Trans Bodybuilding Competition: My Experience as a Non-Binary Competitor

Front double-biceps pose 10/6/18 Trans Bodybuilding Competition in Atlanta.

Bodybuilding. Sounds interesting. Building one’s body. Training hard in the gym and eating right. Seeing some results. Work a bit harder. Consider competing. Realize one’s options as a non-binary person are 1) Compete in stilettos and a glittery bikini or 2) Sign up for a mens competition. Neither option feels like a good fit. Get discouraged. Lose focus on weightlifting and nutrition. Feel yucky in own body. Start going to gym again and eating right. See some results. Consider competing. You can see how this becomes a frustrating and not-very-gender-affirming-cycle.

trans bodybuilding competition flyer

Enter Trangender (trans) bodybuilding competitions. When I saw the trailer for the film “Manmade” that was screening at this years Frameline Film Festival in the Bay Area, I was shocked! I had no idea that this type of space had opened up in the bodybuilding arena. But it was really just a passing thought in my mind that I would ever be a part of of something like that. I’d never felt like I was lean enough to be a “real” bodybuilder. But then months later, I saw a facebook post for the International Association of Trans Bodybuilders event that was coming up in Atlanta in October. I thought “yeah, maybe if I lived in Georgia I would go try that, but that would be crazy to fly in from the Oakland Bay Area just to go flex my muscles on a stage! But I couldn’t shake the idea from my mind over the next few days. I peeked into my calendar just to check whether I was free that weekend. I texted my mom to see if she happened to be available to watch our kids for a long weekend. I told her it wasn’t for certain, just considering making a trip to Georgia for what I thought at the time was a self-indulgent and frivolous reason. And sure enough my calendar was blank and my mom was free. I asked my spouse what they were doing that weekend. Hmm, they were free as well. And my brother and his family had just moved to Georgia a few months prior so I would have a place to stay and could also spend some quality time with them if I made the trip.

The cards seemed to be lining up. But I had one HUGE lingering doubt. And that is, “Would I be lean enough?” By the time I saw the event posted, I would have exactly eight weeks to prepare to step onstage. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by showing up too fluffy. I’d been making some great progress with my workouts and had been consistent with tracking my nutrition since I started working with a new personal trainer (Emmet Logan of YesBodies, they/them pronouns) in February of this year. I was generally feeling pretty great in my body, but I wanted to get leaner and continue to appear more masculine. I ran the idea by my personal trainer. A long rambling stream of words tumbled out of my mouth….”So there’s a trans powerlifting and bodybuilding competition coming up in eight weeks and I’m thinking of doing one or the other or maybe both and I know I’m not super-lean but I’m getting there and what do you think? Is it crazy or is there a chance I could be ready in time?”

My trainer gave some very thoughtful answers to my question and helped me clarify my goals in terms of focusing on the bodybuilding competition over the powerlifting competition. The main thing that I took away from our conversation was that I might as well try my best and go for it, and even if I didn’t meet all my aesthetic goals, that I would still come out of the competition knowing if it’s something I’d want to pursue further or just something that was fun and interesting for a one-time experience,

So Emmet designed an 8-week strength-training routine for me with the goals of putting on as much muscle as possible in as little time as possible and torching off as much body fat as possible while keeping me healthy and strong. It included some new (to me) tortuous techniques such as German Volume Training (10 sets of 10 reps of compound exercises at 70% of your max with only one-minute rest periods) and Muscle Flushing (Multiple drop sets that run so much blood through a muscle that you think you’re going to puke with the aim of pumping up the muscle with nutrients and stimulating growth). And then I think there was a variation of the German Volume Training thrown in there for one of the four-week cycles of muscle building. But my trainer is smart and sneaky so they didn’t call it that by name. They just wrote down the reps and sets of the exercises I needed to complete and I methodically worked through four intense weight-room workouts on my own each week and then Emmet pushed me on Fridays when I trained with them.

I experience a variety of emotions throughout this training cycle. Strong bursts of rage, anxiety, sadness, and excitement punctuated longer periods of focus and empowerment and fatigue. The first time we did German Volume Training, my quads were in shock from doing so much volume (total of all sets x reps) of front squats. They were twitching and fiery and, despite doing variations of back squats and front squats for years, I finally felt them working and growing. I swear I watched them grow a whole inch in circumference as I was driving home from the workout. But around my sixth set I’d really settled into my front squat form in a really comfortable way. I’d struggled with that particular lift before and just the repetition of having to pick the bar right back up every minute felt really amazing to lock in that form. And it was also really hard. And Emmet said something like “get into position, elbows up, and let’s go…picture yourself walking onstage!” And at that moment I just felt so much anger. I wanted to stop and rest and all the anxiety I had about whether I’d be “ready” for the competition had already melted away under the weight of the barbell and I don’t even know where the anger came from or where it was directed but I experienced anger in my quad muscles, anger in my back, anger in my blood. And I got through the set, and the emotion passed as soon as my quads were no longer under mechanical tension. I was exhausted after that workout of deadlifts and squats, but was surprised by what happened next.

