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courtesy-BSBy BS

In light of the recent events at LAX, one thing that caught my attention was that a number of people suffered “evasion injuries.” Now you have to ask yourself this question: when the defecation hits the oscillation, do you want to be that guy that twists his ankle in the open and out of concealment? I’m not here to join the “hit the gym” chorus, I’m here to shout it in your face in November because if you wait until January 1st to roll around, there’s an 80% probability you’re going to give up. Humor me. It’s complicated, but there’s a hierarchy to how you invest your time and the dividends paid out. The number one thing on your list should be . . .

Sleep & Recovery

Eight hours.  Eight hours.  Yes, I know you have kids.  Eight hours.  Get 3 REM cycles and you’ll be more alert, burn more fat, and your chronic pain will melt away.  If you’re working out, great–but your body only heals at the speed of sleep.  I took a week off work to drink beer nonstop and sleep until the afternoon.  And guess what? I lost 6 lbs and my running times were faster.  Take your rest days seriously, go for a light jog and stretch.  Start doing myofascial release every day.  Buy a foam roller and compress your major muscle groups, moving perpendicular to the grain of your muscles.  If you take nothing else away from this write-up, I want you to sleep, stretch, and massage.  If you’ve still got a few more spare hours left, then get working on…

Diet & Hydration

I’m not going to shout down carbs like everyone else in your life.  You need carbs.  In the form of vegetables.  Eat a steamer bag of vegetables every night instead of hot dog night.  It’s ridiculously easy and cheap.  Don’t like the taste?  Get over it.  Man up.  Skip the dressing.  If you make fun of people for not shooting .45 ACP and can’t make half your meal unprocessed plant matter, your man card is revoked.  Stop drinking any liquid that isn’t water.  If you’re working out hard enough, then you’ll want your protein shakes and whole milk, but you’ll time those as pre- and post-workout drinks.  Get your tacticool assault pack, actually fill that 3L hydration bladder every morning, and sip it throughout the day.  If you’re doing a protein-heavy diet, your water requirement just went up.  If your diet isn’t up to standard, you’re going to be constantly sore and get less out of…

Strength & Conditioning

Maximal effort strength work is the fastest way to build explosive power, and explosive power is the best way to prevent injury through overextension of your joints.  A good rule of thumb is to find 90% if your current one-rep max and do that movement for 3-4 reps.  After a few minutes of rest, you’ll notice an increase in your strength.  High weight, low reps.  If you haven’t started a strength program, don’t worry, the humble air squat will build hip, leg, and core strength without the need for any equipment.  Do as many as you can until you want to throw up, sweating at the gym is better than bleeding on the street.  But don’t neglect running.  Do shuttle runs or pick your favorite football drills, run them at a sprint pace.  Feeling confident?  Toss in an obstacle to climb over or under.  Master rapid changes in direction and elevation.  I understand people do have injuries and chronic pain, but don’t sell yourself short.  If you’re diligent with the previous steps, exercise will help you make the most out of what you have left.  If you just want to run, that’s fine too.  Get on a real cycle, a real program with spreadsheets, notebooks, and calendars.  When your human weapon is ready to throw down, then you’re going to get the most out of…

Weapons Manipulation

Train as you fight.  This is TTAG, you can read gunfighting tips all over this blog.  Pick a combatives program if your choice, and spar or do force-on-force.  Get used to getting knocked on your butt.  Learn how to fall without injuring yourself (especially men–the “clapper” can take you out of play for several minutes).  I know not everyone wants to get physical, but guess what?  The bad guys are counting on it.  Get.  Off.  The.  X.

Did you blow through this and nod every few lines? Or thought this insulted your intelligence? Awesome. Never stop.  But if you think your 1911 is an insurance policy, then guess what? You’re the weakest link. John Moses Browning did his part, but did you do yours?

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  1. The biggest killers in this country aren’t the FBI or Gangster Disciples.Those organizations ain’t got nothing on the deadly duo called Diabetes and Heart Disease.Few of us will ever have to draw our weapons in self defense.

    Act accordingly.If you have a CCW permit, thered best be a well worn gym membership card next to it.

    • Agreed.

