★FitStars: An Interview with Kathy Smith

KathySmithKathy Smith is one of my favorite fitness personalities, so we are thrilled to be able to feature a Q&A session with her here. Read on to learn about her fitness philosophies, what her typical workout schedule includes and—my favorite part—what goes on behind the scenes at the making of a workout DVD.

FBG: One of my favorite DVDs is your Rules of Fat Burning. What’s your favorite all-around Kathy Smith workout DVD? Favorite non-Kathy DVD? Do you actually do workout DVDs?

KS:One of my favorites is the Latin Rhythm Workout.It became a yearly tradition to have a Latin Rhythm Workout party, where 30 or so friends would congregate in a huge basement/game room, we’d pop in the DVD, and follow along with some added commentary from me. Things really heat up when we get to the meringueand of course it doesn’t hurt to serve some margaritas beforehand to get everyone in the spirit of things.

My daughter Perrie and I also like to do my Pilates For Abs workout together, too. We pop it into her computer and do it in her bedroom during homework breaks. It’s always hard for me to drop that “teacher” side of my personality, and I end up doing extra coaching and helping her with alignment.

As for other DVDs, I was just introduced to Farhan Dhalla’s Mind Ball & Soul DVDhe’s got some really creative and challenging moves for the stability ball. It’s a pretty intense workout, even for the die-hards!

FBG: You have two daughters. Any advice for parents raising their children, girls especially, and teaching them good body image? What was your strategy?

KS: Getting girls involved in sports can really shift the focus away from appearance/form onto function. Children learn so much through modeling, so it’s important to walk the walkliterallyand look at your own behavior. I had a terrific experience working with Bonnie Modugno, a leading nutritionist at UCLA, who taught me how our language reflects our biasesso when the focus of your food discussions revolve around what’s going to make you “fat” as opposed to what’s going to make you healthy, your children pick up on those behaviors.

I think the hardest thing has been combating what happens at school and in the girls’ social scenes, as well as what they read in magazines and see on TV. My younger daughter Perrie is a modern dancer with a beautiful figure, and so I cringe when she says, “Mom, I don’t wanna go spinning because it’s going to make my thighs thicker” so it’s a constant battle to try and eliminate the misconceptions and myths that get circulated in their world. But we’ve made it a priority to have evening meals as a major centerpiece in our family lifeand the meals always consist of the foods I recommend in my books: fresh vegetables, lean cuts of meat and fish, whole grains, etc. The girls also help in the kitchen and have developed a keen sense of what’s healthy and delicious.

FBG:Granted, fitness is your job. But as a mother of two, how did you go about keeping yourself and your fitness a priority?

KS: I make it a part of my social life. Every morning I have a “date” with some friend, to meet for a class, or hike, or workout at the gym. I also schedule it in; it’s second nature now that once I get Perrie out the door for school, I head to my workout. I don’t schedule meetings before 9:30 if possible, so that it’s always built into my day.

FBG:We love your message about consistency, and the little things adding up. Any unique ways you fit exercise into your busy schedule?

KS: I can’t stand to sit all day long, and I’ve designed my office so that there’s a “standing desk,” at about hip height, with the computer and phone right there so that I can sit if I want, but also have the option to stand and move around a bit. That may not sound like “exercise,” but you do burn more calories throughout the day with that kind of small change in behaviorand it also keeps my energy up. And I don’t shy away from stairs. It’s really common for me to run up and down the stairs in my house multiple times a day whenever necessary. I’ve designed many of my workout DVDs in 10-minute chunks, so if I’m short on time I’ll do a 10-minute ab sequence at one time of the day and a 10-minute leg routine later in the day. And since exercise is cumulative, it all adds up.

FBG:What’s your favorite exercise or activity? How often do you change up your workouts? What does a typical week look like for you?

KS: I always maintain what I call the “triangle” of cardio, resistance training and flexibility, but within that structure, I mix things up quite a bit. I also change workouts with the seasons, so that I can get outdoors much more when the weather’s nice, and I expend more energy on more intense workouts in the summertime. I usually stick to more moderate exercise and recovery in the winterit’s my version of periodization. It allows you to bounce back fully and stay injury-free.

