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A Conversation With... Kathy Smith
Interviewed by Bess Coble, ATH Editor of Exercise/Fitness


"I started to notice that after these runs, I felt better.  It was the only thing that cleared my head and helped lift my spirits.  So my passion for exercise was born... "

BessKathy, you've been a leader in the fitness industry for 30 years, yet you haven't always been into fitness. I know a little of your story that led you to this path and it is truly inspiring. Would you share that story with us?

Kathy: I lost both my parents by the time I was 19 years old.  I was a college student in Hawaii at the time, feeling completely lost and isolated.  My boyfriend back then was an athlete, so I occasionally joined him at the track, and eventually started jogging with him.  I had never exercised a day in my life - but suddenly, I started to notice that after these runs, I felt better.  It was the only thing that cleared my head and helped lift my spirits.  So my passion for exercise was born because I knew I wanted more of that feeling, and I wanted to share it with others.  I moved to LA, started teaching aerobics, and after my classes gained some popularity, a record promoter approached me about making an exercise album - that's right, an actual LP that you'd listen to, while you followed along with a poster of me demonstrating different moves.  That eventually led to my first VHS workout, which led to many more, which led to books, DVD's, mp3's, interactive programs, and so much more.  It's been quite a ride, to say the least.


BessThis is the time of year when many people make a New Year's Resolution to lose weight or get fit. Statistics show that half will stop within 90 days. How can we stay motivated to keep that resolution?

Kathy: It's all about options.  Believe it or not, exercise can actually be fun! And while I'm a big believer in trying all different types of movement, it's important to find a style of movement that you love.  Whether it's latin dancing, hiking in the mountains, walking with a friend, or strength training, there's something for everyone.  Find a style of exercise that you enjoy, and suddenly working out becomes a "want to" as opposed to a "have to."

BessMost of us know that exercise is good for our health. It increases energy levels, trims us down, slows down the aging process, reduces stress, etc. Yet for some people, getting started is the biggest hurdle. What advice do you give people who are just starting to exercise or getting back in to it after a long hiatus?

Kathy: I have a theory that it all comes down to one little word: focus.  Because if you try to do everything at once - an instant full-body overhaul - you're setting yourself up for failure.  Making major lifestyle changes can seem overwhelming and scary.  All of a sudden, you're supposed to do more cardio, lift weights, eat less fat, more fiber, less sugar, more calcium, less soda, more water, and on and on and on? That's where focus comes in.  The most effective strategy is to focus your energy on one single healthy habit at a time.  Soon those habits start to become second nature, and they start to fit into your lifestyle without all the extra effort.  Conquer one goal - whether it's eliminating trans fats from your diet or strengthening your abs - and you'll be inspired to tackle another, and another.

"I love to work out first thing in the morning - it sets the tone for my whole day... "

BessYou have a busy schedule. You’re a sought after speaker, author, and entrepreneur. You are on the boards of the USC School of Gerontology and the Women's Sports Foundation. You appear regularly on television and still find time to create top quality exercise DVD’s. On top of that you’re a mother to two daughters. The reason I hear more than any other for not exercising is “I don’t have enough time!” Any advice on time management? How do you fit exercise in to your day?


Kathy: Yes, the "not-enough-time" excuse is the oldest one in the book.  The trick for me is starting early.  I love to work out first thing in the morning - it sets the tone for my whole day, and I don't have to try to find time to fit it in between meetings or before dinner, because it's already out of the way.  Of course, getting up early isn't an option for everyone, so another trick is to spread it out.  Ten minutes in the morning, ten minutes in the afternoon, and ten in the evening; even my busiest, most life-in-the-fast-lane CEO friends admit that they can find a few pockets of 10 minute time chunks here and there throughout their days.  Exercise is cumulative; it all adds up!

BessIf someone has just 20 minutes a day to exercise, what should they focus on?

Kathy: Sometimes 20 minutes is just enough.  I'd say that, when you have shorter chunks of time, the key is to make them count.  Try alternating, so that you do 20 minutes of walking or cardio one day, and a 20 minute strength training the next day.  Some of those days, try focusing just on the upper body, some days just the lower, and others you can use for circuit training, alternating strength training moves with bursts of aerobic activity.  These days, most DVD workouts offer shorter, 20 minute "solutions," so the limited-time excuse is almost null and void.


Kathy... Ageless

BessObesity has become an epidemic in the US and other parts of the world. What is the best kind of exercise for weight loss?

Kathy: When I work with people who have a lot of weight to lose and are new to exercise, I often start them out walking; it's doable, it's not intimidating, and it's a movement style we're all familiar with.  Cardio is, of course, key for burning calories and improving heart health.  But it's important not to overlook strength training; weights are a much more powerful weight loss tool than most people realize.  (That's why I named 2 of my workouts "Lift Weights to Lose Weight.")  Strength training boosts our metabolism, so that we continue to burn calories long after we finish exercising.  It's not about bigger biceps or tighter glutes; it's about helping make our bodies more efficient machines. 


BessKathy, you have touched the lives of millions of people worldwide. What’s next for you?

Kathy: I'm launching a new line of exercise DVD's with Acacia called "Ageless," which is exactly what the title suggests.  I just saw an early edit of our first 2 workouts, and couldn't be more excited about the way they turned out.  I also created a product line called "Rejuvenation" with Fitness Manufacturing Partners; they're an amazing series of kits designed to restore the body through exercise, and we're rolling the product out to retailers as we speak.  So 2011 should prove to be an exciting time!


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Kathy Smith... for you!

Dream it, Believe it, Achieve it!


With over 16 million workout videos sold since 1980, Kathy Smith has become a household name in fitness. A mother of two, Kathy also serves on the board of the USC School of Gerontology, the Women's Sports Foundation and is a recipient of the IDEA Lifetime Achievement Award from IDEA Health & Fitness, the world's largest professional fitness organization.


Kathy's Blog

Kathy Smith Fitness Packages

Kathy Smith DVDs

Kathy Smith Books

Kathy Smith's 6 Week Shape Up MP4 Download



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