      Unsolicited advice for FWG’s old and young:
      Eat less, eat better.
      Get some cardio in – I prefer cross-country runs on dirt, can’t do pavement for long stretches anymore.
      Do the big lifts – squat, deadlift, bench, press. See Starting Strength, Stronglifts, etc.

    • This is why I do Crossfit. In fact, the side-aspect picture of me which prompted me to start Crossfit was taken while I was shooting a speed drill with a shotgun.

      Result: pants which were snug in the waist even 6 months ago are now quite comfortable to wear with a full-size pistol in an IWB or AIWB holster. And I was quicker getting down on the ground into prone, and back up into various other shooting positions, than guys 20 years younger at a recent carbine class.

  2. How many of those “evasion injuries” are completely bogus and are just people preparing to sue the **** out of the airport?

  3. Low rep work can be great, but it isn’t what I’d choose for someone just starting strength training. I know that the Rippletoe Starting Strength 3×5 template’s taken over the net, but more reps can be good for beginners to learn the motions. I like 3×8 or 10 for the first few weeks so they can get lots of practice under some load. The exception are conventional deads; I favor lower reps for those just for the sake of back safety.

    I like a basic routine like;
    Workout A: Squat, bench, bent legged deadlift, curl.
    Workout B: Conventional or sumo deadlift, overhead press, dumbbell row, lunges
    3×8-10 on everything except the deadlifts in workout B, those are 2×5.

    Hits everything and takes about 30-45 minutes. Alternate them, lifting 3 days a week. Follow them with 20-30 minutes of cardio (brisk steady state, interval, whatever).

    • Totally agree on higher reps to start. 3X5 can be really productive, but learning the movement with lighter weight and higher reps can help to prevent injury from poor form.

    • I used a hollow PVC pipe to start to get my form down, followed by PVC filled with concrete, then an empty bar. I videotaped my reps from different angles to analyze my form. Once I had good form down, I began using rippletoe’s training methods.

      • I think Rippletoe ignores conditioning work (at least in Starting Strength) and bags on accessory movements too much. The 3×5 scheme is OK IF your goal is maximal strength quickly but it isn’t a fit all for everyone’s goals or needs either.

  4. This entry should win. It is all too easy to ignore fitness as a component of protection. Sure, oftentimes the use of weapon can equalize the odds between you and your attacker. However, there ARE other times when a lack of fitness will get you killed. Don’t believe me? Find an open range and set up 10 barricades (cover and simulated-concealment) at staggered distances from 300 to 0 yards. Next, start at 300 and sprint from one covered position to the next, practicing barricade shooting at each station. This will smoke even physically fit shooters. If you don;t think you could physically do this and you’re under the age of 50, then you need a PT plan.

    • I was going to enter the contest today and have now decided to hold off. Not because I’m worried I don’t have a shot, but because the more I think about it the more I think this article deserves the win.

      I don’t need a new pistol right now, a free one would be nice. Mr. Shu has earned it.

    • Sorry, while much of this may be reasonable advice he makes exactly the same mistake that too many athletic people make: People are all alike and if they are not physically fit it’s just because they are not trying. Just do it.

      Sorry, people are different, both physically and psychologically. Not everyone has a physique that can be conditioned to prime readiness and many more do not have the psychological inclination to try. We are normal people going about our everyday lives the best we can. We need training that admits to the fact that we will never meet Seal Team physical standards.

      Training for average people needs to be aimed at giving them reasonable skills to react to possible real-life situations and making them the best they can be given their circumstances, not belittling them for not being Force Recon tough.

      All things considered, a little old lady with a shotgun has as good a chance against a home invader as any SWAT trained operative. Maybe better because she knows her limitations.

      • I don’t think the author ever said that one needed to be “seal team fit.” Nor did I, although I presented a physical challenge that may be used as a barometer of potential fitness.

        This entry has made you very defensive. You should ask yourself why that is.

  5. And perhaps, the most important reason for us to train: stress innoculation. Resistance training activates the fight/flight response and can minimize the negative aspects of this response should you ever need to use a firearm for defense.

    Since the average person is carrying an extra 15-20lbs of bodyfat above their ideal weight, heavy resistance training might not be ideal…start with higher reps and gradually increase the reisistance.

    Glad to see more firearm blogs mentioning health and fitness aspects.

