“I’ve done everything late in life— but late is better than never!” — Kim Dolan Leto
Kim Dolan Leto, 47 years old and mom of three, is one of the top fitness models in the industry. She has appeared on more than 30 magazine covers— 13 at the age of 42— and in hundreds of others. Kim is also a published fitness expert, speaker and author with a passion for leading women to experience transformations that affect their physical, mental and spiritual wellness. Although she began her “fitness career” much later, her story is one that inspires women to not limit themselves because of age (or other factors) and to never give up on a dream. She took the time to sit down and talk with me to share her story, along with her “cover model” beauty and fitness secrets.
FitRX: You began your fitness career later than most (age 30). What was the catalyst that brought that change?
Kim: “I worked all day long and didn’t take care of my body. I was just like the rest of corporate America. Then, my dad had a stroke at the age of 47. I saw him and just knew I needed to start taking care of my health. I remembered seeing a fitness show on television, so I decided I was going to do that. I learned how to do gymnastics in my 30s and began competing. I can now (at 47) do a one-arm handstand and one-arm, one-foot push-up. I never looked at age as a reason to not do something. If you put your head down and go to work, you can exceed societal limitations.”
FitRX: Even though you no longer compete, you still look amazing! What does your training and diet look like now compared to when you were training for shows?
Training split: “When I was training for shows, I did gymnastics three days a week, and weight training four days a week. I didn’t do a lot of cardio because practicing my (fitness) routine was like HIIT cardio. Now, I work out five days a week for 45-60 minutes. I still do gymnastics and a lot of bodyweight training; I love doing sprints and TRX and using gliders. Crazy HIIT training and anything where I can walk on my hands is my absolute favorite. Another thing I enjoy is hiking with my daughter, and she can hang with the best [her daughter is 8 and a Presidential Fitness award winner]. I like to use my body to go do things that are fun— to do things other than trying to get your body to look a certain way.”
Diet: “I eat the same [competing and now]. I’ve never been a radical dieter. I focus on ‘God-made’ foods. I eat five to six times a day and have small portions of protein and good fats, tons of fibrous vegetables and tons of water. I have one meal a weekend of whatever I want, but I have a rule of ‘no back-to-back crap,’ so it’s just one meal. A lot of people think eating clean is extreme, and I think it’s extreme to not— it just makes your body feel terrible. I think so many people don’t realize how good they can actually feel and how much energy they can actually have if they fuel their body with proper nutrients consistently.”
FitRX: Do you use any specific types of beauty products?
Kim: “First, keep your face out of the sun for the rest of your life. People tan their face and I want to scream. You need good skincare. My go-to moisturizer is Nia 24 that I’ve used since 2004. I’m also a big believer in Retin-a [Kim gets this from her doctor]. I use it a couple times a week. It is the only thing that dermatologists agree across that board that helps stimulate collagen. I do not have old skin or wrinkles because I keep my face out of the sun and take care of it. People don’t think about it. It’s like, don’t you want to look good when you’re 50?”
FitRX: You have such a great outlook on fitness and life, what was your outlook on competing when you were training for shows?
Kim: “So many girls beat themselves up because they don’t win a show. For me, competing was just a culmination of my hard work. I loved having that date to strive toward that gave structure to my day and gave me that extra push. But the thing is, is that it is just a celebration of your hard work, and it shouldn’t define you. If you’re doing what you do to get likes and approval, that is a prescription for misery.”
FitRX: As a competitor, it’s difficult to fathom staying in great shape without the motivation of a show to prep for; yet, you manage to look better and better and appeared on magazine covers into your mid-40s with 13 covers at age 42. How do you stay motivated to maintain your ‘Cover Model’ shape?
Kim: “When I was competing, I would diet really hard for a show and then watch ALL the weight come back on; I would turn inside myself and just feel like a horrible failure because I couldn’t keep the weight off. Getting fit for good starts in your mind, knowing you’re worth the work. If you’re a mom, you shouldn’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself, because how can you take care of everyone else if you’re falling apart? It starts with knowing that you’re worth making good choices and that you can’t quit because there is no finish line. I want to look and feel good all the time, not just in the moment at a photo shoot or show, you know? So for me, fitness is honoring God with my body and making choices that will enable me to live a long and healthy life and carry out all the dreams and visions He’s given me.”
FitRX: You recently wrote a book and created a DVD workout program called F.I.T. What is the goal of the F.I.T. program?
Kim: “Because I have experienced my own transformation story, I know the pain, frustration and even desperation of trying to lose weight and keep it off. In fact, the number one question I’m asked is, ‘How have you lost weight and managed to maintain your results into your 40s?’ F.I.T. answers this question. I developed the F.I.T. program to share the answer with you, so that it will change your health and your life. I have three 20-minute bootcamp-style workouts that are very tough and designed for people who say they don’t have time to work out. I also have a challenge with a nutrition component.” [Available on her website.]
FitRX: You also travel to speak around the country. What is your message and passion?
Kim: “My passion is that I want each woman who is wanting to get in shape and get healthy to know that the way she is created is one-of-a-kind. Don’t hate your body parts: If you have hips or broad shoulders, that’s how you were made and you need to just do YOU and feel totally confident in that. Don’t compare but EMBRACE who you are and celebrate others. My book is all about being authentically you, and knowing that you are made on purpose for a purpose and nobody can ever be you, so you need to shine in all of who you are created to be. And, forget trying to look like anyone else or be anyone else. I think that’s what robs us of our happiness and joy because we get busy trying to do what so-and-so is doing over there, and need to just rock our thing.”
FitRX: Are there any final words of inspiration you’d like to share?
Kim: “Do not define yourself by placings, titles or things other people say. You are good enough right now and worth the effort. You owe it to yourself to pursue your dreams and visions.”
FitRX: Thank you so much, Kim!
For more on Kim:
F.I.T. Book: https://www.kimdolanleto.com/fit/
F.I.T. Apparel: https://www.kimdolanleto.com/store/