LOCAL JCC instructor has been getting classes in shape for 20 years

BY MIA LEVINE, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

For Fitness Instructor, Cathleen Kronemer, this fall marks a special milestone — her 20th year as a Fitness Instructor at the Jewish Community Center.

Amidst a mass of helium balloons, flowers, and a gift card to Sports Authority, the JCC fitness staff congratulated her a few weeks ago on two decades of hard work, commitment, and fun.

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Cynthia Rush, colleague and friend of Kronemer, said that it is rare in the fitness industry to work somewhere straight for 20 years. “It shows her commitment to the community. I think that’s something that makes her really different,” said Rush.

Kronemer’s odyssey began when she was a dance aerobics student at the JCC. “One of the instructors left on maternity leave and the coordinator of the program asked me to step in as a sub for her,” said Kronemer.

As an experienced dancer in tap, ballet, and jazz, Kronemer was eventually given the opportunity to write choreography. Within a short time she was hired by the aerobics program to teach. “It absolutely took over my life,” she said.

Her interest in teaching aerobics came at an opportune time. As a research scientist in microbiology, Kronemer had decided to take time off from science to focus on her family.

“The nice thing about teaching aerobics is that when you are raising small children you can do it during the day when they are in school,” said Kronemer. It was a perfect part-time job for raising kids. Plus it’s so much fun. It’s the best thing in the world to get paid to have fun,” she laughed.

Rush said that Kronemer is the type of person that is never content to stick with what she knows, but instead aims to increase her knowledge for the benefit of her students. “She earned her certification in group exercise from the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and has also written articles for American Fitness Magazine,” said Rush.

Three years ago Kronemer decided to go back to work at the Washington University pediatric pulmonology lab to study cystic fibrosis.

“Last year, we lost our funding. I thought to myself, this is a classic case of when one door closes, another one opens,” she said.

“So I became certified as a personal trainer. Since I am a competitive body builder as well, it just sort of made sense that I should I should get the professionalism behind it.”

Kronemer feels like she has made a difference in people’s lives through exercise. She loves hearing the success stories.

“One woman told me she was able to reverse her osteoporosis because of my class,” she said. “I had a woman in my pre-natal water aerobics class who was able to have a natural delivery with her second child after her first was a C-section. She attributed it to the exercise. I have people who come back from heart surgery to my class and they are able to do it. It’s a great feeling knowing that I’m part of their successes,” Kronemer said.

In addition to her clients’ accomplishments, Kronemer also enjoys the community that she has built in her classes.

“For many of my clients, it’s as much a social thing for them. A lot of them come five days a week,” Kronemer said. “They’ll walk the track a few minutes, catch up with each other, and then come to class. They call each other if they’re absent. It’s so neat to see how they care about each other in addition to staying healthy,” she said.

Kronemer has also noticed significant shifts in people’s attitudes toward fitness and exercise over the last 20 years.

“Twenty years ago Jane Fonda was jumping around in leg warmers just to burn calories,” she explained. “There were no universal guidelines. Now, there’s a protocol. The AFAA stresses the importance of protecting the lower back, of static and dynamic stretches in the warm-up. There’s a science now and think the students appreciate it. Now people want to know what they can do to strengthen a joint. It’s nice that I am able to answer them,” she said.

Her clients appreciate Kronemer’s support and consistency.

Susie Frank, a student for over five years feel like Kronemer pays close attention to her students.

“If you are doing something wrong, she’s quick to help you get on the right track. A lot of exercise teachers stand and look at themselves. But Cathleen really pays attention and gives a great workout,” said Frank.

She tries to make it fun too.

“Sometimes in class I try different themes,” Kronemer explained. “I’ve had Beach Party day where I play only beach music. Students wear their Hawaiian shirts, leis, and swim shorts and we have a blast. We’ve had backwards day where we start with the cool-down. I’ve let students bring music that they like. We’ve had klezmer music and someone brought in some religious Jewish music. I like to mix it up,” she said.

“She’s a highly trained fitness instructor and her knowledge of the field is extensive,” said Rush.

“She really is a role model for us in the fitness industry because of her knowledge and her personality. She is very supportive and giving to the other instructors and the class members. And in this field it’s really nice to have a colleague that’s in your corner and rooting for you. Not just out there for herself.”