Jack LaLanne at 92 (photo: nathancreminsino [Flickr])
The fitness guru Jack LaLanne has died. Now, many of you knew him only as an old man (albeit with a younger man's trim physique) hawking his juicer, but Jack was a true pioneer in fitness and nutrition.
In tribute to "The Godfather of Fitness," here are Neatorama's 10 Facts About Jack LaLanne You Didn't Know:
The Jack LaLanne Show
In 1951, when Richard Simmons was still in diapers and Jane Fonda was but a young lass, Jack started his own TV exercise show - the first fitness program ever televised, actually - that ended up running for 34 years. When it first aired, critics gave it 6 weeks tops. He even had to buy air time, because the studio didn't believe anyone would watch an exercise show.
Here's the first Jack LaLanne Show:
What's With the Ballet Slippers?
As you can see in the video clip above, Jack wore ballet slippers. Why? His blog explains:
In those days tennis shoes were not popular, and only used to play tennis in…Most show business people and Hand Balancers wore ballet slippers, and Jack being a Hand Balancer, that was what he wore!
Sugar-Addicted Juvenile Delinquent
Jack LaLanne was a self-described sugarholic kid, hooked on junk food:
“As a kid,” he flatly states, “I was a sugarholic and a junk food junkie! It made me weak and it made me mean. It made me so sick I had boils, pimples and suffered from nearsightedness. Little girls used to beat me up. My mom prayed… the Church prayed.”
He blamed his bad diet for attacking his brother with an axe and setting the family house on fire. At 15, his mother took him to see a talk by nutritionist Paul Bragg, and Jack reformed his eating habit and became interested in fitness.
America's First Health Club
Jack LaLanne opened the country's first modern health club in Oakland, California, in 1936 at the tender age of 21. He worked with a blacksmith to create many of the weight machines that you see in your neighborhood gym today.
Jack LaLanne vs The Medical Community
After he opened his health club, LaLanne got a lot of heat ... from doctors of all people!
“People thought I was a charlatan and a nut,” he said in a 2005 interview. “The doctors were against me — they said that working out with weights would give people everything from heart attacks to hemorrhoids; that women would look like men.” LaLanne prevailed.
How Many Push Ups Can You Do?
Jack could do 1,033 push-ups. In 23 minutes. At the age of 42. Now, how about you?
Just a Little Swim
Every year, Jack LaLanne went for a little swim on his birthday. For his 70th birthday, he swam a mile and a half through the Long Beach Harbor while towing a flotilla of 70 boats. With his hands and feet shackled, no less.
We could talk about Jack's other fantastic feats of strength and endurance (he famously swam from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shore. Handcuffed. Shackled. And towing a 1,000-pound boat. You know the drill by now), but we'd be here all night.
Warming Up is for Sissies
You'd think that a fitness expert would tell you to warm up before a vigorous exercise, but not Jack LaLanne. No, Sirree! From an interview with Outside Magazine:
"Now, you listen to some of these so-called sports-medicine experts today--shit! It's just shtick. It's just something else to sell. Warming up," he scoffed, adjusting a red ascot fitted neatly into his jumpsuit, "warming up is the biggest bunch of horseshit I've ever heard in my life. Fifteen minutes to warm up! Does a lion warm up when he's hungry? 'Uh-oh, here comes an antelope. Better warm up.' No! He just goes out and eats the sucker. You gotta get the blood circulating, but shit, does the lion cool down? No, he eats the sucker and goes to sleep. And that," he concluded, folding his arms into a variation of the pose, "is the truth."
Got a sagging face? Obviously you have never seen Jack LaLanne's Facenastics. That's right. He's got an exercise program for your face:
I Can't Die. It Would Ruin My Image.
And lastly, one of my favorite Jack LaLanne quotes (or "LaLanneisms," as he called it). When he was asked about the difference in public attitude between today and when he first opened his gym decades ago, Jack said: "Then I was a crackpot and a charlatan, today I am an authority… and believe me I can’t die, it would ruin my image."
Jack LaLanne, RIP.