I met Linda Elstun a little over four and a half years ago. From the first time I worked on her I knew she was one of a kind. Strong, driven, humorous, and humble. When I heard I was going to get my first Cross Fit client I had no idea what I was in for. I had never heard of Cross Fit. I thought I was gonna get someone who was a cross trainer, and in walked this woman in her late forties with arms as big as mine, and the thighs of an NFL running back. I was instantly amazed at the power she possessed. After four years that strength has never ceased to amaze me. I felt her story needed sharing.
Linda grew up competing in gymnastics, beginning at age eight and continuing throughout college. After graduation, she participated in triathlons but then began to focus more on cycling. Five years ago, a friend introduced her to CrossFit*, a community-based exercise and fitness program. “I thought my competitive days were over, but I qualified for the CrossFit Games Master Competition in 2012 [where she placed 13th]. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from putting yourself on the line. It is scary, but being able to overcome fear and perform at your best really contributes to a feeling of accomplishment,” explains Linda.
Then the unthinkable happened. In 2014, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had just returned from her second Cross Fit Games, where she had placed 4th a mere 26 points out of 3rd place. She was already implementing plans to improve her athletic performance, but instead, found herself formulating a plan to beat her cancer. After a a few months of Chemotherapy, Linda chose to undergo a bilateral mastectomy due to complications with the chemotherapy. She followed this with three months of daily radiation. “[I] thought it would be easier to deal with no boobs rather than just one!” She explains with that trademark humor. In July of 2015 her treatment was complete.
Linda is now in remission and she recently returned from competing in the 2016 Cross Fit Games where she placed 17th, (with a smile on her face) exactly one year after finishing radiation treatment! She says that trying to recover her fitness level was extremely difficult and frustrating. “ My family and friends are super-supportive, and my training partner really helped me stay motivated,” she says. “I am still working on getting back to my top level of competition but I am happy with my progress.” Her goals for for next season is to strengthen her weaknesses, particularly running.
As a competitive athlete, busy wife and grandmother, how does she take care of herself? Linda says that eating a proper diet, getting plenty of sleep and receiving massage are keys to maintaining her health, especially as an older athlete. “Massage therapy is an indispensable tool in my recovery arsenal. Nick is able to apply techniques that reduce my recovery time and soreness, while improving my muscle function and efficiency. In combination with stretching, I believe that a well-timed massage can cut recovery time in half. Less recovery means more time for quality training and sustained daily exertion.”
Linda’s advice to older adults just starting an exercise program is, “Be patient. Be consistent. Don’t give up.” Regarding her cancer, she hesitates to call herself “cancer-free.” She knows there are no guarantees. But, she reminds us that no one has any guarantees. Thanks, Linda, for sharing your story and inspiration.
Thank you to Linda Elstun for always being an inspiration to me and those you have daily contact with!
(Linda is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist who lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan)
*CrossFit is a unique exercise/fitness program developed by Greg Glassman. It consists of constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity. The community that spontaneously arises when people do these workouts together is a key component of why CrossFit is so popular and effective. CrossFit is customized to fit every individual’s ability and goals and sponsors regional and national competitions. For more information, check out www.crossfit.com."
"10 years, has it really been 10 years?" I keep asking myself this over the last month. I graduated from Kalamazoo Center for the Healing Arts on March 31st of 2006, all fresh faced and wet behind the ears. I moved out of my parents house into a town house with my now wife. I started my career with the same company I just received my certification from. Had my first client in the first week of April. Started teaching massage a year later, starting with Anatomy classes, and quickly moving up to my own bodywork based class. So many changes that first year after graduation, it seemed like it was all moving so fast. Early in 2007 I asked my wife to marry me whilst on a hike in the Grand Canyon. A lovely foreign couple who obviously did not speak a lick of English graciously took our picture while I knelt down and sprung the question. They understood that! I just kept plugging along and moving forward.
Then in the following year I grew stagnant. My wife got a job over in Clarkston, so I vowed to follow her. I failed to find a massage job over there, so fell into holding two jobs one a third shift gas station attendant, the other screen printing T-shirts. After a short 6 month stay, we moved back home, and I went back to work for KCHA. However the brief absenteeism left a hole in my clientele. Many had moved on to other therapists. I got married in August of 2008 and things began to move forward again.
