Jack LaLanne has touched your life.
You might not believe me, but I can prove it. Stand with your feet together and hands by your sides. Now spring your feet out about shoulder width apart while swinging your hands above your head. I’m sure you’ll recognize the move. You probably repeated it thousands of times as a kid. No, LaLanne didn’t invent the Jumping Jack, but his fitness television show, which ran for 34 years, opened with the host performing them under the credits. That’s what made the callisthenic so popular.
LaLanne passed away Sunday night at the age of 96.
How he’s remembered all depends on how old you are. Generations from the 50’s and 60’s will recall a black and white image of the Godfather of Fitness in his patented, belted jumpsuit on "The Jack LaLanne Show."
Those who discovered the man in the following two decades will never forget his impressive feats. In 1974 at the age of 60, LaLanne swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf while handcuffed, repeating a challenge he’d accomplished nearly 20 years before, except this time also towing a half-ton boat. A decade later, LaLanne towed 70 boats with 70 people one and a half miles across the Long Beach Harbor.
Anyone who only came to know the man recently will most likely remember the spry 90-year-old and his passion for juicing fruits and vegetables. Who didn’t want to run out and get a smoothie after watching infomercials for the Juice Tiger or Jack LaLanne’s Power Juicer?
LaLanne dedicated his life to fitness because that’s what saved his own. He blamed a violent and unhappy youth on refined sugars and talked openly about attempting suicide. An encounter with famed nutritionist Paul Bragg put him on the path to health, which set off an eight-decade quest to help the nation get in shape. He did it with tough love and humor.
“Would you get your dog up every day, give him a cup of coffee, a doughnut, and a cigarette?” LaLanne would ask. “Hell, no. You’d kill the damn dog.”
He was also fond of saying, “If man made it, don’t eat it.”
LaLanne also revolutionized the sports world by encouraging athletes to lift weights. Prior to him, having
big muscles was discouraged and thought to only slow competitors down. He told stories of people sneaking into his gym at night to work out. So when Clay Matthews flashes his double biceps in two weeks at the Super Bowl, think of Jack LaLanne.
In interviews toward the end of his life, LaLanne had a standard response to questions about his mortality. He would say, “I can’t afford to die. It’ll wreck my image.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. LaLanne will certainly be missed, but his image will remain: The
fitness guru, the strongman, the juice fanatic.
It’s probably been a while since you did a Jumping Jack.
Jack LaLanne would’ve wanted us to know that’s OK. His legacy is the idea that it’s never too late to
take care of yourself.
“Forget about what you used to do. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for."