The Work Behind the Body
Long, lean, and ripped, Heidi Ransom moves with a body awareness best described as graceful power. While her short hair often changes color, a huge smile is a near constant in her appearance. When she climbs, runs, and bikes, you can see she her body celebrating athletic expression—it looks as if any day Heidi spends playing outside is truly the best day ever.
This authentic joy Heidi embodies is what first compelled me to ask her to be a part of this series. She also demonstrates impeccable posture, a characteristic consequential, I assume, from her work as a magician-like body worker. (She gives the most mind-blowing and body-altering massages this side of the Mississippi, BTW.)
I wanted to know the secrets she has gleaned from nearly two decades of working with a full spectrum of bodies. The series, after all, is the Work Behind the Body, and having some insights into health and vitality maintenance, alongside strength conditioning, seemed like a necessary conversation to highlight.
And while I knew about Heidi’s work and play before asking her, I had NO idea about her backstory. That is, I had no idea she was born with a condition that prohibited her from being athletic until she underwent surgery about ten years ago. I met Heidi in Ten Sleep and have hung out with her at the climbing gym dozens of times. In all of our conversations, this backstory had yet to surface.
My. Mind. Was. Blown. Those who know Heidi know her as strong and agile and caring. It’s hard to imagine her as the “sickly” and physically handicapped child she describes below. And that’s what makes this WBTB feature extra special.
Heidi’s running friends call her “Gump,” a fitting name when you consider the trajectory of her body’s story. It’s a story I couldn’t have anticipated when I asked Heidi to take part in the series. It’s a story that honestly left me in tears. It’s a story that reminds us to “not listen to ‘you can’t’ or ‘you won’t.’”
It makes sense, now, in retrospect: the way Heidi moves as if every day is the best day to be moving. Her story below reminds us to cultivate this mentality in our own athletic pursuits. Enjoy, friends - may Heidi’s strength of both mind and spirit help you on your own journey of celebratory self-expression.
Meet Heidi Ransom
outdoor athlete & come back queen
Kelsey: What sports do you enjoy?
Heidi: Running, climbing, and biking. Is eating a sport?
K: How often do you workout? What do those workouts usually involve?
H: I work out 5-6 days a week. My workouts include a variety of things. I do Foundation Training everyday; it primes my body to move smart and be engaged for the day. I run 3-4 days a week. I try to make my runs specific to get the most bang for my time. I do pilates one day week and climb 2-3 days a week. I’ve also added one day week of strength work this last year at the Mountain Project Gym.
Strength training has helped everything I do and is surprisingly fun!
K: How often would you say you get “out” to enjoy your sports?
H: Running is the easiest for me to get out and enjoy the most. That’s probably why I love it so much. In the spring and summer everything else I enjoy tends to take a back seat to running as I gear up for races. But once I am done with races I am on my bike and climbing outside more often.
It is sometimes a battle for me to choose what to devote my time to. I am usually climbing my strongest in the winter and spring and get outside more often when the weather is not ideal for climbing and end up missing out on summer climbing due to running. In the fall I am back to rebuilding my confidence and stamina for climbing. But for now that’s just how it’s going to be.
K: What are some of your favorite places to go?
H: Every time I get to climb here in Montana I am so grateful for where I get to live. Natural Bridge is my favorite. It’s a magical place. The setting gives me this sense of sacred ground. The climbs are so fun!
The Pass is close for a time crunch. Hellgate and Avalanche are where I learned how to climb outside and were bolted by my dear friends Kimmy and Jake Mergenthaler, who got me into climbing.
And then there is Blackleaf. Oh momma I love it there. Walking directly from my tent to these impressive tall sharp cliffs is hard to beat. My favorite non-local place would have to be Ten Sleep.
For running I am happy running anywhere in the mountains where there isn’t a lot of people. My favorite trail for mountain biking is Emerald Lake. There are so many fun trails around Bozeman to ride. Helena has some fun trails too.
K: Tell us about your career as a bodyworker. What kind of healing and strengthening/stabilizing practices do you offer?
H: Since I was little I have had a fascination with the body. From the time I was a kid I would massage family and friends. I got a job with a chiropractor when I was just 16. I went to massage school right after high school and worked with a physical therapist for two years.
I have never stopped being fascinated with the body and it’s ability to heal itself with a little attention. The more I learn about the body the more I want to keep learning. It’s addictive to me.
I specialize in structural bodywork. I love doing focused treatment bodywork and getting to see results from my clients. In the last few years I have become increasingly aware of the need for proper body strength and balanced tensioning of our muscle chains to stay uninjured and out of pain. Because of this I started teaching Foundation Training and Pilates.
You can get the best bodywork ever but if your muscles don’t have the strength to support your movements then the bodywork will not last. For this reason I am over the moon about Foundation Training. It has personally changed my daily life for the better and prevented me from having back surgery so I am really passionate about sharing it with others. The best part about Foundation Training is it gives you freedom to get your body feeling better without relying on anyone or anything else, saving you money and time.