In 2009 my wife and I began to look at purchasing a home. A ritual both agonizing and exciting in it's own right. That Easter while playing an innocent game of 21 with a kid 10 years my younger, I broke my elbow. I made sure to eat my Mother's Lasagna and then go to the hospital. Found out shortly there after I would need arthroscopic surgery for my elbow, right about the same time we were due to move into our new home. (got me out of that I guess) My future as a massage therapist was in the dark. How would it heal, would I be able to practice again? The unknowns drove me, and probably my wife in kind, nuts. It took about 6 months to begin doing mild work and about a year before I was able to practice at my full potential again. Needless to say, this also punched a gaping hole into my recently rebuilding practice. It was at this time I decided I needed to reevaluate my goals as a therapist. What was the one thing I could see myself truly enjoying in my career. Then I thought, as I watched football on Sunday, "Wouldn't it be great to work for the Detroit Lions?" Bam, like a Hummer full of concrete it hit me. Sports, I could work with athletes!
Now I never was much into sports, outside of auto racing, as a kid. I played backyard football and little league before high school, but nothing in high school or college. I grew a major passion for football, in particular, in my twenties. I immediately started to do research into what it took to become a sport massage specialist. I started taking continuing education classes, did a lot of self teaching of techniques, and gained a deeper understanding of kinesiology. I also started taking classes at KVCC that I thought could help me communicate with coaches and sports med staff. This turned into me pursuing a coaching certification. I began to gain a love affair with fitness and wellness as well as combining those things with massage. I started bugging my boss about starting to promote to local colleges and schools, and being the amazing supporter that she is, she gave me the reins. As I began to change the way I thought about massage and wellness, I started to realize I would need to someday have complete control if I were to create my dream. However this was still a 10 year plan in my eyes.
In early 2013 my boss, bless her heart, had to reveal the unfortunate news that we were losing our main spa facility. This is the place I had called my second home for 6 years. We still had a satellite office at the Bronson Athletic Club, but hours were limited there. Many therapist were choosing the path of opening their own office. I had to think long and hard at this time. In a few months my first child was due, I was still in school and planned to graduate that winter, and now I was losing hours at work. Do I dare try to open my own business at the same time? Sure...why not.
It was a mad dash to find a business partner, create a business plan, find a location, create a brand, and let all my clients know all while caring for an infant. Needless to say, things were chaotic at best. Somehow, through the dust, Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness was born. Finally my vision was beginning to develop. It was a nerve racking first two years. But I feel now that I am finally into the swing of things, it has to be time to throw a wrench into the spokes...right? Big changes are always afoot, especially at milestones like these.
As I look back, one thing is clear to me, I can only move forward if I remain open to possibilities, I say yes more, and I can always figure it out, or ask someone to help if I need it. Ok so that is like 4 things, but you get the idea. Sure when I think about it, I have accomplished a lot in the past 10 years, both personally and professionally. But there is always that piece of me that feels like the fresh faced, wet behind the ears kid, scared out of my mind about what's next.
Let's face it, if you are an athlete, injury is inevitable. It's not a matter of if, but when, especially in the more grueling endurance and contact sports. There is no magic way to avoid injury, plain and simple. However there are many ways you can help yourself avoid many of the more "preventable" injuries. Such as repetitive strain injuries, strains and sprains, and joint dysfunctions. True some people are just "injury prone" due to structural or postural idiosyncrasies, but they to can help reduce maybe the severity, or frequency, by following these steps. By no means am I revealing anything new to many of you, but hey, we learn through repetition ya? So here are your 5 reminders of how to play safe and avoid injury.
