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Healthy Living

Fitness Icon Kathy Smith Dishes on Weight, Workouts and Turning 60

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 04/19/2011
Last Updated: 03/05/2019

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Back in the late '80s, I was a new mommy at home with two babies, toting around—in addition to diaper bags and all that baby paraphernalia—35 extra pounds from my pregnancies. Who had the time to take a shower, never mind get to the gym to exercise? So when I put my two sons in for their midday naps (thank goodness they were great nappers), I headed downstairs to our little family room and popped in an exercise tape. There was just enough floor space to march in place, do some jumping jacks and push-ups and, if I had managed to clear the clutter of toys, I could even manage sit-ups and stretching. I had a variety of tapes that I played, depending on my mood and energy level, and at least they got me moving and back into the swing of exercise.

One of my go-to teachers-on-tape was Kathy Smith, who was not only gorgeous but motivating and instructive. Would I look like her if I kept at it? One could only dream. But in time I did manage to lose the baby weight and get fit. And then, when my boys started preschool, I lost track of Kathy. I traded in my in-house exercise sessions for a gym membership.

Recently, this fitness icon resurfaced when I received an e-mail announcing her new age-fighting workout line of DVDs. Her first, called Ageless with Kathy Smith: Staying Strong, is a strength-training program divided into four 15-minute segments that can be combined or performed separately.

Kathy Smith is getting older right along with us: she is turning 60 this year. She looks remarkable! Want to know why she doesn't deprive herself, what her typical day's diet is like and her personal plans to stay one step ahead of aging? Keep reading.

Sheryl: What's your secret to staying so thin and in such great shape?

Kathy: The secret is consistency with diet and exercise. And if you surround yourself with like-minded people, you set yourself up for success. Having friends who share my passions for hiking, strength training and healthy cooking makes it a no-brainer.

Sheryl: What would you tell a woman over age 40 who has not exercised consistently but now wants to get in shape? What's the best way to get started with an exercise program? How much time should she devote to cardiovascular exercise and strength training each week?

Kathy: The one thing you don't want to do is set yourself up for failure with an immediate "go for broke" attitude right out of the gate. Remember: slow and steady wins the race. Start with a 15-minute walk, and then add 5 minutes to your walk every week. The same goes for strength training: Start off using your own body weight and lighter weights and build up. The key is to find something you enjoy that fits your personality: dance classes, swimming and hiking. And there's always strength in numbers—find a friend to serve as your gym partner or walking buddy. You'll keep each other motivated and accountable.

I'd recommend devoting three days to cardio and three days to strength training—but these aren't strict guidelines. It depends on your body type and what you're trying to accomplish.

Starting around the age of 30, we begin to lose muscle mass—a process I call "the Great Decline"—and that leads to a whole host of issues, from arthritis to back pain to (you guessed it) weight gain. The key to slowing—or even reversing—the Great Decline is strength training. So regardless of our age, we always need a balance of cardio, strength and flexibility training. But after we hit 40, the need for strength training becomes greater than ever.
Sheryl: So many women get discouraged with a strength training program, either saying they don't have enough time or it's boring. Is there a best/worst way to get started?

Kathy: Once you learn to really feel the movement, rather than just going through the motions, experiencing the sensations of your body and the connections through your joints and muscles, you'll find that there's an exciting new relationship between your body and the exercises you're doing. Each workout, you'll discover more and more about yourself, and strength training actually becomes fun.
Sheryl: For most people, food equals pleasure. Do you deprive yourself at all? Or, do you have one secret indulgence you allow yourself?

Kathy: I don't deprive myself, but I do practice portion control. So when something is high in sugar, salt or fat, but is too delicious to pass up, I'll indulge—but not overindulge. I'm a chocolate fanatic, so I'll have a small square of dark chocolate when I really crave it—but, of course, not the whole bar. I love foods that taste great and are good for me, so for the most part, I prefer eating "clean."
Sheryl: Can you talk a little about a day in the life of your typical diet? What are the best foods for women to eat before/after they work out to maximize fat burning and results?

