If there ever was a real live Popeye, Jack LaLanne was it.
“I can’t die,” he most famously liked to say. “It would ruin my image.”
Unfortunately for us, he did die on January 23, 2011 at the age of 96 from respiratory failure. LaLanne, a fitness guru, host of the popular "The Jack LaLanne Show", owner of countless gyms, and named "The Father of Fitness", LaLanne made it clear what he was meant to do: motivate us. For years, he was dismissed as a "muscle man" and doctors scoffed his new way of introducing diet and exercise to the masses.
Yet, "The Jack LaLanne Show" started locally in San Francisco in 1951, later airing nationwide on daytime television in 1959 and continuing well into the 1980's. Airing for 34 years, LaLanne wanted all of American to enjoy fitness. He grabbed children as his audience by showing off his German Shepard, Happy's tricks.
“My show was so personal, I made it feel like you and I were the only ones there,” he told Knight-Ridder Newspapers in 1995. “And I’d say: ‘Boys and girls, come here. Uncle Jack wants to tell you something. You go get Mother or Daddy, Grandmother, Grandfather, whoever is in the house. You go get them, and you make sure they exercise with me.’ ”
His show wasn't his only success. In 1963, he opened one of the first health clubs in Oakland, CA. He introduced weights, juice bars, and health food, calling the gyms "health spas". Not only did he open this first modern health spa and have the first nationally syndicated exercise show on television, but he had a range of firsts in the health and exercise community. LaLanne was the first to have athletes, women, and the elderly working out with weights, the first to have a coed health club, the first to combine weight training with nutrition, the first to sell vitamins and exercise equipment on television, the first to teach scientific body building by changing the program every two to three weeks, the first to encourage the physically challenged to exercise, and the first to do feats of strength and endurance to emphasize what he taught America.
“People thought I was a charlatan and a nut,” he remembered. “The doctors were against me — they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.”
Years later, we realize doctors were the nuts! Yet, the feats that LaLanne performed certainly may have characterized him that way. He did things most of us would never even consider trying such as LaLanne's 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes at the age of 42. He also swam more than a mile through the strong currents of Long Beach Harbor while towing 70 people in 70 rowboats on his 70th birthday - while being handcuffed and shackled. He proudly showed everyone that you can do whatever you set your mind to.
"Many people have arthritis and rheumatism; they get bum knees, a bum back. A lot of guys get a little pain in the toe or knee and then they won't exercise. Well gee, you have 640 muscles in your body. There may be a few exercises you can't do, but there are hundreds you can do!" he would proudly say.
Perhaps the most shocking history of LaLanne's was that he was a sugar-aholic as a kid. His mother took him to hear health lecturer, Paul Bragg, who motivated LaLanne to start eating more fruits and vegetables and begin doing exercises and participating in football. Think of where the fitness world would be today if LaLanne's mother hadn't pursued a way to get her child to become healthier.
His feats, success, and motivation tactics were amazing. He had the salesman's gift, selling products he believed in and selling ideas to people who may have given up on exercise and nutrition. He marketed a Power Juicer to blend raw vegetables and fruit, a Glamour Stretcher cord, and sold many exercise videos and fitness books.
LaLanne once said, "I don't care how old I live; I just want to be LIVING while I am living!" We can all learn a lot about living from LaLanne's legacy.
Check out some of his greatest workout videos here.
See my original post on ASKinyourface.com here.