Two days later, I was foam-rolling my quad muscles to try to release some of the tension and soreness that had built-up from the squats. It was painful. Really painful. Painful, but necessary. It’s the kind of pain I could push-through while keeping my leg muscles mostly relaxed and not having to hold my breath. I guess birthing a baby prepares you well for foam-rolling! So I was mentally prepared to get through this necessary evil, so that the post-workout soreness wouldn’t last more days than necessary. But just moments into rolling out my right quad, I felt that quick fiery flash of anger jabbing into my brain and electrifying my whole body. And as soon as I recognized that emotion as anger, it crashed into sadness. Waves of sorrow and sadness flooded my body with every breath. If I’d stopped foam-rolling and distracted myself by scrolling through Facebook on my phone, I think it would have rolled to a stop. But I kept going and kept breathing and kept feeling whatever this was that was coursing through me. And crying uncontrollably face down on a mat at the gym. As a healthcare provider who releases built-up tensions in people’s bodies all day long, I recognized this as trauma leaving the body. All the what-ifs and am-I-good-enoughs and do-I-look-a-certain ways that had entered my quads during the vigorous muscle building were now being processed and healed and remodeled and repaired through this self-muscle work. I tell my clients all the time that foam-rolling is good for their muscles, but I’ve never told anyone (yet) that it can be a spiritual experience if you keep breathing and lean into the discomfort.

oakland trans fitness foam rolling quads

I didn’t tell many people that I was preparing for a bodybuilding competition. I guess I was afraid that if people responded with a surprised “I didn’t know you were into that?!” then I would take that as “Wow, you don’t look like a bodybuilder” or “You don’t look very lean”. I knew I looked strong. But not necessarily lean. That was my insecurity. I wasn’t afraid of being in the spotlight on stage and forgetting my poses. I wasn’t stressed-out about wearing a sports-bra on my chest when everyone else would be bare-chested. (The sports-bra selection process was mentally-consuming because I wanted to get it perfect. Minimalist in the back to show my back muscles but not feminine or strappy, etc.) But really, my whole eight-week preparation was plagued by the worry that I wouldn’t get lean enough. I was professional-archery-competitor-accurate about weighing and measuring all my meals. I didn’t eat at a restaurant for eight weeks. I prepared an egg-white scramble with spinach every morning to eat with my gluten-free toast. In total, I shook-up sixty protein shakes in my blender bottle, one each morning to have it prepared for the day. I prepared 180 boring but not unpalatable protein-rich healthy meals in portable containers so I could eat my other meals spaced out at approximately 11am, 3pm, and then 7pm. I took my own food to a wedding. I took my own food on a camping trip. I mixed up electrolyte powders, creatine powders, BCAA concoctions stirred into pre-workout drinks, and post-workout and evening recovery supplements. Everything was very organized and dialed in. And it took a lot of my mental energy to track my macros (food intake) and check off all the boxes.

trans bodybuilding meals

I applied a self-tanner. Oh yes, that was a whole experience just by itself. It required five coats and lots of stained towels and sheets and several patient helping hands. I am naturally a very pale person and it was shocking to see the difference a tanner made in seeing my muscle definition. I realized that I was closer to my leanness goals then I had realized. And it made me mad to realize that probably every fitness model who has every been on the front cover of a magazine had great lighting and a tan and that they don’t naturally look like they do in those pictures if you were to see them in the offseason. And so much crap is marketed towards us with the messaging that you aren’t good enough.

sandy baird biceps pose trans fitness

So I arrived to the Seven Stages Theater on a warm afternoon in Georgia. I was thankful that we didn’t have to stand around outside for too long because the sun was hot and my tanner was temporary (the top-coat layers tend to drip off when you sweat). Six of us contestants gathered and shook hands and started talking about where we were from and how we heard about the competition. I instantly felt at home with these guys. We all have many similarities in our life-stories even though we are at different points in our transitions or in our fitness journeys. I met two people at this event who had lost over 100 pounds. Two other people had competed as women (butches) earlier in their bodybuilding careers and were now reuniting to compete as men in this trans bodybuilding event. It was a friendly competition. I got some tips on how to pump-up before the show. Other guys were sharing tips on when to carb-up and how to pose.


We had a lot of waiting around time while they set-up the weigh-in area. It felt like catching up with old friends even though I’d never met these fellows before. We all had a good bonding moment when Wes (the overall winner of the competition) walked in. He strutted in wearing a bright red stringer-style tank top. His traps and lats were popping out all over the place and he looked amazing and it was so clear that none of us stood a change against him! Someone joked about trying to run off a pound to get into a lower weight class so they wouldn’t have to compete against him. Another wondered what could they quickly eat before the weigh-in so that they could move up to heavy-weight class to avoid competing against him. We greeted him not with, “Hi man, how are you?” but “How much do you weigh?” It was all in good fun and I felt very supported by this community as I dealt with the nerves of getting out there to do my posing routine.

Behind the scenes view of side triceps pose. AP photo on Ottawa Citizen webpage

The organizer and the stage/theater-manager were both very conscientious with checking in about the use of pronouns. I was also offered a choice to go onstage with the other trans-men or have my own category (non-binary gender). I opted to go onstage with the other guys because I was too nervous to go up there all by myself. No one made any comments about what I was wearing. There was a lot of general banter about top-surgeries and transition-related topics. When the time came, we were all called up onto stage by the order of our numbers (there were a total of eight contestants). The judges called for some quarter turns, which from what I can tell are called relaxed poses but you don’t look or feel very relaxed in them because you are semi-flexing and trying to remember to smile). And then they introduced each of us and had us do our favorite pose. The crowd was super-supportive and high-energy and it felt very empowering and celebratory as we went through our poses. Then we walked off stage and then came back separated by weigh-class.

sandy baird trans bodybuilding relaxed pose

Side “relaxed” pose

I had spent a lot of time debating whether I was going to try to make the lightweight class. I was really close to the cutoff of 145 pounds. After weighing over 205 at the end of my pregnancy, and then 185 after delivery, I’d gotten down to 175 by February. Between February and July I’d come down to 155 or 160. And I knew that it would be tight having only eight weeks to get to 145, so I set it as my goal and decided to see how close I was a week out from the competition before deciding if I wanted to do all the water loading and cutting and carb manipulation and sweating and spitting that can be common in weight-class competitions.

Trans bodybuilding competition weights

Most recent few years of my fitness journey include weighing 185 top left, 160 on the foam roller, and 147 competition day.

I was weighing in at 148 or 149 the day before I hopped on the airplane to Atlanta, so I decided that I would probably be holding water from traveling anyway and I decided not to do all that stuff and just get out there and look the best that I can and show off my hard work and not worry about weight classes. Even though moving down into the lightweight division would have meant getting a third-place trophy, I think I made the right decision to not add that extra layer of stress to my experience. I ate a bunch of jelly beans the night before as I alternated between coats of tanner and practicing my poses (which is actually more work than you might think it is to hold all those muscle contractions). I didn’t weigh or measure my meals that weekend and only loosely followed the rubric of what my meal plan had looked like the months prior.

And I felt fantastic. I felt energized. I felt masculine. I felt powerful and strong. And I had a lot of fun. Everyone’s first question to me now is “would I do this again?” And it’s a really hard question to answer. Yes I definitely would do a trans bodybuilding competition again. I felt like there was such a nice mix of body types and body fat levels and throughout this whole prep I’ve focused in on the fact that this is allowing me to redefine what bodybuilding means to me. It doesn’t have to mean sparkly swimsuits and booty poses and high heels. And it doesn’t have to mean starvation diets and extreme dehydration techniques. In every way I have been celebrating this body that I have built and it was an amazing experience to participate with a group of athletes who are also redefining and rebuilding their own bodies.

sandy baird back pose trans fitness

But traveling to Atlanta isn’t something that I can likely do every year. It wasn’t cheap and it took a long time to get there. On the other hand, to my knowledge, there are currently not other opportunities to compete as a non-binary person. I can still do my thing in the gym and stay on top of my nutrition, but in terms of a community event, I really hope that the IATB can grow and expand their vision and bring trans bodybuilding to the Oakland and SF Bay Area! We have a growing community of LGBT focused gyms and trainers and I would think a trans bodybuilding community would be a natural extension of that. Maybe by 2020?

AP Photo/David Goldman


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Acupuncture and Post-Surgical Care

Acupuncture and Post-Surgical Care

A Guest Post by Katrina Hanson LAc, owner of Prism Integrative Acupuncture in Oakland

oakland acupuncture practitioner Katrina Hanson


What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

TCM is an ancient healing system involving acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion (moxa) warming therapy, cupping massage, nutrition, lifestyle, and other healing modalities. Together, they bring patients back into balance by addressing the root of a problem rather than just the symptoms. Some acupuncture points trigger a release of calming hormones, some rewrite pain pathways, some awaken the immune system, have anti-inflammatory effects, or increase circulation. Many pharmaceuticals are derived from medicinal herbs; herbs in their natural form are generally a milder form of related pharmaceutical medicines. Moxa helps warm and promote circulation, cupping releases muscle tension, nutrition and lifestyle changes help prevent symptoms from recurring. Acupuncture and TCM work in a series of treatments, generally starting with 1-2 treatments per week and spreading out to monthly treatments as your symptoms improve. Just like you have to take your medications every day for them to work, you have to get acupuncture regularly to see results.


