Walking up a narrow stairwell and entering what were once massage rooms, Lisa Olson looked past the physical reality in front of her and described what she envisions the space will look like once the walls are knocked down and the ceiling is expanded to reveal the old movie theater light fixtures.

Olson plans to open Cutting Edge Pilates Studio on the top floor of Vital Fit Club this fall, depending on how COVID-19 guidelines change and studio renovations progress.

“Everyone’s kind of treading new water,” Olson said. “We’re willing to make things work. Rather than focus on the negatives of the situation, just try to make the most of it and come out ahead.”

Olson received her certification in Pilates while working at Lifetime Fitness because she was intrigued by the method and the alleged benefits, especially for figure skaters.

She started competitive figure skating as an 8-year-old and began experiencing back pain as a 13-year-old. Olson injured her back a year later, which caused her to quit the sport.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota Duluth with her bachelor’s degree in exercise science, Olson said she wanted to find a job where she could teach people how to exercise safely because she believes her back injury was the result of improper training techniques.

Pilates emphasizes core strength in order to support the rest of a person’s body. People may group Pilates with yoga because both have mind and body approaches. Olson said she distinguishes them by categorizing yoga with stillness and Pilates with movement.

Olson completed more than 420 hours of training and studying to earn a certification through Peak Pilates.

“It’s a huge commitment, and Lisa is one of those people who got it right away,” said Carol Grones, Olson’s Pilates instructor. “She’s a natural teacher.”

Two weeks into this training, Olson remembers waking up one morning and realizing her back pain wasn’t the first thing on her mind, which hadn’t happened in 12 years.

“I get tears just thinking about it now,” Olson said. “It really is huge. People who haven’t lived with chronic pain, at no fault of their own, it’s really hard to understand the toll that can take on a person emotionally, physically and mentally.”

From that day forward, she decided to dedicate herself to Pilates. Olson has been a co-head coach for the Alexandria Figure Skating Club for four years and said she’s looking forward to incorporating Pilates workouts into her coaching.

“I’m most excited just to get back to doing what I love and what I’m passionate about, and helping people realize that they can work out in a way that leaves them feeling really good without injuries,” Olson said. “Ways that can benefit them not only in the gym or in their sport but just in everyday life, too.”