I noticed Kent at this years Austin Fittest competition. He was calm, focused, and always smiling. He was also ripped. He ended up winning his age division for the second time. I didn’t introduce myself that day. But the next time we met, I did. I made sure to. Kent has an energy about him. Good energy. I wanted to hang around him and get to know him.
I met Kent the second time at “True Athlete Games” where both he and I were competing just a couple of weeks after Austin’s Fittest. He was cheering on the other competitors, encouraging and yep, still smiling. We talked, laughed and he introduced me to his teenage son who was also competing in this event. I made a mental note to reach out to Kent after the competition because I wanted to know more about him. What’s his background? What drives him? What’s his diet like? And more. Hope you enjoy this “High Performance Interview” with Kent Smith as much as I did.
“You will never find a great athlete who coaches himself to greatness.”
1. Tell us about your upbringing and background
I was born and raised in Fort Worth. I moved to Austin when I came to the University of Texas in 1972. After undergraduate school, I worked on a ship and then as a bank examiner for two years. Both jobs involved travel, which is what I really wanted to do. Then I went to UT Law School. I worked at a large law firm in Austin for 32 years. Early in my legal career, I also worked at Whole Foods (the one at 9th and Lamar). For the last two years, I have worked as a solo practitioner but have spent a lot of time trying to get fit.
2. How did you get into fitness?
I played baseball and soccer in high school, and some intramural sports in college, but I wasn’t a standout by any means. I was the guy reading books and studying. But I always wanted to be more athletic. I played soccer in Austin city leagues but my fitness declined over time. Finally I decided to really get fit. The immediate impetus was that I wanted to join the military. At my age (in my 50s), only the National Guard would even consider my application. So . . . I trained in order to be able to pass, or excel at, the military PT tests. In the long run, I wasn’t able to get into the National Guard, but I stuck with working out. I found that you can achieve some little successes, and you can build on those to achieve more success. As you do that, your confidence grows, and you find that you are in a positive spiral where one good thing leads to another.
3. What’s your nutritional approach?
I eat a healthy (some would say strict) diet. I eat a lot of protein, lots of rice and vegetables, and some fruit. I don’t eat much bread or pasta. I don’t eat sweets very often except fruit. I don’t drink liquor. My friend Joey Trombetta (a trainer at Heat Bootcamp) says that his diet is “always great, and sometimes perfect”, and I try to live up to that. Probably the biggest realization I have made in my fitness journey is that I am in charge of how healthy I am. I need to provide the right fuel for my body. I can make my weight go up or down. I can change my physique, if I do the required work. It is great to have that control, but it also means I have no one to blame but myself if I fall short of my goals. I like that.
4. How do you stay motivated?
To stay motivated, I try to think how the things I do (working out, eating right) will benefit me. It is important to have both short term goals and long term goals. Short term goals (like hitting a new PR in weightlifting, or getting to a certain body fat percentage) keep you motivated.
I just used a lot of words to say that, but the point is that it is helpful to keep the long term goal in mind.
5. If you had to create your favorite workout, what would it consist of?
I like all kinds of workouts. I like to lift weights. I like workouts where I sweat like crazy and my endurance is tested. I don’t really enjoy long runs, but admire folks who are good at that.
6. What do you do for fun outside of fitness? Your interests?
My wife and I have four kids so we stay busy with them. I love to read. I love history. I love to learn new facts. I love to travel, but don’t do it as often as I should. We have a son who was born in Romania and a daughter who was born in Russia. I really look forward to visiting those countries again. Lots of history, but enough mystery and adventure to make it very memorable.
7. Favorite restaurants around Austin?
We don’t eat out very often. I am not much of a foodie. It is easiest for me to eat well if I eat at home. I do like Luby’s, and Threadgills. I had some pizza recently at Via 313. Wow, was it good!
8. Favorite motivational quote?
Well, you opened Pandora’s Box with this question. I like this quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger: “People ask me all the time; they say, ‘What is the secret to success?’ The first rule is: Trust yourself. But what is most important is that you have to dig deep down, dig deep down and ask yourself who do you want to be. Not what, but WHO. . . I’m talking about figuring out for yourself what makes you happy, no matter how crazy it may sound to other people.”
I have two videos that I watch occasionally, and especially before competitions. The first, and my favorite, is Elite Gymnastics: Why Do We Fall? (thanks to my friend, David King for this one.)
The second video is Arnold Schwarzenegger: 6 Rules of Success.
I also like a simple quote from Cal Farley. Cal Farley was a wrestler who started a home for orphan or “wayward” boys called Boys Ranch. Boys Ranch is located north of Amarillo on the site of Tascosa, a Wild West frontier town with the greatest, truest Boot Hill you will ever see.
Cal Farley said, “Every boy wants to hit a home run.” That applies literally, but more importantly figuratively. Many people in the fitness community have been encouraging to me. I have found that athletes in Austin are amazingly welcoming and positive! I need to do a better job of doing that to other people in the fitness community (e.g., someone who is just starting out on his or her fitness journey) and to those close to me (like my own family).
“Every boy wants to hit a home run.”
9. OK. You didn’t ask this question, but I think anyone reading this interview would want to ask: Kent, are you really as boring as you appear to be based on your answers to these questions?
Something that Kent didn’t mention, but I know it to be true is that he spends time learning from others. If he wants to run faster, then he learns from a local speed coach, if he wants to be stronger then he goes to a local expert in that area. One of the reasons that I love to compete and get out and mix with the local residents is because these events draw people like Kent.
Thanks for being such a inspiration and for helping to Keep Austin Fit!