By Adrain Hedden
Before the first stretch of a day’s education is even a twinkle in the eye of most students, Jim Coleman of Ann Arbor and his friends are wide awake and raring to go.
Meeting in front of the Health and Fitness Center, preempting the gym’s 5 a.m. opening, Coleman’s band of exercise aficionados are ready to attack the weight machines, treadmills, swimming pools and other facilities offered at the HFC.
As the sun is just beginning to warm the morning air, members of the group are chuckling at their own dedication to early morning fitness.
“We have empty lives,” Coleman said. “This fills that great big void. It’s a loosely knit group that meets about five days a week.”
Approaching the HFC already dressed in swimming trunks and sandals, Coleman is one of the later arrivals at 4:50 a.m. The group typically begins congregating around 4:30 a.m. in numbers varying from small bands of six to larger congregations of more than 20, according to security officer David Cluverhouse, who typically monitors the opening of the HFC’s doors each morning.
“Some days, there’s a half a dozen by five, other days, you’ll find 20-something people just waiting to get in the door,” Culverhouse said. “Some people keep those New Year’s resolutions and some don’t.”
Linda Perry, operations manager at the HFC, is happy to accommodate such commitments. The group has been readily served at the wee hours of the morning since the facility’s opening in 2008.
“They’re here at the crack of dawn,” Perry said. “Here without fail regardless of the weather. Most of them are early risers and have positions that require them to be places early in the day. They want to get their workouts out of the way.”
Over the years, as the gang’s daybreak patronage has continued, a familiarity has been established that Perry and her crew have grown to cherish.
“They’re mostly regulars,” Perry said. “We pretty much know them by name. It’s absolutely a good thing; we’re happy to have people come this early.”
Steadfastly waiting for staff at the HFC to grant them access to the amenities, many members of the group are shy about speaking of their workout habit, only offering first names to Voice reporters.
A patron from Plymouth who introduced herself as Char has been a customer of the HFC since the beginning in 2008. She is proud of the camaraderie that has been built through the meetings under the day-commencing sunrise.
“It’s a little group, but we’ve become great friends over the years,” Char said.
A Dexter patron, Mary, uses the center on a daily basis, and when a recent broken stepper machine was replaced on March 21, she rejoiced although slightly indigent at how long her routine had lacked that necessary piece of equipment.
“We’ve been missing our steppers for a long time,” Mary said. “It’s about time they were replaced.”
While often embarrassed by the self-professed obsessive nature of the group, Mary encourages others to join up with her friends outside the HFC entrance to exercise before the sun has risen.
“It’s wide open,” she said. “Come on in; it’s a great group.”