Even when she couldn’t meet her clients face-to-face, Michelle Romanaskas sought to keep her TRYBE stronger than ever.
While quarantine and social-distancing have sought to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, trainers, therapists, doctors and more health professionals have stressed the importance of staying mentally and physically fit during this time.
Like many others in her field, Romanaskas took matters one step further, offering free online fitness classes through Facebook while her business — TRYBE Boutique Fitness Studio — remained closed because of state restrictions during the pandemic. And the group took off.
“I knew when I opened it I was going to have people who didn’t live here, but then I also knew that when I got my clients, they could share it with their family and friends,” Romanaskas said. “They all just kept asking to be in it … and shared it in other groups.”
Romanaskas, who lives in Ransom Twp., grew up in Scranton’s Tripp Park neighborhood. After graduating from West Scranton High School, she started on a medical career. Armed with an associate degree in occupational therapy and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Penn State University, Romanaskas worked as a registered nurse with stints at Allied Services, doing agency work for a hospital and working as a charge nurse.
“I’m a caregiver at heart, so I just really loved health and wellness and taking care of people,” she said.
Romanaskas retired as a registered nurse about nine years ago and set off on a new path not too far from her original one. She decided to pursue work as a health and wellness coach, focusing instead on preventative health care as opposed to the reactive health care of working in the medical field.
Fitness, nutrition, health and wellness have always been a passion for Romansakas and her husband, Robert, and after he contracted Lyme disease and subsequently retired from the Pennsylvania State Police, “it made us want to help other on another level.”
Instead of treating people with medical issues, Romanaskas, who also is certified in nutrition, tries to keep them from developing problems at all by showing clients the benefits of proper diet and exercise.
“I always wanted to empower people to be their healthiest, happiest selves,” she said. “As a registered nurse and as a therapist, I dedicated myself to helping people reach their optimal health no matter what.”
Romanaskas opened TRYBE about two-and-a-half years ago inside the Giving Tree Wellness Center, 311 Penn Ave., Scranton. She originally considered opening up in a space next door but then decided to team up with Giving Tree, which offers a range of health- and wellness-focused programs, from mental-health counseling to massage.
“I was scared,” she said. “I didn’t know if it was going to be successful or not and took that leap of faith and followed my heart.”
Romanaskas envisioned TRYBE as a place to “empower women to just feel better in their skin.” The studio offers spinning, strength, barre and HIIT classes plus small group training specifically for women.
“She had a calling to open her own studio because she really wanted to empower women because she felt a lot of women didn’t feel comfortable going into a big gym,” said Danielle Hanis, Romanaskas’ sister and one of her TRYBE fitness instructors.
Hanis’ interest in fitness grew thanks to her sister.
“She definitely was the one to always push me,” Hanis said. “And before, I was one of those people that was afraid to lift (weights) in a gym. I felt like people were staring at me, so she actually was the one who pushed me … and made me feel comfortable and showed me what to do.”
Romanaskas, who also bought LUX Personal Training in Clarks Summit about a year and a half ago, works with clients online but also maintains an office inside Giving Tree. There, she does assessments to find any red flags and set clients on the best fitness route. Her goal is to keep people from getting sick by keeping their nutrition in check and reducing their body fat.
“I really work with them in all aspects of health,” Romanaskas said. “It’s not just like teaching fitness. … A lot of times when they come in, I’m doing a full assessment on them. I’m assessing how healthy they are and then coming up with a strategic plan for them, whether it’s utilizing supplementation, what they should be eating, how they should be eating, teaching them portions and teaching the difference between carbs and fats. … It’s not just come in and work out. If they want more, I have more to offer.”
Her experience as an occupational therapist and registered nurse gives her a unique perspective on health and wellness. Romanaskas has seen first-hand the negative impact of obesity and unhealthy habits can have on a body.
“It’s not just about fitness for me and looking aesthetically better — it’s overall health and wellness,” she said. “You want to be strong and healthy. I focus on people strengthening their heart, their lung capacity, building lean muscle.”
Her classes often include her mother and mother-in-law, and Hanis joined the team a couple years ago as an instructor. And the effort has paid off: the studio stays busy with many sold-out classes.
“I think people love the studio because they can be themselves,” Romanaskas said.
During this time of isolation, Romanaskas knew she couldn’t stay away from her clients. Before state mandates forced the studio to close temporarily, she already had set up a Facebook group, Fitness Over Fear, where she could stream fitness classes.
“She started it (early) because, if they weren’t comfortable coming in, they had that as an outlet,” Hanis said. “And then … when all the gyms and things were closing, she felt he need to open it up to everyone because she wanted them to have a place to go to get motivated and moving.”
Romanaskas said her heart told her to open the group to the public for free. She expected that with clients, family, friends and others she’s met through work, the group would attract a couple hundred people to the Facebook group. Since then, it has ballooned to well over 1,200 people.
Romanaskas attributes part of the attraction to the online classes to people’s need for one another at a time of great disconnect.
“People crave community right now,” Romanaskas said. “They crave positivity. … So if they want to come into a place where it can be positive, take care of yourself, your immune system, do something with their kids, it’s just so fun.”
She streams a variety of exercises in the group, encouraging participants to use chairs in place of a barre and soup cans or water bottles if they don’t have light weights at home.
Hanis described her sister as a motivating, dynamic personality who feeds off the energy of her classes. And Romanaskas has found something she truly loves to do, Hanis said — helping others — and her clients love her for it.
“She cares about everyone, and I really think she puts everyone before herself,” Hanis said. “I think that, in anything, if somebody has any kind of issue or troubles or anything like that, she’s always there to listen. … And I really think that comes from a genuine place.”
“I just want to continue to help people get healthier and delineate just their health, their wellness, their spirit and empower them through fitness because fit got me through some of the harder times of my life,” Romanaskas said.
Meet Michelle Romanaskas
- At home: Lives in Ransom Twp. with her husband, Robert, and daughters, Ava, 13, and Olivia, 9. She is the daughter of Anne and Edward Hanis, Scranton.
- At work: Owner of TRYBE Boutique Fitness, Scranton, and LUX Personal Training, Clarks Summit
- Inspirations: Her daughters, who inspired her to strive and be the best she can be; her parents, for instilling a hard work ethic; and her clients for inspiring her daily to keep showing up and giving her all.
- Aspirations: To empower women through health, fitness and nutrition to live a long, happy and healthy life, and to be confident in their own skin.
- Diversions: Exercising, meditations, reading, listening to podcasts, traveling, shopping
- Aversions: Impolite, negative people
- Quote: “If you really want to do something, you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find an excuse.” — Jim Rohn
Join the TRYBE
To participate in TRYBE Boutique Fitness Studio’s free online workouts during the pandemic, visit the Fitness Over Fear Facebook group. For more information about TRYBE, visit trybefit.com, email email@example.com or call 570-446-9290.
Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest