The Case for Working on Your Weaknesses

“Playing to my strengths,” as we say in the corporate world, may very well have cost me my ACL. Let me explain…

I work in healthcare leadership development, so we arbiters of euphemisms rarely use the word “weakness.” We dance around “opportunities for development” or “areas of growth.” I involuntarily shivered when a client said she wanted her team to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) so they could “learn about their strengths and weaknesses.” My goodness, I positively had the vapors. Technically, as I gently hold her, the MBTI looks at preferences rather than true strengths and weaknesses, but…something about the word “weakness” was just too real for me.

Turns out, working on your weaknesses can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

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The Surprisingly Therapeutic Aspect of Watching the “Cobra Kai” Series

cobra kai

[Note: this post contains some vague-as-I-could-make-them spoilers]

Like many other martial arts enthusiasts and children of the 1980s, I was very excited to spend the final weekend of August bingeing both seasons of the breakout hit series “Cobra Kai” on Netflix. A friend, who is also a fellow taekwondo black belt, and I had watched the first season together when it debuted on YouTube Red in 2018. We loved it and marveled at how clever and heartfelt it was. 

Much has changed in two years, both on a national and global scale, and also for me personally. I knew I’d be entertained by watching the series, but I didn’t realize how deeply therapeutic it would be. 

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When Do You Feel Like an Athlete Again?

Five weeks post-op

A month and two days following my ACL reconstruction surgery, I had a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic surgeon. Two weeks earlier I’d seen one of his assistants to have my sutures and bandages removed and to get a play-by-play, complete with three pages of color photos, of the surgery.

I was hoping for some good news after a month of hard work at home and in physical therapy. I’d been cranky and depressed for the past week because a nasty case of topical dermatitis flared up around my incisions. The incisions themselves are fine, but the skin around it was red, itchy, and full of little bumps that give my skin the appearance and feel of a very tightly inflated (i.e., one Tom Brady might allegedly avoid) football.

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Celebrate Small Wins

small progress

I did something new in physical therapy this week: I rode a stationary bike.

I’m three weeks into ACL reconstruction surgery recovery. The sutures are out, leaving me with only a few small scars (thanks to arthroscopic surgery), and most of the time, I can walk around in my house with just my big leg brace, sometimes with one crutch if I’m tired. I still need a crutch to walk up and down my steep stairs, but I’m getting pretty good at that too. 

I was a little surprised when my physical therapist told me to start with the bike when I entered the clinic Monday morning. I figured he’d want me to do my regular warm-ups to ease the morning stiffness out of my leg. It’s still very difficult to bend my knee beyond ninety degrees. This was going to be interesting. 

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Using Martial Arts Basics To Recover From an Injury

white belt uniform

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know how I feel about forms. I’ve written over two dozen blog posts about the mental and physical benefits (and inevitable life lessons) of practicing poomsae.

To my surprise, my physical therapist casually mentioned that I should start doing slow-motion forms to work on balance and transferring weight back and forth on my legs. I’m nearly three weeks post-op from ACL reconstruction surgery, and, if I’m careful, I can move around the house with just my leg brace. I was excited about the prospect.

I’ve done forms as mental therapy. I’ve never done them as physical therapy, so this will be a new recovery/martial arts adventure for me.

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Slow to Go Fast

Illustration of race between rabbit and turtle.
Eventually I’ll get there.

According to my mother, I began walking shortly before my first birthday.

Yesterday, about a month after my forty-first birthday, I learned how to walk again. 

I had a 9:00 am physical therapy appointment with Cody, my long-time therapist and injury wizard. He was expecting another patient in thirty minutes, so he decided we would work on walking since I could now put more weight on my right leg (not my full weight, but more than fifty percent), and then I could do the exercises I already knew on my own. 

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The Hard Truth of Getting Back Into Shape – Before and After

therapy clinic
My dojang for the next six months

According to WordPress, I started this draft at 12:16 PM on July 9, 2020. My original plan for this post was to recount how I was several weeks into longer, more intense taekwondo training back at the dojang after doing thirty-minute home workouts for two months in quarantine, the differences among the two types of training, and what it revealed to me about my stamina, strength, and skill. 

My original plan also included describing in detail the invigorating, intense, difficult class I took on my forty-first birthday. I was going to talk about how strong I felt and yet how far I had to go. I was going to say I wished I had the bikini body and sparring stamina I had in February and how I’d have to spend months getting it backHere’s a little excerpt:
“I was kicking so hard I swear my BLADDER hurt. I sucked in shaky, audible gasps. I was nearly in tears from the tax on my body, and I don’t cry in taekwondo.”

But this is 2020, and nothing this year is as it seems. The night of July 9, I tore my ACL.

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Is My Injury Bad For My Image?

model mirror
You can barely see her knee surgery scars from here.

The editing work for my upcoming memoir is finally done, and now I’m dipping my callused toes (from all the roundhouse kicks, of course) into publicity. I’m *thisclose* to selecting a publicist and very excited about the next step of my publishing journey.

The ACL injury and subsequent surgery seem like especially bad timing.
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Knee Surgery: Pre-Op Jokes and Dr. Pepper

syringe
God bless anesthesiologists.

As martial artists, we’ve heard those familiar mantras before: “Fall down seven times, get up eight”; “A black belt is a white belt who refused to give up“; perseverance, indomitable spirt, blah blah blah.

It turns out that martial arts spirit of perseverance and jocky stubbornness to give up has quite come in handy over the last few days. I am four days into recovery from ACL surgery, and recovery has been a full-time job. Let’s go back a few days…

In my last post, I described my worst taekwondo injury to date and following tests and decisions I made with my doctor. We agreed on an ACL repair slated for July 22 at 7 am.

…things didn’t quite go as planned.
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