Here’s a typical week right now: Monday is yoga, Tuesday is a boot camp-style class at Burn 60, Wednesday is a hike, Thursday is a gym workout, Friday is yoga, Saturday is spinning, and Sunday is a walk on the beach.

If you could have only one fitness “accessory” or piece of equipment, what would it be?

KS: A yoga mat! Yoga has been a cornerstone of my fitness regimen for the last 30 years. On the mat you get to not only strengthen and stretch your body, but you also get to form a true mind-body connection. The world might be falling apart, with the stock market plummeting and the housing market tanking, but I can always return to a “safe haven” on the yoga mat where I can find balance, gratitude and lightnessnot to mention maintaining my sanity.

FBG: Can you give us a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the making of one of your workout DVDs? How long does it take to film a 30-minute DVD? What is going on behind the cameras?

KS: The pre-production process is the most intense partfrom discovering the concept to designing the workout to hiring the cast to designing the sets to many, many hours of rigorous rehearsals. When the time comes for the cameras to roll, that’s when the real fun begins. Everyone goes into hair and makeup around 7 a.m., and we emerge around 9 with that “natural” look that needs to be maintained throughout the day, with the lights and the sweat. We do sound checks and lighting checks around 9, and then we break our routines down into 10-minute chunks and run through them twice. There are three camerasone that’s stationary in front, one that’s on a train track for panning, and one on a dolly that can zoom above and around us. We’re often in a big warehouse, so on one side of you is this gorgeous set that’s been built, and next to that is big industrial empty space with wires, equipment and lots of people running around trying to stay on schedule. The director watches from an editing bay and critiques us over a loud speaker.

The backup people tend to get really close during this experience because they’re spending a lot of time rehearsing between takes just to make sure they’ve got the moves down so that we can minimize mistakes. I’ve had shoots go beautifully, when the whole thing’s over by 6 p.m., and I’ve had shoots when there are technical issues, and we’re all there until midnight. Either way, when the director says “it’s a wrap,” everybody gets about five minutes to hug and congratulate each other, and then the set has to be broken down, and we all disband. There’s always a little feeling of post-show bluesyou work so hard as a group and then it’s over.

FBG: Do you have any other thoughts or anything that you’d like to tell our readers?

KS:This whole adventure is getting more exciting for me every year; I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had. My hope for everyone is that they discover a style of movement that brings them joy and keeps them coming back for more so that fitness isn’t something they have to do, but something they want to do.

A workout party with margaritas? Sounds like the FBG definition of FUN. Thanks to Kathy for keeping the inspirational tradition of FitStars alive. She’s got a new DVD coming out, so keep your eyes peeled in the new year. And if you missed it, check out our Retro Review on one of Kathy’s old but fantastic DVDs! —Erin

Want more fitness inspiration? Check out our interviews with Biggest Loser Ali Vincent and Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien.

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  1. MizFit says:

    she was my fave back in the day (dont tell her I said the back in the day part…she just reminds me of my youth!) and I didnt realize/now do she is still such an active fitness person.

    how cool for you guys!

  2. Erica says:

    Very nice interview! I wish I could have a standing desk at work! Sitting all day makes me want to take a nap 😉

  3. Kim says:

    Thanks for this! It was interesting finding out how a fitness video gets made, I always wonder when I pop one in.

  4. Sagan says:

    Love it!

    I’m liking the idea of those workout parties:) She sounds like such a sweet person.

  5. tfh says:

    Fantastic interview! I am so impressed with these interviews…Kathy Smith! I’m not sure whether to be envious of her, her daughters, her margarita workout party friends– or just to be inspired. I’ll go with the latter.

  6. Game Room Supplies says:

    This is one good read of an interview! Thanks a lot!

  7. Patrica Afuah says:

    Great interview! I like the she doesn’t schedule meetings before 9:30 so that she can always make time to workout.

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