Michelle Gibbons

Raising the Barre

By Mary Hope Roseneau
Photo courtesy of Eric Gibbons (fineline.photoshelter.com)

Michelle Gibbons

Raising the Barre

Michelle Gibbons is a vibrant young woman with a mission. As a personal trainer, she works with clients to design individualized goals in fitness, such as lifting more weight for strength (as in grandchildren), increasing lean muscle (not just losing weight), and improving daily functions, like balance and energy. She is enthusiastic about working with her students as individuals, each at different ages and stages. She accepts them as they are, and works as a cheerleader and coach to help them get to where they want to be.

Michelle grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, and even as a teenager taught workout classes. She went on to complete formal training, becoming certified in 2006 with the American Fitness Professionals and Associates and later the International Ballet Barre Fitness Association. After working with the YMCA and other fitness centers in the area, she recently opened her own Barre studio in Port Royal.

She took her first class in Barre four years ago and was immediately hooked. Barre incorporates ballet terms, moves and positions and is low impact, while using isometric holds. It’s a workout that anyone of any age or ability can do, Michelle assured me. Modifications are made, of course, but this low-stress workout produces great results.

But back to how she arrived from West Virginia to Beaufort, which is a wonderful story: Michelle was working on Hilton Head Island in the food and beverage industry in 1999. While driving to Myrtle Beach to join her family on vacation, her car broke down on the old, two-lane, very dangerous Highway 17 near Ashepoo River Landing. Fate would have it that her knight in shining armor, who stopped to assist her, was a young man leading a kayak tour. Eric Gibbons was the hero; they fell in love and recently celebrated their 12th anniversary.

The couple has been blessed with two children, Maxwell, 7 and Miss Vivienne, a spunky 18-month-old. Eric’s business, The Kayak Farm, is located on St. Helena Island and involves outdoor fitness and individualizing visitors’ requests with their ability level, as well. Michelle’s schedule includes classes Monday through Friday, while weekends are devoted to family. Friday night is always pizza and movie night, and the family enjoys bike rides and visiting Hunting Island.

When looking for a trainer, Michelle advises talking with them just as in a job interview, getting to know each other first. You need to feel comfortable with the person and click with each other for the partnership to work. The trainer needs to listen and respect your current health conditions, as well as past fitness history. Achievable goals need to be discussed and workouts should not be a “canned” program given out to everyone alike.

Michelle spends a lot of time working on her routines, synchronizing just the right music to go with them. Being an independent trainer, she does not rely on corporate directed routines and music, but enjoys the freedom to change up the workouts depending on the mood and needs of her students.

While not a nutritionist, she does advise her students about healthy eating, and incorporates it into her family’s meals, as well. One of their favorites is zucchini noodles (cut with a spiral cutter), roasted cherry tomatoes, spinach, basil, sautéed in olive oil and topped with feta cheese. Butternut squash and black bean enchiladas are other dinner options that even young Maxwell approves.

Michelle ended with a success story about a woman who was not overweight or out of shape. "She was depressed, and down on herself mostly," she said.  "She had a poor body image, and it affected her whole life." After months of working with her one-on-one, she was able to see this woman slowly come out of her shell. She started eating better, smiling and feeling more confident in every part of her life. “That’s what I love about what I do!” 


Up Close:

Here’s a sample exercise playlist created by
Michelle for a typical one-hour Barre class:

“Run Run Run” Jill Scott
“Boyfriend” Tegan and Sara
“Rollercoaster” Bleachers
“You Make Me Feel. . .” Cobra Starship
“Focus” Ariana Grande
“Five More Hours” Deorro & Chris Brown
“Hey Now” (Arty Remix) London Grammar
“They Frontin’” Catz n’ Dogs
“Go All Night” Gorgon City
“Pretty Girls” Britney Spears & Iggy Azalea
“Cake by the Ocean” DNCE
“All Night Long” Demi Lovato
“Good For You” (Phantoms Remix) Selena