Surgery in TCM

In Chinese medicine, surgery is considered to block the flow of the meridians (similar to nerve and blood vessel damage in Western medicine). Improperly healed scars and old scar tissue can have the same effect, potentially causing pain, sensation loss, decreased circulation, and even impaired internal organ function depending on the depth of the scar tissue. Acupuncture as soon as possible after surgery helps to promote healing, reduce pain, swelling, and bruising, and prevent scar tissue from forming. Once the bandages are removed, scars can be worked on directly to prevent adhesions and reduce the appearance of scars. Cupping massage is also used to treat surgical scarring and adhesions to underlying tissues, and moxa can be used for post-surgical pain as well as reducing scars.


Post-Surgical Constipation

Acupuncture is extremely useful for alleviating postoperative constipation. Studies have shown that patients receiving regular acupuncture post-surgery actually perform better (have more frequent, easier, less painful, and more complete bowel movements) than those taking laxatives or stool softeners alone. Acupuncture points on your arms, legs, and abdomen are most frequently chosen for this purpose, especially two points on either side of your navel. Acupuncture is also helpful for boosting your energy post-surgery, which is generally the most long-lasting surgical side effect.


Swelling, Pain, and Bruising

Acupuncture and moxa (herbal warming therapy) help reduce swelling and pain post-surgery. They can even be used around bandages during those initial weeks when swelling and pain are more prominent. Acupuncture is done very superficially over areas of swelling or around bandages and moxa is done either over swelling or on distal points (on your arms and legs) to promote circulation and lymph drainage. Acupuncture house calls are a great way to recover more quickly from surgery; an acupuncturist can come to your home the day after surgery and all you have to do is take a recovery nap!


Scars, Neuropathy, and Scar Tissue

Surgical scars that are at least two weeks old can be worked on with acupuncture. Such treatments not only reduce scar pain, but also help to break up scar tissue and adhesions, increase local circulation, and aid healing. This leads to less noticeable scars and a reduction in keloiding. Scars may not only be cosmetically undesirable, but may also have an impact on health. This is especially true for very large scars; scars with abnormal coloration, lumpiness, numbness, tingling, itchiness, heat or cold sensations, achiness or pain, tenderness to touch, and muscle restriction. Such scars and associated adhesions can indicate or lead to nerve and blood vessel damage, decreased range of motion and muscle strength, increased likelihood of future injury, or chronic pain (especially pins and needles, tingling, and burning pain). Scars are especially important to work on if they’re on the torso, where underlying adhesions can impair bowel function, chronic pelvic pain or infertility, depending on the site of the scar. TCM considers any visible scar a potential issue and we work on all of them with either acupuncture, moxa, cupping, topical serums, or a combination of these.

Katrina Hanson LAc

I am a California licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist. I received my training through the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College (AIMC)’s rigorous four-year Master of Science program, and interned at UCSF Benioff’s Mission Bay Children’s Hospital and the San Francisco Homeless Prenatal Program, as well as at AIMC’s teaching clinic.

I went into the program with the intention of focusing in LGBTQ medicine, and this continues to be a driving focus of my practice. I specialize in transgender medicine, hormone regulation for every body, pre-post-surgical care, scars, neuropathy, and hair loss. I love guiding patients through times of hormonal upheaval, allowing them to stay grounded despite the emotional turmoil that often accompanies times of illness. My favorite part of my job is watching people regain ownership of their healing process, reconnect with their bodies, and make positive changes in their lives.

In addition to maintaining a private practice, I teach at Bay Area acupuncture schools–instructing students on gender vocabulary and pronouns, western and eastern transgender medicine, and approaches for creating an LGBTQI-inclusive practice. In my spare time, you can find me hiking or camping with my partner and our dogs

All information in this blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or changing or discontinuing your medications.

How to Calculate Your Macros

In this video, I talk about why you’d want to calculate and track your macros, and then I show you step by step how to calculate your macros. Once you get your macros set, you will want to test them out for 4-6 weeks before making any adjustments, since everybody reacts differently to certain percentages of proteins, fats, and carbs.








You can zoom into the picture above to take a closer look, but everything is explained in details in this video:

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Should I Ice or Heat My Injury?

