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Ron Kleinsmith
 mid March, 2007

Ron Kleinsmith
Ron KleinsmithRon KleinsmithRon KleinsmithRon Kleinsmith

Ron Kleinsmith is a local Boulder Massage Therapist and climber. Since graduating from The Boulder College of Massage Therapy in 2000 he has dedicated his practice to working on climbers almost exclusively. He has been "trading" with both the Boulder Rock Club & The Spot for years, which has given him the opportunity to work on countless numbers of climbers, further gaining even greater insight to the problems that frequent the climbers body. He does complimentary massage at the B.R.C. on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.. Contact the B.R.C. for further details. His massage office is located on Valmont Avenue.

FRB: How did you get into climbing Ron?

Ron: My first climb was actually outdoors at some unknown crag in God-Knows-Where, New Jersey. I had a friend at that time who was an amazing athlete and was continuously discovering - and more often than not, mastering the sport "du jour" before moving on to the next. He would drag along anyone who had any interest whatsoever. I was a semi-professional musician at the time and had an important gig later that day and was totally afraid of messing up my fingers and hands. I found that first experience, and the couple of trips that I took to the local climbing gym after that, "interesting", but that was really about the extent of it. When I moved to Colorado a couple of years later I unexpectedly found myself wandering into Mountain Sports and buying a pair of climbing shoes; I haven't looked back since. It's funny, all these years later I find myself cautious of picking up my guitar in fear that it might mess up my hands for climbing!

FRB: Where do you like to climb?

Ron: When I first started climbing here in Colorado, I was going to school full time during the day and bartending at night (at Casa Alvarez, where I still tend bar). Someone randomly mentioned that the walls of the C.U. Engineering Center were a great place to learn technique and build up a little endurance. I discovered soon after, that the lights were left on late into the night so I could go there after finishing my bar shift. I can't tell you how many times I have climbed (and continue to climb) those friggin' walls! There and then, late into the night, a love for vertical, crimpy climbs was born! Years later I discovered Shelf Road - a veritable paradise for anyone that likes this type of climbing! It continues to be my all time favorite place to climb. A short 2 hour ride, great weather (usually), great camping, 5 maximum security prisons, WAL MART! I mean, come now - does it really get any better? I also love Maple Canyon and am dying to get back there this year.

FRB: What about bouldering?

Ron: I am such a shitty boulderer! Bouldering is usually something to do only when I can't find anybody to climb with - and usually only traverses (the Engineering Center ruined me). I've pretty much accepted my role in the climbing world as being an average-level sport climber.

FRB: Tell us a little about your personal history.

Ron: I was born in Ohio and have lived in Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey and Boston - where I attended the Berklee College of Music. My "pre-Boulder" life, from about age 5 on was entirely focused on being a musician. I was blessed with many amazing experiences as a musician (some horrible ones as well! Too many lounge/wedding gigs will rip your soul out - straight through your fucking chest!) After a major relationship break-up, I began to do some serious soul-searching. I read many books on Eastern Philosophy, studied and read every self-help/new age-like book ever printed, and began to look at my life from a totally new perspective. At that point I decided that I had learned pretty much everything I needed to learn from music. Ironically, that was also the point when my level of musicianship was the best that it ever had been - new opportunities were coming my way and I was playing in the best band that I had ever been in. I left New Jersey and moved to Boulder at this time, sight unseen, to attend the Naropa University. Years later though, I can honestly say that discovering Boulder - and subsequently the life that I have crreated here - to be the greatest find of my life. I feel the same way - most of the time - about climbing.

FRB: How did you get into massage Ron?

Ron: Prior to moving to Boulder, I think that I had one massage in my life. To be honest, at the time, I wasn't even sure that I liked it! So for me to ever think that I would become a massage therapist - well, in my mind, it didn't even exist aas a possibility. When I moved to Boulder in '95 it was under the guise of getting a degree in psychology from Naropa and becoming "some kind of counselor." Really, my idea was to open people up to some of the ideas that I had discovered and incorporated into my life as a result of my own soul-searching. By the time that I graduated from Naropa, I honestly didn't want to have anything to do with psychology, counseling, inner-processing bullshit or the like, in any way shape or form. I was so burnt on all that stuff!

