An Arm and a Leg

Listen, readers, I don’t know if you’ve ever watched Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, but if you’ve ever entertained the idea of watching anime you should absolutely check it out. It is, start to finish, an emotional whirlwind of evil plots and science-magic. Prior to the events of the series, the main character, Edward Elric, dabbles in some science-magic (alchemy) that is considered rather… well, forbidden. The events play out rather poorly, but as a side effect he is given a glimpse into the infinite knowledge of the universe and gains some fancy abilities. The catch is that it literally costs him an arm and a leg. (Not a bad deal, considering his brother, Alphonse, loses his entire body and has to become an armour ghost.)

Now, why do I bring this up, other than to convince you to immediately queue Brotherhood up on Netflix? It’s actually because I (somehow) managed to draw a parallel between the previously mentioned maiming of young Edward and the experience I (and probably many others) have had with injury.

As you may know, since you are of course a long-time avid reader of my blog, I had surgery some few years ago for a meniscus tear. Not a major injury, really, but they all leave their mark. I know that knee is not as stable. I can feel that it’s not as stable. That knee is inherently more vulnerable than the other, and complains a little more loudly if, for example, I accrue a bit of adverse muscle tension around it or perform some creative movements.

The big “traumatic” moment of the injury happened while rolling in a BJJ class, but I think that was hardly to blame. No, the real insult that I dealt that poor knee (my equivalent of practicing forbidden science-magic) was training very hard and simultaneously moving very poorly for a number of years prior to the incident. I mashed that meniscus into paste, and then found the perfect opportunity in that sparring match to finish it off.

I like to joke about how I would love to go back in time and kick my ass for the way I used to train (or at least deliver one hell of a lecturing), but the truth is I probably wouldn’t change anything. As inconvenient as the lasting consequences of the injury have been, and as devastating as it was to have to put training on hold for a few months while I waiting for an MRI and surgery, tearing my meniscus set me on the path I’m now on. It made me ask a lot of “why’s”. In effect, I traded a piece of that meniscus for all the knowledge I’ve gained since. This is not unlike the childhood experience of the unwitting Edward Elric and his soon to be disembodied brother (just scaled WAY down).

(For the record, if I could go back in time and guide myself towards some real coaching I would at least try. I bet I wouldn’t listen, though. Ugh.)

So, yeah. Injuries are the kind of mistake you want to really make sure you learn from, especially if you get injured during training. (That’s a big red flag that you need to make some better decisions). They are expensive (in many ways) and often don’t go away completely, so you better at least draw the silver out of them to line the rest of your training. Even with this non-optimal knee I’m way stronger than I was before the injury. Learn all you can about the injury and how to rebuild yourself. You might be surprised how much stronger you can become because of it.

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The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Workweek and Lifestyle Design Blog

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