BIWABIK — Student athletes from all across the Range are reaping the benefits of simply getting up and doing something — anything involving fitness — this summer.

The 37 area high schoolers taking part in the “Get Up Train Smart” (G.U.T.S.) summer endurance training program are taking advantage of the offseason workouts to keep their fitness levels up for their extra-curricular sports coming up this fall.

At least maintaining their fitness levels is key, according to Eveleth-Gilbert’s Jon Wagner, one of the program coaches. “They start the summer saying they will lift and run, but Doritos, the internet and playing video games takes over. It’s just important for them to get up and do something.’’

Mesabi East Area Nordic skiing head coach Cheri Johnson, who officially formed the G.U.T.S. program in 2013, agrees with Wagner.

“I’m a big believer in cross training. We still do the roller skiing but the cross training was with that,’’ she said. “When we did the cross training, the skiers in the four schools (Mesabi East, E-G, Virginia and Mountain Iron-Buhl) would bring their friends. So that kind of expanded into the overall program we have now.’’ Northeast Range is also taking part in the summer program.

G.U.T.S. sessions are held four days a week (Monday-Thursday) and will run through early August when fall sports begin to start up.

The types of workouts and activities included a wide ranging. Mondays include cardio of some sort (running, cycling or hiking); yoga at Giants Ridge; and running in the evening at E-G High School. Tuesdays include strength and conditioning at Mesabi East, along with running at E-G. Wednesdays feature cardio and roller skiing at Giants Ridge and pole vault practice at E-G. Thursdays have strength and conditioning at Mesabi East and running at E-G. Other sessions include triathlon, mystery runs, pole hiking, biking, kayaking, weight training and disc golf run.

Johnson said the story behind the program comes from cross training with her own kids — Drew, Sam and Anna — who were familiar with endurance activities.

“Cross training is so important for our muscles to gain strength in ways different from our in-school sports, along with preventing injuries and mental and physical burnout. Our ski team summer program always mixed it up, and more kids started coming, so I expanded the program to any and all interested athletes in the area.’’ At the same time, Wagner had the Range Runners summer program in the E-G area and the two were eventually morphed together.

For Johnson, “endurance is key.’’ The program doesn’t have a lot of high intensity sessions. Instead, those come into play with the group events/races that are offered.

While Johnson, Wagner and all of the coaches involved keep it low key and fun, they both agree the summer season is vitally important.

“We always say skiers are made in the summer,’’ Johnson said.

“Champions are made in the offseason,’’ Wagner added at virtually the same time.

“So it’s really a benefit to everyone coming into the fall season,’’ Johnson said, “and coming into the winter ski season. It pays off. It pays dividends to do that extra training and working your muscles in different ways they never have.’’

Wagner said the fun factor has to be involved, as well. That includes working out together and getting treats from ice cream to granola bars and fruit snacks to the program-ending run, swim and barbecue at McCarthy Beach State Park. He added he keeps a trunk full of water, Gatorade and other snacks for the student athletes after they put in a good workout.


The coaches in the program for grades 8-12 include Jenna Dickinson (yoga); Jared Anderson (Mesabi East strength and conditioning); Wagner (running and pole vault); Sam Johnson (roller skiing); Cheri Johnson (cardio, running, cycling and hiking).


Johnson and Wagner also stressed that it’s not too late to sign up for G.U.T.S. either. The schedule is flexible and can be worked around other activities.

Anyone interested can contact Cheri Johnson at 218-750-7904.


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