  6. Thanks, Bryan. At first, I thought this was going to be another obnoxious harangue (and there are so many), but it’s true that too many of us spend hours selecting guns, ammo and holster, but couldn’t pull ourselves up a rope if the SHTF. In the end, I found your writing encouraging. I would also add basic martial arts training for everyone here — not the flashy MMA/hybrid stuff, but conservative kung fu/karate or combat-specific styles useful in close quarters.

    So no OFAG here.

      • The style of karate I trained in is made for close confrontation and very conservative in movement. It’s not flashy at all. In my opinion, a first year student can pick up some basic disabling and “get away” strikes. I have friends who do hybrid and MMA, and they do it for sport (and admittedly, because they want a badass image). All good, but I don’t want to get into a fancy wrestling match with an assailant — I want to strike and get out of there.

        MMA, TKD and all of these are useful in that they teach initiative and give you a bag of tricks to use. But martial arts (as opposed to self-defense training) is about the art, too.

    • The traditional stuff (TKD, TSD, Karate) is nice for kids to build good form and stuff, but MMA, BJJ, and muay thai are the way to go.

      • I agree with you and disagree with Rokurota. Even if you’re not willing to put in the time and dedication that muay thai takes, solid boxing skills combined with a strong wrestling/BJJ technique will prepare you to defeat 98% of the American population.

        • As a follow-up, no less than three times I have seen self-described “karate/tai kwon do masters” walk into our BJJ class. Each time, white belts with fundamental boxing experience were beating the piss out of them. It was all fine and good for the first 20 seconds or so until the white belts clinched and strikes the karate guys were able to land were relatively ineffective. I have to imagine that there’s a reason we don;t see pure karate guys walking into the octagon anymore. If pure karate worked in that setting, we would be seeing it.

          I can see where he’s coming from in a “hit them hard and break contact” sort of way. However, your time would probably be better served studying Krav Maga of Haganah if that is what you’re looking for.

        • Hey, whatever works. I admit my whole impression of Hybrid and MMA comes from my friends who do judo, then aikido, then whatever the next night, like Crossfit for martial arts. Their classes just seem thrown together for the ADHD hipster crowd. I wan’t referring to BJJ or Muy Thai or Krav Maga, which have real pedigrees. I suppose if I’m trapped in a cage, I’ll wish I knew MMA (and had 100 lbs more muscle), but in the real world, as Hal said, I’ll stick with striking and retreating/drawing.

  7. I am just curious if I was the only one who thought of an “F” that isn’t fat when reading the title and then thinking to themselves, “Why would I want to give that up?!”

    On topic, good quick read. I am just back in the gym after 6 weeks out for a pulled/torn groin and want to echo the need to stretch. At 32 years old my body is still in good shape but it is also starting to remind me I am not 25 anymore and some of that pre- and post-workout routine I used to take for granted I can’t ignore anymore.

    One of the lessons I have picked up this year is the right way to increase a workout while helping minimize injury, and that is increasing at a 10% rate per week, rounded up as needed. Yes it means slower progression but then again how much progress are you making when you take 6 weeks off to recover from an injury?

    An example for the 10% progression is that this week run/walk a mile 4-5 times. Next week run/walk 1.1 miles and the following week 1.3 (see 10% rounded up). Keep doing that until you hit the ultimate distance you are going for and then if desired try and increase speed. Same thing for weight training increase your weight or reps (one is for strength the other is for endurance) and increase by 10% each week until reaching the desired end state.

    Of course YMMV, check with a doctor before starting a workout program, this is not medical advice, engage in activities at your own risk, void in RI and where prohibited by law.

    • I’m only doing monthly progressions on my weightlifting. I’d love to do per session or per week. But I’m past that point 🙁 Bench is 285, squat is about 350, OHP is about 195 and I don’t know my 1RM on deads. That’s coming back from a significant injury in March when I tore up my lower back trying high rep deads with 315 (I was trying 20 reps in under 4 minutes). So I’m pretty weak right now but even at those numbers, I just can’t keep adding every week. It’s more…increase reps for a bit, then drop the reps back downa nd increase weight again, and work back up on reps, rinse and repeat. Injuries suck and cost you a lot of time so taking it slowly to avoid them is damn well worth it.
      I’ve also upped conditioning and am watching diet power. I’m tired of being a squishy strongman

      • There is always a point of diminishing returns when it comes to adding where a person is just reaching their genetic limit. What I describe above is really starting place for the person who has no idea how or where to start their fitness routine.

