Not too many people have both bodybuilding awards and a microbiology degree in their collection of momentos but Cathleen Kronemer isn’t just any person. Now age 57, the longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center didn’t even get into her first bodybuilding competition until her 40s. She ultimately went to 12 shows and picked up two dozen honors, many of them for first place.
“That was about the time my husband said, ‘I think you’ve got enough trophies,’” chuckled Kronemer, a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth.
A native of Chicago, Kronemer came to St. Louis in 1983 after graduating from the University of Illinois and worked in everything from studying plant physiology at Monsanto to making monoclonal antibodies at Washington University. Inducted into the local Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, she’s nationally certified in personal training, health coaching and group exercise. Though Kronemer has been doing work at the J for three decades teaching the joys of fitness to others, it was only about 12 years ago that she transitioned into doing personal training there. But whether you define her long career in terms of mentoring, science, competition or teaching, she has an impressive list of credentials.
“It has been an incredible journey and I’m just so grateful,” she said.
From 2011 to September 2017, Kronemer wrote a blog about health, fitness and nutrition for the Jewish Light. She is reviving the blog with a post this week on “A holiday how-to guide for celebrating without sacrifice.” Read the new post and browse more than 250 past blog posts from Kronemer at stljewishlight.com/fitness.
You spent years in microbiology. Why did you move into personal training?
I worked in a variety of microbiology labs. Then, once we lost a grant, I was really upset and was just teaching aerobics a couple times a week but my boss at the J said, “This is a sign. Why don’t you become a personal trainer?” I started studying for that at the same time I started competitive bodybuilding.
That’s an interesting choice. Why bodybuilding?
I thought I would try it once and it’d be fine but then you get bitten by the bug.
You work quite a bit doing personal training at the J. How often are you there?
The J has been wonderful to me, just absolutely incredible. I’m at the J now probably six out of seven days a week. Even if I’m just training one or two clients, I like to make myself available because people have other commitments other than coming to train with me. I have to work around their schedules and their families.
Why did you come to the J?
First of all, I think it is nice to be connected to my Jewish community. Number two, I think it is wonderful that the J embraces people from all walks of life and especially all ages. There are people in my aerobics class from 60 to 93 and everybody gets a good workout. The beauty of what we are doing is that everybody can go at their own pace. If some people feel like jumping, that’s great. If some people can only march in place, that’s fine with me. At least they are not sitting at home on the couch. I have cultivated quite a nice little following. We’re like a family in my class because everyone appreciates what we are able to do. It is such a joy for me to be able to see people say “Wow, my doctor said I reversed my osteoporosis from your class. I can get on the floor and play with my grandchildren because of what we do in your class.” At the end of the day you realize who is doing what for whom. I get as much out of my clients and my students as I think they do out of me.
I understand that, some years ago, you once did a youth afterschool program called Kids on the Move.
They were at school anyway, so we would meet once a week and I would teach them a few little dances. At the end of six or seven weeks, we’d have a recital. They’d get so excited that they’d invite their teachers, their parents and have video cameras. It was just a nice way to get young people moving.
You’ve done a health blog for the Jewish Light’s website and you’ve written for fitness magazines. Do you have any other writing endeavors?
Right now, I’m writing for the National Federation of Personal Trainers and I write their continuing education exam articles for their trainers. They are research articles, so I get to use my science…It is fascinating. Whether it is about nutrition or whether it is about the appropriate way to do a squat or how to help train a client who is going skiing over winter break, it is always something and I have lots of documentation and do a lot of research.
What do you tell people about fitness?
I don’t adhere to the “no pain, no gain” adage. You can get a tremendous workout without being sore for two days. People don’t really understand that. [They say] “Oh, I’m not sweating. I must not have worked hard.” But everybody’s metabolism is different. I like getting people to understand the simple, small changes that add up.
What inspires you to help others meet their fitness goals?
I have a client with Multiple Sclerosis. One day, she came in and said, “I’ve got to tell you something. It is really no big deal, but I just wanted to mention it. For the first time in my life I was able to stand up and put my pants on without holding onto the dresser.” I had tears in my eyes I was so excited. I told my boss. He looked at me and said, “This is why we do what we do.”
TITLE: Personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor at the J
RESIDENCE: Crystal Lake Park
FAMILY: Husband Mark; two adult children, Stephanie and Jillian; one granddaughter
INTERESTS: Reading, hiking, involvement in Camp Rainbow
BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:“The [St. Louis Jewish Sports] Hall of Fame. It was like the one last thing I wanted to achieve. My picture on that wall at the J forever and all time.”