If you’ve picked up a magazine or watched TV, you’ve seen Kathy Smith. But beyond her unmistakable smile and figure, there’s so much more. When a plane with Smith’s mother and stepfather burst into flames in a farmer’s field shortly after the passing of her dad from a heart attack, she was understandably grief-stricken. Smith, just entering adulthood, looked for ways to cope including going on daily runs where she noticed her confusion and depression subsided, replaced by a passion for exercise. That passion led her to an exercise studio where, flanked by Jane Fonda and Barbra Streisand, Smith found the classes infectious. Eventually she began teaching a class and an offer to make an exercise record quickly followed. With VHS emerging, Smith shot the first of what would become more than 100 video workouts. To date, her workout tapes and DVDs have sold more than 16 million copies and with ever-changing fitness trends and technological advancements such as livestream workouts, she’s far from resting on her past accomplishments as she revealed in this exclusive interview.
Q: You’ve seen the fitness industry evolve. How do you feel about social media being the platform many go to now for fitness advice and workout videos?
A: After a long day, it can be tough to garnish a spark of motivation to workout, and when you log into Instagram or TikTok and see other people working out, it can be just the encouragement you needed to put on your workout shoes.... Also, I love the support group aspect of social media.... Getting inspiration and support from a virtual group can turn into a motivating factor that can lead to success. On the other hand, because social media posts can go viral, the Internet is full of misinformation about fitness and nutrition that can spread quickly around the globe. Another downside is that social media can also cause workout intimidation.
Q: What’s your workout like today?
A: You name a fitness activity or sport, and I’m usually ready to participate. Strength training? Yes. Yoga, kickboxing, Barre, running [and] HIIT training? A big yes! Walking 500 miles across Spain on the Camino de Santiago last year or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro … what can I say? I love adventure.... I [also] love training with B Strong Blood Flow Restriction bands, because I get the physical benefits and mental exhilaration of a high-intensity workout in a very short amount of time, without muscle soreness, crash or fear of overtraining. The fatigue comes quickly without having to lift heavy weights.
Q: Tell us more about Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training.
A: BFR works by using the inflatable elastic bands to safely slow the flow of blood to your working muscle. While the blood flow is restricted, you do short bursts of simple, low-load exercise that don’t require much intensity to become intense. As blood accumulates in the muscles you’ll experience a pump and lactic acid will build up, causing you to feel a burn comparable to intense anaerobic training. The strong fatigue signal you will experience afterward tricks your brain into thinking that you did a much harder workout and it will trigger a natural hormone cascade to repair and recover from the perceived heavy load, even though you put far less actual stress on your body. The increase in growth hormone circulating in your blood will impart benefits to your whole body, not just the limbs you were exercising.... [The] safety of the BFR tool is imperative. Jim Stray-Gundersen, MD, designed B Strong BFR Bands to be a safe and effective tool so that everyone could reap the same rewards of training as Olympians.
Q: Why B STRONG?
A: Blood Flow Restriction uses bands … something that looks like a blood pressure cuff ... placed around the arms and legs to maintain arterial inflow to the muscle while restricting venous return.... While the idea has been around for decades, it’s only now that we’re seeing it becoming more mainstream … and largely because of the expertise of Jim Stray-Gundersen, MD, and his 30-year career in maximizing human performance at the highest level of sport. Jim recognized early on the powerful impact of BFR in the Olympians he was training, and realized how BFR could revolutionize fitness for everyone if there were a safe and effective and affordable tool available. He and his partner developed B Strong BFR to meet all requirements of safety and efficacy.
Q: What exciting projects are you working on?
A: I’m more passionate than ever about creating exercise and nutrition products to help people redefine the expectations of the 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.... Fit Over 40 is a free program that includes 14 days of workouts, from walking to HIIT ... from barre to abs routines. All members have access to a private Facebook community of over 60,000 other encouraging people to provide a dose of inspiration and accountability. By the way, you can add B Strong bands to any of these workouts! (KathySmith. com/FitOver40) One Meal at a Time is my new book … a complete eight-week meal plan and recipe book with both plant-based and traditional protein options for every meal. (Shop.KathySmith.com) ReShape is an all-in one fitness app. Fit body, fit meals and fit mind. Everything at your fingertips. (KathySmithReShape.com)
Q: How do you see the world of fitness evolving?
A: Now more than ever, we’re seeing a synergy between workout centers and virtual workouts.... I see that streaming workouts will become more robust, and there will be more thrilling fitness experiences.... The future of fitness is all about knowing what’s happening on the inside. Knowing your blood sugar levels, HRV, sleep patterns and cortisol responses (plus so much more) is all possible now thanks to the new wearable technology. It’s no longer about just what’s happening on the outside with muscle development, body fat and weight. I love that we’re now focusing on full-body health, and looking at fitness in more than just the physical aspect.