twitch to slow twitch percentage. The more fast twitch muscle fibers you have the faster you will be. The faster you are the easier it is to put muscle on.

    2. Variety.

    The trick here is balance. People say you need to “keep the body guessing”. This is true to a point, too much guessing and you get no where. The key thing is Jessica has had the time to become good at her disciplines so there is lots of repeated practice, but enough variety within the chosen disciplines to be beneficial. Each event in the Heptathlon requires different muscle contractions, one of the best ways to ensure variety in a workout.

    The worst thing you can do is do the same old 20 mins on a crosstrainer time and time again.

    3. Do things fast

    This is key. Long aerobic training that sees you train in the medium HR zone does not yeild better results than those who train at maximum intensity for shorter periods of time. I think that Jessica has proved we do not need to run for more than 400 meters to look great. How can we put this into our own practice? Go to the track, run 400 meters 10 times, but each time you run a lap, run it so fast you have to rest between each one.  Run fast, rest – repeat. Pretty simple really.  If a track isn’t the place for you, simply choose a path up Mount Vic and sprint up a hill that takes you about 60 sec to go up and then walk back down to recover, then repeat. Or even a flight of stairs will do the job.

    4. Eat clean

    Base your nutrition around wholefoods. Cereal for breakfast is the worst thing you can do. Protein and good fats such as eggs and smoked salmon will take you further than coco pops or weetbix will ever do. When you eat carbs go for rice or quinoa as they are  tolerated better by the body than the gluten filled pasta or noodles. Don’t be afraid of fat, hummus is a great snack with vegetables for throughout the day. If you are as lean as you want to be, then add sugar into your post workout shake. But only once you are lean. Until then sugar is the enemy.

    5. No need to run more than 800 meters.

    Running for 45 mins only burns muscle and makes you look skinny. But athletic looks are not achieved by long aerobic running. Keep it short and fast. You can also mix it up with interval training in the gym in a circuit format.



    Tagged under: Other


  • The Great Battle That Saw Low Fat Win!!

    25 September, 2012

    Not everyone knows where the ideas or recommendations for food that we eat on a daily basis come from. We hope (maybe a little blindly) that it is with excellent science and irrefutable research that governments make their recommendations for a healthier nation.

    In the early 70s the American government decided to create recommendations to the public about food and chose a senator (not a nutritionalist) to decide on what those recommendations would be. And so the McGovern report was born, named after Senator George McGovern. For the first time the government recommended four nutritional guidelines.

    1. We should reduce our consumption of fat
    2. We should switch from animal fats to vegetables fats
    3. Reduce cholesterol to 1 egg per day
    4. Eat more carbohydrates, especially grains.

    Where did these suggestions come from? Ancel Keys was a scientist that produced research in 1953 that changed everything for ever. His study undeniably showed that fat consumption was linked with heart disease from research from 6 different countries. And it was born – the obsession with fat, health and heart disease (or the lipid hypothesis to be technical). However no one knows that at the same time there was a another world renowned researcher called John Yudkin producing relevant research blaming sugar on the rising fat epidemic and increase in heart disease.

    And so the great battle was on, Ancel Keys on one side showing that the more fat a nation consumes, the more that population dies from heart disease, and John Yudkin, also showing that the more sugar a nation consumes, the more heart disease is present.

    So Senator George McGovern had a choice – Yudkin or Keys? A choice that today still influences us as we buy low fat milk and low fat cheese from the supermarket. George McGovern choose Ancel Keys’s work and recommended the four nutritional guidelines stated above to the american public. Lets hope this was the right decision!!

    These recommendations helped to drive the creation of the food pyramid that saw whole natural foods such as meat and fish pushed to the top while refined carbohydrates sit underneath creating a smug foundation.

    Since Ancel Keys research in 1953, there have been many national and international studies that have gone out to scientifically prove the link between fat and heart disease. The most prominent was the American National Institute Of Health in the 1970s who put 12000 men on a low fat diet which avoided red meat and restricted their cholesterol which cost $115 000 000 and took years to do. The result was that the lower fat group suffered more heart attacks!!

