As we get older, we tend to collect things. Piles of artifacts representing memories both lost and treasured, old receipts we think we may need, and that shirt you know you can’t pull off anymore but just can’t find it in yourself to part with all take their places in our lives and homes like a physical manifestation of our own cluttered minds.

These collections start as a byproduct of the lives we lead, but over time, they come to define us. The tools in my garage and guns in my safe are more than an extension of my interests, in many ways, they’re an extension of me.

Of course, as the years go by, there’s also another kind of collection we tend to assemble, though not one that’s as easy to tuck away into a junk drawer: injuries also have a way of piling up on us. For some of us, they can be a point of pride — my list of injuries represents a long list of great accomplishments and bad decisions, but most importantly, none of them have managed to kill me yet. I’m not proud of every broken bone or torn ligament, but I’m proud that I’m still in the fight, dragging my aching ass into the gym despite all the ways life (and my own choices) have conspired against me.

Like my collection of tools, my collection of injuries defines me in many ways. It informs the way I approach my life, as I work to mitigate old injuries and prevent them from leading to new ones. Many of you can likely relate to things like giving your knees some time to warm up in the morning or adjusting the gait of your walk because your ankle is acting up today.

Pain is like the check engine light on the dashboard of a car. When you’re young, and the car is new, it means something’s wrong that you need to address.

But as you get older and the odometer clicks over into six digits, the check engine light tends to come on more and more often until eventually, it’s just on all the time. My car, creeping dangerously close to the 200,000-mile mark, has its check engine light on perpetually now and both my knees do as well.

So, adorned in our collections of old injuries, we carry on, busting our asses and getting things done like we always have, using the wisdom gained through experience to mitigate the ways our physical problems can extend into the things we do. My right knee has a habit of giving out on me, so over the years I’ve become really good at catching my balance before I crumple into a pile on the ground when it does. The detached retina in my right eye earned through years of fighting has led to me shifting the way I use the optics on my rifle. A lot of times, you may not even think about the ways you manage your injuries, you just do what you need to do the best you can — and it works.

I’ve broken my wrist so many times, I think part of me just assumes it’s always broken.

Tailoring your workouts to injury should optimally work the same way. We tend to think of “diet and exercise” like alchemy — some strange foreign science we can’t hope to grasp on our own, and as such, we rely on the expertise of others (in the form of products and diet fads). The truth is, exercise is just a way to imitate physical challenges in a safe and repetitive manner, and if there’s one thing you’ve learned to manage over decades of collecting injuries, it’s physical challenges.