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Fuel Your Strength 385 - How to Build an Athlete Mindset Over 40

How to Build an Athlete Mindset Over 40

One area that I see athletic women over 40 consistently struggling with is the implementation of the high-quality information, techniques, and strategies they know would benefit them to include. Making change can be hard, and there is a mental and emotional challenge to adapting your training as you get older. However, with the right tools and mindset, the rewards of your training and longevity will amaze you.

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Key Takeaways

If you want to effectively implement new training, nutrition, and recovery techniques as you age, you should:

  1. Develop awareness about what beliefs may be limiting your training gains
  2. Work with a coach or program that helps you implement the changes you seek
  3. Create an identity-based model to adjust your behavior and make habit changes for good

Information Versus Implementation

Information and the implementation of that information are two very different things. You could have high-quality information and tools to help you make a change in your training, but if you get stuck when implementing it into your routine, all that great information isn’t serving you in the way it should.  

You don’t need to do more just for the sake of doing more. Training more efficiently, or getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to your training, is only possible by changing the way you are thinking and adapting your training routine to your changing physiology.

The Unsung Hero of Implementation

We all have been conditioned by society to fear being lazy and that if there is no pain, there is no gain. This limiting belief is a perfect example of how powerful our belief systems are and the role they play in our training, nutrition, and recovery. If you are having a hard time getting started or implementing changes, it could be because of the beliefs you are holding onto about how you train and see results. 

Your beliefs affect your ability to follow through with implementing new habits that you know will be good for you. Your identity and belief system hold the key to adjusting how you can train more efficiently.

Are you ready to implement effective training techniques as you age? Share your thoughts about the connection between beliefs and identity with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • The importance of shifting your training, nutrition, and recovery as you get older (4:26)
  • Why it can be a struggle to implement things differently with fitness and nutrition (8:55)
  • What it means to train more efficiently and implement good information (12:42)
  • Learn what true HIIT training is and the importance of shorter intervals in training (18:38)
  • How your beliefs impact your ability to implement the changes you know your body needs (21:13)


“If you are an athletic woman over 40 and you are someone who likes to challenge yourself, you know that you might have to do things differently as you continue to get older.” (3:52)

“It’s hard sometimes to recognize that you are in a different place, and to make peace with that, and then to implement the new strategies that you know are going to be better for you.” (8:18)

“Beliefs are a big factor in us as we are approaching our changing physiology, and training and doing fitness and nutrition in different ways. But beliefs are going to get in our way.” (21:29)

“Coach is how we help you implement habits and behaviors to create new outcomes for yourself now and in the future. And it is very interesting to observe here how beliefs intersect with changing our habits around training and fueling and recovery.” (27:19)

“As were approaching our 40s and beyond as women athletes, we are trying to make a change based on our old identities, the previous versions of ourselves. (29:03)

Featured on the Show

Apply for Strength Nutrition Unlocked Program

Acute effect of HIIT on testosterone and cortisol levels in healthy individuals study

Laziness Does Not Exist by Dr. Devon Price

Atomic Habits by James Clear

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FYS 375: Strength Training Changes for Peri-Menopause and Post-Menopause with Dr. Stacy Sims

How to Build an Athlete Mindset Over 40 Transcript

I’m sure you’d agree that information is not the same thing as implementation. I first learned that phrase from my friend, Christina Montalvo. On this podcast, we spent a lot of time talking about solid science-backed, evidence-based information and practices so you can go out and start implementing it in your life. Someone who is a woman athlete over 40, you’re interested in better nutrition strategies, training, and recovery. But what happens when your efforts at implementation keep getting stuck, there is one place that people often forget. And on this podcast, today, we’re going to take a look at this unsung hero of implementation. If you’re focused on the habits and the outcomes of those habits, you’re not going deep enough, and we’re going to reveal what it is right now. If you’re an athletic 40, something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself, and doing hard shit, the fuel your strength podcast is for you. You’ll learn how to eat, train, and recover smarter, so you build strength and muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym.

