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
did you get into climbing 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?
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 ½ 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.
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
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.
How did you get into massage 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!FRB: How would you describe your philosophy of practice?
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!
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"
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
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
FRB: What are the typical problem areas for climbers?
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!
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?
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?
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+.
about self massage devices?
do you suggest?
back massagers, etc.).
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.
What have you learned over the years as a result of
a climber and/ or a massage therapist?
has it taught you personally?
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.
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
FRB: Do you have a website or e-mail address?
No website at this point. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.FRB:
Thanks for the interview, Ron.
Thank you. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to do it.
Kleinsmith - Certified Massage Therapist
2955 Valmont, Suite 100 (30th & Valmont)
Centennial Creek Office Park