Full transcript:

What’s up Youtube, Dr. Sandy Baird here from Riverstone Chiropractic.
Today we’re going to look at one of the most frequently asked questions that I get from
my patients.
And that is…should I ice my injury or should I heat my injury?
Stay tuned to find out more!
So when it comes to ice, we need to look at two different things…we need to look at
pain management, and we need to look at inflammation management.
Now a review of the literature will show that there is not actually one shred of evidence
for inflammation management for ice.
So it’s not going to help us there.
Where it does help us is for the pain management.
So we learned in physiotherapy class that there’s the stages of ice: I’m going to put
them up here so you can see them on the screen too, it goes through coldness, and then burning,
and then achiness, and then intense pain, and then you hit the numbness.
So if you’re just icing for a couple of minutes and you’re not actually feeling the numbness,
you’re not going to do any good for pain relief, but if you can get to those stages, that’s
going to give you the best pain relief.
So what is the best way to ice an injury?
You may have seen that you have a lot of choices.
There’s the commercial ice packs, there’s dunking your hand or your ankle into a bucket
of ice water, there’s some other choices, but my favorite actually involves using of
these…a dixie cup.
These ones have penguins on them, cute, AWWW, but what you do is fill it up with water,
you put it in the freezer, if you know that you have an injury that you’re going to want
to be icing multiple times a day, just do six of them at a time, put them in the freezer.
When you’re ready to ice, just pull one out, and you just tear off the top rim here, so
that the surface of the ice is showing.
And then you…let’s say I’m going to apply ice to a forearm injury, I would start it
here (it can be nice to have a towel handy for drips, if you’re in a bathtub it doesn’t
matter or over a sink it doesn’t matter, but if you’re sitting in a chair, grab a towel)
and then you start to move the ice.
You don’t want to keep it in one place, there’s the possibility that you may damage the tissue.
You’ll want to move it around for one to three minutes, and you’ll notice pretty quickly
that the whole area will get pretty burn-y, pretty achy, and then it will start to be
At that point you’re done with the ice.
If you still have some left, you can put it back in the freezer.
Otherwise just compost or recycle the cup.
Now what about heat?
Well, there are a lot of cultures and a lot of traditions in Ayurvedic medicine and in
Eastern medicine that would actually point you towards heating up an injury.
A lot of the same cultures and traditions have things like warmed foods, drinking warm
liquids, keeping the body covered to maintain temperature.
These are all really important things and they tie into if you have an injury, maybe
not a forearm injury, but let’s say a back injury, neck, shoulders, a lot of cultures
would put heat traditionally on the injury.
And I think that may actually be a good idea, you have to look at common sense…if something
feels good, it probably is good!
I mean, you could take this to the extremes, like if you eat a whole cake all at once that
might feel good but it’s not good, you know what I mean?
But if we’re just looking at Occam’s Razor, the simplest principle, if it feels good to
heat an injury, it’s probably good for you.
And the research does not support ice for inflammation management, so why the heck not?
Heating an injury can give you some relief because it causes the muscles to relax, and
in my opinion, you don’t actually want to fight off too much inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, and you want those cells to rush
in and clean up the damage, you want that stuff there!
You don’t want to try to “ice that away!”
So let’s keep some of that inflammation.
Just a tip with icing, in terms of how often you can do it… if you’re using an ice pack,
using something to cool the deeper layers of muscle and fascia, then it’s recommended
that you use the ice for about twenty minutes, and then rest for an hour.
And then you can come back to it and do it for another twenty minutes.
If you’re using something like the ice cup, it’s one to three minutes treatment, and then
take it off until you feel the numbness and the coldness has gone away, once you feel
that the tissue has returned to it’s normal blood flow, then you’re able to ice again.
And that usually takes between thirty minutes and an hour, so it’s not like you’re going
to be getting in there every five minutes, give it a little bit of a break and let your
body natural heal things.
And we should probably talk about when not to heat an injury…there’s some things that
you would not want to heat, and these are active injuries.
So if you’ve just fallen, you’ve fallen yesterday and things are really still inflamed, anything
that’s an open cut or an open wound…NO HEAT!
I hope that gave you a little bit of insight as to whether you should heat an injury or
cool off an injury, if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below, and
if you want more content go ahead and subscribe to my channel below, there’s a button, there’s
a notification bell, and like the video, and that would really help me out and it will
help you out because it lets me know what kind of content is helpful to you.
Thanks and see you on the next video.

Foam Rolling for Runners: Lower Body Eight Minute Sequence


This is a lower body sequence that should only take you about eight minutes to perform. You can watch the video, or follow the “Foam rolling for runners: lower body sequence” picture tutorial below.

foam rolling for runners glutesSit on your foam roller. Cross your left ankle up and over your right knee. If you lack the flexibility to get into this position, just let your left leg extend slightly out in front of you. Lean onto your left hand, and lean your body slightly to the left. Start to make small rolls back and forth until you find a tight spot. Roll that tight spot for about 30 seconds. Find the next spot by leaning slightly more to the left. You can lean your bodyweight far forward to get pressure onto the lower part of the glutes, and lean far back to get to the top portion. If your wrists hurt in this position, you can make a fist with your hand instead. Alternatively, you can prop your hand up onto a yoga block. Spend 1-2 minutes on this side, and then switch to the other side.


foam rolling for runners hamstring
Scoot just behind your foam roller and position yourself so the backs of your legs (hamstrings) are on top of the foam roller. Post up onto your hands, and roll either both legs at once or one leg at a time. You can get more pressure focusing on one leg at a time. You have inner and outer hamstrings, so if you feel tighter in your inner hamstrings, spin your entire leg inward. And vice versa.