    Ancel Keys and consequently Senator McGovern got it wrong!!

    It has also been shown also that Ancel Keys had originally 22 counties to choose his data from for his original study, but he only chose to plot the data from 6 (hence the 6 nation study). Why did he do this? Because if you plot the data from all 22 countries – their was no link between fat and heart disease.

    So if you are looking for true health, don’t use the food pyramid as your guide, stick to whole foods that are natural regardless of how much fat or cholesterol they contain and stay away from refined breads, pasta, rice and cereal and never ever choose low fat products – unless of course you don’t value your health!










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  • Breaking The Myths of Protein

    19 September, 2012

    There have been a couple of myths out there in the general public about nutrition plans that consist of higher than usual proteins levels that is recommended by the FSA. Lets have a look at these one by one and unravel the truth behind each one.

    High protein diets cause kidney disease

    This myth comes from 2 different sources as far a I can find. The first is by reversing a medical fact. That fact is that people with a preexisting renal function, a low protein diet seems to lessen the decline of the kidney. Therefore people have concluded that high levels of protein lead to impaired kidney function.

    Jonny Bowden sums it up in a very simplistic way in his book “Living Low Carb: Controlled Carbohydrate Eating for Long Term Weight Loss”.
    “If you have a broken leg, or a sprained ankle, or shin splints, I’m going to suggest that you not take a step class until the injury heals. Under these special circumstances, the very weight-bearing that does so much good for the normal person is going to be more stress than you need during the healing phase. I’m going to tell you to stay off the leg, let it heal, and avoid putting additional stress on it at this time. Does the fact that step class is not good for a person with a broken leg mean that the step class led to the broken leg? No. And ketogenic diets do not—I repeat, do not—cause kidney disease. If your doctor says they do, politely ask him or her to show you the studies. (They don’t exist.) Ketogenic diets are, however, not a good thing if you have an existing kidney disease, much the way a step class is not a good thing if your leg is already broken”.

    So yes, one study with only 8 people with renal failure showed that a high kidney diet did not help the kidney to repair. This is completely different from having healthy subjects eat a high protein diet and concluding that this is bad.

    Louis Newburgh was a scientist who worked in the era of the 1920s, also claimed that inducing a diet high on protein would elicit chronic kidney problems. However his research was not done in the most compelling way. His research was done on Rabbits. These are animals that do not eat meat (their diets are largely based on buds and bark). So he fed herbivores diets high in egg whites, beef protein and noticed that this diets caused kidney problems with rabbits. Once again flimsy research interpreted that the same thing that happened to herbivores (the rabbits) would also happen to meat eating humans. This is simply not the case.

    What really causes the liver to be stressed? It is sugar-sticky proteins that are a result of excess sugar floating around in the blood stream bumping into protein molecules. These sugar-sticky molecules start to clump together becoming to big to pass through the network of blood capillaries in the kidneys that act as a filter system for waste products form the blood. This reduces kidney function. If you don’t currently have a kidney problem, then eating a low carbohydrate (and hence high protein diet) is an ideal way to control blood sugar levels which eventually could lead to kidney disease.

    2. The absence of fresh fruit and vegetables in these diets would cause mineral deficiency diseases.

    B vitamins are depleted from the body by the consumption of carbohydrates and the same can be said for vitamin C. Type 2 diabetics have roughly 30 percent lower levels of vitamin C in their circulation than do non-diabetics. Metabolic syndrome is also associated with significantly lower levels of circulating vitamin C. The explanation that Gary Taubes gives in his book Good Calories Bad Calories is from 1997 by the nutritionalists Julie Will and Tim Byers of the center of disease control and the university of colorado respectively. They suggest that the high blood sugar and/or high levels of insulin work to increase the body’s requirement for vitamin C. The vitamin C molecule is similar in configuration to glucose and other sugars in the body. It is shuttled from the bloodstream into the cells by the same insulin-dependent transport system used by the glucose. So hence they compete in this process. Because blood sugar is favoured in this competition, vitamin C is globally inhibited when blood sugar levels are elevated. Hence if blood sugar goes up, vitamin C uptake drops accordingly.