I’m strength nutrition strategist and weightlifting coach, Steph Gaudreau. The Fuel Your Strength podcast dives into evidence-based strategies for nutrition training and recovery, and why once you’re approaching your 40s and beyond, you need to do things a little differently than you did in your 20s. We’re here to challenge the limiting industry narratives about what women can and should do in training and beyond. If that sounds good, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s go. Welcome back to the podcast. Thank you so much for being with me here today, make sure you hit the subscribe button on your podcast app. In this episode today, we’re going to be diving into one area that I see athletic women over 40 consistently struggling with when it comes to implementing high-quality information and techniques and strategies about how we need to shift our nutrition, our training, and our recovery. And this is one that is really at the heart of why sometimes implementing and making change is hard. And it’s still one that our brains like to really skip over. So we’re going to be diving into that on the podcast today. But before we dive in just a friendly reminder that if, of course, you’re listening to this podcast, I want to work with you on your nutrition, your training, and your recovery, really uncovering what are the strategies that you need to know and putting them into a system, it’s proven system that is going to get you results in terms of building muscle in terms of increasing your strength, having more energy and performing better both in and out of the gym and this is with Strength Nutrition Unlocked.

We don’t take everybody, we want to get on the phone with you and make sure that you’re a good fit for what we do. And we can help get you the transformation that you’re seeking. So make sure you book a call over at Steph gaudreau.com/apply you’ll fill out an application we’ll get on the phone with you to hear more about you and your situation. And we’d love to work with you if you’re a really good fit. Okay, I think this episode is going to be one of those food for thought episodes. And unlike other episodes I’ve done where there’s a nice distinct list of five things to do or stop doing. This one is more of a thought piece. But I think it’s really important, especially for listening to this show because you’re an athletic woman over 40 And you are someone who likes to challenge yourself, you know that you might have to do things differently as you continue to get older. We’re all aging, so we can just pretend that that’s another thing. Of course, women are not allowed in our society to age the same way that men are completely different discussion for another day.

But as athletic women, because of our changing physiology as we’re 40 we’re heading into perimenopause and then postmenopausal for the rest of our lives once that event has occurred. There are some really important ways that we may need to shift not only our nutrition but our training and our recovery. Now, does that mean we’re doing things drastically differently? In some cases? No. In a lot of cases, it’s making some finer adjustments. In other cases, like if you’re in your 50s, and you haven’t started strength training or resistance training yet, it’s time and that might be something brand new that you’re introducing. So that’s a big adjustment for you. But one of the things that I see pretty consistently is this reckoning of things being different or needing to be a little bit different than they were before. For our changing bodies to work with our changing lifestyles even in that can be really, really difficult. So for example, in this group, there was a big post about turning 40 or being older being in your 40s 50s 60s, and beyond, and some of the things that people found really difficult. And if I could distill down the biggest things into a couple of different buckets, besides things like my mobility is different.

Now there were a lot of comments and the majority of the comments fell in the bucket of, wow, I’ve been comparing myself to younger women. And I really get discouraged. Or I’ve been comparing myself to my former athletic cells, particularly if you’ve been athletic your entire life, you know, the way you are athletic now may not be the same thing that you did when you were in college or high school. Patience that’s necessary for things because for example, it takes in some cases longer to acquire a skill or to see muscle being built, or it takes patience because you’re not recovering as quickly as you used to. And there’s, there’s this kind of mental, emotional challenge to that. Now, a lot of the struggles that I see are because there are a couple of big things lacking number one, nutritionally, there’s some stuff going on, particularly women, ending up in low energy availability. And this is not just in young women, this happens in women 40, plus issues with training volume, and sort of being able to manage some of that. And that goes into what we’re going to talk about today a little bit. And things like sleep, which of course can be affected by the menopause transition. So there’s a lot that’s shifting and changing. And of course, other things going on in your life that is just really difficult. Right, maybe you are having relationship issues, or you have financial stress, or there’s something going on at work, you have more work responsibilities, or there’s something going on with a family member. And maybe you’re having to deal with all of that. So there’s just a lot that happens at this phase of life.

