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Originally published July 5 2006

Exercise pioneer Kathy Smith discusses the importance of strength training for overall health and posture

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

Mike: Welcome, everyone. This is Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, here, and we're about to talk with Kathy Smith. She is an exercise pioneer who has really mastered exercise routines, fitness and exercise physiology. She has some new products coming out soon that she'll tell you about, and she'll share some of her philosophy about why exercise is so important for leading a healthful life. So please welcome Kathy Smith. Okay, Kathy, thanks for joining me today.

Kathy Smith: It's great being here.

Mike: Now, you are well known as a pioneer in exercise -- especially for exercise videos -- could you give our readers a bit of a background on some of the work you've done in the past, and maybe where you're going with it?

Smith: Okay. Well, I started with fitness many years ago -- 30 years ago. When I was in high school, my father died of a heart attack. I was 17; he was 42 at the time. And then my mother was killed in a plane crash about two years later. So right in those teenage years I was going through a really difficult time. I was a junior in college. I had a little bit of depression, didn't have a lot of confidence in where I was going. And at that point I discovered yoga, and I discovered running. I found these two components -- the aerobics and the running, with the endorphins -- just helped me and pulled me out of this depression, and the yoga helped to just focus me and calm me down and just really transform my life.

So in my videos that I've done -- starting in 1982, when I came out with my first video -- I kind of combined the elements that brought me along this path. And I always talk about this triangle -- and with flexibility in yoga, strength training and weights, and cardio and aerobics -- and I just always had this belief that this triangle is what keeps you balanced, and that you have to do a little of everything from each part of the triangle. So my videos that I've had ... I have 50 videos now.

Mike: Yes.

Smith: Some of them focus on strength training with weights, some of them focus on yoga and Pilates, and then some of them are focusing on the cardio -- whether it's step aerobics or whether it's doing Latin dancing -- but just the cardio. And my big philosophy that I've always followed is mix things up; have fun with it. Find something that you're really passionate about.

People ask me all the time, "What should I do?" And I throw it back to them and say, "Well, what do you like to do?" because if I say, "Mike, you should start a Latin dance class," you're going to say, "Well, maybe it's not for me." But if I really asked you a few questions and found out: Do you like to work out in groups? Do you like to work out by yourself? Do you have high energy or is your energy more relaxed and calm? Then I can find the workout program that would be specific for you and that you would stick to because again, consistency in this whole thing is the key.

So what am I working on right now? There's a method that I just developed. It's called the Matrix Method. In most of our workouts we work out in one plane of motion. We just do what's called the sagittal plane, which is forward and back. Well, in life, we have all these other planes of motion. We go diagonal, we go to the side and we go back. So, in the Matrix Method, I've designed a program that if you imagine that you're the center of a clock and everything is radiating out in all these different directions, what happens is you build this amazing symmetry in the body, and you also integrate all your motions.

Again, so many times we try to isolate something. We're going to isolate our abs or we're going to isolate our arms. In this program we integrate everything so you're bending down, you're picking up, you're twisting and you're lifting, all in one motion.

Mike: Wonderful.

Smith: And it mimics what you do in life. If you got on a plane, you'd pick up a suitcase. You get up, you turn and you put it up in the overhead compartment. That motion right there requires legs, arms, core, back -- and those are type of motions that we try to mimic in the Matrix Method so that we just get you ready for life.

Mike: Seems like holistic physiology or holistic strength training.

Smith: Exactly. That's a good way to look at it. Maybe I'll steal that for the back cover.

Mike: You're welcome to. Kathy, what I really like about what you've said in your journey here is that you came to this out of your own personal challenges. So you had some challenges early on, many years ago, and that became the motivating factor for you to discover this area and then share that with others. I find that very beautiful -- that it's so genuine. It's from your heart, not just someone out there making videos because there's nothing else to do. This is what you're passionate about, right?

Smith: Yes. A lot of times, blessings come out of when you have a traumatic experience happen to you. It was really a type of thing where I was at a period in my life where I was very lost, and yet I knew that ... let me back up, because I'm picturing this back in the late 70s and early 80s. It was a time where people were really just discovering the body and the physical side, and they started to jump into it -- like, "I want to have really tight abs," or, "I want a tight butt," or something.

And from the very beginning, I had this feeling that that was never my motivation. It was always like I felt free. I felt confident. I felt alert. I felt calm. It was just the way that it affected my whole psyche and my whole being -- and how when you move that energy through your body, it affects your mentality; and how whether you're having to study for something or be alert for a speech you have to give, or whether you want to be grounded just because you're with your kids and you're being stressed out because they're taking so much from you -- that whenever you go to the movement side of things, it gets you back in your body.

I like to just spread that word to people because again, people don't stay motivated so many times because it's all about the thinner thighs or tighter tummy. And then if it doesn't work, or, "I haven't lost as much weight," or, "I can't stick to my diet program," then all of a sudden they stop their exercise program. When you get hooked on the feeling you have after you work out -- that wonderful high you have -- then you keep coming back to it. So it becomes kind of like a very positive addiction.

Mike: Well, absolutely. And there are so many benefits to physical exercise. You mentioned many of them, but I'm sure readers would like to know more. Bone mineral density, for example, is greatly enhanced by the routines that you teach on these videos.