K: Why did you choose a career as a bodyworker?
H: My great grandma was an interesting, tough Norwegian woman. She was into polarity and reflexology. I was a really sick kid and was fortunate enough to have her work on me.
I think the fact that I suffered so much pain as a kid really influenced me in wanting to help others.
I was born with funky legs. My knee caps starting dislocating when I was about 10 years old. By the time I was in my 20’s it was a daily thing. I was very unstable. If someone bumped me, or I turned wrong, my knees would dislocate and down I would go. Sometimes the falls hurt worse than my patella sticking out of my leg. I also suffered from an inflamed immune system.
I actually never thought I would live to be in my 20’s. I was in and out of the hospital my entire childhood. I clearly remember staring up at the ceiling tiles in the hospital and thinking this is enough. I am done now. I was so tired of fighting just to live.
Everything that I have been through with my own body has forced me to be educated and understand more about the body. When I see other people hurting, if I can even help them a little it makes me so happy. I deeply relate to other peoples’ struggles and pain.
I can’t help but share what has helped me and what I have learned along the way. And if all the pain I have went through can in someway be of benefit to others, then it’s worth it.
K: What are some things you have learned from working with a variety of bodies?
H: I love the variety of clients I have. I work with all kinds of bodies from super athletes who we read about in magazines, to 80 year old gin and tonic drinking, ice cream eating grandmas.
Our bodies, no matter who we are or what we are doing with them, are incredible pieces of art. They carry us through the journey of our lives.
My clients have taught me much about life. I’m truly grateful for the perspective I have gained from being able to personally know so many inspirational people and witness all the different ways there are to live life, use our bodies, and react to situations.
At the end of each day of work I feel like I have been inside five-six different peoples’ worlds. I have learned what is effecting them, what is working for them, what is making them happy, and what is causing them pain. I can’t help but carry all of that with me and learn from their experiences.
K: How does your work translate into your play and your life at large?
H: My clients motivate me to keep pushing and living life. They often inspire me to do more physically and mentally and to play harder.
When I am out pushing myself physically and I find myself thinking of stopping or slowing down, I start thinking of my clients or my sister and find motivation to keep going. Honestly, because I do love my job, it sometimes becomes difficult to separate work from play. Sometimes I find myself working on strangers while outside climbing and in the middle of running races.
A bonus of squeezing tight muscles for the last 17 years of my life is I have a decent base grip strength for climbing. I think the physical demands of my job keep me strong for a lot of the activities I enjoy doing.
K: What does beautiful mean to you?
H: Beauty to me is everything the women interviewed for this series have said. I love this series because I never realized how many different ways there was to look at beauty before. But for me the word that pops into my head is Endurance.
Beauty to me is not giving up on yourself and your body. I think that is why I love scars and wrinkles so much. They are the visible signs of our enduring existence. Often times the harder and longer we fight for something the more beautiful we become.
K: How has/have your sport(s) shaped your body image and your relationship to your body in general?
Before I had both of my legs broken and realigned I was not able to be athletic. My legs were skinny. It was embarrassing to have people gawk at me as I would push my knee cap back into place. I had always felt before my surgery and finding out I had Celiacs disease that I was “too skinny and too tall”.
Being able to become athletic has changed my world. I was told I would never run and I overcame that. I actually did my first ever off-road triathlon a year and a half after having my legs reconstructed. And got 5th place.
I was given the impression my whole life that I would always be sickly and I’m happy to say I’m not sickly anymore! I am really proud of my ugly scared knees and my tall, awkward body now and am all about wearing shorts whenever possible.
I went from being a sickly skinny kid thinking I wouldn’t live past my 20’s to just turning 36 and feeling the healthiest and strongest I ever have. I literally am running faster, climbing harder and in the least amount of pain I have ever been in. Staying strong athletically has helped me find a new mental strength and confidence I never have had before.
It has helped me with many of my negative body and mind issues that I have struggled with throughout my life. It also keeps me curious about what else my body is capable of doing. It’s exciting to think about. What else will I do that I never imagined possible? We will see!
K: What advice would you give women and/or fellow athletes in general to better enjoy their unique bodies?
H: Don’t give up. Don’t listen to “you can’t” or “you won’t”. Don’t let pain and disappointment rain out your goals.
I recently read these words from Erik Goodman: “You are in the driver’s seat for much of what you feel. You don’t need a degree to be informed about your body, just good intention and patience.” I couldn’t agree more.
I think if we stay curious about our bodies we will all be blown away by what our bodies are capable of. Laugh at yourself frequently and remember what you want—don’t lose sight of it. Sometimes life feels like a mental game. Having goals, giving to others, and staying curious keeps me going through the good and the bad.
Many thanks, Heidi, for the big leap it took to share your story. It is a generous gift. Thank you.