Eve Graves likes to get people outdoors and moving, no matter the pace, to help them adopt a more active lifestyle.
“My passion is taking people out of their comfort zone and getting them involved in a lifetime sport outside. I really like working with people who don’t want to do it. I like taking people who say, ‘I don’t run,’ and get them out there at least walking a 5K,” the Duluth resident said.
Graves said she thought options were lacking in the area for people new to running and Nordic skiing. A runner, skier and coach for decades, she decided to start offering her own classes for people taking their first steps at a new sport.
During the Cross Training 101 class at Spirit Mountain’s Nordic ski center on Jan. 28, Kris Curtis said she finds that running and skiing are easier — and more fun — when she’s with a group of people.
Although she’s a downhill skier, Curtis said she didn’t know anything about running or cross-country skiing before she began taking classes from Graves. The 63-year-old Duluth resident had a friend taking the classes, and she decided to sign up for Graves’ running class before joining her skiing class.
“It’s been a great way to be outside and exercise with a nice group of people,” Curtis said.
Most of Graves’ Nordic classes are held at the Nordic ski center, but she’ll change locations depending on which trails in the Twin Ports are the best groomed.
The skiing-on-hills lesson that evening was dependent on whether the trail at the Nordic ski center was icy. Jordan Hernandez, an eighth-grader in the class, walked up to Graves waiting at the trailhead to assure her that he went down the hills on the trail and they weren’t icy.
Hernandez began taking ski lessons a few years ago. He already liked to downhill ski, but he’s learned how to both skate and classic ski in the class.
The class is time spent with his cousin and “it gets me off of video games,” he said. “Being out in the cold is epic.”
Proctor resident Marcus Gutmann, 10, likes to skate ski in the class because it means he can travel fast.
“It’s not as much work as walking or running,” he said.
Gutmann’s brother Nick Gutmann learned to cross-country ski in Graves’ class and is now skiing for the Proctor-Hermantown Nordic ski team. Marcus skis with Nick near their house, and he has skied with his mother Rene Gutmann in the class for the past three years. Graves said Marcus gets better every year.
A high-energy person, running and skiing in the woods helps Graves release some of her energy.
She has participated in and volunteered for race events for the past 30 years and coached a variety of people from kids to adults, in addition to skijoring with her dog, biking and paddling on a dragon boat.
As a former special education teacher, she likes working with kids and adults in her classes who have disabilities and her students have been hearing impaired and blind. She also bonds with people who have health concerns such as pre-diabetes and women wanting to prevent heart disease.
“I’m not a young spring chicken so I’m not as intimidating. I don’t expect people to be going ‘superstar.’ Just get out there and move at your pace,” she said.
Her classes are for the very beginner. The class stays together and runs or skis at the pace of the slowest person in the group, Graves said, adding, “We never leave anyone behind.” She also bothers people if they start skipping classes.
“I love taking people and just seeing them go. It’s so fun to watch people go from not being able to skate (ski) and being really good, or just moving and being really comfortable,” she said. “Some people in my group might be able to do one pushup at the start and five by the end, but that’s an accomplishment.”
Graves first offered the Zilch to 5K running class, but the participants wondered what they could do next after completing that class. She then began the Cross Training 101 class and has also added the Trails 101 class. Cross Training meets wherever the trails are well-groomed and uses flat trails until students are ready for hills, while the Trails class participants will start trail running on 40 trails in the Twin Ports area. Graves also helps participants find discounted equipment if they don’t have their own for the class or gives them a discount on the class if they’re going through a difficult financial situation. Kids can attend for free with a paid adult.
“It’s about getting people in shape. I’d rather see people out there,” she said.
If you go
What: Cross Training 101 teaches the basics of classic and skate skiing and runs from November to March. Eve Graves also offers a Zilch to 5K running class that begins in April and a Trails 101 trail running class that runs from mid-summer until the fall.
When: Cross Training meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus recreational skiing on Saturday and Sundays, meeting wherever the trail is good. Zilch to 5K meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, typically on trails on the western side of Duluth. Trails 101 meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus a longer run on Saturdays and a bike ride on Sundays, meeting on various trails around the area.
Cost: Cross Training costs $110 and the Zilch to 5K costs $70, but has an early-bird special.
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