Remember those sit and reach tests in gym class? That was to check the flexibility of your back and hamstrings, and somehow that was supposed to show how flexible you are...like one plane of movement tells us anything. Flexibility is a widely recognized factor in tissue health. "The more flexible you are the less likely you are to injure." They say. Tell that to dancers and gymnasts! While it is true that there is no major correlation between flexibility and injury prevention, it certainly makes sense the reasons we do it. Ridged muscles and ligaments don't elongate well, thus create an increased risk of tearing, otherwise known as a strain or sprain respectively. The trick is knowing if you are inflexible due to a shortened muscle, or an elongated muscle. Sometimes a muscle can be what we call hyper-tonic or ridged and short. Other times the muscle can feel tight because it is already over stretched or elongated. Think of a rubber band already pulled tight, ready to snap. This is where it is important to know which is which, because an already elongated muscle, will not respond well to repeated elongation. Those muscles will actually respond better to strengthening versus stretching. This is where a knowledgeable massage therapist, PT, or personal trainer can help you. We would be able to look at your posture, do some assessments and tell you what is short and what is elongated. Then we can do what we do to improve upon that.
2.Proper warm-up and cool-down:
All to often I hear about people stretching during a warm-up or getting right into their car after a run. Sure we have a time limit, we have to go to the bank, get groceries, and meet Franny at the restaurant by 8. But your body will thank you, and you will get much more out of those exercises if you warm-up and cool-down properly. To warm-up you want to move! Static stretching should be avoided as most studies have shown that static stretching done before activity actually reduces performance and does not help in reducing injury. If anything it may actually promote injury to stretch cold muscles. Instead do a "dynamic" warm-up. This is a combination of movements designed to promote increasing of your heart-rate, warming of the tissue, and range of motion exercises. This can be done in 5-10 minutes and you should be breathing heavier, and a starting to sweat. It is, after all, a WARM-up. Consult the wonderousness of this Youtube sourced video!
A proper cool-down is NOT walking to your car. A proper cool-down involves gradually letting your heart rate normalize by slowing your pace or walking, if you are doing cardio. Now this is where static stretching fits into the picture. If you jump into the sitting and stretching too soon you may incur a blood pressure imbalance. Your heart is still pumping at 160 bpm, however you are no longer assisting in the venous return by flexing your muscles in a rhythmic manner, causing blood to "pool" in your extremities. To suddenly stop moving you risk passing out or unnecessary fluid build-up. Once you have reached a heart rate of 120 bpm or less do some stretching for all your major muscle groups. Hold each stretch for at least the count of 10-20. Your muscles are nice and warm and pliable now, you will get much better stretching gains post workout. Holding it for a longer period of time will also help your nervous system remember the new tissue length.
3. Proper form and posture:
This bit is so important. Many people, much smarter than myself, have spent hours, and years even, to study and discover the proper technique to perform just about any athletic or work related action. Your body was built a certain way, you have muscles that attach at certain spots on certain bones, and they have a certain kind of leverage that is most efficient in a certain position. This is why teaching kids at a young age how to properly tackle an opponent is so crucial. This is also why we pay so much extra to see a good personal trainer or coach to show us how to do these things. I can tell you that a high percentage of work and play related injuries occur because of bad form and posture. This is also a topic that is constantly evolving. Remember in the old days of running you were probably told to strike with your heel roll to your forefoot and push off while you run. Well thanks to innovations in science, namely pressure plates on treadmills and slow motion HD cameras. We now know that it is far more efficient to run on our forefoot and create forward momentum through hip flexion and body angle. Say whaaaaat?! I offer a free running gait analysis with your first massage for this very reason. Most people have terrible running form and we certainly see a lot of them walk through our doors for Plantar Fasciitis, knee, hip, ITB, or back pain. Ask about our 9 week back to proper running form. Gazelle sports in Kalamazoo also has a free Good form running clinic I often recommend.
4. Proper Equipment:
Is your sporting equipment worn out, outdated, or simply the cheap option? Well you are asking for trouble my friend. Shoes, Helmets, Pads, cups, goggles, and such of all shapes, sizes, and brands. Now is not the time to be a cheap skate. In this world of sporting equipment, all to often, you get what you pay for. For example, football helmets. We all know that concussions are a major concern in this sport (Though concussions happen in almost all sports with football, lacrosse, hockey, wrestling, cheerleading, and soccer leading the pack). Football helmets are actually rated by a scale to test how concussion prone you would be if wearing this helmet called a STAR rating. This number is created after extensive testing, the lower the number the better the helmet. A good helmet would be about a .300, which roughly means you have a 30% chance per season of concussion. Some helmets on the market are actually rated over a 1.0. Which essentially means you are guaranteed a concussion during this season! Why would you buy that helmet? Bottom line is, do your homework, make sure it fits, and replace it before it fails.