  8. I’ve said for years that physical fitness is key to self defense. I don’t care if your weapon is your fists, a knife, a baton, or a gun. The person who can MOVE away or towards as threat (as circumstances dictate) is much more likely to survive.

    Anyone remember the earlier post about the woman attacked in the parking garage and how she basically ran a mile and a half after being stabbed to find help? How many people do you know that would just be up and dead if they had to even walk that distance while wounded?

    A gun is a fine tool, but only as good as its operator. There are plenty of shooters who carry because they are disabled and I get that. However, here is another health benefit from someone who has lost a lot of weight in the past few years.

    You just feel better. You can do more. I have fewer aches and pains and stuff doesn’t fall over when I walk by. You know you’re fat when you knock things off tables and shelves even when you don’t remember ever touching them. Funny how dropping about 50 pounds has not only alleviated a lot of pain but also stopped a lot of embarrassing situations.

    Disclaimer: Weight loss does not solve general klutziness. Also a chronic sufferer.

  9. Completely agree. I realize that there are people out there who are unable to work out due to a legitimate disability, but if we are honest with ourselves, the majority of us are simply too lazy to put the time and effort into it.

    It’s not about going balls to the wall on your first day and injuring yourself. It’s about making steady, gradual, consistent changes to your lifestyle and diet, and you will be amazed what happens in a year or two. Bodyweight exercises and cardio are a great place to start, and learning proper form and technique for some of the bigger compound lifts (deadlift, squats etc) can prevent some of the most common (back, knee) injuries in the long run. As others have mentioned, being conditioned will help tremendously if and when it comes time to pull that “perfect carry gun” that you keep bragging about online.

  10. Great post! Another thing I’d point out is that if you expect to survive the SHTF, you need to learn about proper nutrition so you know what kind of foods to pack. I know a guy who has nothing but ramen noodles in his SHTF bag. How the hell do you expect your body to run on that?

    Working out and running has been the best thing ever for me. It will improve every aspect of your life: health, appearance, self-esteem, and especially mental well-being (it’s a major stress release). And yes, it will help you survive a SHTF situation. Being in shape means that your muscles won’t get fatigued so fast, allowing you to carry more stuff in your pack; always a plus.

  11. You know, in a post-George Zimmerman world, I find this refreshing.

    When The-Punk-Who-Deserves-To-Be-Dead jumped Zimmerman and started kicking his ass, Zimmerman screamed for help for a good thirty seconds. He wasn’t busy fighting back, he was crying for the calvary. His fight or flight response kicked in, and it was all flight. The result? His neighbors heard his screams for help and yelled back that he should shut up and knock it off.

    In the end, Zimmerman got lucky. If the punk had gotten his hands on the gun, he would have emptied the magazine into Zimmerman. You have to be ready to fight. Your gun is only a tool.

  12. I think this is a winning article. Straight forward and to the point with useful information. It shamed me into going to the gym today, and I love the bit about losing one’s man-card if you can’t manage to choke down some veggies.

    Excellent article and it has my vote.

  13. This is why I watch a lot of these prepper videos and laugh and say to myself “All these guys are going to die”. Why? Because most of them are 300 frakking pounds!

    Remember rule #1 of Zombieland, folks. CARDIO. Hamplanets die first.

    • Oh man. Last time I went to the public rifle range, there was a guy there that *had* to be close to 400 lbs. Decked out in military style fatigues and combat boots, etc. Everytime during cease fires he and his buddies would talk about preparing for a disaster, and being able to handle muggers, home invaders, etc…and all I could think of was “you should try handling your diet, because it’s probably going to kill you first.”

    • +1

      That’s why I laugh whenever I go to a gun show and see 400 pound “preppers” driving around in their Jazzy scooters pulling trailers full of Mil-Surp ammo they’re cacheing for TEOTWAWKI (did I use enough forum buzzwords there?)

      The way I look at it, they just bought someone else a nice supply of ammo because they’ll never get up the stairs of their mom’s basement to put it to use if the need arises.

  14. As someone with a BS in exercise science, a DPT, and a currently practicing physical therapist, few things are as annoying as layperson discussions of the “best” exercise on the internet.

