Are you running a movement deficit?

Okay, let’s forget about all the talk of the U.S. government running huge budget deficits. Let’s talk about you. But let’s not talk about your budget deficits; let’s talk about your movement deficit. Simply put: every single day, you are making too many withdrawals from your good alignment and activation account and not enough deposits.

We know that sitting isn’t the greatest strength training activity in the world. We know that it’s also not really that good for you.

Have you ever thought of sitting as a transaction as a debit that eventually needs to be balanced with a credit?

Let’s say you start the month with $1000. Your rent is $200 (yes, with this number I’m also assuming you live in California circa 1975). Your food costs you $100 a month. You have an economy car that you pay $150 a month for. You party hard and spend about $300 a month on drinks, movies, etc. How are you doing by month’s end? You’re doing okay, right? You have $250 leftover, right? Let’s say you make $1000 a month from your job. Every month, you’re saving $250. Not too bad! Keep partying it up and saving up some money and when the 80s roll around you’ll be able to get yourself a pretty awesome pair of rock n roll tights!

But what happens if your income gets cut? What happens if you lose your job altogether and can’t find another? You’ve got some savings, but it won’t be long before those savings are burned through, and then the pain really starts.

This is the same story with our bodies. I think of sitting in one position for longer than 15 minutes as a withdrawal from the body’s “good activation and alignment” account. When we were kids, we ran around, jumped up and down, climbed on things, rode bikes, walked all the way across town to get Orange Bang, and just generally did stuff that ensured that our muscles were definitely getting activated (though generally not in perfect alignment).

As we get older, though, we sit more and more. We hit grade school, and some serious sitting time starts. We’re in chairs for a few hours, but then we’re let loose to run around and move — then back into chairs for a bit. Then we have lunch and we’re running wild again before sitting back down in our chairs. And in another few hours, we’re running again. We make a withdrawal, and then make a deposit. Make a withdrawal; make a deposit. Ideally we make larger deposits than withdrawals; our muscles get stronger and increase their endurance, and we feel healthier, more athletic, etc.

By high school, “recess” becomes “nutrition,” and the focus shifts from running around to standing around — which is still better than just more sitting, but it’s not as big a deposit into the good activation and alignment account.

The deficit problems become real debt problems when we hit desk jobs, and that’s probably where you are right now.

As an adult, you do an incredible amount of sitting. And you do it for hours on end. When was the last time you sat down at your computer only to realize four hours has passed? Did you just check your computer clock and realize it’s been four hours since you sat down? Say hello to your movement deficit for the day.

Sitting slouched with a laptop

It happens to us all, and while it may be okay for a while, it’s not an okay arrangement forever. Eventually, you burn through the funds in your good activation and alignment account, and you start running into some serious debt.

As the debt builds, you start getting notices from your body that things are not right. You get notices of nonpayment (transient aches and pains) that get louder (chronic aches and pains) and that eventually turn into service shut offs (can’t move your shoulder, knee, etc. anymore).

If you want to avoid going into serious movement debt, then you need to start making more deposits. Get started addressing the movement debt, get your body back to an even zero, and in a few years’ time, you’ll start reaping the rewards of a movement account that’s in the black!

If you need some ways to get started:

1) Start foam rolling.
2) Go for a 15 minute walk once a day for the next week, then increase the walk to 20 minutes.
3) Train for an ironman.

Obviously item 3 is a bit of a reach, but if it’s a goal that will get you motivated, do it! Every little bit you deposit into your account helps you get out of debt!


About the Author

Matt Hsu is a trainer and orthopedic massage therapist. He fought a long battle with chronic pain all over his body and won. He blends the principles he learned in his journey, empirical observations with clients, and relevant research to help others get their lives back.