Jack LaLanne’s death in January of this year made me think about my own grandfather. He’s often been mistaken for my father as few people believe he looks too young to be anything else. While I’m sure his amazingly dark hair is part of that (he’s 81 but has only recently started to go salt and pepper), his depth of fitness is also part of the cause.
Grandpa always followed Jack LaLanne’s model of eating right and staying fit. Even in his 70s, he was riding his bike for 10 miles or more at a time, and he was eating egg-white omelettes long before they were popular. The basement at my grandparents’ house contained an impressive home gym, mostly made of hand weights that were far too heavy for me to pick up, even when I’d grown into a young adult. The two men have always been linked in my mind, which was why I suggested writing a tribute to Mr. LaLanne after his passing.
Timeless lessons on living a healthy life
Jack LaLanne had what seemed like a simple mission in life — to help people help themselves through feeling better and living longer. In his own life, before passing away recently at age 96, he tried to live by example through “completing implausible feats of strength and endurance,” as James Fell of the Los Angeles Times put it. Even more improbably, Jack did many of these things at the age of 40 and beyond. To name a few:
- 1955, 40 years old: Swam the length of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge underwater with 140 pounds of equipment.
- 1956, 42 years old: Set a world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes on the TV show “You Asked for It.”
- 1959, 45 years old: Completed 1,000 push-ups and 1,000 chin-ups in 1 hour and 22 minutes.
- 1975, 61 years old: Swam the length of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge underwater, for a second time, this time handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat.
- 1984, 70 years old: Towed 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, a 1½ mile distance, while handcuffed, shackled, and fighting strong winds and currents.
Even more impressive is his list of firsts: He opened the first modern health spa. He was the first fitness trainer to have athletes, and women, working out with weights. The first to combine weight training with nutrition. The first to encourage the physically challenged to exercise. The list goes on and on.
Because Jack was first in the public eye in the 1950s, many people today question what they can learn from him. Many of his LaLanneisms, however, are even more important to follow today, with obesity at an all-time high and the need for fitness and good nutrition vital to our health. Here are just a few to keep in mind: