Thursday, June 16, 2011

Exercise Nuts

     Ever been to a gym or health club? You have this guy to thank. Jack LaLanne was born in San Francisco in 1914 and opened the nation's first "health and fitness center" in Oakland in 1936. Doctors reacted by branding LaLanne an "exercise nut" and advised their patients to stay away lest they become "muscle bound". He said, "People thought I was a charlatan and a nut. The doctors were against me—they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive."

     My, times have changed. His advice about nutrition and general mental and physical health is timeless, though. Have a listen:


     For 34 years, he hosted The Jack LaLanne Show, inspiring millions of Americans to abandon their couches and move around. His melodically-named wife Elaine LaLanne joined in to demonstrate that exercise would not ruin the figure or musculature. Their dog Happy took part as well, in an effort to attract a juvenile audience.
     He continued to instruct and inspire well into his 90's. When asked about sex LaLanne had a standard joke, saying that despite their advanced age he and his wife still made love almost every night:
     "Almost on Monday, almost on Tuesday, almost on Wednesday . . ."

     "I train like I'm training for the Olympics or for a Mr. America contest, the way I've always trained my whole life. You see, life is a battlefield. Life is survival of the fittest. How many healthy people do you know? How many happy people do you know? Think about it. People work at dying, they don't work at living. My workout is my obligation to life. It's my tranquilizer. It's part of the way I tell the truth — and telling the truth is what's kept me going all these years." He added, "I know so many people in their 80's who have Alzheimer's or are in a wheelchair or whatever. And I say to myself 'I don't want to live like that. I don't want to be a burden on my family. I need to live life. And I'd hate dying; it would ruin my image.'"


     These are some impressive accomplishments:
  • 1954 (age 40): swam the entire length (8,981 ft/1.7 miles) of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, under water, with 140 pounds of air tanks and other equipment strapped to his body; a world record.
  • 1955 (age 41): swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed. When interviewed afterward he was quoted as saying that the worst thing about the ordeal was being handcuffed, which significantly reduced his chance to do a jumping jack.
  • 1956 (age 42): set what was claimed as a world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes on You Asked For It, a television program hosted by Art Baker.
  • 1957 (age 43): swam the Golden Gate channel while towing a 2,500-pound cabin cruiser. The swift ocean currents turned this one-mile swim into a swimming distance of 6.5 miles.
  • 1958 (age 44): maneuvered a paddleboard nonstop from Farallon Islands to the San Francisco shore. The 30-mile trip took nine and a half hours.
  • 1959 (age 45): did 1,000 jumping jacks and 1,000 chin-ups in 1 hour, 22 minutes, to promote The Jack LaLanne Show going nationwide. He said this was the most difficult of his stunts, but only because the skin on his hands started ripping off during the chin-ups. He felt he couldn't stop because it would be seen as a public failure.
  • 1974 (age 60): For the second time, he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf. Again, he was handcuffed, but this time he was also shackled and towed a 1,000-pound boat.
  • 1975 (age 61): Repeating his performance of 21 years earlier, he again swam the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge, underwater and handcuffed, but this time he was shackled and towed a 1,000-pound boat.
  • 1976 (age 62): To commemorate the "Spirit of '76", United States Bicentennial, he swam one mile in Long Beach Harbor. He was handcuffed and shackled, and he towed 13 boats (representing the 13 original colonies) containing 76 people.
  • 1979 (age 65): towed 65 boats in Lake Ashinoko, near Tokyo, Japan. He was handcuffed and shackled, and the boats were filled with 6,500 pounds of Louisiana Pacific wood pulp.
  • 1980 (age 66): towed 10 boats in North Miami, Florida. The boats carried 77 people, and he towed them for over one mile in less than one hour.
  • 1984 (age 70): handcuffed, shackled, and fighting strong winds and currents, towed 70 rowboats, one with several guests, from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1 mile.
     Jack LaLanne died in January of this year. His legacy is nutritional awareness and a whole lot of "exercise nuts". Thank you, Jack.

Love from Delta.

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