Along the way I continued to weight train and climb as much as I possibly could, sustaining the kinds of tired, sore muscles, forearm tweaks, etc. that these activities can produce. I had a friend in massage school at that time that I turned to when I severely tweaked something, and she, seemingly "miraculously" either helped these tweaks go away, or at least diminished the pain to the point where I could function. I discovered at that time that massage offered the possibility of helping people in pain - albeit physical pain, but in some sense, emotional pain as well (I'm really surprised how often I get to use my "counseling" skills in the office, and certainly in my job as a bartender). It also appealed to my appreciation for instant gratification. Not only could I assist someone in their own healing, but sometimes that change could happen in the confines of a 20 minute time frame!

FRB: How would you describe your philosophy of practice?

Ron: You know, in massage school I had a couple of teachers that really hammered home the concept that we, as massage therapists are not so much healing our clients, as we are assisting them in their own healing process. I have really tried to stay tuned to this philosophy and I believe seeing things from this perspective can keep one humble. Humility, I believe, is essential to anyone in the "healing" field.

From a technical standpoint, I do mostly "deep tissue" style massage, based on techniques that I have learned, discovered and refined over the years. I really feel that so many of the issues going on with climbers are related to not only the superficial muscles of the body, but the deep, underlying muscles as well. I generally try to access these muscles without making it unnecessarily painful - as "deep tissue" work has the reputation for being. This process takes a little more patience, focus and awareness, but generally pays off in the end. I really equate the state that I function in while giving a massage similar to meditation (Apparently, that Naropa degree did come in handy after all!) in that it is my constant goal to remain in a present state of mind throughout: fully being in the "here and now". I honestly believe that's why so many of us are drawn to climbing in the first place - it is somewhat of a "forced" meditation, fully demanding a present state of mind. I once had a client say to me years ago after a massage, "I could tell that everything I was feeling, you were feeling, too". That's pretty cool! That's really the type of thing I am trying to access all the time.

I think the thing that differentiates me - good or bad - from most therapists, is my attention to detail. I discovered early on, the thing that works best for my own healing - and as I have discovered, many others - is really working problem areas or tight muscles thoroughly. For me it's about quality, not quantity. So many therapists seem to be focused on getting through a full body in a session. For me, even in a 2 hour massage it is rare - if ever - that I work through a full body. I'm not saying that this approach works for everyone, nor am I proclaiming this way to be the only way. Not at all. Right from the start, however, I made the decision to do the type of massage that I really felt I could do best. I figure, those clients that this approach works for will benefit and see positive results, and possibly even come back again if they are in need. For those that my approach doesn't work for - well, there are a lot of great therapists in Boulder!

FRB: What are the typical problem areas for climbers?

Ron: Typical problem areas for climbers are - well, a lot are the obvious ones that we all feel on a regular basis - forearms, shoulders, various back muscles, etc. Over the years though, I have made some pretty interesting "not-so obvious" discoveries. These discoveries were generally made on myself first and then proven on numerous clients over the years.

My favorite discovery - as it brings an almost unexpected sense of relief to most climbers - is the gluteus medius/minimus (the upper gluteal muscles located just below the iliac crest). The way we, as climbers, move on rock creates a great deal of stress on these muscles and tends to feel like lower back pain. Also, not so surprising, but yet not so obvious in their importance, are the vast array of neck muscles. They generally tend to be sore and compromised on most climbers - especially over-looked are the sternocleidomastoid (S.C.M) muscles (muscles actually located on the front/sides of the neck). The process of constantly looking up while climbing and belaying can really tighten up all the neck muscles and the S.C.M. muscles tend to get overlooked. I generally make it a point to spend a fair amount of time during any session working on neck muscles. They are especially important because they can contain "trigger points" that can refer into the head, causing headaches. I have actually massaged away many a migraine on myself!

Other important areas are the muscles of the rotator cuff (typically the rotator cuff is mistakenly thought of as being solely tendons, but those tendons attach to muscles - actually very prominent muscles that can be very effectively massaged). Specific types of climbing actually create specific problem areas. Let's take ice climbers, for example. A long day of constant front-pointing can create havoc for the various muscles of the calves. I am also making my own discoveries of how different types of climbing holds can create problems in different areas of the forearm. Elbow pain - depending on which part of the elbow it is being felt - can sometimes be traced to triceps. I coould go on and on.