foam rolling for runners alternate position for handsMove the roller slightly down towards your feet so it is under your calves. Press your hands into the floor in order to lift your hips up. This gives you the opportunity to create more pressure going into your calves. If you feel like you don’t need more pressure, or your wrists hurt in this position, then simply lower your butt to the ground and press your lower leg into the roller. It works better to do one leg at a time, and you can press your opposite leg down onto your shin using it like a sandbag to smoosh your calf into the roller. As with the hamstrings, you can twist your straight leg inward and outward to target the inner and outer portions of the calf muscles respectively.


foam rolling for runners lower body calvesThis is the alternate position, wherein you keep your butt on the ground to take pressure off your wrists.






foam rolling for runners lower body hipFor your hips, lie on the roller as shown. Working one section at a time, make slow rolls back and forth along the side of the hip and down the outer seam of your pants. This targets the ITB (Iliotibial band), a tricky band of connective tissue that often tightens up in runners. Your top leg crosses over and acts as a kickstand to modulate pressure. The stronger you press your foot into the floor, the less pressure you feel on the ITB. The third photo shows an alternate position if this first suggestion bothers your shoulder or wrist.



foam rolling for runners hip 2
foam rolling for runners lower body alternate position

foam rolling for runners quads
To roll your quads, place the roller underneath you, and then make sure your core is braced so your lower back doesn’t sag down. Use your forearms to drive the motion to create a rolling pattern up and down your quads. If you need more pressure, scoot one knee out to the side and roll out one quadricep at a time.


Foam Rolling For Lats and Rotator Cuff

Foam rolling your lats, rotator cuff, serratus anterior, and intercostal muscles can help ease your breathing as well as relieve stiffness and tightness in the back and shoulders.


Step 1: Lie on your side with your foam roller in your armpit and your arm spun outwardly. If your arms spins into lots of internal rotation, this won’t feel so great, so flip your palm up towards the sky to exaggerate your starting position, and then you can find a more neutral position as appropriate for your shoulder anatomy.



Step 2: Like a tofu-veggie-kabob gently rotating on a grill, spin your whole body gently back so that you feel the foam roller pressing into the back of your shoulder blade. Spend some time (30-60 seconds) rolling back and forth over whatever tight spots you feel in this area.






Step 3: Now spin your body (along the long axis like that rotating kabob) towards the floor. Now you are experiencing pressure on the serratus anterior muscles and the anterior part of your lat muscles. Make sure to breathe! Continue spinning back and forth for a few rotations, and then pause to scoot the foam roller one inch lower. Repeat. And then scoot the roller one inch lower. Keep slowly inching the foam roller lower until the pressure becomes uncomfortable along your rib cage, and then keep the muscle-release work above that line. There are tiny (often overworked/tight/tender) muscles between each rib called the intercostal muscles. For some people, it feels fantastic to release the tension in these muscles, for other people, it feels like they are crushing their ribcage. Move slow, keep breathing, and listen to your body.

Thoracic Rotation Exercise for Stiff, Sore Backs

Try out this exercise any time your back is feeling stiff. If will help you get more rotation in the thoracic spine. Extension is also important, but this video focuses on rotation specifically. If you don’t have a foam roller, you can substitute a large pillow or other support under your ankle and knee. Keep your knee touching the support the whole time. If this feels too easy, bring your knee up closer to your chest.

Step 1 “The Reach”: Lie on your left side with your bottom leg straight. Support your right ankle and knee on a foam roller, so that your knee and hip are both at 90 degree angles.







Step 2 “The Wiggle”: Wiggle your left shoulder blade up and around towards the ceiling. It helps to grab your left wrist with your opposite hand in order to pull your left arm up. This creates the necessary tension to give you the starting position. This will feel way too easy if you skip this step. Keep your left hand pressing up towards the ceiling the entire time, like you’re balancing a heavy plate.




Step 3 “The Twist”: Inhale as you twist your torso to your right (towards the floor). Exhale to bring it back to the start. Your right arm guides this motion, but we’re not concerned with how flexible your shoulder joint is, rather how much rotation you can feel through your torso.



If you don’t feel anything while doing this exercise, rotate your top hip forward just a bit, raise your top knee up towards your head, and really keep that top knee pinned down into the roller as you open your right arm and your torso to the side. You should feel a generalized stretch/opening across the chest and throughout the back. Depending on where you hold your tension, you may feel this exercise in different places than someone else.

Repeat for 10-15 reps and then switch to the other side.

Alarming New Research About Frozen Shoulder

I ran across an interesting recent article in the American Journal of Sports Medicine that takes a deeper look at what’s happening with frozen shoulder by zooming in to the molecular level. Watch the video below for a summary or if you prefer to read the summary just scroll down.

