Bemidji doctor ready to run with help from Sanford trainers

Dr. Jill Olson has been working with Sanford Sports for 12 weeks to prep for big race

Woman running on a treadmill with graphics showing angles of her gait.

Dr. Jill Olson doesn’t exactly describe herself as a gym rat.

“I have zero sports background,” said Dr. Olson with a laugh. “I was on a jump rope team in fifth grade and I could, at one point, jump rope while on a pogo stick, but that’s about the most athletic I’ve ever been in my life up until now.”

So 12 weeks ago, she committed herself to a comprehensive training program with Sanford Sports. The goal: finishing the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon, a 26K run around the city’s namesake body of water.

“I’m nervous because I’ve always wanted to do the loop,” said Dr. Olson, a family medicine physician in Bemidji, Minnesota. “With each passing day, I get more and more confident.”

Dedicated runner, dedicated trainers

That confidence is built up by her two trainers, Cam Boen and Bri Isakson, who strive not just to build Dr. Olson’s strength, endurance and flexibility, but to keep her free from injuries at the same time.

“I think we all get so caught up in just wanting to do it as quickly as possible. Sometimes our body just needs time to heal after we’ve broken it down and trained it past that breaking point, which is important in the training process as well,” said Boen, a strength and conditioning specialist at Sanford Sports Bemidji.

Run faster, stronger, smarter: Runner training at Sanford Sports Performance

Both Boen and Isakson say Dr. Olson’s attitude is a key part of her training success.

“She was excited to train for something,” said Isakson, a senior physical therapist at Sanford Sports Bemidji. “You know, she really had some good goals in mind, and the way that she talked about COVID, which has affected all of us in healthcare, really kind of made her feel like ‘I want to train and be healthy,’ and this was a good outlet for her to do that.”

Working the program

The program is open to athletes of all abilities. So when the opportunity to train with her fellow Sanford colleagues presented itself, Dr. Olson signed up, knowing she could use the extra guidance.

“I had kind of ran before and I noticed that I was just kind of topping out at a certain speed and a certain distance,” said Dr. Olson. “Despite everything that I was trying, I was not able to just break a certain barrier.”

That’s something her trainers see all the time. So they help with many aspects of training, including a running evaluation that lets runners see — on video — any issues they may have with form, which could slow them down, or worse, lead to injury.

“We were able to put cameras on Jill, and watch her during various time points throughout the running cycle. Really kind of nitpick at what her form looks like,” said Isakson.

“For the beginner, the big thing is the confidence to do it, and just the resources to have when you’re not quite sure what to do,” said Boen.

For the 12 weeks leading up to the race, Dr. Olson sees Boen twice a week in the weight room, working on heavy strength training for about an hour at a time. She runs three to four days a week as well. And once a week she works with Isakson on mobility, flexibility and rehab.

Feeling athletic

“I notice little gains every single week and it makes me have the mental power and the physical power to keep going,” said Dr. Olson.

She also gets a boost from having professional trainers on her side.

“It makes it so easy and it makes me feel good. I’m like, ‘I gotta go meet with my trainer,’” she said with a laugh. “It’s a cool feeling. I feel like a professional athlete really.”

When race day comes, Dr. Olson will be ready. And her trainers plan on seeing her through to the end too.

“Oh, I’ll be out there. Definitely. We’ll be cheering Jill on,” said Boen.

The doctor who described herself as having “zero sports background” expects to have a truly memorable race.

“I really want to finish and feel like I did a great job, and get that awesome finish line photo,” said Dr. Olson. “And the medal!”

Learn more

Posted In Bemidji, Running, Sanford Sports, Sports Medicine