A tribute from the original article and interview published in ALIVE, March 2007, by Antonia Venezia.
Who would ever think of swimming the length of the Golden Gate Bridge underwater handcuffed and shackled while towing a 1,000 pound boat? Who would swim the treacherous Golden Gate Channel, towing a 2,500-pound cabin cruiser while fighting the cold and swift currents?
There is only one person who comes to my mind and he is America’s Number 1 Energetic Fitness Expert and Guru, Jack L Lanne. His breathtaking feats, some of which were performed in the Bay Area, have made undisputed world records through the years. “On my 65th Birthday I towed 65 boats a mile and a half in Tokyo. On my 70th Birthday I towed 70 boats with 70 people in it with my feet and hands tied a mile and a half in Long Beach,” says LaLanne.
Jack LaLanne is best described as a pioneering fitness enthusiast who finds immense joy in educating millions of people to stay healthy, fit and trim. Often known as a top-quality mover, shaker and motivator, inspiring both the young and old, he’s been able to attain the fountain of youth. There are many fans who want to find out what his youthful secret is; it’s obvious that he’s doing something right. At 92, this nonagenarian is still going strong and his energy level is higher than some people who are in their forties. “I work out two hours every day. I eat no meat, just fish and egg whites. That’s where I get my protein. It isn’t what you do once in a while – it’s what you do all the time! The main thing is getting your 4-6 raw vegetables every day and 3 or 4 pieces of fresh fruit. All your grains have to be natural whole grains. Now is that asking too much? It’s eating all the junk between meals that’s terrible,” says LaLanne.
Jack LaLanne began his fascination for health and fitness, after attending pioneer nutritionist Paul Bragg’s health lecture at the Oakland City Women’s Club. At that time, LaLanne was a skinny fifteen year-old junk food junkie and sugarholic, soon to be convinced that if he exercised and maintained a proper diet, he could regain good health. He learned how to change his bad lifestyle and old eating habits from the advice of Braggs, which in turn became the catapult that set his healthy lifelong journey and quest in motion. While setting his sights on his new health-kick adventure, he finally attained the muscular body of his dreams, after discovering a set of weights at the Berkeley YMCA. He began experimenting and studying everything that had to do with Gray’s Anatomy – it was his bible. “I became a voracious reader and I absorbed everything that would help me to improve myself,” claims LaLanne.
Jack LaLanne soon became an American icon and role-model to many. In the fifties, LaLanne’s fitness craze spread like a burning wildfire throughout the country and today history obviously speaks for itself – he’s still moving mountains and muscles. “You have to take care of your 640 muscles and the #1 thing is exercise. You can eat perfectly, but if you don’t exercise, you cannot get by,” says LaLanne.
Jack LaLanne, hailing originally from San Francisco, opened the nation’s first modern health studio in 1936 on the third floor of an old office building in Oakland California. “I was forty years ahead of my time. I knew more about the workings of the muscles in my body than most doctors,” says LaLanne.
As Jack LaLanne’s new and exciting innovative ideas on health kept increasing, he landed a great opportunity to showcase his fitness knowledge on television reaching even more people with “The Jack LaLanne Show.” “It started in 1951. My show was on for 34 years. That was the first show ever in history to have a health and exercise show. Nobody came along until three or four years later”, mentions LaLanne. He reached out to millions of Americans with his uplifting gospel message – “Get out of your chair, work out and feel better.”
LaLanne set out to create some of the most impressive firsts in the world of physical fitness. He was the first to have athletes, women and the elderly working out with weights, the first to have a combination of Health Food Bar and Gym, the first to have a coed health club, and the first to combine weight training and nutrition. LaLanne was even the first to sell vitamins and exercise equipment on television. How impressive is that!?
As a creator of innovative fitness merchandise, he invented the first leg extension machine and the first pulley machines using cables, along with the first weight selectors. With these impressive accomplishments, no wonder he’s often called, “The Godfather of Fitness” and “The King of Fitness.” “I don’t care what they call me, just so they pronounce my name right”, adds LaLanne with a chuckle.
Jack LaLanne believes that you control everything within yourself; the thoughts you think, the words you utter, the foods you eat and the exercise you do. Vigorous, systematic exercise and proper diet are part of his daily regimen; working out every day is at the top of his list. “There’s no reason for anybody to be sick and tired, fat and out of shape – it’s ridiculous! This has got to be taught in the schools. It’s got to be taught in kindergarten. That’s when kids should first get the idea that the most important thing in your life is your health and your body. You can have all the education and you can have millions of dollars in the bank, but if you’ve got headaches every day, if you’re fat and you are out of shape – what good is your money? Your health account and your bank account, build them both up,” says LaLanne.
This inspiring non-stop entrepreneur is always coming up with something new. “The Jack LaLanne Power Juicer” is selling like hot cakes world-wide. “This juicer is the most successful thing that’s ever been on television. We’re selling millions. I never once thought of making money. With my juicer you can put in a whole potato, squash and 6 raw vegetables. In 30 seconds it’s done,” claims LaLanne.
During our interview I asked Jack La Lanne about his lovely wife, Elaine LaLanne. With his heartfelt reply, he said: “Without her I’m a big nothing! She’s the power underneath my muscles. We are a team. We’re lovers, we’re business partners, we’re friends and we’re associates. We both believe one thing: Wanting to help people who help themselves.” Together, they do lectures on exercise and nutrition and appear on various television spots. Elaine LaLanne has written five books: Fitness After Fifty, Dynastride, Fitness After Fifty Workout, Total Juicing and Eating Right for a Whole New You. Jack LaLanne recently completed a cookbook called Cooking with Jack – Eat Right and You Can’t Go Wrong.
Jack LaLanne told me that in business you have to keep up with time, keep up to date, keep modern and keep up on your toes. Today, he’s still making headlines – and with a mix of fitness and fame, he even has his very own star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. “Listen, life is wonderful…life is fantastic – work at it. You know, living is an athletic event – right? How does an athlete train? He eats right…he has goals and challenges…he works out every day hard. You know, I work out two hours every day seven days a week. I hate to work out, but I like the results. Ask a thousand athletes – ask them if they like to train. Everything in life that’s meaningful takes effort – takes vitality. You have to work at it. And God helps them who helps themselves…help you,” says La