Bright orange lights illuminated the gym. Just outside, 32 people stood at the glass doors wearing workout clothes and gym shoes.
They were wide awake, but the rest of Bloomington wasn’t.
The sky was pitch black, the roads were silent, and the other stores in College Mall were closed. It was 4:45 a.m.
Jean Sherfick stood inside the glass doors alone, checking a computer screen mounted on the wall and choosing music.
Sherfick, head coach at Orangetheory Bloomington, Sherfick was preparing for her 5 a.m. class, the first of the day. She was quiet now, but within 15 minutes, she would turn the music up and have to motivate the class.
Orangetheory Bloomington is tight-knit community, Sherfick said, and she knows many members’ names. Most of the gym's clients come consistently, and the gym offers classes from from early morning to late evening. While she enjoys teaching at all times of the day, Sherfick said the 5 a.m. class has a certain energy she loves.
“There’s something special about the 5 a.m. and 6:15 group because they get up so early,” she said.
At a few minutes to 5 a.m., Sherfick walked outside and greeted the class. She announced today would be a challenge day, and there were some murmurs from the crowd.
Part of Orangetheory’s philosophy is not telling members which class they’re coming to until they arrive, so they don’t skip ones they don’t like.
Sherfick explained the workout: a 12-minute run on the treadmill, rowing, and body weight exercises. At 5 a.m., the group entered the neon orange gym. The absence of white light is supposed to help members focus on themselves instead of feeling on display in fluorescent lighting.
“Good morning!” Sherfick said to each member, high fiving them as they walked in.
She turned the music up, which featured upbeat remixes of popular songs like “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift and “Sit Still, Look Pretty” by Daya.
During the workout, Sherfick called members by their first names.
“Come on, Heather!” she said. “Come on, Shelbey! You got it, Emily!”
Some of the members in Sherfick’s class are her friends.
Colleen Curry, a financial adviser, mother of three and friend of Sherfick’s, takes her classes. Taking classes from a friend has helped Curry respect her trainer. Coaches can seem larger than life, and knowing Sherfick personally has helped humanize her.
“They’re people just like us,” she said. “They’re balancing life like us, too.”
Curry said she also enjoys the early morning workouts because it helps her balance her life.
“It’s the only time that I feel like I have for me,” she said.
Working mothers are not Orangetheory’s only clients. The people who work the front desk of the gym also workout there.
“Working here has put me into the best shape of my life,” Holly Perkins, an employee, said.
She has been at Orangetheory since it opened last year. So has Sherfick.
Before Orangetheory, Sherfick used to work a few days a week in a yoga studio. Two of her students, Lyle and Carry Feigenbaum, started Orangetheory last September and asked her to be their head coach.
This yoga background has helped Sherfick with her coaching because she focuses on mind-body connection.
She will often yell, “you’re fine” or “you’ll recover” when she sees someone struggling. When she says things like this, it shocks people out of their body’s panic, she said. Sometimes, it even makes them work harder.
One of the main reasons Sherfick took the job at Orangetheory is to balance her life. Like her friend Curry, Sherfick has three kids and a husband.
Her job has influenced her three sons, Everett, 10, Crosby, 7, and Adler, 5. Everett loves rowing and Adler pretends to be a coach like her. The three are learning to be more independent and have taken a liking to fitness.
At the end of her 5 a.m. class, Sherfick brought the group together in a circle to stretch, announcing upcoming events.
After her last stretch, she stood up and looked at the class.
“Take the biggest breath of your day,” Sherfick said.
And with that, the members filed out of the room as the sun rose, ready to go about their days.
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