A Tribute to Jack LaLanne: “The Godfather of Fitness”

Jan 25, 2011
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Jack LaLanne, a true trailblazer and champion for fitness, passed away on Monday at the age of 96. Because he is known as one of the founders of the modern fitness movement, I thought it was only fitting to devote a posting to him.

For many of us, it’s hard to remember a time when fitness wasn’t a common topic of conversation – when people were not really sure if this idea of exercise was all that smart. But that time did exist. There was much hesitation. People didn’t quite understand exercise – and because of that, they were slow to recommend participating in it. Through Jack’s efforts, and the efforts of many others, those views have changed and exercise is something that is now recommended for nearly everybody.

In 1936, he opened the nation’s first health club, a gym that doubled as both a juice bar and health food store, and became the prototype for future fitness spas. He reached the at-home crowd, too, hosting The Jack LaLanne Show, a TV workout program, from 1951 to 1985. “People thought I was a charlatan and a nut,” he once told The New York Times. “The doctors were against me—they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.” (From the U.S. News and World Report)

He was always doing things to show people what was possible if you were healthy and fit. Below are some of his greatest feats, highlighted from the Jack LaLanne website.

  • 1954 Age 40: Swam the length of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge underwater with 140 pounds of equipment, including two air tanks… an undisputed world record.
  • 1956 Age 42: Set a world record of 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes on “You Asked for It, a TV Show with Art Baker.
  • 1957 Age 43: Swam the treacherous Golden Gate Channel, towing a 2,500-pound cabin cruiser. This involved fighting the cold, swift ocean currents that made the 1 mile swim a 6 ½ mile test of strength and endurance.
  • 1974 Age 60: Swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf, for a second time handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat.
  • 1984 Age 70: Handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and currents, towed 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1 ½ miles.

I’m not sure I necessarily agree with everything he has to say, but there is no doubt that he was quite the inspiration (and character) and has left an unforgettable mark on the world of fitness.

(Click here to see the tribute that ABC’s Today Show did this morning.)

Author: Carolyn