    So therefore it is not the absence of fresh fruit and vegetables that maybe causing deficiencies, it is the presence of blood glucose from refined carbohydrates that do the damage. Infact you could be eating fresh fruit and vegetables and still be minerval and vitamin deficient due to the high presence of blood glucose.

    “When we discuss the long-term effects of diets that might reverse or prevent obesity, we must not let our preconceptions about the nature of a healthy diet bias the science and the interpretation of the evidence itself”

    Gary Taubes. Good Calories, Bad Calories.

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  • Can We Be Fit Without Cardio?

    15 August, 2012

    One thing that has always niggled at me about the health and fitness industry is the idea that cardio is separate to weight training and we need to do both to be “fit”. I can train someone in a room full of weights, pushing them through a whole body training session where they are absolutely on their knees by the end of the 50 mins, sweat is pouring off them and their heart is thumping out of their chest and still they say – “now tomorrow I have to go for a run for my “Cardio”.

    After attending a program design course held by olympic strength coach Charles Poliquin in 2005 the very thought of long continuos cardio was challenged, and ever since then I have been playing with this idea – Can we be fit without “Cardio”?

    The scientific literature is filled with data that strongly makes the case that long-distance runners are much more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, atrial fibrillation, cancer/liver and gallbladder disorders, muscle damage/ kidney dysfunction (renal abnormalities), acute microthrombosis in the vascular system, spinal degeneration, and germ-cell cancers than are their less active counterparts.

    McGuff, D. Little, J. Body By Science 2009.

    I have taken many marathon runners into the gym and after 15 mins they had to stop as they felt sick. Not one of these “cardio” people can keep up with me in terms of intensity or volume when we step into a gym. So I question the terminology of “fitness”. Are we really making ourselves fitter by pounding out hours of cardiovascular fitness and burning so much muscle tissue that inevitably lowers our resting metabolism when we do long continuous cardio, or can we be fit without cardio?

    I often use Usain Bolt as a great example, he would never dream of running more than 200 meters as it would hinder his chosen sport. When he runs – he runs fast. But I don’t think you will walk into a gym and see Usain doing his 20 Minutes on the crosstrainer before his weights session! The fact is 100 meter runners have better bodies than their 5000 meter counterparts, this is not an average, this is a rule. More muscle mass equates to being leaner simply due to higher caloric demand at rest. So is Usain Bolt Fit? I would say yes – but does he do cardio – no.

    Therefore if you want to get fit, running does not need to be done, nor I would argue should it be done. Not even the good old “20 minutes on the crosstrainer”. Do activity that keeps the heart rate high (stressing the cardiovascular system) but helps to build lean muscle. This is done by lifting weights with limited rest periods (we often do not people rest for longer than 60 sec here at Studio41).

    If you are able to recruit, fatigue, and weaken muscle fibers within a defined time frame, then you are going to recruit all of the different muscle fiber types aggressively and therefore get the most mechanical and metabolic effect for producing an adaptation (and improving your fitness)

    McGuff, D. Little, J. Body By Science 2009.

    If you insist on pounding the streets then stick to short interval based runs, use the hills of Mount Vic and the many steps of Wellington to do more high intensity workouts that are shorter in duration but harder to do. Combine this with hard weight sessions that keep you moving – although no long aerobic cardio, and you will be fitter than ever!!!!

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  • Learn The Secret To Burning Fat More Effectively

    17 July, 2012

    Day after day I see people pounding the streets, often in a vain attempt to lose the bodyfat that seems to creep on little by little every year. I recently saw a quote that said

    “Calories – Those things that sit in your cupboard and stitch your clothes a little tighter each year”

    Of course I laughed but this is what really happens each year. Our training must be effective and in this current climate of go/go/go also time efficient. If we have 30 – 45mins to exercise only you need to know that their are more effective things than going for a long run. This is especially true for people who carry their weight in the lower body (thighs). These people have been shown to have excess estrogen (a female sex hormone), and knowing how to effectively get rid of this could change the way you exercise forever. It all comes down to growth hormone, this hormone is your a great estrogen destroyer. Your exercise must maximise growth hormone release, then you are truly helping to shift that fat on the thighs.