So very often, there’s this, again, reckoning that things, things are going to have to change a little bit. And it’s kind of easy to fall into the pitfall of remembering when you were younger, and the things that you used to be able to do, like, pull an all-nighter, slam or red bowl at, you know, after four hours of sleep and then go to the gym and feel like a fucking million dollars. So we can’t do those things anymore. And it’s hard sometimes to recognize that you are in a different place. And to make peace with that. And then to implement the new strategies that you know are going to be better for you whether it’s, it’s going to be less wear and tear on your joints, it’s going to be more recovery, it’s going to be making sure you get adequate nutrition. And you’re not skipping meals like you’re used to, or whatever it happens to be, you’re trying to do things differently, but for some reason, something’s getting in the way. And if you’re on this podcast listening to this episode, and you’ve heard other episodes in the past, you’re consuming good quality information, then we have to implement it. But why is it a struggle to implement things differently with fitness, and nutrition? So let’s, let’s investigate this a little bit more.

Many of us and potentially, you know, you listening to this episode, here have really at points in your life tried to abide by the old adage of eating less, moving more. And while that might be general advice, that is pretty sound for a wide swath of the population. It’s not always applicable to you. And a lot of us in our 40s 50s 60s and beyond, have had decades, literally decades, half our life, or more of this idea of eating less eating as little as possible, and it’s become kind of the false norm. So a lot of what we’re trying to do is operate in new ways based on old thinking. And, of course, our brains don’t like change. And then we’re scared. Because we think, oh my gosh, I’ve always been taught, it’s just eating less, move more, eat less, move more. So what I’m going to do, approaching my 40s. And now 50s and 60s is I just need to remember to eat way less and move a lot more. And I’m going to be golden. And we know that that’s not the case because we’ve been trying to do it for decades. And all it does is make us exhausted and burned out and binge eat, or have this uncontrolled eating, and makes us feel like shit. We know this doesn’t work.

And it’s not a long-term solution. But it’s been repeated so much to the point of being true for everyone, that we continue to try to double down and apply it. So I see this a lot with women who come to work with me in strength nutrition unlocked, or in one on one coaching. And I definitely see it in all of the internet chatter, which is, now I’ve decided, I’m going to get serious, because I know that as a woman in my 40s and older, that I need to start preserving muscle mass. I know bone density matters, and I want to continue to function and be able to move freely and independently for as long as possible. We know that longevity is now on the brain. And so we think, Alright, I’m gonna get serious about this. But now, I just need to eat less and move more. And even if you’ve been involved in athletics for a long time, you may still be taking that in with you because frankly, a lot of us hadn’t learned and never learned how to fuel ourselves properly. As athletic women, we just didn’t, we learned dieting. That’s how we approached it. Maybe you were lucky. And you had someone who really understood this. But for I would say the vast majority of you listening to this podcast, that was not the case. You’ve learned about nutrition and food from dieting. Right? So we take that eat less and move more into this new phase of life. So here’s the thing, we know, we need to do things differently. But it then becomes really hard for us to implement new stuff. And then we get mad at ourselves.

We think why can’t I just follow through on this. And so I want to take a specific example here. A lot of times what I talk about with my students in Strength Nutrition Unlocked is training more efficiently, training more efficiently. And so let’s look at what we mean by that what we really mean is getting the most bang for our buck out of the exercise that we are doing, not just assuming that more equals more. And that’s where some of the comparisons that I talked about at the beginning, or people are thinking I’m comparing myself to those young whippersnappers in my class, they’re in their 20s. Like, they just come they do two days like I just am beating myself up because I’m not doing today like them. Or I had to take another rest day, right? So we think that more is going to equal more and oftentimes we double down on that we double down on eating less and moving more because we feel like the current eating less and moving more that we’re doing isn’t working. And so we must not be doing it hard enough. And this is where we get into the the the vicious cycle from hell, if you want if we want to call it that. So what we need to do is look at training more efficiently. What we generally mean by that is lifting heavy weights. And again, it’s well I’ve said this a million times it will probably go on my gravestone it is relative to you heaviest relative to you. What’s important is that you progress it over time. And we also want to think about getting your heart rate high for short periods of time and that’s really intervals.

