A close friend of mine recently asked me how many concussions I’ve had throughout my varied careers as a Marine, a football player, a rugby player, an MMA fighter and a drunk idiot. I thought long and hard for a while before responding with, “like, diagnosed by a doctor or just times I was just pretty sure? Eventually you just stop going to the hospital for those things.”

She was mortified.

Head trauma is, of course, no laughing matter, and as the dementia seeps into the metaphorical cracks I’ve left in my brain decades before it might have otherwise, I’m sure I’ll look back on the few head to head collisions I still recall and regret them — but as I’ve mentioned previously, very few of my supposedly “athletic” accomplishments were born out of my innate athletic ability — in large part because, I really don’t have any innate athletic ability whatsoever. When it comes to contact and collision sports, there are really two kinds of athletes: those who rely on skill, finesse and coordination and those who trade on little more than brute force. To be the former, you’ve got to have some real talent. To be the latter, you just need a hard head and weak sense of self-preservation.

That approach earned me trophies and accolades that far exceeded my skill set, put me in rooms with men I had no right to call peers, and gave me this bullshit air of superiority I talk from when opining about how old injuries can inform new workouts. I write Old Man Fitness because it’s the game I’m playing anyway — just trying to beat the clock and keep this old tractor of a body running strong until the two of us find our way into the grave together. Louis C.K. may have recently been outed as a masturbating creep monster, but before all that he had a great bit about going to the doctor for an injury. He asked the doctor what to do about his ankle pain and the doctor told him to stretch it for 30 minutes a day. Louis C.K. then asked, “Okay, how long do I have to do that before my ankle gets better?”

And the doctor responds, “No, that’s just what you do until you and your shitty ankle both die.”

My shitty ankle has a metal plate, six screws, three pins and a bit of wire holding it together, along with scars on either side from multiple surgeries and a tattoo for good measure. If you were on the hunt for medical grade steel, you wouldn’t have to go any farther than my knees to find more — both of which have screws in them, along with a combination of parts out of cadavers and chunks of meat that have been yanked out of other parts of me and re-purposed into ligaments. Neither knee has any cartilage left to speak of, and if you place your hand on my knee cap as I bend my knee back and forth, you can feel the vibration of grinding resonate through my leg. My wife says it feels like “peanut butter mixed with gravel.” I’m more inclined to call it broken glass.

Scan a bit further north and you’ll find the healed remains of a fractured pelvis, then a bit higher you’ll find the metal screen that sits just above and behind my belly button from where I tore my abdominal wall. When my body fat is low enough, you can feel the screen just by brushing your hand across my abdomen, but admittedly, these days you may need to press a bit to find it. Multiple broken ribs on multiple occasions leads you up to a once separated shoulder that still gives me trouble, and around to three slipped discs in my back that I have treated with injections when they act up. A partially detached retina in my right eye combined with a genetic predisposition for retinal swelling means I’ll forever live the repercussions of not keeping my right hand up while sparring, and I haven’t even gotten to the list of broken arms, wrists, fingers, or toes. I’ve been knocked unconscious, hospitalized for both heat stroke and hypothermia, had my clothes cut off by strangers and even nurses I realized in horror that I’d gone to high school with.