    So how do we do this? The answer is in  interval training. The start stop nature of interval training increases your lactate, and it is lactate that increases growth hormone. With increased growth hormone you are destroying that body fat more effectively than any form of long continuous aerobic activity.

    A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that a decreasing sprint interval scheme (400, 300, 200 and 100 meters) produced a large growth hormone and lactate response

    So try this as your summer workout. Go to the Newtown (or any) 400 m track and run 4 x 400 meters with 90 sec rest in-between each one. Then 4 x 300 meters with 75 rest in-between and 4 x 200 meters with 60 sec rest in-between and then finally finish off by 4 x 100 meters with only 30 sec rest in-between. Not  only will this be one of the hardest workouts you will ever do, it will take less than 40 mins and you will burn more bodyfat than pounding the streets for hours.

    Or you could utilise Wellingtons waterfront by sprinting 4 x 4 streetlight lengths, 4 x 3 streetlight lengths and so on. You will be in great shape in no time.



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  • 10 Biggest Mistakes of Strength Training – No 10

    10 July, 2012


    We seem to have so many different fitness options, from differing opinions on exercise to machines that cost thousands to gadgets that take “only take 3 mins per day”, all claiming the same thing – to get us fit and healthy. Even personal trainers offer a wide range of seemingly “industries best” qualifications that make them the best. Yet I find there is only 1 element of our modern fitness regime that has stood the test of time – yet is completely underrated by so many and under appreciated on the power it can have – sorry no pill magic here, but good old sleep.

    When you first close your eyes, the body starts its physical repair, this happens between  the hours of 10 pm and 2 am, between the hours of 2 am and 6 am is when the physiological repair happens.  Thus if you are going to bed later than 10 or 10.30 then you are already missing out on valuable recovery time that your body needs from those personal training sessions or the brutal 6 am bootcamp session.  The 8 hours starts at 10 pm so sleeping for 8 hours from 2 am to 10 am has been proven to not be as effective

    Detoxification of the liver happens in deep stage sleep, thus if you are not allowing yourself those valuable hours of deep stage sleep your body cannot detoxify all the chemicals it takes in on a daily basis. Over months and years this level of toxicity builds and will show itself one day with someone struggling to lose weight or being more prone to sickness and disease.

    Dr Sonja Peterson  N.M.D who has written an article labelled “A Good Nights Sleep” points out some key reasons why sleep is so important.

    1. Your metabolism declines due to a Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) decrease. With a lower metabolism you will not be burning as many calories on a daily basis.
    2. “Research has shown that after just one week of insufficient sleep, the body can no longer metabolise carbs efficiently. Blood sugar takes 40% longer to decrease after a high carb meal”. With the above information it is easy to see why a high carbohydrate meal combined with a lack of quality sleep leeds us to ill health and weight gain very quickly.

    The way your bedroom is set up can make a big impact on your sleep. Follow the below rules and you should be set for a good night sleep.

    1. Make your room as dark as possible. It is only when you are in complete dark that melatonin is released. It is melatonin that helps your body get into deep stage sleep.   You should not be able to see your hand in front of your face when you hop into bed.
    2. Take all electronic equipment out of your room. This includes TVs to your mobile phones. If you insist on having your phone in your room. The electromagnetic fields from these machines have been shown to affect your sleep patterns.
    3. Make sure you associate your bedroom with sleep (and maybe one other activity). I.e. do not sit on your laptop doing work emails just before try to sleep.

    A good indicator to tell if you have had a good nights sleep is the fact that you do not wake up tired. You should be able to go to bed at 10 pm and wake up the next morning refreshed. Just remember that whatever your goals are, from building muscle to losing fat, or simply for long term health and vitality, being able to sleep through the night is the critical factor and best yet – it is free!!!