Researchers studied two groups of patients, 10 with frozen shoulder and 10 with stable shoulders.

frozen shoulder oakland


The theory is that there are “danger signals” called Alarmins that are endogenous molecules that get released into the extracellular milieu after infection or tissue injury. I love that term “extracellular milieu”. It’s really just a super fancy way to say the environment outside of the cell. And endogenous means “produced from within…so the alarmins are being produced from within the cells of the shoulder capsule, not caused by some external or environmental factor. These alarmins basically send the alarm that there has been cell and tissue damage.


They obtained tissue samples from the innermost tissues of the shoulder (the capsule) and stained them with hematoxylin and eosin (H and E) dyes and then analyzed them by immunohisochemistry using antibodies against alarmin molecules . They then measured these immunoreactivities and graded them from weak to strong. In case you need a microbiology refresher, using H and E dyes just tells you that the cell nuclei get stained blue and the cytoplasm and extracellular matrix get stained various shades of pink, so that researchers can tell what they are looking at. And then they introduce antibodies (proteins that combine chemically with substances the body interprets as foreign) to check how strongly the alarmin molecules would “sound the alarm”.


The tissue samples from the frozen shoulder patients showed fibroblastic hypercellularity (way more than a usual number of cells that build tissue) and increased subsynovial vascularity (more blood flow in the shoulder capsule) compared with the control group. Also, the immunoreactivity of alarmins was significantly stronger in the frozen shoulder tissue samples. It’s also important to note that the expression of those alarmin molecules had a significant correlation with the severity of the shoulder pain reported by those patients.


This study shows that, potentially, there is a role for alarming alarmin warning signals in frozen shoulder and that those molecules are associated with the patient’s shoulder pain. So what does this mean for us as chiropractors or alternative health practitioners? What are the next steps? Besides follow up studies with a larger control group, what do we do with this information?

Well, I can think of two things:

  1. There may be a link between immune reactions in the shoulder capsule and immune reactions in other places in the body. Eating a low-inflammation and low-immune reactivity diet may help you feel less pain. A good starting point is reading The Paleo Approach by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD. I can also help you create a custom diet plan as a result of my training in functional medicine.

2.Chiropractic adjustments have been proven to boost the immune system. If you are experiencing any pain or loss of range of motion from frozen shoulder, you may benefit from boosting your immune system overall. Please click here if you’d like to schedule an appointment.



Alarmins in Frozen Shoulder: A Molecular Association Between Inflammation and Pain

First Published November 30, 2017 

Photos: wiki commons

How to Shake Off Post-Flight Soreness

As we approach the holiday season, many of us are looking at one or more airplane trips in our near future. Do you usually feel horrible after a long flight? Does your lower back scream from sitting so long and your shoulders and upper back clench up from being squeezed into a tiny seat? While airplane seats are far from comfortable, there are a few action steps you can take to counteract the tightening that you feel in your body.


The re-circulated air in airplanes is notorious for being drying to the body. All of our organs and systems function most optimally when we are hydrated, so start drinking water before you board your flight, sip more water during the flight, and pull that water bottle out again once you land. You can mix in other fluids like teas and coconut water if you’re getting bored of water. And don’t forget that fruits and vegetables contain water, so snack on some grapes, snap peas, celery sticks, cucumbers, or an apple during your flight.

Fire up Your Core.

Before boarding, do something to work your core muscles. That may be an unobtrusive single leg standing hold, some gentle squats, or even standing in proper posture while bracing your core. After you land try to do something similar while you wait to pick up your luggage.

Stretch it out.

If your seat mates are amenable to you entering and exiting your row a few times, you can grab some standing stretch breaks in the aisle. It doesn’t technically matter which stretches or movements you do, as long as you do SOMETHING! Stretch your arms overhead, do a few small lunges, loosen your spine with a few standing twists, or lean forward one leg at a time to stretch your calves. Once you are off the plane and have a bit more room to move around, consider doing a quick yoga sequence in your hotel room. You can find plenty of free yoga workouts on youtube or you can subscribe to and do one of their guided yoga classes. Even five or ten minutes of movement before you collapse into your couch or bed can help alleviate a lot of built-up tension and prevent post flight soreness. Invest in a foam roller.

Roll it out.

Whether you pack a travel foam roller or set of yoga tune-up balls or some other small tools, remember to unpack it before you go to sleep for the night. You can restore circulation to your muscles and decrease the tightness in them in just a few minutes. Roll out your glutes while you floss your teeth. Focus on your quads while you brush your teeth. And release your back muscles while you check email on your phone.

Move it, lymph!

Ever wonder why people wear compression socks or stockings on planes? One reason is that they can assist with returning excess fluid out of the lower legs and back towards the heart. If you aren’t going to wear compression socks, at least elevate your legs against a wall or a stack of pillows when you arrive at your destination. Gravity is helpful to move lymph.

