Trainer Bios

Gene DeNota
Training & Exercise Director

Gene has spent the better part of the last 20 years in the health and fitness industry helping people create healthy lifestyles. He has worked as a fitness instructor, personal trainer, in member services, and fitness management throughout many area health clubs. Gene has also worked in the fitness equipment retail sales industry where he set up and installed home gyms in lower Fairfield County, CT.

Too many people struggle with daily life activities, and never achieve their goals because of lack of exercise and poor health choices. Gene has seen and experienced all of this first hand, and is dedicated to helping people put an end to these bad habits. He has successfully helped transform many clients (as well as himself) through proper exercise and nutrition choices.

Gene specializes in strength, cardiovascular, and endurance training, as well as stretching to help increase flexibility. In addition to one-on-one small group training, he also teaches group classes which include; kettlebells, extreme conditioning boot camps, and group weight training. Along with his passion for training, Gene has a passion for the world of bodybuilding and actively participates in competitions on a regular basis.

His philosophy is simple: walk before you run. It is so important to first build a strong and stable foundation. Start with the basics. Then, with proper guidance of exercise and nutrition, you will be able to create your fortress of solitude. Gene feels that if you set realistic goals for yourself, both short-term and long-term, and stick with it, you will see results. Gene constantly reminds his clients of one very important thing: if this (exercise) was easy, everybody would be doing it, and they would all be in shape!
Beata Kelemen
Personal Trainer

My name is Bea Kelemen, and I am truly passionate about good clean food and fitness. I want to help all of you reach your wellness goals, get back into shape and feel good about your body too!

My passion for sports and healthy food originates from growing up in Europe, and this stayed with me through university and professional life. Since coming to Darien 15 years ago I have, like so many of you, juggled homemaking, community work, special education, and teenage children - all while focusing on my own health and wellness. I strongly believe in our search of virtue, being fit, and healthy makes us better equipped to meet life’s daily challenges.

My philosophy is that there is no miracle path to wellness. Not one approach works for everyone in fitness and nutrition. Learning to listen and trust what our body tells us, and taking the time to look after it, will bring the results we want. I want to help you to discover this inner power. I will be the honest and supportive voice that stays with you and works with you, as you reach your goals. What motivates me is to see clients discover their strengths and realize that they can push themselves further, all while enjoying it!

I am a NASM (National Institute of Sports Medicine) graduate and currently working towards a nutrition certification as well. I’m convinced that building lean muscle and a strong core is the key to functional strength, all the more important as we age. I believe in the transformative power of customized and carefully planned strength training, combined with consistent cardiorespiratory exercise and core workouts. Away from the training floor, I am most likely running or paddle boarding, enjoying art or creating simple and delicious clean recipes.
Beverly Wagner
Personal Trainer

Beverly has over 15 years of experiences in the fitness industry, and has been teaching at the Darien YMCA for over 15 years. She is a Certified Personal Trainer and teaches spinning and TRX.

Beverly trains a wide range of individuals; some of whom want to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle, while others are looking to compete in their first 5K race. Whatever your goal is, Beverly will assess your strengths and weaknesses and help you achieve it. Beverly uses various tools to make your workouts both functional and fun!

When she is not working, Beverly can be found directing her passion for fitness towards her own physical pursuits. She often competes in running and cycling races, as well as triathlons. More often than not, you will find Bev running or cycling around Darien, training for her next race with her Darien YMCA buddies!
Carrie Werning
Personal Trainer

Carrie holds health and human performance certifications including, ACSM Personal Trainer, Parisi Speed School as well as Red Cross First Aid/ CPR. She is currently attending Norwalk Community College in the Exercise Science program and is working towards achieving a degree in Adapted Physical Education.

Prior to working as a personal trainer, Carrie’s background was in programs for adults and children with disabilities. “I have always been happiest when I am empowering and inspiring others to be the best version of themselves, and fitness has turned out to be a great way to do that!” Carrie, a firm believer that wellness is more than just hitting the gym a few times a week, believes that wellness is a lifestyle, made up of daily choices about the food we eat, the people we surround ourselves with, and the activities we participate in. “True wellness involves finding balance in all areas of our lives.” Some of her personal strengths include sprint training, sports-specific skill-building, corrective exercises, and body-weight-only exercises.

