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Kathy Smith, 69: Fitness Icon Living Life to The Fullest

Fitness icon Kathy Smith’s approach to health is holistic, addressing wellbeing and emotional balance as much as physical strength and endurance. She discusses her exercise routine, why lower body exercises are essential for posture, and why what you do in the mornings has a lasting impact on your health.

Kathy Smith is a fitness icon, having written 8 books, produced 100 DVDs/workouts and sold $500 million dollars in Kathy Smith product. Born in Tuscon, AZ, the daughter of an Air Force pilot, she had a peripatetic upbringing in Brazil, Alabama, Hawaii, Texas, and Illinois. She tragically lost both of her parents in her late teens. It was then that she discovered exercise as a way to counter depression. This boundlessly energetic and energizing woman who has adapted and changed with the fitness world around her is turning 70 this year, and she continues to be a beacon of how to live a vivid life staying close to her values.

What does living life to the fullest mean to you? 

Making every minute count by continually learning, sharing, creating, giving, and experiencing. Each day is a new adventure. The joy I experience by being present for each day allows me to live life to the fullest.

You are one of the most vital people I have ever met. Have you always been this way?

I’ve always had a lot of energy. However, when I hit my late 40s, career, motherhood, and the shift of hormones with menopause began zapping my zest for life.

All aspects of our well-being flow in cycles. Coming to terms with my energy cycle was one of the secrets I discovered to living with increased vitality. It’s all about trial and error, and learning to spot your patterns. It took me years of being on the road and the stress of travel and performance to learn exactly what I needed to do to keep myself going at my peak.

It’s one of the reasons I developed a unique blend of strength and flexibility training that combines traditional yoga with toning exercises that helped transform me mentally and physically.

“Coming to terms with my energy cycle was one of the secrets I discovered to living with increased vitality”

Describe to me your day-to-day fitness exercise on a typical week.

It depends on the season! I like to have some outdoor time every day. In the winters in PC, I like to ski, cross country ski or snowshoe. In the summer, I include more hiking and biking. I love to walk during any season.

Kathy with BStrong BFR bands.



I do strength training at least 3 days a week with B Strong blood flow restriction bands. Their inflatable bands are worn around the upper portion of the arms and/or legs to safely slow the blood in the limb. This exercise technique manipulates the body’s circulatory system and, when combined with exercise, produces rapid gains in strength and fitness using light weights, and in a very short period of time. The release of hormones, especially Human Growth Hormone has an extremely positive effect on slowing the aging process.

Also, I have a daily yoga practice between 20-60 mins. The length of it ebbs and flows, depending on my other activities.

What has been your experience with energy healing and energy medicine?

For the last 40 years, I’ve been meditating and practicing Kriya yoga. The shifting of energies in my body helps balance emotions, increase my concentration, and allows me to tap into my intuition. 

“How you choose to structure your mornings has a lasting impact on your health”

Do you like to exercise first thing in the morning, or later?

I like having my workouts in the morning when the day’s events haven’t kicked in to disrupt me.

I’m a big believer in win the morning, win the day. Mornings matter. How you choose to structure your mornings has a lasting impact on your health. Developing small, energizing habits of what to do after you part with the pillow can help you conquer even the craziest of days.

To spark my energy for the day and get ready for my workout, I start with a shot (recipe below) and lie on the floor to do some inversions where I get my hip above my shoulders so the blood flows to my head. Then, it’s time to move!

VOLCANO SHOT

Ingredients:

8 oz hot water
1″ ginger root, chopped
Juice from 1 lime or lemon
1 drop oregano oil (optional)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional) 

Directions:

Peel the ginger, then chop into small chunks. Put in the bottom of a mug along with the oregano oil. Pour in the hot water. Squeeze the juice from the lime into your mug, and sprinkle with cayenne pepper.

Health and Food

What are the 5 most health-eroding foods people should avoid?

  • Sugary beverages disguising themselves as healthy drinks
  • Condiments that are loaded with sugar
  • Overly processed foods 
  • Bad fats and oils, including hydrogenated oils and PUFAs (because when exposed to high heat or cooking they become inflammatory) 
  • Sugar… especially hidden sugars. A muffin is just a cupcake without frosting! 

What is your favorite super food?

  • Chocolate… Haha 😉 During the warmer months, I love to whip up a simple chocolate shake. 

You have a birthday coming up (turning 70 in Dec). How are you looking at the future now?

I’m looking at the future with extreme positivity. Finding ways to help people, help the planet, and share my gifts is my idea of an exciting way to spend the next 30 years. 

Has anything changed about how you want to approach your life?

Yes, everything! I have no time for pettiness, judging others or myself, comparisons, or gossiping. I have no time to waste, and I am not worrying about what people think of me. I’ve lost the desire to fit in, and I continue to grow into my own authentic self!

“Doing lower body exercises are about more than vanity”

How do you train your legs? 

