By Cindy Mindell
BRIDGEPORT – When Anita Rosnick walked into her first aerobic dance class sometime in the 1980s, she may have thought she was just trying out the latest fitness trend at the Jewish Community Center of Bridgeport.
“I loved it; the music, energy and exercises were fantastic,” recalls the Trumbull resident. “At the time, I was an avid tennis player but I found aerobics to be a better workout because it was nonstop moving for 30-plus minutes. I gave up tennis.”
That class sparked a three-decade-long journey that amazes Rosnick to this day. Within a couple of months, the instructor asked if she would be interested in training to teach aerobics.
“I did, and the rest is history,” says Rosnick, who began teaching and soon received certification from the American Council on Exercise.
And she hasn’t stopped: many of Rosnick’s fitness students have followed her from location to location for 10, 20, and even 30 years.
“I was very fortunate to attract a group of women that were friendly, caring, and open to attending different types of classes,” she says. “I’m surprised myself that this group of women are still so dedicated to each other and to my classes. After all these years, we are like a family. I love the camaraderie and support we have for each other.”
From wakes and funerals to illnesses, the women (and one honorary man) have been there for each other, also gathering for happy occasions and hanging out before and after class just to be together.
Rosnick started out teaching at the JCC of Bridgeport until it shut down in summer 2013. She moved to Fitness 4000 just down Park Avenue, until that facility closed nine months later. For two years, while the new Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Campus was under construction on the site of the former JCC, Rosnick moved her class to Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Bridgeport. There may have been a couple of church venues along the way as well; even longtime members have lost track. Now, she teaches solely at the new J Fitness on the Weinberg Campus – three days a week, alternating between interval conditioning, cardio, and body sculpting.
Members ascribe their allegiance to two factors: the class and the classmates.
“I love the energy of working out together and the wonderful sense of connection we have with each other,” says Debby Rogart, a Fairfield resident who has been in the group for 25 years. “We are very different, one from the other, and yet we are close. We discuss everything and exchange info on all kinds of subjects. Each of us has a special quality we bring to our group: empathy, humor, culture, practicality, and more. We share which doctor to go to, what books, movies, and plays are great, info about travel, how to best help parents who are ill, and a million other things. All discussion involves humor and caring and support. There is a sureness that when the loss is great or the joy intense, it is shared. We welcome new members easily and enjoy what they add to our group.”
Ricki Reiner of Fairfield calls her 15-year experience with Rosnick “Body by Anita.” But it goes deeper than that. “For me, the class is my Red Tent,” referring to the 2007 novel by Anita Diamant based on the communal lives of women in biblical times. “It provides a true sense of what a community center is, or should be, all about.”
Summing up the unique group with the longest perspective is Fairfield resident Linda Menees, who has been sweating with Rosnick for 31 years. “I love the fact that Anita is so dedicated,” she says. “Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she is there with a different routine; it amazes me. Our class mantra is that we just want to keep moving. We are a bunch of ladies that have no hidden agenda and we don’t judge. I love these ladies and over the years, we have become so close. I love Anita for what she’s done for us. Her classes are a major part of my life.”
CAP: Anita Rosnick (standing, 4th from left) and a few of her students hang out at The J Fitness in Bridgeport before class.