If you were even slightly aware of the advent of aerobics and home workout VHS tapes, you most likely have seen (and at some point tried to keep up with) Kathy Smith. Kathy is at the forefront of a business she helped pioneer more than 30 years ago. Today, she can boast over $500 million in sales of books, videos, lifestyle products and fitness equipment. She even has a spot in the Video Hall of Fame. Still not sure who we are talking about? See if this jogs your memory.
Look familiar? Who in our 50+ group didn’t try one of these workouts either at home or at a gym?
Well, Kathy hasn’t slowed down an iota since this was taped. In fact, she currently has a website, active blog, podcast and new app, ReShape. I sat down with her recently (via phone) to discuss her projects and to ask for some fitness & wellness advice I could use for myself and for our readers.
A little background on how Kathy got started down her current path: When Kathy was 17, her father died of a heart attack. Within a year and a half after that, her mother and new stepfather were killed in a plane crash. Kathy found herself an orphan before she was even 20.
Suffering, no doubt, from some degree of depression, Kathy would accompany her college boyfriend to the track where he would run and she would watch. Occasionally, she would run a lap or two. Then, she began stringing those laps together and with surprising self-awareness for one so young, Kathy noticed when she ran, the cloud over her, the mental cobwebs, seemed to clear and her mood lifted. Thus began her commitment to keep moving and to inspire the best in all people.
The slogan on Kathy Smith’s website reads, “Progress, not perfection.” That sounds, doable, right?
Since we all know that creating new, healthy habits at any time in life is challenging, I asked what Kathy recommends so one doesn’t feel overwhelmed. Without skipping a beat Kathy said, “Pick something that intuitively you feel you need some help with – whether that’s your morning routine or starting some strength training – and focus on that. Say, ‘I’m not going to have any refined carbohydrates,’ and start there. Or maybe you want to work on your strength training. Start with two days a week to do your upper body. Set a goal, like to do a push up – even if it’s on your knees, or against a wall – and once you have that down as part of your repertoire, you can build on that foundation. The confusion lies in doing too many things at once.”
“We want people to register what is working for them and making them feel better.”
“Your goals should be manageable, doable…not too much, too strong, or too hard. Start with 10 minutes, three times a week and build up from there.”
“When you are over 50, your heart starts to shrink slightly and arteries harden, which means your heart has to work harder, which in turn makes your blood pressure go up. In a recent study, they took those people who had exercised in their 30s and 40s and started them on a fitness regimen. That group had comparable scores to younger folks. After following the same fitness routine, the over 50 crowd that had been sedentary previously, experienced a dramatic increase in their heart health. So, it’s never too late. There is elasticity that can be recovered.”
“One of the most interesting things I learned interviewing experts for my podcast, is about bone density and the importance of g-force to strengthen bone. Studies have shown jumping off a box that is 15 inches high can deliver that amount of force, but not everyone can or should do that. I like finding problem-solving solutions to work with people so bone can be strengthened safely.”
“The first muscle fibers to go as we age are the super fast-twitch muscles that control speed and propulsion. If you want to maintain those muscles you need to include things in your workout that involve initiating power quickly – like jumps or sprints. You can do that on an elliptical, treadmill, bike, or other equipment that let’s you add speed intervals.”
“Our modern diet, modern sleep habits, modern sanitation and such are affecting our gut health. This is a moving target and means you have to make adjustments and reboot on an almost daily basis.”
Kathy recommends her podcast with Zach Bush. M.D. He’s triple-board certified, and an expert on gut health. Dr. Bush is also the author of the upcoming book, Gut Bomb, and the founder of Revolution Health Center. Click here to listen.
“Energy starts with a good night’s sleep – so set yourself up for that. One of the things I like to do is a decompress yoga stretch routine. It can help get rid of aches and pains, stress in the back. Another issue that can affect how well you rest is your eating habit. Restrict the time you eat so there is enough time before you go to bed. I recommend you eat your last meal (or snack) at least 3 hours before bed, otherwise you can feel bloated and weighed down in the morning. If you can, it’s best to leave 12-14 hours between your last meal at night and first meal the next morning, even if you only manage that a couple of times a week. That amount of time without food allows the body to clean itself out. Intermittent fasting can also lessen your chances of cancer and reduce inflammation.”
Here’s a stretch from Kathy you can do anytime throughout the day or before bed to decompress, relax sore muscles, and release stress.
“Get your blood sugar balanced right away in the morning. Instead of starting the day with fruits or juices, which means you’re introducing sugar (even though it’s natural sugars) which isn’t a good idea first thing. Instead, start your day with fats, protein and fiber.”
“I believe a big part of successfully making these sorts of lifestyle adjustments is socialization. I like having choices that are good for me, so maybe in the morning I could get together with friends and take a class, or hike, then grab a cup of green tea. Find others who can help you have the sort of lifestyle you want. The more you incorporate that into your life naturally, the easier it is to do.”
The ReShape app came into being because Kathy realized answers to questions like “What do you recommend I do about achiness in my knee joints?” were better understood in context to health, wellness and longevity. “It’s a tripfold approach involving movement 4-5 times a week, thinking about what you are putting in your mouth and when, and finding something that allows you to reduce stress and anxiety,” Kathy explained. “I wanted to put it all in one place so people could find it and apply it. A fluid-type program that could be adapted for each person, and gives them a program they can work with and covering everything from good ways of making oatmeals, adding chia seeds, walnuts, etc., maintaining good blood sugar levels throughout the day, to increasing flexibility and reducing stress through mindfulness.”
What are you reading now for “fun”?
After a recent trip to Panama – I’m reading David McCullough’s “The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal.”
What product or item can you not live without?
I love the outdoors but have sensitive skin, so I love Wallaroo hats with a broad brim. I probably have 30 of them all over the place so I always have one nearby.” Trilipiderm® sunblock is my other go-to for sun protection.
Do you have a quote or mantra you fall back on for inspiration?
If it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a no. I really love it because it helps me make quick decisions.
What are you watching on TV?
I like news shows, The Voice, etc. but have been unplugged really for the past 4 months. I use apps like HBO for Big Little Lies, which was great!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I created a healthier version of a banana split. I also like cutting a croissant in half, putting some really good peanut butter or almond butter on it with some jelly and melting it all together.
To Make Kathy’s Banana Split: 1 banana, split in half. Use Nada moo, or Coconut bliss dairy-free ice cream. Top with Dang toasted coconut chips, cacao nibs, crushed walnuts, and dark chocolate syrup.
What do you hope you’ve taught your daughters?
“On the fitness and wellness side, I hope they learn that whatever you do in your 20s and 30s sets the stage for life. It all adds to the bottom line. So, instead of a bank account, think of your body account. The longer you’re around, the longer your body account becomes. Also, don’t get caught up in too many bold claims about ‘instant this’ or ‘instant that.’ Things like certain fitness trends and practices come and go, but tried and true works.
Find ways to help others.
Watch what you put in your mouth 80% of the time, the other 20%, have fun.
Last words of advice to our readers?
Once you go through some hard knocks, business failures, medical issues – your thoughts can start to take you down some bitter paths. Find ways on a daily basis to clear your thoughts.
Here’s Kathy’s video to help that thought-clearing process.
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