Doing lower body exercises are about more than vanity. A study found that leg routines (especially weight-bearing exercises) are important for the health of your brain and nervous system. Your lower body sends critical signals to the brain that help create neural cells which help you handle stress and adapt to challenges.

Whenever I think about my leg workout, it’s all about inclines. You see, anytime you step up onto a platform or move uphill, your legs and glutes are the prime movers! 

The key to shapely legs is to do step-ups correctly.

No matter the height of your step, you need to disengage the back leg as much as possible. By doing that, you’ll focus on your front leg and quads to complete the motion, instead of pushing off the back leg.

Another important technique is to finish the step-up on one leg. Don’t put the back foot on the box. Instead, stand upright on the leg that drove you to the top, and squeeze your glutes to finish off the move. 

How do you train your glutes?

The posterior chain refers to the muscles located in the backside of the body: the glutes, hamstrings, calves, the little muscles surrounding the spine, and the lower and upper back muscles.

Activating these posterior chain muscles regularly helps train the glutes (aka better butt) but it also trains the posture muscles. Targeting them will prevent that “getting older” shape — the banana-shaped posture we fall into from slouching too much. If you give these muscles the attention they deserve, you’ll have a strong booty and a strong back! 

My three favorite glute exercises are squats, deadlifts and hyperextensions.

“It’s time to say goodbye to striving for a younger you. Instead, strive for the best version of you right now”

What are the self-defeating myths that people tell themselves at this age, and how do you overcome them? 

In an age where we have ready access to so much media exposure, it’s time to say goodbye to striving for a younger you. Instead, strive for the best version of you right now.

When you take the attitude of embracing the full experience of life, it’s truly inspiring. Eliminate focusing on the “I can’t do this” thoughts, and reframe your thoughts and conversations with what you can do.

Start to have a love affair with your body! Reconnect with it. The most important question you could ask yourself is, “Do I take time every day to do something that will make me feel stronger, healthier, and more vibrant?” That’s a great way to start the process of feeling alive and vibrant and turn off that chatter in your brain saying you’re not good enough.

I’m a big believer in progress not perfection and always encourage people to reconnect with their body so they can love the way they look and feel. 

Fitness and Health Innovations

What are you seeing coming up in terms of fitness and health innovations that excite you?

Now more than ever, we’re seeing a synergy between workout centers and virtual workouts. With gyms slowly reopening and operating at reduced capacity and members proceeding with caution, there are so many more workout-from-home options. I see that streaming workouts will become more robust, and there will be more thrilling fitness experiences. Peloton and Apple are raising the bar when it comes to creating environments where you feel like you’re in the middle of a buzzing fitness studio.

The pandemic also taught us the importance of experiencing the great outdoors. We are redefining what a “gym” looks like — and many times it’s not surrounded by four walls. 

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. 

Inspiration and Fun

What is your feeling on dancing? Favorite dance track?

I love to dance! My first exercise album was Body Beat, a hip hop dance workout. Then, I shot a Latin dance workout that had the look and feel of a Latin night club. It was filmed in the Conga Room in Los Angeles and the music was performed by a live conga band. When it comes to dancing, I feel sexy and sassy. A day without dancing is a day without sunshine! By the way, when you’re at Burning Man you dance every day!

Favorite song to dance to is Baianá by Bakermat.

Who is your personal hero?

My mom. She taught me resilience, grit, and how to adapt. Being married to a military man meant that she became a master of practicing all three of these.

Who have you had on your podcast recently that most inspired you?

I loved my chat with Dr. William Bulsiewicz, MD. He’s a respected gastroenterologist who has devoted his practice to understanding the microbiome. Yes, the gut, and how a healthy gut is crucial to your health. His New York Times best-selling book Fiber Fueled is a must-read. 

Favorite TV binge?Right now, I’m watching Schitt’s Creek for the second time around! Bridgerton was a fun fantasy. The Queen’s Gambit had me wanting to pull out the chessboard. 

Where are you wanting to travel in the next year?

Greece 🙂 

9 COMMENTS

  1. I loved reading this. Thank you Kathy Smith. Inspiring! I’m 60, healthy and fit but so busy being an entrepreneur right now…but I have my eyes on a goal that when I am 70, I’m going to take some time to be a yoga instructor! And you’ve inspired me even more! Thank you.

  2. Great article, although from following David Sinclair (Harvard PhD and anti-aging researcher), I am not convinced that increasing HGH will slow down the aging process, but rather the opposite. HGH is great for growth and reproduction but not necessarily for longevity. Again, this may be a controversial topic. Thanks for inspiration though.

  3. OMG! I love this, and I too am turning 70 in December and love love love to dance! She speaks my language in this article. As a Certified Health Coach this is exactly what I preach, and call my tribe, Sassy Sexy Seasoned Sisters!! Kathy definitely is one; a kindred spirit, for sure!

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AUTHOR

David Stewart
David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

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