Kathy Smith climbs the exercise charts | EW.com

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Kathy Smith climbs the exercise charts

Kathy Smith climbs the exercise charts -- The workout-aholic's plan to beat Jane Fonda with her own successful tapes

Kathy Smith has finished her black bean soup — ”skip the sour-cream garnish, please” — and spoons her way through the half-finished vanilla ice cream her interviewer has passed across the table. ”One more bite,” she promises, exercising admirable control.

Exercising is synonymous with Kathy Smith — and so is control. With her nine fitness tapes all best-sellers, she’s considered a rarity in the video field: an exercise specialist whose workout videos have brought her celebrity, rather than the other way around. An ever-closer second to nemesis Jane Fonda, Smith has managed to sell more than 3 million videos without the benefit of a marquee name. Eight of this year’s top 20 exercise tapes have been hers (3 have been Fonda’s), and her Body Basics and Ultimate Video Workout have clung to the charts for 233 straight weeks. On last year’s best-seller list, Smith’s Ultimate Stomach & Thighs Workout and Fat Burning Workout stood tall beside such muscular non-workout titles as Batman and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

With her next video, Instant Workout, scheduled for release in September and her second child due any day, you’d think she’d pause to catch her breath and await both new arrivals. Wrong: Smith is about to branch out into ”life-style videos” dealing with such subjects as stress reduction and back care, and she’s hoping to create fitness vacations and a camp for adults. To occupy whatever idle moments might somehow remain, she can concern herself with her weight-loss regimen (currently being sold on a cable-TV infomercial) and the health club she owns in L.A., Mezzeplex.

”She’d never admit it, but Kathy’s very competitive,” says her husband, Stephen Grace, who laughingly relates the story of a celebrity power-boat race last year. ”She won by so much it was like there were two different races going on. Her throttle man said she kept screaming, ‘Juice it, give me more!’ Even Don Johnson said, ‘Smith, you’ve got guts.”’

Looking a decade younger than her 39 years, Smith seems the quintessential California girl. ”People have this misconception that I jump around all day, doing aerobics,” she says. ”In reality, I’m a businesswoman.” Her business sense is the reason she hasn’t yet produced a pet project, a benching video (benching involves stepping on and off a low bench), which she believes would be useful, if not necessarily marketable. ”I try not to get emotional about an idea,” Smith says. ”If you’re only going to sell 20,000 or 30,000, it’s not worthwhile.”

Also on her video wish list is a tape for men. And she’s considering a tape, suggested by her video company, on getting in shape for summer. ”I haven’t been so blown away by this one,” she says. ”All my other videos have been what I consider legit. This is more of a gimmick.”

Although she loves the fitness empire she’s created, Smith admits to occasionally feeling overwhelmed by all the demands on her time. ”Sometimes,” she says with a sigh, ”I wish I could just go work out.”