Faster, Higher, Stronger: Olympic fencer Keeth Smart
Photographs by Chad Griffith
As an athlete, Keeth Smart realized at an important stage in his career that resistance was certainly not futile. By the time he competed in his second Olympic Games as a sabre fencer in Athens in 2004, Smart was already a two-time US national sabre champion and the first American to be the top-ranked fencer internationally. But his body was beginning to break down from years of intense training.
“Because of all the weight training I was doing, I had to start taking cortisone shots because I started to develop tendonitis,” Smart says. “A lot of athletes who do high amounts of repetitive weight training have the same issue. Then someone introduced me to an amazing personal trainer, and I started doing resistance training with bands and bungee cords, and that changed everything. I would do things like punches and thrusts with the bands, lunges and running in place. I didn’t just get stronger, I got a lot faster, and I recovered from my workouts a lot quicker.”
Smart credits the change in training regimen as a reason for his best Olympic finish in 2008, when he helped lead the US fencing team to a silver medal. What he didn’t know was that nearly a decade later, resistance training would help launch his career as an entrepreneur.
Smart is now the co-founder and COO of Physiclo, a company that has created performance wear that has the resistance built into the fabric of the clothing. The product initially began as a project by medical students who were looking for ways to help less healthy people reach a minimum baseline of fitness. “The patients were people who were having trouble exercising or making dietary changes,” Smart says. “So they were looking for a way to affect their everyday activities positively.”
Launching the company would provide many challenges. “Because we were selling a product, it was very capital-intensive, so we had to raise money,” Smart says. “Then we went through a lot of prototypes to try to get the resistance in the first product right.”
After a lot of testing, Smart and his team found a level of resistance in the clothing that could work for the greatest numbers of users. “When you wear the pants, it feels like you are walking up a flight of stairs while you are on level ground,” Smart says. “Our internal studies show that when you are wearing the pants, your muscles are working 23% harder than they usually would, and you’re burning 14% more calories.”
Even though the clothing is only available thus far through their website (physiclo.com), the brand has already become extremely popular with athletes and even fitness enthusiasts who spend several days a week at the gym and may be working towards higher goals such as a marathon. “Athletes are always the first to try something new when it comes to training,” Smart says. “They’ve been the first to understand how to enhance their training and makes it more efficient.”
Smart hopes to make a version of the clothing with milder resistance that less fit people could wear all day and gradually build up strength. Until then, Physiclo is for athletes who are looking to push their training to a new level.