february 2011

Jack and Elaine LaLanne:‘The only way you can hurt the body is not use it,’

‘I Can’t Afford To Die. It Would Wreck My Image.’

Jack LaLanne Does His Last Pushup—Only The Grim Reaper Could Stop Him

September 26, 1914-January 23, 2011

Well ahead of the fitness boom curve, a decade before Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper introduced and popularized aerobic conditioning, Jack LaLanne was pleading, badgering and lecturing Americans as to the health advantages of getting their backsides in gear and into the gym. to get off their couches and into the gym decades before it was cool. True to his word, he refused to let advancing age slow him down: he continued pumping iron and pushing fruits and vegetables as the most beneficial diet right up to January 23, when he died at his home in Morro Bay on California's central coast. The cause was respiratory failure due to pneumonia. He was 96.

"I have not only lost my husband and a great American icon, but the best friend and most loving partner anyone could ever hope for," Elaine LaLanne, LaLanne's wife of 51 years and a frequent partner in his television appearances, said in a written statement.

A radio interview with 95-year-old Jack LaLanne, on his fitness regimen, his diet, his life and his theories about longevity. The occasion for the interview was the publication of LaLanne’s book, Live Young Forever.

Lalanne, who had heart valve surgery two years ago, maintained a youthful physique and joked in 2006 that "I can't afford to die. It would wreck my image."

"He was amazing," said 87-year-old former Price is Right host Bob Barker, who credited LaLanne's encouragement with helping him to start exercising often.

"He never lost enthusiasm for life and physical fitness," Barker told The Associated Press. "I saw him in about 2007 and he still looked remarkably good. He still looked like the same enthusiastic guy that he always was."

LaLanne credited a sudden interest in fitness in his teenage years for transforming his life, and he worked tirelessly over the next eight decades to have the same impact on other’s lives. "The only way you can hurt the body is not use it," LaLanne said. "Inactivity is the killer and, remember, it's never too late."

60-year-old Jack LaLanne is helped
out of the water on Oct. 3, 1974,
after swimming from Alcatraz Island
with his hands and legs shackled.
He completed the two-mile distance
in an hour and 26 minutes, while
towing a 1,000 pound boat.
(AP Photo)

His workout show was a television staple from the 1950s into the 1970s. LaLanne and his dog Happy encouraged kids to wake their mothers and drag them in front of the television set. He developed exercises that used no special equipment, only a chair and a towel.

He also founded a chain of fitness studios that bore his name and in recent years touted the value of raw fruit and vegetables as he helped market a machine called Jack LaLanne's Power Juicer.

When he turned 43 in 1957, he performed more than 1,000 push-ups in 23 minutes on the You Asked For It television show. At 60, he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco-handcuffed, shackled and towing a boat. Ten years later, he performed a similar feat in Long Beach harbor.

"I never think of my age, never," LaLanne said in 1990. "I could be 20 or 100. I never think about it, I'm just me. Look at Bob Hope, George Burns. They're more productive than they've ever been in their whole lives right now."

Fellow bodybuilder and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger credited LaLanne with taking exercise out of the gymnasium and into living rooms.

"He laid the groundwork for others to have exercise programs, and now it has bloomed from that black and white program into a very colorful enterprise," Schwarzenegger said in 1990.

Jack LaLanne: How to be a champion

In 1936 in his native Oakland, LaLanne opened a health studio that included weight-training for women and athletes. Those were revolutionary notions at the time, because of the theory that weight training made an athlete slow and "muscle bound" and made a woman look masculine.

"You have to understand that it was absolutely forbidden in those days for athletes to use weights," he once said. "It just wasn't done. We had athletes who used to sneak into the studio to work out.

"It was the same with women. Back then, women weren't supposed to use weights. I guess I was a pioneer," LaLanne said.

The son of poor French immigrants, he was born in 1914 and grew up to become a sugar addict, he said. The turning point occurred one night when he heard a lecture by pioneering nutritionist Paul Bragg, who advocated the benefits of brown rice, whole wheat and a vegetarian diet.