    “Best” is a highly subjective term depending on the goals of the individual, and power training is only an injury preventative for certain types of injury.

    This article offers a good concept – taking care of your health is important. It would do better to refer to professionals for exercise prescription rather than attempt one-size-fits-all.

    • It’s true that individual exercises are variable but I think it’s fair to state that, from a health standpoint you need both resistance and cardio training. They can take a myriad of forms, but both components need to be trained. I’ve been guilty as hell of neglecting cardio and my health has suffered for it (I’m remedying that now).

    • As somebody who has probably covered more empirically reviewed literature and probably has more time in the trenches than somebody with a BS in exercise science and a DPT few things are as annoying as somebody purporting their framed wall art and textbook understanding as inherently more valuable than the input of others. Or maybe I’m wrong and you are a seasoned veteran relying on a knowledge base acquired when ‘calisthenics’ were paramount and have not added anything to your proverbial arsenal since. I have come across both types in my travels.

      You exposed your narrow mindedness and lack of connection with practical applications of exercise with your comment about “best exercises” rather clearly. This article, and site as a whole is rather dedicated to self defense. Therefore, the writer is focusing on the best exercises for said goal-surviving a violent encounter. Somehow your expertise has lead you to miss the fact that being strong, explosive, and agile would be an asset in a self defense scenario.

  15. Very good article, and hopefully this serves as a wake up call to some.

    Only recommendation I have would be to start with GPP work for those who have no training experience. Learning proper form as well as priming connective tissues for heavy work is critical for those just getting into it.

    Also, I don’t think running is fine. Distance running sucks, wrecks your metabolism, hinders muscle gain, tears up your joints, and is useless from a survival perspective. Sprints are the way to go.

  16. But, but, if people listen to this advice I won’t be able to make fun of all the 350lb mall ninjas who’d faint if they had to sprint 10 yards to cover.

  17. Single-track mountain biking is what finally got the F out of me.

    I try to get in 20-30 miles per week over pretty rough terrain. Of course I recommend that folks start out slow as their abilities dictate.

    That, combined with a healthier diet, is what finally got rid of my knee pains and extra weight. It also drastically improved my reaction time, situational awareness, forward plotting capabilities, not to mention cardio stamina, speed, and strength. All of those benefits seem to go to absolute crap though when I consume any caffeine, so now I am trying to ween myself off of that in a move toward the “drink no liquid that isn’t water” mantra.

    I highly recommend mountain biking to anyone looking to get back in shape, especially those who detest the dull monotony of running in circles and who wan’t their exercise to include some adventure and natural beauty.

    The only down-side has been the inevitable varying injuries associated with the sport, but I just look at those as an opportunity to practice my first-person first-aid.

    When my cycling shorts give me muffin-top, I know I’ve got a problem….

  18. I usually drink scotch because it has less carbs than beer. Also, my uniform pants cost about $140 apiece, so I don’t want to grow out of them.

    • I was just going to add a comment to the same effect. Cutting out (or at least way down on) the hops is one of the fastest ways to drop pounds. I don’t like it, but its irrefutable.

  19. Meaningless article. A real article would have instructed me how to get the “O” out of OFWG. If it wasn’t for the “O”, there would be no “F”.

  20. This post is so welcome. It’s like the missing chapter in an otherwise good book. So many of the reader comments add useful perspective.

    A bit of advice that helped me in recent years: Exercise because it’s on your schedule, not because you feel like it. If you want to do more, fine. I fell into a habit of sporadic exercise, based on how much motivation I had on a given day. Lame.

    Shu: Way to highlight key points without falling into needless polemics. Nice.

  21. My son and I take TKD. I am a high blue and he is a low brown right now. I like it from the fact I do 2.5 to 3 workouts a week and it is helping with conditioning and reflexes. We will continue this till we are both black belts. From there we will see where it goes. I anticipate being a black belt in TKD in about 2 moer years. I would still not want to take on a Marine who had been in combat.

    On the other hand I do agree with the article. And it really does not matter what you do as long as it works for you. Learning some hand to hand techniques is always good as it could be a magno storm that takes us out over the slow decline of economic decline.