FRB: What do you recommend to climbers who have sore and stiff joints?

Ron: A lot of these types of issues can be dramatically improved through nutrition and supplementation - areas I only know about through my own experimentation. Any advice on this subject would be better addressed to a nutritionist. From an external perspective, it is really all about blood supply. Muscles have the greatest blood supply of the "soft tissues." Next comes tendons (which connect muscle to bone), and finally are ligaments (which connect bone to bone) and are usually associated with joints. As a body worker, the greatest service that I can offer any soft tissue concern is to increase the blood supply to that area. Blood carries in the "good" healing nutrients and removes the "bad" elements. As a massage therapist, I am constantly discovering both the benefits and the limitations of the modality. So for me, increasing circulation, thus the blood supply, is always the first goal. I would also recommend acupuncture in dealing with joint issues (based on both personal experience and feedback of others) and consider it one of the best alternative therapies available for these issues.

FRB: Who are some of your more famous clients?

Ron: As far as famous clients go, man I would love to brag about all the amazing climbers - both famous, and not-so-well known - that I have been blessed to have worked on over the years! At the same time though, I feel a great need to respect all of my clients confidentiality. Let me say though, that I feel especially blessed to have worked on those climbers whose reputations rely on their ability to perform at the highest level possible. I consider the fact that many of these athletes have trusted me over the years to help them deal with their physical issues to be the greatest of honors. I honestly feel blessed to be able to do the work that I do, and that there are many people out there that trust me to do it at the highest level possible. I feel grateful to all of my clients over the years - whether they are climbing 5.9- or 5.14+.

FRB: What about self massage devices?
          What do you suggest?
         (Like back massagers, etc.).

Ron: In a pinch I have rolled around on softballs and tennis balls. Some people do really well with those foam rollers, though I really don't have any personal experience with them. Ice packs, heating pads and Ibuprofen are all invaluable in my opinion. As far as "self-massage devices" go - I have honestly never come across anything that really works that well. I've probably never really looked that hard, to be totally honest. I think that one of the benefits of being a body-worker is having a lot of great body-worker friends to trade with! Admittedly, I do quite a bit of "self massage" on my forearms and neck - really, anything that I can reach on myself. It is, however, never quite the same as another pair of hands.

FRB: What have you learned over the years as a result of
          being a climber and/ or a massage therapist?
          What has it taught you personally?

Ron: I really feel that the passions in our lives - be they climbing, massaging, bartending, music or whatever, are only as important as the lessons - forgive me for getting too philosophical - that they teach us on a deeper level. Again, forgive me for going off into new-age psycho-babble, but I honestly feel that there is no other way to explain it.

After many years of soul searching, I have come to embrace and believe heavily in a reincarnational model of existence - (or more accurately as one of my heroes, Dan Millman once pointed out, I choose to believe in reincarnation because it allows me to interpret the events that happen in my life - in the moment - from a positive perspective. A subtle difference perhaps, yet monumental in its implications) so I very much see things from the perspective of a continued existence beyond this lifetime. Therefore, it is my belief that the lessons that we gain - not only from the passions in our lives, but all of the events of our lives - are really only as important as the impact that they have at the "soul level." I don't believe that I can take the physical activity of climbing of massaging into my next life, but my belief is that the lessons they imprint on my soul will be carried into eternity. So therefore, if climbing is just climbing, or massaging is just massaging, then you're - in my mind - missing the point. It is my belief that these life passions - or just as often, the activities or the career paths that we are drawn to - are meant to give us the opportunities to grow on this soul level. For me it even goes further in that all of the events in my life - as good or bad as they seemingly get - are opportunities for this kind of growth. Being able to view life from this perspective with a definite "consciousness" allows the process to deepen even further and gives everything greater meaning in the moment.

FRB: Do you have a website or e-mail address?

Ron: No website at this point. My e-mail address is ronkleinsmith@hotmail.com.

FRB: Thanks for the interview, Ron.

Ron: Thank you. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to do it.

Ron Kleinsmith - Certified Massage Therapist
2955 Valmont, Suite 100 (30th & Valmont)
Centennial Creek Office Park


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