5. Take care of your soft tissue:
What is the best way to care for your soft tissue you ask? Why, massage and a good strength training program is. Even if you are an endurance athlete, you NEED to strength train. Quite frequently runners knee is due to weak hip abductors not doing their job. You may hear health professionals throw the word "imbalance" around from time to time. We are usually referring to the fact that in a certain area of your body, the muscles that work opposing to each other are not of equal strength. This happens most often in the core muscles. A majority of people are very strong in the back and hip flexors, but weak in the abdominals and hip extensors. This leads to a postural inefficiency known as lower cross syndrome. The tell tail sign of this is over curvature of the lumbar spine. This type of "imbalance" can lead to groin, hamstring, and back injuries if not corrected. Cue the massage therapist, PT, or personal trainer to the rescue. Get some massages done on the Back and hip flexors, do some exercises for the abdominals and hip extensors, your posture should start to get better with repetition. Now you are on your way to being less injury prone. Another way massage can help is helping to break up old scar tissue from previous injuries. Scar tissue tends to be a bit like wet spaghetti, once its stuck in a wad, you need to carefully break it apart so you don't rip the strands. Scar tissue that has healed improperly is much more likely to re-injure, versus those that have been properly treated. Any good sports massage therapist should know how to properly treat an injury. Finally, make massage and strength training a regular part of your training program. Dr. Jordan D. Metzl, a frequent writer for Men's Health, and author of the book "The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies" says "I'm a huge believer in having a massage twice a month and even more often when you are training hard. This goes for athletes of all types. A good massage is one more way to help keep your muscles supple and less prone to injury."
These are just a few ways you can make yourself less prone to injury. I'm sure I will think of others, as I currently am thinking of at least 5 more, so look for a future blog to have more ideas. Stay healthy.
Wow, year two is over. This year went by a bit faster than year one. We made a lot of strides and had many changes. We lost a couple of great therapists in Amy Bradley and Danielle Quesnell, but gained a few great therapists in Tess Rogers and Mike Firlein. This summer I was actually considering calling it quits, as I was losing two therapists within two months and our lease was up in August. Luckily Tess and Mike came a calling when I put out an ad for needing a therapist and I have third waiting on licensing. This blessing is allowing me to move forward on my vision for this company. I learned some things too, like a pattern we have is to go into debt over the summer and make it up in the fall with our university football team contract. Also, our tax accountants are less than reliable communicators and possibly overpriced. I will be on the hunt for new ones.
Be that as it is, we still had growth this year! We created new referral relations with Bronson Sports Medicine across the street and now have group discounts on massage and personal training for Kalamazoo Area Runners members. We spent another year on the sidelines with the West Michigan Mayhem and watched them have an amazing season. We also sponsored a Westwood Little League team and the Kalamazoo Growlers for a second strait year. We watched our favorite university football team fall just shy of a MAC title, and hope we can do our part to help them achieve their goals this year. To be a part of all this has made me proud of what we have done here at Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness.
On a personal note, I had a son born this year as well. Yet another new chapter in my life as I celebrate this wondrous occasion. Here is to a another year full of growth, giving, and prosperity!
Ever hear the term “sports massage” and wonder what makes it so special compared to “Swedish massage”? Maybe, you have heard of its existence, but you figure it’s reserved solely for professional athletes. Well my goal here is to give you a clearer picture of what it entails, and show you how it’s something even the “weekend warrior” can benefit from.
Sports massage is a specialized field of massage that utilizes many techniques that have proven to be effective for a specific athlete base. In other words a runner’s session may look completely different from a football player’s session. Also, this may vary depending on the position played by the athlete. Having a core understanding of how the athlete uses their body is crucial to the effectiveness of the therapist. Because of this most sport massage specialists (SMS) will focus only on a few sports in order to fully understand body mechanics and common injury sites. This is a benefit Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness has in the fact that we have a team of therapists who focus on a variety of sports and have the capability to work with anyone.
Sports massage is labeled as “maintenance”,” inter-event”, “post-event”, and “injury recovery”.