  22. This was the perfect article for me to read post-run. Exercise and running really do yield hidden benefits. After making running a 2-3x a week habit, I feel so much better about myself. Stress doesn’t hit me as hard. I’m calmer. And, dare I say, more confident.

    People seem to ignore the looking better part, I get that since people rarely look like the person they want to be without great effort and even expense. But exercise promoters fail to articulate just how *good* activity can make people feel, and I think that goes a long way to looking better and sticking with good diet and exercise.

  23. I agree that the topic needs to be addressed for a majority of people out there. However, Stretching does nothing more than increase stretch tolerance and there is no evidence supporting that it decreases chance of injury. If anyone has ever tried to build muscle it takes a lot of time and work and doing a static stretch every once in a while is not going to physically lengthen your muscle. But it does feel good and makes you better at stretching but I don’t know where that gets you. If you don’t have an mobility issues and your right side is equal to your left side, why worry about it? Foam rolling is pretty much the same.It feels great but you would have to foam roll all day long to see any physiological changes.

    “Maximal effort strength work is the fastest way to build explosive power, and explosive power is the best way to prevent injury through overextension of your joints.”

    This is incorrect. This is a good way to build strength but strength and power are two different animals. Power has that time denominator and if you can bench 350lbs but it takes you 10 seconds per rep that’s not a lot of power compared to being able to throw something within a second. Remember training specificity, If you want power do power exercises. If you want strength do strength exercises

    Exercise will fix just about anything so stay or get active.

  24. According to the governments own sponsored commercials, smoking kills more people every year than guns do. Stop smoking people. You may actually find your food tastes better.

    On the exercise, just do any damn think you want for at least 1hr for 3 to 4 days a week. Just do not sit on the couch especially some of us who work in IT who sit on their butts for most of the day.

  25. Excellent article!
    If anybody is reading this and looking for a way to get started, may I recommend the “Couch to 5k” running program. That program worked wonders for one of my work mates and myself.

  26. I try to be as fat as I can. If you got at least 16″ of fat, then it’s unlikely any small arms fire will damage your organs – as most small arms fire can’t penetrate this depth. While they are tappin’ the lead into your fat, you can be delivering critical hits in their center mass.

    /end kidding

  27. Thanks Brian. This is all good and I already know it, but am not doing it like I should,
    so thanks for the frank reminder (butt kicking) in guy talk (wry humor).

    (don’t) “Take away my man card”!

  28. With all of the acronyms and buzz words, you guys are speaking a foreign language to me, who really is an OFWG, who came along before all of this gobbledeygook was “invented.” I get the part about sleep–8 hours is good, nine is better. And a nap in the afternoon. Liquid refreshment–in either one and a half ounce or twelve ounce dosage, yeah I can get behind that too. After that my eyes glazed over. I guess it’s nap time.

    Hey, if you young’uns want to get all bot and hothered, go for it. I don’t mind. But when you get to be my age, when the cumulative back injuries mean that picking up anything over ten pounds is painful, and the stenosis means you can’t run if your life depends on it, then we’ll talk about exercise and OFWGs. Then all that matters is hitting center mass. and practice is a joyful occasion rather than an onerous chore.

  29. If you are middle-aged, overweight, with high blood pressure, high triglycerides, etc., I’d suggest that first, you read up on metabolic syndrome, then get yourself an oral glucose tolerance test, then put yourself on a strict low-carb, moderate protein, high fat diet – made up primarily of natural foods.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s no reason at all that you should avoid carbs, if you’re healthy, but if you’re showing the symptoms of metabolic sydrome, if you post-prandial blood sugar and insulin numbers are out of control, then you’re significantly insulin resistant. These symptoms are caused by hyperinulinemia – and you really need to give yourself an extended period of time with moderated levels so that your metabolism can heal. I went through this, and it took almost a year before my OGTT numbers were back to healthy levels.

    As for exercise, it’s next to impossible, as long as your insulin levels are elevated. Insulin drives energy into fat storage and locks it in. You feel like you have no energy because you don’t. At the cellulr level, you’re starving. Flogging yourself around the track isn’t going to change that.

    And going low-carb will make things worse. For the first week or two until your system ramps up the hormones for the fat-burning metabolism you haven’t used in years, and then you’ll have more energy than you know what to do with. Exercise won’t just become possible, it will become easy and fun.


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