Kathy: I usually eat three meals and two snacks a day. Breakfast is often steel-cut oats with nuts, blueberries and almond milk, or a scrambled egg white veggie omelet. Pre-lunch I'll have a protein shake (see below for an easy recipe). Lunch is typically some sort of salad with lots of greens (arugula, spinach, an assortment of veggies), some legumes and protein on top. For a midafternoon snack I'll have an apple with a slice of peanut butter (see below for a list of some of my favorite snacks). For dinner, I love fish with asparagus (and pretty much any veggie except cauliflower), and for a bedtime snack, I'll have a cup of tea and sometimes a bit of chocolate.

Kathy's Top 10 Favorite Snacks:

10. ASPARAGUS WRAPS: 4 asparagus stalks wrapped with 4 ounces turkey slices. (Optional: add mustard)
9. HUMMUS DIPPERS: 2 hard-cooked egg whites, cauliflower, or celery dipped in 1 to 1.5 tablespoons hummus.
8. CUCUMBER BOATS: Slice a 6-inch piece of hothouse cucumber lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Fill the hollow boats with 1/2-cup of low-fat cottage cheese and 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts.
7. CELERY STICKS: Stuff celery sticks with 1 to 1.5 tablespoons soy nut butter, almond butter or natural crunchy peanut butter.
6. YOGI BERRIES: Stir together 3/4 cup organic fat-free plain yogurt and 1/2-cup fresh berries.
5. TUNA WRAPS: Season one 5-ounce pouch of tuna with fresh dill, lemon juice, scallions or lemon pepper and dab with 1/2 tablespoon of light mayonnaise. Wrap in lettuce leaves.
4. CANTALOUPE WEDGES: 1 wedge of cantaloupe (1/4 of a whole) with 1/2-cup low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese.
3. NOT YOUR MOTHER'S ONION DIP: In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add 1 large onion (thinly sliced). Cook on low until golden brown. Remove from heat and cool. Add 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese and 1/2 cup fat-free Greek-style yogurt. Mix all ingredients together. Serve with sliced veggies.
2. PARMESAN CRISPS WITH SMOKED TURKEY: Shape 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese into 8 mini-mounds. Drop mounds into skillet and cook over medium heat, gently flattening with a spatula until crisp. Remove and cool. Season with pepper and top with sliced smoked turkey breast.
1. SHAKE IT UP!  Protein shakes are a staple of my diet. Here's a classic version. Using a blender, mix 1 cup skim, soy or almond milk, 1 scoop of protein powder, 1 cup frozen mixed berries, 1 tablespoon flax oil and half of a medium banana.

Sheryl: What are your plans going forward to stay ahead of aging?

Kathy: Staying young is about energy and vitality—and every day, we get to choose whether or not we do things that energize us or things that deplete us. One of the great things about growing older is that we get to know ourselves on a deeper level. We know what our triggers are, and we know what we can do to avoid them. So I look for things that refresh and recharge me: morning meditation, a cup of green tea, protein shakes, and, of course, exercise. And meanwhile I try and stay away from toxic relationships and negative energy. Over the years I've learned that this formula doesn't only keep me feeling young and vital, it gives me a sense of gratitude that I carry with me throughout the day.


Kathy is almost 60? Wow. I so want to win this strength training tutorial to get me started. Everything she says makes complete sense. Following through is key. I probably do 5-6x a week cardio and relatively little strength (tho i do dance) so it was interesting to see her 3 aerobic days, 3 strength days split. Good to know.

That onion dip sounds delicious! And I agree, Kathy does look great for 60. Hope I'm that fit at her age.

Wow, I think I may have had a few of her tapes (before the days of CD's!). Thank you for such great information. She looks amazing for 60! ~ although it's not as much about how she looks as about how she feels in her body. I may have to investigate her new CD's.... I always remembered her energy to be "contagious!" That's something we can't go wrong "catching."

this sounds great. we just moved into a building with an upstairs gym, so i'm pushing myself on the strength training.

It is hard to find exercise DVDs that are not just so peppy that they wear me out and I toss them before I get started. Since this one is tilted to a tiny bit older age range, I think it might be just the ticket for me. Hurray for Kathy, still out there at 60!

I don't think you'd toss this one, Vera. Kathy is a great example of aging well, don't you think?

As a freelance writer who doesn't dash to the fridge until I'm completely starving, then ends up eating chips, these super easy ideas are really appealing.