Most maintenance sessions include a variety of techniques including but not limited to Swedish massage, Myofascial release, neuromuscular techniques, and lots of stretching. Because it is a highly active technique usually the client is wearing shorts and a sports bra or tank top to eliminate draping concerns. SMS will often utilize assessment techniques to find areas of weakness or tightness in the body, or may watch the athlete perform their activity to look for postural inefficiencies. From there the athlete and SMS can set goals together to work towards increasing flexibility, correct posture, reduce the chances of injury, along with reduction in general stress and muscle soreness from overtraining. Sports massage is often described as being a more invigorating session and leaves the client feeling as if they have just had a workout. Sessions typically last in the 30-90min range and are best utilized on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule depending on the level of training and schedule. Monthly massage is more than appropriate for the “occasional” athlete, frequent exerciser, or for anyone wanting to improve posture and effectiveness at work.
Inter- and post-event massage is done on-site at competitions. Studies have shown that massage is beneficial when added onto an effective recovery exercise routine, especially when the athletes performances are more than 45 minutes apart. Post-event massage has also shown, when used in conjunction with regular maintenance massage, it can significantly reduce delayed onset muscle soreness. Be cautious of therapists who tout pre-event massage, studies have shown that this may put the body into a relaxed state which is counter-productive to increasing performance, though the benefit of reduced anxiety may have a role to play in improved focus.
Injury recovery massage is done as a progressive treatment, beginning by reducing edema, then working to release “splinted” muscles, and help in the laying of healthy scar tissue. This reduces the chance to reinjure and may shorten recovery time. This process isn’t limited to sports injuries and can be very beneficial for the “average” individual that twisted an ankle or slipped and fell.
If you have an desire to introduce Sports massage into your training regimen, Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness offers first time massage consults. We will conduct a full body postural assessment to find areas that may need focus with massage or strengthening. Then, with the remaining time, we will perform a few focused techniques to give you an internal sense of how this work feels. If you would like to offer sports massage as a benefit to your sports team or client base, I can personally come to your organization and give a more detailed presentation to discuss what Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness has to offer. Please call 269-459-6469 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here we are on Christmas Eve. Many of us will be traveling and visiting family we may only see once or twice a year. We all have those relatives that drive us crazy. The overbearing mother, the screw-up sibling, or the drunk grandmother. Some of us will be buying last minute gifts as we scramble to spend every last penny to fulfill our perceived duty of gift giving. Lets not forget the creation of the perfect holiday feast! All these add up to a tremendous amount of stress! The holidays do not need to be so stressful. We can turn that stress into the "joy" that everyone talks about. Here, in the last "Staying Healthy for the Holidays" installment, are five easy stress reduction tips.
Hello all, and welcome to the second installment of Staying Healthy for the Holidays. Ahhh...holidays, endless hours spent indoors watching holiday favorites like: "It's a Wonderful life", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and for the more refined tastes, "Scrooged". Let's not forget that annual 24 hours of "A Christmas Story"! Today I want to discuss ways to stay active and avoid the sedentary behaviors that tend to happen in the cold winter months. Staying active can help avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder, keep the pounds from accumulating, improve your immune system, and also stave off aches and pains associated with lethargy. While it might be natural to feel like you want to hibernate like the (Chicago) bears, there is nothing in our known history where homo sapiens have ever hibernated. We hunted and foraged to stay alive in winters. Many Northern European descendants have evolved to have a natural amount of "brown fat". This is commonly found in hibernating animals and actually creates heat through a chemical process similar to muscle energy production. It is believed to be lost in most humans as we leave infancy however, and we would die in just 3 days without water, so ixnay on the ibernationhanay. Here are five easy tips to staying active this winter!!
Holidays...food...cold weather...stress. How do we help ourselves stay healthy during these glutenous, often emotionally overwhelming times? In this three part blog adventure I'm going to help you to find ways to stay healthy this holiday season. Lets start with the food.
The holidays are are most certainly always a time that it becomes easy to over eat, and not just over eat, but engorge on yummy fatty sugary treats, or what we lovingly refer to as "comfort food". This is a natural thing for our bodies to crave in winter. Much like a squirrel who fattens up for the winter hibernation, our bodies crave a nice layer of fat for insulation. Especially here in the bitter cold north states. What gets us in trouble is the shear amount we eat. There is nothing wrong with eating most of the "comfort food" we serve during the holidays, as long as we limit our servings. According to WebMD the average American consumes 4,500 calories at Thanksgiving dinner...scary. Here are 5 easy tricks to change how you eat.