Carrie loves working with all ages, but she particularly enjoys working with youth, older adults, and those with disabilities.
Connie Bocchetta
Personal Trainer

Connie has been in the fitness field since she was 15. In her career, Connie has worked with athletes who were training to compete in the Olympic trials, clients who were undergoing cancer treatments, and youth and adults undergoing eating disorder treatments.
Connie specializes in working with seniors to improve their flexibility, balance, strength, and overall range of motion. Her oldest client lived to be 102!
"Bring your goals; I’ll bring your motivation!"
Shawna O’Brien
Personal Trainer

Hello new friends! My name is Shawna and I am a Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist. I am here to help and guide you along your fitness journey! Through years of education and experience, I believe I have the tools you may be seeking to improve your very own health and wellness. My focus is to help you achieve your personal goals in a safe, fun and effective way.
I have experience with many different types of limitations including, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, joint replacements, etc. With hard work and perseverance, on both ends, they were able to build their strength and endurance with workouts that focused on functional fitness, mobility, and balance. It is working with these clients that I have gained the knowledge and confidence to accommodate everyone on their fitness journey.

NASM Certified Personal Trainer
AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor NASM Certified Corrective Exorcise Specialist NASM Certified Senior Fitness Specialist TRX Certified Mad Dogg Spin
Gina Bocchetta
Personal Trainer

Gina specializes in prenatal/postpartum fitness, and improving mobility, functionality, balance, and strength.

Gina has helped some individuals lose up to 35lbs within 3-1/2 months. She has helped others to overcome various injuries, to regain confidence, and to start enjoying the hobbies that they once had to stop because of pain, like playing basketball or running. For example: One client who started running again after she started working with Gina completed the New York Marathon!

Gina was raised in the fitness industry, learning from observing her mother, Connie Bocchetta, while she trained people in their home gym.

She graduated early from Xavier University with a B.A. in English and worked in publishing and marketing for a few years. Gina then turned to her passion for fitness and never looked back.

Every "body" is different. How you're able to move isn’t the same way others move, and vice versa. Gina will guide you towards your goals with this philosophy by assessing your abilities and movements. She uniquely tailors exercises to your specific needs and goals.

Try a session with Gina to see how her functional-science approach can improve your movement patterns to help you get the extra edge towards your fitness goals while having fun exercising.


- Applied Functional Science, The Gray Institute

- Prenatal/Postpartum Fitness, Athletics and Fitness Association of America

- Midlife Fitness for Women, Athletics and Fitness Association of America

- Personal Training, National Academy of Sports Medicine
Jacek Stryjewski
Personal Trainer

Jacek joined the Darien YMCA in 2005 after 15 years of military service in Poland, when he decided to focus on helping people achieve their goals, and feel better. Jacek joined the Y as a lifeguard and swim instructor where he taught all levels of swimmers, special needs, and future Ironman athletes.

Jacek graduated from the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy in 2012, so he could pursue his goal of helping others. He is a Licensed Massage Therapist, a member of the American Massage Therapy Association, as well as a Certified Medical Massage Practitioner, and Oncology Massage Therapist. Jacek is part of the massage therapy team at the Darien YMCA, specializing in sports and rehabilitation massage. Jacek completed his certification as a Cancer Exercise Specialist in 2014. He is part of the Revive team at the Darien YMCA, a three month progressive health and fitness program designed to give cancer patients plenty of stamina to transition from treatment to day-to-day living.

Jacek’s other interests include music and triathlons. He has been an active triathlete for over 10 years and participated in the 2014 Ironman in Lake Placid, NY.
Jermaine Morgan
Personal Trainer

Jermaine believes that “the gym” should be a great place to have fun, get excited about your goals, and release tension and frustration from your body. Jermaine’s previous and current clientele can tell you that working with him involves core strength training, improvement in posture, intense cardiovascular workouts, upper and lower body strength training, target weight loss, and increased flexibility.

For the past 7 years Jermaine has been working with clients as young as 13, to clients as old as 75. He loves being a personal trainer and watching people transform their lives. Jermaine’s ultimate goal as a trainer is to motivate and educate his clients towards a healthier lifestyle.