We had Dr. Stacey Sims on the podcast not too long ago and she uses the term polarizing your training. So we want when we do cardio because cardio is important especially when we’re in perimenopause and postmenopausal we start to have you know an increased risk for adverse cardiovascular effects because we’re losing estrogen and so many other changes are occurring with our hormones. We want to do cardio, okay? It’s not bad. However, we want to think about doing it efficiently a because who wants to be spending literally all their time in the gym training we want to be able to get the most bang for our buck and the most adaptation from our training, while also being mindful of things like exercise is a stressor on the body. Generally speaking, it’s going to be a positive stressor. However, if our nutrition is not there if we are undereating, if we’re not eating enough protein, if we are not recovering well enough, if we’re pushing ourselves too quickly into another really long, grueling workout session, for example, we might not be recovered enough, we might have issues with doing things that are too high repetition, for example, stress levels being higher cortisol being higher.

So we need to start thinking about all of that. And so when we start talking about training more efficiently, right, lifting heavier, it’s generally going to be lower reps, lower sets, so like five sets of five, and making it count, right? We might be talking about interval training, sprint intervals, or maybe some shorter hit workouts, but keeping the intervals themselves shorter. So we are, where are sweating we are, it’s hard, we’re seeing the improvement that we would expect from HIIT training or intervals, right, we’re seeing the metabolic adaptation, like increasing our mitochondria or improving our insulin sensitivity, we are building muscle mass, we are improving our cardiovascular function, we are potentially reducing some of the visceral fat that can accumulate around our internal organs. We are seeing muscle being mobilized to grow via the strength training piece, stimulating muscle satellite cells, especially when estrogen is lower or is kind of fluctuating all over the place. Right? We’re providing the protein we need for muscle protein synthesis are we’re doing the things that we need to get the adaptation. But we’re not just doing more for the sake of doing more. Now, yes, please go walk your freaking heart out, okay. And like, go do all your walking. That’s not what we’re talking about here. And I’m even sometimes a little bit remiss to talk about this because people will come back and say, she’s saying that, you know, any exercise is bad.

No, that’s not what we’re saying. We don’t, we’re not dissuading people from exercising here. Of course, we’re not knocking cardiovascular training, or exercise in any form. But we also know that for a lot of people who like to train really hard women, over 40, who would like to train hard, your athletes, you’re working out with intention and focus and purpose. You have to think about how your physiology factors in and because you’ve been trying to do the same things that you used to do, and it’s not working, you’re exhausted, you’re drained, your muscles slip sliding away off your body, and you’re not seeing the results that you want. And you feel like crap, right? So we can know what’s not working to continue just trying to go longer and longer and longer and more and more and more sessions. So that’s what we mean by training more efficiently. And at first. Many women are like, Yes, I fucking love this, it makes so much sense. The science makes a ton of sense. And even in 2021, there was a systematic review and meta-analysis that came out about shorter hit intervals. Because what a lot of people think is hit training is not true hit training. You’re just trying to go really hard for like an hour. That’s not hit training, hit training is high-intensity interval training.

Yes, we’re working very hard. But those intervals tend to be shorter. And then we have sprint interval training sit, which is when the intervals are even shorter than you would see in a typical hit workout. And there was a 2021 systematic review, a meta-analysis, that was looking at the difference between longer hit intervals greater than 60 seconds, compared to shorter intervals less than 60 seconds, in terms of things like testosterone and cortisol levels. And the conclusion was that hitting long intervals greater than 60 seconds may be the type of hit, that produces a greater increase in cortisol levels. So when we’re talking about already running higher cortisol, as a woman in perimenopause, post menopause, what we really want to think about is shrinking those intervals down to really be about a minute or less. Now, this is what we mean again, by efficiency. So you’re like, Okay, I’m listening to all this. Okay, there’s, yes, there’s more science than this one study to back this up. But okay, the science makes sense. Okay, I get that physiology is changing. So your logical brain is like, yep. All right. I’m totally going to do this and then you start to look at your week of training and actually do your training.