    Tagged under: Other

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  • 10 Biggest Mistakes of Strength Training – No 9

    4 July, 2012

    Periodisation Or Lack Of It….

    The area of periodisation is an interesting one and one I believe where we have to realise that we may not know much when we look at all the research and also to be able to take the research with a grain of salt.  There are many ways to periodise from linear to undulating and even linear and in the same week and even linear in the same workout. I prefer undulating  over a series of months and will talk you through this. You have 2 types of training. Metabolic and Neuromuscular. One when the muscles “burns” which is done by lifting lighter weights and more reps – this is metabolic training and the phase where you do this is called the accumulation phase. The other is when the muscle has to contract everything it has to lift as heavy as possible. This is neurological training and is called the intensification phase. It is important to note that one is not better than the other. It is the contrast between the 2 that makes for powerful results. What I see in the gym most often is that people have their favourite reps range (6 – 8) and always stick to it. I recommend an undulating periodisation plan. This will have you moving from high reps to low reps and back again over a series of months. See below…….

    Remember you are choosing weights that you can lift only for that rep bracket, so the weights will change that you use through each phase (and you should also change the exercises). The real issue I see is leaving your ego out of the equation when switching back to a accumulation phase. When you go from lifting heavy weights at 4 – 6 reps and then move back to lifting a weight for 10 – 12 reps, the weights will obviously be less, so you have to allow this to hit your ego. Just remember it is the muscle mass you have – not how much weight you are lifting that counts. Plus keep the periodisation going and every-time you will come back to the rep bracket you like – you will be lifting more.


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  • 10 Biggest Mistakes of Strength Training No 8

    27 June, 2012

    Lack of Volume

    I would like to discuss a myth that has plagued the industry for some time and has been taken so seriously in the past that a major fitness organisation based their recommendations on this research.

    It has been proven that if do only one set to failure you can improve your muscle mass or otherwise known as hypertrophy. If life was this easy then we would all be the size and have the muscle that we want. However when looking at this myth we may find some truth to it but it has to be taken for what it is – a specific study done with a specific demographic.  Often to do a strength and conditioning research study you have to get volunteers who are free for the a set period of time. Often 12-week studies are done because 12 weeks coincides with the university summer holidays and these are the people who have the time and need the money who will volunteer for such a study. For these people who have an incredibly young training age (training age is defined by how long you have been training – anyone under 2 years is considered young) I agree that you could possibly make gains with these people, but any gains will be sort lived as there body easily adapts to the 1 set volume. The other group I would argue that could get a result from 1 set per muscle group per training would be the elderly (but again you could argue that it is simply due to their young training age).  So yes it is possible that you could produce a study of 12 weeks in length and show that you have increased your muscle mass. However you are fooling yourself if you think those guys on the front covers of any health magazine use 1 set training, you will be sadly mistaken.

    So with that myth dispelled we need to look at the adequate amount of volume within a workout that will enable to build muscle tissue. The big take home from this is to understand the inverse relationship between reps and sets. i.e the more reps the less sets, the less reps the more sets.

    You need to expose your tissue to a certain amount of overload, and so with fewer reps the time under tension is significantly decreased. With this you need to increase the amount of sets you do so that enough tension and volume is placed through the muscular system. As discussed next there is a specific reason for doing both.  But following all the other principles above using failure and full range of motion and correct techniques, when you do your protocols of heavier reps, make sure you are also combining these with more sets to get enough volume through your tissue for a positives growth and adaptation to occur.


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  • 10 Biggest Mistakes of Strength Training No 7

    18 June, 2012

    Too Little Or Not Enough Variation – Finding The Balance Between Consistency And Variety.