At the age of 17, Jermaine started to compete in body building competitions. From these competitions he has learned how to drop body fat, and obtain lean muscle. Jermaine graduated from Norwalk Community College with an Associate of Science in Exercise Science and Sports Studies. Jermaine is a certified Personal Trainer through the American Council of Exercise (ACE), the International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA), APEX, and RENEGADE. He is also CPR certified. Jermaine’s training tools include; TRX, kettlebells, weight lifting, velocity ropes, and the basic machines and cables. Jermaine’s personal approach to training will help you reach your physical goals, improve your nutritional health, and achieve the body of your dreams!
Kent Houseknecht
Personal Trainer

Kent started personal training in 1993 while a sophomore at Penn State University. He started teaching classes in 1997 and has continuously worked to improve himself as a teacher and instructor for more than 2 decades. Kent brings a tremendous amount of knowledge, experience and passion to his clients.

Helping people realize their potential is what motivates Kent. People of all ages and backgrounds find more than just physical strength from working out. They find inner strength, confidence and peace of mind. He can help you build a balanced and complete physique.

Kent specializes in injury recovery and prevention, posture training, metabolic training, weight loss and pre/post natal training. He incorporates all modes of traditional and non-traditional training methods, including boxing and kickboxing. “My brand of fitness is what I call A-Z fitness. All modes and levels of fitness used in a variety of sequences to break you down and then build you back up stronger than before. “

- Penn State University, Bachelors of Science, Kinesiology

- NSCA, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
- NSCA, Certified Personal Trainer
- Crossfit, Level 1 Trainer
- Crossfit Gymnastics
- TRX Certified Instructor
Marysa Fiorita
Personal Trainer

Born and raised in Stamford, CT, Marysa attended the University of Connecticut where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. After spending over four years as a Property Accountant with Property Group Partners, LLC, she decided to pursue her passion for fitness. In July of 2011, she committed to the change and enrolled in the National Personal Training Institute where she excelled at learning the hands on application of fitness and nutrition. Marysa is highly motivated when it comes to teaching clients new techniques and tips about fitness health. Her passions in the fitness world are Pilates and yoga; the balance and core stabilization exercises are her favorite.

Over the past four years she has exposed herself to many facets of the fitness industry. She has spent her time enjoying yoga, Pilates, Bar Method, boxing and kickboxing, TRX, spinning, and competing in CrossFit. Balance is the key to Marysa’s life, and she is committed to promoting that kind of lifestyle to all of her clients. She has certifications through The National Personal Training Institute (NPTI), The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and The Kane School.
Nick Somma
Personal Trainer

Nick is incredibly enthusiastic about health and fitness, as well as helping others achieve their own personal goals. He holds a certification in a specialized form of training known as Ken Hutchins' super-slow training method, which is proven to be an extremely safe and efficient method of exercise. Many of Nick's clients have benefited from utilizing this form of strength training.

In addition, Nick has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Manhattan College. His degree in engineering has not only allowed him to excel in the engineering world but also helped him to gain a better understanding of different forms of exercise and how the human body can progress with proper exercise and nutrition.
Saad Mustafa
Personal Trainer

Born and raised in Darien, CT I am currently attending the University of Connecticut for my Business Degree.

Throughout my time at Darien High School I wasn’t much of an active lifter, I didn’t know much about lifting until I signed up for the Darien YMCA. Signing up for the Darien YMCA was the start of my fitness career and the start my progression as a person. I wasn’t much of an athlete but that didn’t stop me from actively lifting. Before I even knew it they welcomed me to their family by employing me as their Rock Wall Fitness Instructor & a part of their Wellness Desk Team. As time went on I developed a sense of achievement of what I was doing and decided to further test my limits, but then I realized I had no limits. I could see myself growing and they did too! The Darien Y’s encouragement and support led me to where I am today, a Certified Personal Trainer through the International Sports Science Association [ISSA].

Fitness can lead anybody to any direction, whether it's mentally, physically or emotionally. Every aspect of your life has an influence on how you will perceive fitness. It’s just up to the individual of what their specific goal is and what they want to achieve, I received my first job because of fitness. I like to share my story with individuals to show how the impossible is possible. How one can become great externally and internally. I want to take people out of their comfort zone and transform them to the person they want to become. I specialize in the social aspect of lifting. Through encouragement, commitment, and support anything can be achieved through the right instruction.
Sally Bocchetta
Personal Trainer

Sally has been training clients in gyms and in-home settings in CT and LA for over 30 years, and finds great satisfaction in the work she does. She considers herself a teacher and life-coach of fitness, stressing the importance of form and technique in all movements, while somehow making it interesting and fun!