As we approach our one year anniversary of being open, I feel the need to reflect back. For a couple of years I wanted to create a place where athletes could have a one stop wellness shop designed for their specific needs. I always assumed it would be a 5 year out goal as I was working for a local Kalamazoo spa and had a great boss and great coworkers. But then their main location was unexpectedly closed and I found that my hours became fairly limited. I decided this was my kick in the butt to get moving on my vision.
I was expressing my vision to a coworker, and she suggested I talk to Amy Bradley. I remembered Amy from when I was teaching at KCHA, and also I had helped out on a continuing education course on sports massage that she attended. So I called her right away. From the beginning it was clear that we were on the same page with our goals to provide the highest quality massage therapy in the Kalamazoo area combined with other aspects of the grand wellness wheel to support athletes and general public alike. It took us 3 grueling months of searching to find our current locale. Start-up money was minimal, and at the time of opening our place looked bare. But as the year went on, we slowly gave it our unique character touches...as we are most likely touched ourselves. We were able to bring on two additional therapist right away, of which we are down to one. We are still looking for massage therapists for those that are curious.
I think the biggest learning curve for me about opening my own business, is the logistics. Payroll, taxes, record keeping...wow. These things were very overwhelming at first. Even at tax time when we had someone else figuring out everything I messed up, it was still stressful. I gained 15 lbs over the last year as you can tell from the first picture in the slideshow to the last. However now these things are fairly normal, and I even find myself procrastinating, or what my former boss called "waiting for the right time", on my paperwork duties. Now I can focus back on getting myself to a healthy body fat percentage. I think there is a series of KAWBlogs on this endeavor waiting to be written!
Now that the ball is rolling, we hope we start to collect pieces along the way. Our vision is just beginning, someday we will have larger facilities with much more exercise equipment. We'd love to also have a chiropractor and sports psychologist available to our clients. For now though, if we can just focus on providing the best massage therapy, personal training, and nutritional therapy in the Kalamazoo area, I think the rest will follow!
A little over a week ago I fell down my front stoop carrying my 1 year old daughter Norah. I'm still not sure exactly what happened to cause me to stumble. As we fell I lost control of Norah and she hit the ground head first with her neck in an awkward position. I fell a few feet away, and as soon as I hit the ground I popped up to check on her. Natural parental instinct I suppose to check on the offspring. I held my daughter as she cried and even denied giving her up to my wife Kari for a time as I tried to comfort both of us. As I held her I slowly realized my own injuries. I had skinned the tip of my right big toe, and scraped up the arch of my left foot. Finally I gave up Norah...with some convincing from Kari. This is about the time the pain started to settle in for me.
I sat for a bit longer and then finally got up and made my way to the bath tub to clean my wounds. By this time Norah was over the event and laughing with Mommy in the other room. I however wasn't done crying. Both from the pain of my grotesque feet, and from the injury to my soul. This was the first time I felt directly responsible for a near cataclysmic event for my daughter. I cleaned my self, bandaged up, took a large dose of Ibuprofen, and went about my day in a mild haze of drugs, and mental exhaustion.
The next day I began to feel the bruising, and the additional stress placed on my body from the fall, and having to walk awkwardly. By some serendipitous event, one of the clients I was supposed to have that night called and cancelled, I took this as a sign that I do need to take time to heal physically and mentally.
I think back on this and start to really dig into the event, what happened? Did I trip over my own feet, did I catch the edge of the planter, did the dog trip me? But the final result is simply my own awareness. I simply was not in my own body. Maybe its time I start to reconnect with myself on a deeper level again. I have been slacking in the selfcare department for sure. As a healthcare worker, especially one who has to help other heal mentally and physically, we have to be constantly self upgrading and keeping fit mentally and emotionally. But really this is true for anyone. You could be a professional athlete, or a office worker weekend warrior type, but if you don't keep things in balance between the stress and self-care, you will lose, or at least lose your balance and throw your child, either way...not fun.
Nicholas Garman, LMT NSCA-CPT
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