Smith: Yes. Any weight-bearing exercise will help to strengthen your bones. After the age of 28, every single person out there -- especially women -- start to lose bone density. There's a way to prevent that, though. And the way to prevent that is through good diet -- making sure you're getting enough calcium in your diet, making sure you're not drinking a lot of sodas, which will leech calcium -- as well as not having a super-high-protein diet, which also starts to leech calcium.

But on top of that, it's that weight-bearing exercise, but not the everyday stuff you do -- we're weight-bearing right now, but this doesn't do the trick -- it's got to be something that actually stresses a bone, and there is no better way to do that than a weight training program. With that, you're stressing all the bones, whereas if you do something else you might be stressing the bones in the hips, but you're not stressing the arms, the shoulders or the spine -- and again, that's where a woman starts losing that bone mineral density. So to pick up a set of dumbbells two or three days a week and do a few exercises helps maintain that bone density, as well as keep the muscle mass on.

I wrote a book a few years ago called "Lift Weights to Lose Weight," and in the book I said if I had to stop doing one thing in life -- whether I had to give up my yoga or had to give up my cardio -- as you start to age, the one thing that you want to maintain is a little strength training because again, it keeps on muscle mass and as we age, if we start to lose that muscle mass, our metabolism starts slowing down. And then what happens is that you just can't eat all the great foods because you have to restrict everything because you just don't have that big burning machine there anymore.

Mike: Would you address one of the myths out there though, Kathy, about weight training, especially in women? They think that if they pick up a set of dumbbells they're going to instantly bulk up. What's the truth about that?

Smith: Once they start training, they'll see that it's a big myth because it does take effort to have those big muscles that you see in the bodybuilder shows. Those guys are working out eight hours a day, perhaps taking steroids and using big weights. But, in general, when you're using threes, fives and eight-pound weights, this is just going to give you great definition -- helps sculpt, but also very functional.

When you have a baby, you carry your baby around. Your baby comes out weighing eight pounds. Eventually -- by the time it's a toddler -- you're carrying around a 30-pound toddler on one hip, and that's what again starts to get all the aches and pains if you haven't strengthened the structure. So now weight training is not going to get you bulky, especially if you do one of my routines.

Mike: And, by the way, I want to make a comment that you have a very healthy posture and obviously a very healthy spine, and that's so important for holistic or whole-body health. And obviously, this health comes out of your philosophy and your activity. Do you have any programs that emphasize spinal health?

Smith: Well, the new program that I'm working on right now that I've mentioned -- the Matrix Method -- does have a whole section on posture, but I would say in about half of the videos that I do, we do posture work in them. There's a simple one that I think everybody should be doing every day, and that is just something that pulls back -- using the rhomboids. Imagine that you have a pencil between your shoulder blades and just imagine squeezing that pencil together right there, and then release it.

Then just try again; just squeeze, and you don't want to drop that pencil. And just do a few of these a couple times throughout the day, especially if you're sitting at a computer. At least come up and do that pencil squeeze and then maybe interlace your fingers behind your back -- just one good exercise to stretch the chest, the pectorals -- and you stretch those out. Stretching here and strengthening the back helps keep that erect posture. And it's something, again, that with driving or if you're sitting a lot, you should do -- and not just twice a week. That should be one or a couple of times throughout the day that you kind of focus on.

Mike: Yes. We tend to be very closed up in today's society, don't we? We rotate forward. We cave in our chest.

Smith: Yes, yes.

Mike: And we close up all our organs, don't we?

Smith: Yes. And speaking of more organs, the other thing is you go down -- stomach, elimination, digestion -- and when you do things like with this new Matrix Method that I've developed, there's so much standing core work where you're coming across and you're doing things that are stimulating this part of you body -- the midsection.

Women are always saying, "Well, how come my stomach's so poochy?" and, "How come I feel so" -- either "bloated," "poochy," or just, "How do I get rid of this area?" You can't see it, but I'm holding my stomach down here. We talk about the abdominals, and we talk about the abs, but underneath those abdominals we have all those organs, and this poochy stomach has to do with not eliminating properly. So a lot of the exercises we work on in the Matrix deal with that.

Mike: Could you show us some of your videos?

Smith: Yes. I just picked up a couple -- everything from a yoga video to -- if you want to do some fat burning, if you want to do a little cardio and aerobics, you can get some fat-burning work. Here's another more advanced yoga workout, but I also have Pilates, weight training, lifting weights -- to the new method, which is called the Matrix Method -- that you can get online at, or you can get it at most stores.

Mike: So with a "K" on Kathy.

Smith: With the "K." Kathy with the "K." Special "K."

Mike: And those videos can be ordered online and then shipped?

Smith: Yes.

Mike: No download versions, just shipping.

Smith: Not right now -- no download. Downloading versions to come, though.

Mike: Outstanding.

Smith: Oh, but you know what? If you want a download -- this is very exciting because it just launched yesterday -- you can download my workouts at, and these are customized workouts -- audio workouts that you can take on your walks, on your ellipticals, on your stationary bicycles, to the gym with you. You have your iTunes; you can merge your music, my voice. We're just starting up, but we're going to be having yoga, Pilates -- everything you can think of that you might want. So check it out. It's not just for me. There are 50 other trainers on there. So look for it because it's really a great new way to work out.

Mike: That's fantastic. Thanks for telling us that.


Mike: Kathy, it's been a pleasure interviewing you today. You have a wonderful collection of videos and much more to come, I'm sure.

Smith: Well, thanks Mike. It's been great.

Mike: Thank you.

Smith: I hope to do it again.

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