    Creating not enough variety is one aspect of training that is most commonly done incorrectly by everyday gym users, but surprisingly trainers seem to go to the other end of the spectrum and create far too much variety for their clients, often in an attempt to create interesting and entertaining programmes. Unfortunately all at the expense of the clients progress or goals (and quite often I believe to entertain and keep themselves interested more than anything). But lets focus on the first mistake – not creating enough variety in programmes! Remember the goal of training is to overload the body so it has to adapt by getting stronger. However like anything the body can get incredibly used to the same movement patterns and techniques. You have to shock the body to overload and stimulate new muscle tissue and if you want muscle hypertrophy, thus creating variety is a key component for that hypertrophy to occur. I think one prime reason for members not to have variety in a gym is quite simply comfort zones. People are creatures of habit and we like to stick to those habits – they make us feel safe and comforted. I have seen people stick to the same programmes in a gym for over three years or more.  Well unfortunately we have to break those habits and create variety that offers us overload and progression. How often do we need to change? Well that is answered in the above topic  “Too little or too much rest between workouts (tip no 5)”, as soon as you start to not improve from workout to workout, then you should change your routine. Changing to what is answered in the next section “Periodisation or lack of it”. If you really like your routines and are not prepared to change your routine too much then at least changing your reps (still lifting a suitable weight that allows you to go to failure for the new rep bracket) or simply changing the grip from a wide grip to a neutral grip (or doing both is even better). Depending on your genetic make up you will plateau between 3 and 6 weeks. The key here is to create that variety, change your programme every time you plateau, once you have done the new programme a couple of times it will be within your new comfort zone.  And you will also have to leave your ego at the table – if you lift a higher rep bracket, it will mean that you will have to drop the weight – however it is all to create stimulus and overload which ultimately leads to hypertrophy. Do not stay on the same programme for too long, your time in a gym is valuable and it should not be wasted, work hard and then move on.

    The other side of the coin is adding too much variety. I have seen people with trainers get taken through a new routine every time they set foot in the gym. Quoting the great Ian King

    “Doing a programme for the first time is about learning which weight should be used, getting used to the new demands and rest intervals, even the second time you do the programme the body is still learning, the neurological system needs time to adapt, it is not until the third and fourth time you do a programme that the personal bests are gained.”

    Therefore trying something new every time is not the best approach, stick to a new routine, get better at it, plateau and then move on to do it all again. Do not allow your trainer (if you have one) to entertain you – you are not there giving your sweat for nothing – you are there for results.


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  • 10 Biggest Mistakes of Strength Training No 6

    6 June, 2012

    Rest Intervals In-Between Sets
    Being solely a personal training studio here in Wellington allows us to strictly keep up with rest between sets. It is so important and can greatly influence the workout result. The amount of rest period you give yourself is absolutely crucial. It is always a trade off between as much rest as possible to lift the next set, and to get as much work in as possible in the 50 minutes you set yourself for your workout. There is an inverse relationship between the weight of the weights you are lifting and your rest period. In a weight loss workout I will never have more than 60 seconds rest in-between exercises or sets. Most of the time it will range from 15 seconds (which is really no rest, just enough time to get up and move to the next machine) and 45 seconds. However on a 45 second rest period, this truly means only 45 seconds. It does not mean that after 45 seconds you finish drinking on your water, casually sit down and start (after what is really like 60 – 75 seconds). 45 seconds rest really means only 45 seconds. After 45 you are already set-up and start pulling (or pushing) on the 45-second mark. You will notice a huge difference between following this truly to a 45 second rest period and 60 to 75 second rest. It will completely change the workout.
    If you lift lower weights then this is more demand on the neuromuscular system  and you will have to give yourself more rest periods. A good guideline is

    There is a good way to cheat (or maximise) with this system. You can train the antagonist during your rest period. This means that you can do a chest press for 10 – 12 reps, wait 60 seconds (which is half the 120 secs) and do a seated row. This means that you at least give yourself 120 seconds rest for your chest press. With this system it means you can get a lot more volume done in your 50-minute workout. The above system is how I can train someone using a weight loss protocol with only 45 second rest periods. If you re following the above principle of working to failure between the chosen rest period and using antagonist workouts with accurate rest periods – the workouts become incredibly tough.

    If your personal trainer chats to you without a stop watch – they do not have your best interests at heart, or simply do not understand the job they have been given, either way Move on and find a personal trainer who truly understands the power of keeping you to a strict rest/work ratio.

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