Fitness Career Spotlight: Grant Ernhart; Certified Rolfer, LMT
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA, RD on MAY 1, 2013
From Pre-Olympian athlete in the Biathlon to certified Rolfer to the US Olympians, Grant Ernhart is extremely familiar and knowledgeable about the strains and stresses our bodies may have. He’s established his successful career as a Rolfer by helping people relax, refresh, and renew. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of fitness and exercise?
Originally I was a full-time athlete myself, training for the Winter Olympic Sport of Biathlon. During that time I began receiving a lot of body work and that was when I first heard of Rolfing. Many other high-level athletes that I knew where getting Rolfed and where exclaiming the benefits of the deep-tissue modality. They talked about a greater proprioceptive capacity, faster recovery, improved flexibility and injury prevention. I eventually became a member of the United States Biathlon National team and was pursuing my Rolfing studies at the same time as I competed on the World Cup and afterward as I was assistant coach for the Junior National team.
I am actually still involved with the US Biathlon National team. There were a few years where I lost touch while attending the San Francisco Art Institute, but in 2006 the USBA(United States Biathlon Association) recontacted me and asked me to begin working with the team during training camps and some competitions. So, for the past 6 years I have been Rolfing the Men’s and Women’s teams with the goal of injury prevention being high on the list. The team manager wanted to put money towards body work that had a deeper impact on the career of an athlete than the specific leg-flush type intervention that is typical of Sport’s Massage and can feel good in the moment, but does not have the same impact that Structural Integration techniques could have in the long run.
So, this has been the focus of my work with the team in the lead up to the Sochi Olympic games this coming winter. It has been a very exciting time, and this past Winter one of our athletes made history by getting a silver medal at the World Championships in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. It bodes well for a first ever US medal in Biathlon in the Olympics!
Your Job Title?
Company you are with now?
I am self-employed but have begun a great collaboration with Shane Young at Ascend Body in San Francisco.
A typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
A typical day would be getting to the office and seeing 4 – 5 clients for a 75 minute session. The interesting part of my day are the actual sessions as each client presents a unique set of challenges within their posture that I get to try and solve.
A typical session begins with the client telling me what is happening in their body, ie. chronic pains, past injuries or things they have been discovering during our on-going work. In the case of Ascend, we also discuss what their trainer has been trying to help them embody and I see how I can support those goals by working with the chronic fascial tensions that are present in their body.
Next the client will get down to their skivvies so that I can actually look at their body and see where to work. This is really the most interesting and challenging part of my work. The body is so complicated and often many patterns can be colliding in one body, and I try to see which pattern to open and work with first. After that I may have the client walk a bit in the bigger studio so that I can get a better sense of their body in motion, again to try and decipher which pattern is the most prevalent compensatory strain. Then we head back into the treatment room and I begin using my hands and elbows to soften, stretch and realign the fascial structures in the person’s body.
The process generally unfolds over multiple sessions and is different from massage in the fact that I will often be talking with the client to help guide their awareness and breath during the session. Although, even with that more participatory role clients still often walk away feeling relaxed and renewed.
How did you get your current job in fitness and exercise?
I worked in a spa setting for nearly 8 years after moving to San Francisco, and that was really useful for getting my hands on nearly a thousand people a year. That practical experience is invaluable in learning how to work with clients and also to sense what is happening in tissue. However, then it was a slow growth process to develop my own practice. It probably could have built up faster if I was really focused on it, but I also was studying photography and playing banjo.
Now, it is opening up and developing in a very natural way and that feels great!
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I was born a good listener and had a strong intuition about people and what they are feeling. But I have developed my knowledge of the body, anatomical understanding, and almost more importantly how to work with clients and create an experience where they can get the most out of our time together.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Continue learning. I have found that when I keep learning and keep trying to gain new skills, I am then able to renew my passion for my work and it helps to maintain a high level of service.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
Well, as I alluded earlier, I play Clawhammer Banjo. I picked it up about 4 years ago and am really obsessed. So, if I could be paid in banjos or banjo lessons I would be a happy guy, that or some really great wine would also be accepted!