North County entrepreneur Katie Brauer is a single mom who used to work out seven days a week, 60 to 90 minutes a day. Cardio exercise, weightlifting, strength training and more, the former professional athlete says, “I’ve tried it all.”
After years of searching for the best way to get fit and stay fit, Brauer said she has finally found “the most efficient and effective workout I’ve ever experienced.”
Brauer says short workouts with an on-site personal trainer just a few days a week at The Smart Fit Method, a fitness studio in Cardiff, have helped her increase her strength, elevate her lean body mass, improve her posture and reduce her body fat – and all in record time. She calls it “a complete game changer and life enhancer.”
Brauer’s experience is exactly what company founders Rob and Connor Darnbrough had in mind when they opened The Smart Fit Method in 2021.
The Canadian-born father-son team’s innovative fitness program combines scientific research, AI technology and exercise robotics for the most individualized personal training.
Already nearing capacity for clients – 165 with room for 180 — a little over one year after opening, the company is franchising with three new locations set to open in the next few months, including one in La Jolla and two in Orange County. The Smart Fit also opened a spot in Koloa Village, Kauai in Hawaii earlier this year.
‘Touching a Billion Lives’
“My philosophy is to create as much value as I can in each relationship I have,” Rob Darnbrough said. “The compensation (I seek) is to touch more lives. I believe to change the world, you have to touch a billion lives.”
The equipment inside The Smart Fit Method studio at first glance might look like something out of a science-fiction movie, but the high-tech, purposeful machinery is as non-fiction and real science as it gets.
Currently the studio has:
Two types of ARX fully adaptive resistance machines that allow for chest presses, rowing and leg presses. Proven to be 94 percent more efficient than free weights, the amount of force and resistance needed for pushing and pulling with this equipment adapts in real time to the individual as calculated by its AI system.
A “Smart Cold HIIT” (high intensity interval training) Vasper Systems machine – used by National Aeronautics and Space Association for astronauts with atrophied muscles – which looks like an elliptical trainer. It uses cooling and compression technology to build muscle, reduce stress and optimize efficient hormone response.
The AI-powered CAROL stationary exercise bike calibrates and optimizes rides, assessing riders’ abilities within each session and personalizing resistance for a customized workout.
The Smart Fit Method also starts clients out with a baseline 360-degree body scan, which takes a comprehensive 3D-image and offers information about body fat, muscle mass, postural alignment and other data.
The studio also has a table which uses electromagnetic pulses to reduce inflammation and improve circulation and aid recovery, a cooling couch for the entire body, and an area to take in the energy waves from a BioCharger, said to offer the feel of four hours in nature during a 15-minute session.
“What we’ve tried to do is get the most advanced technology in the world,” Rob Darnbrough said. “I’m not gadget crazy and we don’t throw stuff in there because it’s cool. We do deep-dive research to combine state-of-the-art technology to improve fitness and health.”
Not only has Darnbrough, 53, made a steep financial investment in the equipment at The Smart Fit Method, he also has a very personal investment in it.
A former competitive cyclist and an athlete his entire life, Darnbrough was a trainer at World’s Gym as a teenager. He later became a small business owner and developed a successful estate planning and succession firm, allowing him to retire at 44.
Major Heart Condition Leads to New Company
A few years into retirement, fully ingrained in fitness and working out, he learned that he had developed an aortic aneurysm, a condition which can be fatal. He said when cardiologists confirmed the heart issue and told him should never walk up a hill again, he sought out ways to safely exercise and maintain his health and wellness.
Connor Darnbrough, who was in high school at the time, said he watched his father, “who had more energy than I did,” fall into a near depression.
“My dad was one of the most energetic people, he could run laps around me,” Connor Darnbrough said. “To watch him lose his vibrancy, and see fear and anxiety taking over was scary. I could see he was afraid, wondering how would he provide for his family, what if he wasn’t around?”
At his lowest point, Rob Darnbrough remembered he had heard about the machine used by NASA. He invested $50,000 in a Vasper for his home gym where he was living in Hawaii and quickly started seeing results.
“You could see the energy, fear and stress go away,” Connor Darnbrough said. “Finding a solution gave him hope, optimism and energy. Vasper was the spark that lit the fire. I was so happy it helped bring my dad back.”
Within nine months, Rob Darnbrough’s fitness tested at an elite level, and he and his son set about looking into other high-tech equipment that would offer benefits.
Sold on the Vasper and other scientifically backed machines they researched, Connor Darnbrough, a competitive skier and mountain biker, suggested that the two start a business together in which they could help others get fit safely and most efficiently.
Rob Darnbrough said a quick look at where some of the most fit people live and train brought the company to set up shop near Highway 101 in Southern California.
Connor Darnbrough, now 21, runs the Cardiff location, and he and his father are partners in full. The Hawaii site is franchised, owned and operated by trainer Jodee Burris.
A certified elite International Sports Sciences Association trainer, Connor Darnbrough is also a nutritionist, certified in neurolinguistic programming and blood flow restriction training as well as ARX, Vasper and CAROL certified. n
The Smart Fit Method
CO-FOUNDERS: Rob Darnbrough, Connor Darnbrough
BUSINESS: Health and fitness
ANNUAL REVENUE: $700,000 (per location)
NOTABLE: Co-founder Rob Darnbrough, a fitness buff, started the company looking for safe ways to exercise after finding out from a cardiologist that he had developed an aortic aneurysm that could threaten his life.