"He got me so enthused," LaLanne said. "After the lecture I went to his dressing room and spent an hour and a half with him. He said, 'Jack, you're a walking garbage can."'

Soon after, LaLanne constructed a makeshift gym in his back yard. "I had all these firemen and police working out there and I kind of used them as guinea pigs," he said.

In this Sept. 20, 1990 file photo,
physical fitness buff Jack LaLanne
demonstrates at age 75 her still
has the strength and body of
someone 20 years his junior as his
wife, Elaine, looks on.
(AP Photo/Jennifer Bowles, File)

He said his own daily routine usually consisted of two hours of weightlifting and an hour in the swimming pool. "It's a lifestyle, it's something you do the rest of your life," LaLanne said. "How long are you going to keep breathing? How long do you keep eating? You just do it."

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Dan and Jon, and a daughter, Yvonne.

Jack LaLanne on sugarholics and proper diet: 'Do this for five days and you'll be thanking me for the rest of your natural life.'

More—many more— Jack LaLanne clips are posted at swaldo2000’s YouTube Channel.

In this issue, sweat it out with Jack in this month's VIDEO FILE, featuring clips from the LaLanne fitness show.


‘If you care at all about sports, health and fitness, you have to admire Jack LaLanne's efforts’

Bryant Gumbel pays tribute to a fitness pioneer

gumbelClosing his January 25 edition of Real Sports (Episode 166) on HBO, show host Bryant Gumbel paid tribute to Jack LaLanne. Gumbel’s comments were particularly compelling coming as they did following a Real Sports examination, led by Gumbel, of obesity in National Football League players. With all the focus now on childhood obesity, Gumbel took pains to point out that the 300-pound-plus behemoths now slinging their weight around in NFL stadiums all over the country are physical disasters, masses of muscle but also of fat, breeding grounds for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and countless diseases destined to wreak havoc on their constitutions once their playing days are done, if not before. In fact, he profiled three former NFL linemen who were dangerously overweight in their playing days, and are all now dead. A fourth player, former Dallas Cowboys ball of pudge Nate Newton, has has survived by dropping more than 100 pounds since his playing days, had his stomach reduced surgically and maintains a rigid discipline of exercise and diet. Newton looks and sounds great, but he was on the road to ruin before he was, in essence, scared straight. The players profiled in Gumbel’s report (save Nate Newton) would have done well to pay heed to Jack LaLanne’s advice, but in their playing days they thrived in a culture where LaLanne’s principles were “routinely mocked,” as Gumbel put it. They ignored those principles at their peril, and so does anyone who is trashes the temple of the body. As Gumbel noted, Jack LaLanne may not have won his fight, but he was determined to stay with it right to the end. He did his part.

Gumbel’s tribute, verbatim:

"Finally tonight, a brief fond farewell to Jack LaLanne, who died two nights ago at the age of 96. Jack never really played any major sports, and for the better part of his life, he was admittedly more showman than athlete. But if you care at all about sports, health and fitness, you have to admire LaLanne's efforts.

“LaLanne began talking about the values of weightlifting and proper diet in an era when pro athletes openly ignored the former and routinely mocked the latter. Back when baseball and football players routinely spent off-seasons out of shape and wearing rubber suits to lose pounds, LaLanne was preaching the joys of the gym to any and all who'd listen.

All those individual pursuits that today's X-Gamers and fitness fanatics like to think are so cutting edge pale in comparison to the swims, exercises and feats of strength in which LaLanne routinely engaged in an effort to spread his gospel of health. And all those modern food labels promoting what's light or low-fat—they didn't hit your local shelves until years after LaLanne grew fond of saying, ‘If a man made it, don't eat it.’

“Long before the shake weight, LaLanne was designing pulley devices and extension machines. Long before Jane Fonda and Billy Blanks, he had a TV fitness show that ran for 34 years. Long before self-help books came into vogue, he was writing workout manuals. And long before fitness centers, LaLanne was opening a nationwide string of gyms and spas. Was he eccentric? Yes. Was he extreme? Absolutely. In the end his efforts still weren't enough to stem the rising tide of American obesity—but boy he sure did try.”


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