Monday, January 24, 2011

Fitness Guru Jack LaLanne Dies at 96

Health pioneer Jack LaLanne died of respiratory failure due to complications from pneumonia on Sunday in his Morro Bay home.

In 1954, Jack started performing stunts to garner attention for the health movement. To prove he wasn't "over the hill" at age 40, he swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge. At age 60, he swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000 pound boat. At age 70, he towed 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen's Way Bridge in Long Beach to the Queen Mary while handcuffed and shackled. Jack worked out 2 hours a day into his 80's.

Arnold Schwarzenegger recalled Jack performing chin ups at Muscle Beach in Venice, and no one could match him.

Jack's own father died of a heart attack at age 50. His mother 'spoiled him' with 'rewards' of cakes, pies and ice cream growing up. It wasn't long before Jack became a sugarholic -- His face was broken out, his temper had grown violent, he wore glasses, he was weak and skinny, and became unable to function well in school. He sought the help of nutritionist Paul Bragg who told him he was a "walking garbage can". Paul told him he could become whole again, but would have to change his ways. "That's what I wanted! I wanted to be an athlete, I wanted the girls to like me, and I wanted to be able to get good grades in school, and this man said I could do all that," LaLanne said.

He never ate another cake, pie or ice cream, nor did he have coffee or tea, from that day forward.

Jack became a star athlete in high school, and all his symptoms ceased. He didn't even need glasses anymore.

After high school, he started a business selling his mother's healthy breads and cookies. He also set up a gym and started training police officers and firefighters who couldn't pass their physicals.

Jack was ridiculed when he first started out. "When I first started out, I was considered a crackpot," he said. "The doctors used to say, 'Don't go to that Jack LaLanne, you'll get hemorrhoids, you won't get an erection, you women will look like men, you athletes will get muscle-bound' — this is what I had to go through."

In 1936, Jack opened his first real gym — LaLanne's Physical Culture Studio in downtown Oakland. Business was slow, so he went to a local high school and picked out the fattest ands skinniest kids offering (with parental permission) to "turn their lives around" the way his had been. Word of mouth spread, business boomed, and he opened other gyms.

He went on TV in 1952, but because he could only afford time in the early mornings, he found his audience was mostly young children. So he got a dog — Happy — to appeal to the kids, who were encouraged to go wake up their mommies for a workout. The show was eventually syndicated nationwide and ran for 34 years.

Jack met his wife, Elaine, and together forged an empire of nationwide gyms, supplements, workout devices such as the "Glamour Stretcher" and "JLL Stepper," and wrote several books. By the time he was in his 80's, the business consisted mostly of juicers, infomercials and lectures.

Jack received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002. He was thrilled that what he had been advocating for 50 years was taken seriously.

"Back then I was a crackpot; today, I am an authority," he said in 1998.


LNH Note
I credit Mrs Rodney, the woman who looked after us growing up, with having me in front of the TV so she could do her workout with Jack LaLanne AND keep her eye on me at the same time. As a toddler, I learned how to do jumping jacks from working out with Jack and Mrs Rodney -- I thought he invented them. Looking back, he was the first (aside from my parents) to inspire me to live a strong and healthy life with a positive outlook.

Thank you Mrs Rodney!

In the 90's, the second juicer I owned was guessed it.....Jack LaLanne. And how many times did i suggest this juicer to people who came to me to get healthy! It's effective, easy to clean, easily available, and waaaaay more affordable than Vitamix. It's still the perfect juicer to get people started on the path to optimizing their health. I now have several juicers, mixers, processors and blenders --- and i STILL have my Jack LaLanne juicer.

Thank you, Jack!

One of my early online groups was called "Guns 'n Poses", with Jack LaLanne as the poster child for the group. Some people didn't like the name because of the word 'guns', even though I posted a photo of Jack flexing his muscles at age 80. So I started another page called "The Garden of Eatin'". Now Saddleback Church is using that name for the new organic restaurant they're building on their Lake Forest campus.

It's thrilling for me now to look back and see how Jack inspired several generations to change the way the look and feel. He walked (and swam) his talk. His life's mission personifies this quote:

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788 – 1860)

Jack's a legend and an icon, and will surely be missed by millions.


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