Cardiff’s Smart Fit gym takes a new approach to working out

Father and son team Rob and Connor Darnbrough opened up the new Smart Fit Method in Cardiff.
Father and son team Rob and Connor Darnbrough opened up the new Smart Fit Method in Cardiff.
(Courtesy Smart Fit Method)

Father and son team Rob and Connor Darnbrough have opened The Smart Fit Method gym in Cardiff, promising efficient 20-minute personal training sessions, utilizing the latest smart technology.

With the help of artificial intelligence, the gym’s specialized equipment serves up the best possible workout in the shortest possible time. Results and progress are measured in a quantifiable way that helps people stay motivated and keep people coming back to reach their fitness and wellness goals.

“It’s doable and sustainable. You can do anything for 20 minutes,” said Rob. “We’re really focused on people succeeding. All you have to do is come in and focus on your purpose and intention and get a great workout.”

The Darnbroughs opened the ocean-view gym in June 2021 on Chesterfield Drive, across from Patagonia and near Zumbar Coffee.

Rob, an entrepreneur who had led several companies in Canada, retired from the financial services industry in 2013. A former competitive cyclist, at 49 years old he did a genetic test and discovered an aortic aneurysm. Two cardiologists told him he would never walk up a hill again.

Rob was unwilling to accept that so he started to investigate a safe way to maintain his health and fitness. His research led him to the Vasper Systems machines used by NASA for astronauts whose muscles had atrophied as well as at several cardio rehab centers.

He bought machines for himself to use in his home in Kauai, Hawaii, for 20 minutes three times a week and saw marked improvements in his fitness.

“What I discovered was amazing and I wanted to make it available to everyone,” said Rob.

At the time his son Connor, 20, was at San Diego State University studying business. Connor has also always been passionate about health and fitness—a competitive skier in Canada, he also practiced jui jitsu and was working out two, sometimes three times a day. He saw how his father’s fitness and Vo2 max increased with just the short workouts and decided to give them a try himself.

“I’m just as fit now if not more than when I was working out two times a day and I’m also healthier,” said Connor, who has also cut down on his frequent inflammation-related injuries.

The father-son pair took advantage of the pandemic to research and build their method with plans to open a Kauai location first but Cardiff had the clearer path to opening last summer (the location in Koloa is expected to open this year). Rob and his wife came to help the new gym get going last May and loved the community so much that they have since bought a house in Cardiff.

The gym is outfitted with several different machines. The Smart Cold HIIT uses cooling technology and compression to increase strength and endurance while accelerating injury recovery. The SMART Fatburn/ Re-HIIT CAROL bike uses artificial intelligence (AI) to track cardiovascular fitness and optimize resistance to perfectly match the fitness level of the user to offer the most efficient cardio workout possible. The bike boasts the same benefits of a 45-minute jog in under 10-minutes, with only 40-seconds of hard pedaling.

An adaptive resistance machine builds muscle and strength by utilizing AI to adapt resistance and perfectly load weights to your strength. A 3D body scanner in the gym can track body fat, muscle mass, posture and balance to give real-time reports that show where you’re making progress and keep you motivated.

Connor said this equipment is not available to everyone and Smart Fit offers a price point that makes it more accessible: at just $16 a workout with the most advanced technology in the world and a personal trainer.

The Darnbroughs’ goal is to open five more locations in North County San Diego in the next 18 months and they have been approached about franchising options. Ideally, they would like to open 30 locations so members are never far away from the closest Smart Fit gym.

“We want to touch more lives,” said Connor. “The goal is to make the biggest impact”

“We know that we have a disruptive program here,” Rob said. “We can disrupt the traditional fitness model which clearly is not working.”

Rob sees Smart Fit reaching an older marketplace that has become decommissioned over time, helping to keep them out of PT clinics with a workout that improves longevity and strength without deteriorating their health or placing wear and tear on their joints. He said Smart Fit Method gets many referrals from physical therapy clinics and cardiovascular doctors because the workout is safe.

Smart Fit Method has made a difference in Rob’s life. His recent test showed his vo2 is that of an elite 25-year-old and he has gained back 12 of the 15 pounds of lean muscle lost to atrophy.

He did not have to succumb to his condition, he didn’t have to give up, he just had to find a better solution. He hopes to offer people that same hope for better, more healthy lives.

“You don’t have to run away from an injury or condition,” Rob said. “Find a way to continue moving forward.”

The Smart Fit Method is located at 111 Chesterfield Drive, #117. For a free training session or to learn more visit