What a great interview! I'm a Kathy Smith devotee, too, and I so want that DVD!

exercise tapes saved my life when my children were babies. I was committed..and you're right..all you need is a small bit of floor. I still have my tapes for days when I can't get out..and my kids are in the twenties now!

Yes, those tapes are a godsend when you can't get out to the gym!

I find weight-training more enjoyable than aerobic exercise (except tennis) and I love being able to see the definition starting to come out in my muscles. I've been working with a personal trainer once a week and she does a great job of keeping me interested with a variety of exercises and showing me how to do them correctly.

I'm with you, Nancy. It is really rewarding once you see some muscle definition. And the more you learn to train your muscles, the more they will cooperate and show some results!

I'm in my 50s and am finding it hard to keep up the same exercise schedule I used to do for years! I used to get up early which now is an issue. Other times during the day are not as doable on a regular basis. Like a viscous cycle, lack of energy keeps me from exercising and I put more weight on. Sometimes it feels like in the course of a couple of months, my tummy blew up and my mid section got wide. I never have been heavy there! Kathy, I'm going to look you up on line and look for words of wisdom from you!

I know...it DOES get harder. But sometimes you need to break the cycle and once you are able to do that, the rest flows. Sounds like you want to do it, so that's some motivation to get you going. Good luck~!

I am just getting back into my walking routine. Four years ago, when I was 43, I was walking over 2 miles a day. Sadly, I let that go. I add 5 more minutes to the routine every week. These snacks look great, thanks for sharing!

Sounds like you're on your way. Good for you for getting back to your walking routine. In no time, you'll be logging your miles again!

I've always liked her routines (I remember doing her boxing video over and over again way back when). I'm curious about her protein shake. I've read several different views on those, what kind of protein powder does she recommend?

I appreciate the snack suggestions! I'm working to change my eating habits and thus lose weight - these are helpful!

I have been a fan of Kathy Smith's for many years. I own several of her workout tapes and we are close to same age.
Unfortunately, illness/disease has not allowed me to actively workout for a few years. I have been released to begin an exercise routine and would love to win her new dvds to assist me in my goals. I am walking but little strength workouts to date. Kathy is an inspiration for all ages!

Kathy's DVD sounds great. She and I are the same age. I've got knee problems and back problems so maybe her DVD is just the answer for me.

These are great snack suggestions and I can't wait to try some of them. I too have fallen off the wagon with my walking routine and am struggling to get back to it. I have good days and bad days but I persist! My goal is to do a 1 mile fun run on July 4th! I have Kathy's walking DVD's and they are wonderful...time to pull them out again. I would love to have her Staying Strong DVD!

The important thing, I think, is that you PERSIST. Best of luck to you on July 4!

Is there a winner of the DVD yet?

Yes, dgilles, there is a winner. Sorry you didn't win :(
The winner was announced here:

But please don't lose hope: I am always looking for fun things to give away on my blog, and will be back with more in the future. Thanks for writing!

I'm turning 55, and I still watch Kathy's "March to Fitness" that I burned from VHS to DVD. I have been her fan and a follower for many years, and I actually represented her work to news stations some years ago. Time for some great new material, Kathy!!!

Following Kathy Smith's suggestions are the best thing we can do for ourselves for sure. I plan to look and feel as good as her at 60 by continuing to follow a healthy lifestyle, like she suggests in her interview.

I like the idea that I can get it done quick. If there is too much dedication and time involved I never stick with it. However, I do my morning stretches without fail. I like the idea of 15 minute strength training with someone my age or older (I am 45)

Kathy is so inspiring. 61 and still going strong!

Thanks for catching up with Kathy. I found her 10 years ago at 48 and she's still a #1 motivator for me.

Thanks for catching up with Kathy. I found her 10 years ago at 48 and she's still a #1 motivator for me.

I love Kathy Smith, she has been my go to fitness guru for years. Love her body. Long and lean. Want to try an accomplish that for myself.

Love it!!

Thanks for sharing. I agree, you still can be fit and healthy even if your aging. I recently read an article that talks about healthy eating even in menopausal stage. Try to visit and read the article.

Hi, I have quite a few of Kathy's VHS and CD's. I've tried other fitness tapes but I always go back to hers because she is so down to earth, I feel like she's the girl next door. I'm 71 now and I'm still working out with Kathy. Keep up the good work.


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