Sally has a colorful and successful history in the world of bodybuilding and power lifting. She has entered and placed in many competitions. Sally also has extensive experience with nutrition, and as a result, her knowledge of the fitness industry is very well rounded. Sally is able to work with clients of all ages and abilities, and can adapt to anyone’s fitness needs and goals. If you just want to keep up with the kids, lose those winter pounds, increase your athletic performance, or train for an event, Sally can get you there!

Sally is also a part of the revive team at the Darien YMCA, a three month progressive health and fitness program designed to transition cancer patients from treatment to a renewed stamina for day to day living.

Her interests outside the gym are very diverse. Sally life-coaches many into emotional balance and wellness through many channels. In her spare time Sally is a volunteer firefighter with the Glenbrook FD in Stamford, and has been an Emergency Medical Technician. She also enjoys fishing, motorcycle riding, writing, and all of the arts.
Zavier Kaufman
Personal Trainer

“If you’ve played a sport or an instrument, learning the basics and proper mechanics is the key to mastering anything. Physical training is no exception to that principle.”
– Zavier Kaufman

Zavier Kaufman’s passion to become a certified Personal Trainer stemmed from his desire to help people of all ages reach their health and fitness goals. Zavier was born and raised in Astoria, New York, where he committed to multiple varsity sports. With the team ethic and energetic environment of sports, Zavier was inspired to stay fit, eat healthy and enjoy life. He finds joy in cooking, traveling and spending quality time with family and friends.

As a current student at the University of Connecticut and a certified Personal Trainer through The National Academy of Sports Medicine, Zavier’s specialty focuses on coaching and training youth and adults the fundamentals of physical training.

“I make my programs challenging yet fun, so expect to sweat with a smile on your face. When I was younger, I made a lot of avoidable mistakes with form, tempo, and weight. Therefore, I want to teach others the key essentials to fitness so they can stay healthy, injury free, and reach their fitness goals.” – Zavier Kaufman
Kai Bjornstad
Personal Trainer

My name is Kai Bjornstad. I was born in Greenwich, Connecticut but from age 7 I was schooled in Darien and Europe, as my family is from Norway and Luxembourg. I travelled a lot and feel equally at home in Europe and America. My Scandinavian roots also meant that from early on I led an active life and sports became the center of my upbringing.

My special interests and gifts showed in soccer and swimming. I played soccer in Argentina and played for the Luxembourg national youth soccer team and naturally, for Darien soccer and swim. I also spent two high school years in the hub of Europe, attending the International School of Luxembourg, with a colorful student population and even more diverse curriculum, including learning French.

I played cello through my teenage years and studied under some of the top professors at the music conservatory in Luxembourg, as well as playing locally for Norwalk and Stamford youth symphonies. After graduation, I attended UConn Storrs as a music major.

In 2017, I took my passion for sports, exercise and fitness to the next level and became a NASM certified personal trainer. I have helped people in Connecticut and New York towards their goals by applying my practical knowledge, boundless energy and humor to each session. With clients as diverse as my training methods, I emphasize training that can transfer from the gym to daily life, from the weight room to game day. Before coming to the YMCA, I studied one year of exercises sports and science at Lunex University in Luxembourg. Currently I am enrolled in their online program to complete my studies with a special focus in rehabilitative training.

In October 2019, I returned home to Darien to share my personal training knowledge and expertise, and to give back to the very community that has given me so much. In my free time, I like to research new fitness material and hang out with my childhood friends.

I am also an aspiring dog owner.
Carrie Werning
Personal Trainer
I joined the Darien YMCA in 2017, and currently I’m a senior in the Exercise and Sport Science program at Southern Connecticut State University. Some of my personal strengths include athletic and sprint training, body-weight exercise, and adaptive exercise for special populations. I love working with all ages and abilities, but I particularly enjoy working with youth, older adults, and those with disabilities.

Prior to working as a personal trainer, my background was in programs for adults and children with disabilities. I have always been happiest when I am empowering and inspiring others to be the best version of themselves, and fitness has turned out to be a great way to do that! The one thing that inspires me most about what I do is getting to see people overcome their exercise barriers, surpass their expectations of themselves, and become more healthy, fit, and active.

When I am not training clients, I enjoy playing soccer, walking with my dogs, and exploring Connecticut’s state parks and beaches.

Professional certifications held include: ACSM Personal Trainer, Red Cross First Aid/CPR, Livestrong at the YMCA Cancer Survivor Certification. Degree held: Associate in Exercise Science, Norwalk Community College.