And this is where the issue comes up for a lot of people, and this is what this podcast is all about. And I know I spent 20 minutes setting up the story. But you know, sometimes we just got to get there by explaining everything. So this is the one place where I see people really struggling. When they’re looking at changing their nutrition, training, their recovery practices, they have the right information. They’re not getting their information from bite selfie influencers, thank you very much. They’re looking to implement, they’re ready for change. Even though Change is hard and scary. They’re like, Okay, I’m ready to do this, like, I’m gonna make change because I know that what I was doing before isn’t working. And then they are like, Okay, now it’s time for me to do it. And they do their lifting. They do a couple of interval sessions per week, and they’re like, Oh, my God, I feel like this wasn’t enough. What? This, that’s it. And this is where we run into the issue of beliefs. So beliefs are a big factor. In us, as we are approaching our changing physiology and training, doing fitness, and nutrition in different ways. Beliefs are going to get in our way. Now, again, this is normal, your brain doesn’t like change, you’re gonna have a belief stuffed into a belief suitcase you’ve been carrying around all your life. And sometimes you don’t even know what those beliefs are. But when it comes to the efficiency of training example, we oftentimes see women struggle with this because they’re like, oh, my gosh, I just, I got to, you know, Wednesday or Thursday, and I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I had to do more. I feel lazy.

If I’m not in there doing my workout for hours, or my cardio session, didn’t take me two and a half hours to complete. We’ve been indoctrinated in the no pain, no gain mentality. Again, the like, more, more, more, more, more training more sessions. I’m not going to get the results unless I’m putting in more time. More actual workouts this week, right? Raise your hand if you’ve ever started the new year, and you’re like, I’m willing to do, you know, a 90-minute workout every single day. And never skip a day, right? We’ve all been there. Do you think you’re lazy? If you’re not in there for hours at a time? And you’ll start to question it, and doubt questionings fine, we will start to doubt the process, especially if it’s in the beginning. You’re like, Oh my God. You know, everything wheels are gonna fall off this wagon. I’m not training enough. I’m not doing enough volume. I’m not doing enough time. And you will step away and you’ll go back to what you did before. Again, our brains don’t like change. This is very normal. But it’s because of the beliefs about what a good exerciser who is a good exerciser? Who is the dedicated exerciser who has value when it comes to fitness? It’s the person who’s the most fucking dedicated. Right? And it even goes so far as to sometimes encourage really unhealthy behaviors. And again, people are like, but exercise is a healthy role, not when it’s over exercise. Right. And those are sometimes the people who get praised the most because they’re so dedicated and I speak from personal experience. Right as an endurance athlete.

People are like, Oh my God, you’re so dedicated. Yes. I was also very overtrained and under-eating and miserable. So yes, you know, if you want to be moving, that’s okay. You know, let’s walk every day recently I did a challenge with my strength nutrition unlocked students, or we challenge ourselves to walk a little every day. You know, get your nonexercise activity up. Right, move around, do more stuff around the house, get up in you know, put away the clothes on the other side of the room walk to do your errands, if you can, you know like there’s lots of different ways you can incorporate more nonexercise activity. So that could be something that you substitute in and hate walking is fucking amazing. And it’s a really good way to get your baseline of daily movement up without piling on a lot of exercise stress. So I say all this because I want you to think about when you’re okay, really, I’m bought in with science, I get that I’m ready to make a change. And then you start to notice that you are like quote-unquote self-sabotaging or you’re not following through a lot of times, we think it’s just because we need better habits, or the way we’re doing things is not right. And sometimes that can be the case. But oftentimes, it comes down to the beliefs that you are holding about that thing. Right. So if we’re working on exercising more efficiently, training more efficiently, which generally means you know, getting the most that we can out of the least amount of time.

Notice where that bumps up against your belief of who is a good exercise or, you know, again, our society is obsessed with not being lazy. And there are so many reasons for that. There’s an amazing book on it called laziness design, because this by Dr. Devin price, highly recommend, but we have these underlying beliefs like we can’t sit around, we can’t be lazy, we have to be pushing it all the time. And so we have to go deeper. And the same thing comes up with a nutrition, right, eat less, eat less, eat less, it’s the same thing you can take yourself through, go back and listen to this episode again. But think about food this time. And I’m not going to go into that example here, because I did the exercise efficiency example. But suffice to say, we have to go deeper. And this is where coaching is really helpful. Because it helps you uncover and develop an awareness of these deeper beliefs. That could be the reason why you’re having a harder time implementing change, even when your logical brain understands on the surface, why it’s important. Now, I’m not a therapist. And I’m not a mental health professional. But this is what I’m seeing from coaching, right coaching is how we help you implement habits and behaviors to create new outcomes for yourself, now and in the future.

