Even the earliest birds among us could argue that 5:30 a.m. borders on “too early.”

I once had a job that started at 5 a.m. I got up and went, but only because I had to. If I’d had my druthers, I’d have remained tucked cozily in bed for at least another hour. Maybe two.

But for the few dozen people who regularly wake up before dawn to work out with Lisa Petruccelli of Train Your Inner Athlete, 5:30 a.m. is the perfect time for some high knees, planking, tricep dips, ball slams, bicep curls, and plenty of early morning sweat.

And they don’t show up because they have to. They show up because it feels good (er, at least it feels really good at the end of the hour, even if there’s maybe some quad burning and panting and grunting beforehand).

Warming up in the hallways at Westbrook Community Center. Shannon Bryan photo
Instructor and Train Your Inner Athlete owner Lisa Petruccelli demonstrates with a medicine ball at the beginning of Power Hour. Shannon Bryan photo

Lisa started Train Your Inner Athlete in 2012 with the belief that we are all athletes. “It doesn’t matter if you played sports in school or if you golf, ski, run road races, walk the neighborhood or perhaps you are just considering getting off the couch; your body is designed for movement,” she writes. “Training your body to be strong, flexible and balanced makes you an ATHLETE.”

Over the years, she’s created an awesome community of people who gather on the regular to challenge themselves and cheer each other on.

Some dumbbell action on a Tuesday morning. Shannon Bryan photo

Lisa leads classes five days a week (Monday through Friday) at the Westbrook Community Center. All of the hour-long classes start at 5:30 a.m., but each day is a little different.

Mondays is Hydro Power, a deep-water workout in the pool that’s easy on the joints and includes core training and strength work (although this class is temporarily on hold because the Westbrook Community Pool is closed).

Tuesday is HIIT It! and includes high-intensity interval training and strength to challenge your cardiovascular system and your muscles.

Wednesday is Core Felxibility, which focuses on – you guessed it – your abdomen, lower back, pelvis, hips, and trunk with a blend of stability and strength training.

Thursday’s Strengthen It utilizes body weight and dumbbell exercises to improve muscle mass and get you stronger.

Friday is CardioQuest, and your cardiovascular system will get tons of love with a low-intensity warm-up and then plenty of high-intensity interval training.

Also, for you runners out there, check out HIT the Road, a free group run every Saturday at 7:30 a.m. for all levels. Leaves from the Church Street parking lot – that’s the lot behind the Daily Grind – in Westbrook, year-round!

And if 5:30 a.m. is just TOO EARLY, there’s a whole schedule of classes taking place later in the day, too, including spin, Pilates, and Zumba.

I had the pleasure of joining in on the Tuesday-morning class – a fine mix of getting that heart rate up and engaging your muscles something serious. And I certainly wasn’t alone in class. A crew of 30 or so arrived, many decked out in their Train Your Inner Athlete gear (Lisa has logoed socks and shirts and hats and towels – ALL THE THINGS). And despite the early hours, energy was high right from the get-go, and I felt welcomed right away.

We started out in the hallways with a warm-up – high knees, swinging arms, skips, and forward bends on one foot (good thing there’s a wall nearby for those of us who are, erm, not so great with balance).

Then Lisa quickly walked us through the circuit, several stations set up around the room that included side shuffling with a resistance band and planks with shoulder taps and dumbbell raises and tricep dips on a row of folding chairs.

We counted off to divide into groups and then got to it. And as we went, the music was up, the energy was high, and there may have even bit a little bit of exercise dancing. (Okay, that was me.)

Lisa does a great job keeping the motivation up and offering modifcations to folks who want them, be it a way to make an exercise more challenging or to accommodate an injury. One of the especially fantastic things about this class was seeing a range of fitness levels, and everyone working hard wherever they’re at.

A class regular told me Lisa is particularly good at getting to know everyone and what’s going on with their bodies (like a bad shoulder or a knee injury) AND what they’re individual goals are (be it weight loss or training for an Iron Man). She keeps eye out to offer tweaks to certain movements to accommodate where you need it and is a champion for whatever cool things you’re working toward. Nice.

And when the hour comes to an end, you have this realization that you just did something really fantastic for your body, you soaked up some really good energy from everyone there, and there’s a whole wonderful day to look forward to. (Also, sunrises after workouts are even prettier.)

The Tuesday morning Power Hour crew at Training Your Inner Athlete. Shannon Bryan photo

The side entrance near the pool and gym at Westbrook Community Center. Shannon Bryan photo

Train Your Inner Athlete

Classes are held at Westbrook Community Center, 426 Bridge St., Westbrook
Drop-in $10, monthly pass $32, 10-class pass $85
Classes 5:30-6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday (since October, Lisa also teaches other classes, like spin, pilates, and Zumba, throughout the day and evening).
See the whole schedule with class descriptions.

FMI: www.trainyourinnerathlete.com and www.facebook.com/TrainYourInnerAthlete/

This story was first published on March 21, 2019