Epsom Salt Soak or Otherwise Immerse in Water.

Depending on the nature of your travels, you may or may not have access to a bathtub or hot tub. But in the case that you do have the opportunity, jump on the chance to re-invigorate your muscles with a twenty minute soak in warm water. Adding epsom salts introduces much-needed minerals to your muscles to help them recover.

What are your best travel tips to help your body feel it’s best? Let us know in the comments below!

What REALLY Makes a Power Yoga Class Accessible?

power yoga oakland

In my early days as a yoga attendee (bear with me here, I was age 20 at the time), I thought that accessibility meant that there were straps or blocks or bolsters nearby, and that maybe other people needed them, but not me. Even if it meant straining and forcing, I was bound and determined to do those yoga poses the “right” way. I thought there was pride associated with not using any props.

20 years of practicing yoga later, I have two requirements for attending a yoga class. I must feel comfortable. And I must feel blissful.

Comfortable: Not comfort in the sense of is the room too hot? Or did I wear clothes with the proper freedom of movement?

But comfort in terms of whether I feel safe showing up exactly how I am today. Am I trulyseen for who I am (gender-wise, body size and shape-wise, and mobility-wise). Are teachers using gender neutral terms like pecs or chest, instead of breasts? Do they offer suggestions “for those in the room that have tight hamstrings,” instead of saying “for the guys”?

Does the teacher really deeply understand what it might be like to have limitations in yoga poses (asana) arise, not because of a lack of flexibility or strength, but simply because of tissues of the body physically touching each other. If you have a big belly, you can only reach so much flexion in a forward fold before your belly hits your thighs for example. I because acutely aware of this situation when I was pregnant, but however a yoga teacher needs to experience this, that concept needs to present in the back of their mind.

You can’t draw assumptions about what a student’s asana is going to look like, based solely on how they appear. And you have no idea what injury or trauma or other lived experience is lurking below the surface. So you need to cue for possibilities, cue for exploration, cue for wonder and playfulness, and only then can the asana blossom.


Now, let me get one thing clear. I’m not asking to be spoon-fed rainbows and unicorns. (I can eat those quite skillfully with my own silverware, thank you!) And I know that I’m responsible for my own bliss (you know that state you get to…when your breath is smooth and you’re working hard and your body feels warmed up and your mind is clear). But there are some subtle things yoga teachers can do to allow the time and space for that to happen for a student.

Here’s a big one:

“Do what feels good to you.” Yoga teachers say this a lot. I’m as guilty as the next. And it’s a lovely thing to say, provided that you truly mean it and have an understanding of what it might mean to people of differing sizes and levels of mobility. And if it comes across as believable.

You know how some yoga teachers will say “do whatever feels good for YOUR body” and then they proceed to demo the full expression of a tricky pose right in front of your mat, sighing contentedly as if bending into that twisty pretzel position (that I could not have even achieved when I was a toddler) was the easiest part of their day?  

Well, that never seems blissful to me. There are a handful of power yoga teachers here in Oakland (cough: Rachel and Whitney at Left Coast Power Yoga) who have mastered the art of offering lots of options while keeping things playful. They’ve found the delicate balance between not taking ourselves too seriously, and trying to push yourself just a bit, but only if it is blissful.

Remind us to breathe. Be playful. Remind us that it’s no big deal if we fall out of a pose. And also, it’s no bid deal if we “nail” a pose, whatever that really means, anyway. Offer sitting and breathing as an option if we aren’t feeling twisty-pretzel-asana-version B. Or offer lying down if that’s what your body is asking for. And again, remind us to breathe.

And here’s one important word to avoid:

Just. Just twist into this complicated challenging pose, and then just lift your bottom arm over your top leg. Yes, just like that!

When we say just, it infuses the assumption that this should be easy for all bodies.

Luckily I’ve learned enough throughout my two decades of yoga practice about what works for my body and what doesn’t, to safely chose options and movements that feel good to me and still generally stay within the flow and energy or the group class. But what if I were a beginner?

It’s up to the yoga teachers to keep students safe. The responsibility extends in both directions, I do think you need to speak up if you have particular injuries or conditions that you aren’t sure yet how to navigate in a yoga class. But teachers, it’s up to you to keep us safe both physically and mentally.

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Riverstone Chiropractic is conveniently located on Grand Avenue in Oakland CA. We serve patients from Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, Richmond, Walnut Creek, El Cerrito, Emeryville, San Leandro, Alameda, and surrounding cities in the bay area. Riverstone sports chiropractor Dr. Sandy Baird uses their background in athletics and massage therapy to provide their patients with effective and personalized sports medicine treatments, which include Active Release Techniques, chiropractic treatment, deep tissue massage, and rehabilitation exercises. Riverstone Chiropractic - 3409 Grand Ave #5 Oakland California 94610 - (510) 465-2342