And it’s very interesting to observe how beliefs intersect here with changing our habits around training and fueling, and recovery. So here’s, I think, how we tie a little bit of a bow on this episode, the book atomic habits, by James clear, if you’ve read it, then this is going to be a little bit of a look into a section of the book. But James Clear talks about a model for essentially getting new outcomes, right, changing our habits, getting the things that we want, and changing our behavior for good, as he says. And this model is different than what a lot of people think about when they’re trying to make a habit change, they’re either trying to cheat, they’re usually trying to change the habit. And so we have this kind of three-layer, almost bullseye, we have the outcomes, right, these are the results that you want. Goals, if you will, targets might be another word for that. The second layer on the inside of that is the process. These are habits and the systems the routines that you have for yourself. And this is where most people try to make a change, they try to go straight for the habits to get the outcomes. But the model that he talks about has a deeper layer, which is identity. And this is involved looking at your beliefs, your worldview, your judgments, your assumptions, and your biases.

And I think this is where this concept that I’m talking about comes to light because as we’re approaching our 40s and beyond, as women athletes, we’re trying to make a change based on our old identities, our previous versions of ourselves, if you will, or what works for other, you know, younger people in our gym, the 20-year-olds that we train alongside. So if we think about this bullseye model, identity is at the center, then we have a process, which is our habits. And then the final kind of the outermost layer is the outcomes. These are the results that you want. And so I think there’s some really interesting food for thought here. So I’m going to quote him, so he writes on his website. To change your behavior for good you need to start believing new things about yourself. You need to build identity-based habits. Imagine how we typically set goals, we might start by saying I want to get stronger. If you’re lucky, someone might say, that’s great, but you should be more specific. So then you say, I want to squat 300 pounds. And these goals are centered around outcomes. is not identity. So he goes on to say that there are two steps. Number one, decide the type of person you want to be number two, and prove it to yourself with small wins.

This is just a tiny, tiny snippet from the book, highly recommend you read the whole thing. But I thought that this dovetails very nicely with what I was trying to say in this episode. So if you are finding yourself ready to start implementing change, you want new results, you want to build those new habits, so systems and structures in your life to get you different outcomes. Because you know, as a woman, athlete over 40, you’re gonna have to do some things differently. Don’t forget about that deepest layer, above the identity, the beliefs that you hold, who you assume yourself to be, the judgments that you have about yourself and others and the world, for example, the judgment that we can’t be lazy if we do less, or we workout more efficiently, that that’s somehow lazy, and it’s not enough.

And notice how those beliefs change or affect your ability to be able to follow through with the implementation of the new habits that you want. Of course, you can develop this awareness on your own. It’s great to start being curious and asking yourself lots of questions. But a coach can help you get there so much faster. If you haven’t heard my episode on six reasons you need a nutrition coach, then definitely hop back a few episodes and check that one out. It’s worth listening to. Thank you so much for joining me today on this episode of the podcast, I hope you learned something, especially something a little bit deeper than what we tend to talk about in terms of the technicalities of this show. And that you’re able to then apply some of this to your life or finally realized that, you know, it might be time to get help to get a coach to invest in yourself, and your own growth and progress.

We would love to help you do that in Strength Nutrition Unlocked. So book a call and chat with us about if you’re a good fit and you can do that at StephGaudreau.com/apply. Remember to hit the subscribe button on your podcast app. It means a lot it goes a long way. And there are also lots of other ways you can support the show. Share this episode out in your Instagram stories and tag me tell a friend or a loved one or a training partner or coach about this episode and share the love that stuff means a ton and it really does go quite a long way. Of course, you can also grab the show notes for this episode at StephGaudreau.com. All right, I will see you next week. Thank you so much for being here and until then stay strong.

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Steph Gaudreau

Hi, I'm Steph Gaudreau (CISSN, NASM-CPT)!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.


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