160 Days To Mt. Kilimanjaro – Jack LaLanne – The Legend Will Live On

Learning of the death of Jack LaLanne saddened me this week – I thought he might truly live forever! Whether you are an avid fan of fitness and exercise, or not, we all must admit, “he got it!” There is simply no doubt, Jack LaLanne was a healthier man than most, and his quality of life was superior to others who reach their late nineties.

Some of my first memories of watching black and white television, are of watching Jack on his regular morning exercise show. We got up and did the exercises with him when we were kids! My most vivid memory was watching his program (as we called TV shows in those days) was one morning at my Grandma Walton’s house. I recall that morning like it was yesterday!

I was lying in the floor in my little cotton pajamas watching and exercising with Jack. I loved to hear him coaching, as I followed his instructions as best as possible for a five or six year old. I am pretty certain my form was severely lacking! Anyway, on this particular morning, I was clinging to every word as I was working my little young body into shape with the fitness icon.

My Grandmother (who I called Grandma) was busy doing her housework and passing in front of the TV frequently as she went from room to room. All of a sudden, just at the very minute that Grandma was passing in front of the TV, Jack LaLanne said loudly “Come on Grandma! You can do it!”. My sweet, southern Grandma stopped in her tracks with a shocked look on her face as if he were speaking directly to her! It was probably the hardest I had ever laughed in my five or six years of life!  I still remember to this day the look on Grandma’s face – it was as if she believed he saw her standing in front of the television and she was just busted for not following along!

“Come on Grandma! You can do it!” must have been repeated with laughter one hundred times that day! I still remember as Grandma tucked me in that night, having one last laugh over Jack’s comment made that morning!  It has remained in my memory for some forty-seven years now!

Jack LaLanne - Teaching the world about physical fitness

LaLanne summed up his philosophy about good nutrition and exercise when he said these words:
“Living is a pain in the butt. Dying is easy. It’s like an athletic event. You’ve got to train for it. You’ve got to eat right. You’ve got to exercise. Your health account, your bank account, they’re the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out. Exercise is king and nutrition is queen: together, you have a kingdom.”

Jack LaLanne was decades ahead of the rest of the world in his quest to promote fitness and nutrition.  His fitness show, The Jack LaLanne Show ran from 1951 to 1985, and still today holds the record for the longest running fitness show in America.  In 1959 The Jack LaLanne Show was picked up by ABC, allowing it to flow into homes nationwide.  In 1936, after graduating with a  Chiropractic degree, at the young age of 21, Jack opened his first fitness  center in Oakland, California.  LaLanne designed the first leg extension machines, pulley machines using cables, and the weight selectors that are now standard in the fitness industry. The fitness concept he built eventually grew to more than 200 international spas and in the United States he was eventually bought out by Bally Fitness.

Jack went against mainstream in everything he did.  He was able to overcome negative commentary from medical physicians in his early days that claimed that lifting weights would cause heart attacks and make women appear masculine.  Think about where the US would be from the view point of fitness today if Jack had just given in to his critics.

Jack from what I can tell was always on the cutting edge of technology.  Jack had a great website with regular blog post and exercise videos.  His last entry is dated just one day before his death on January 23, 2011. When you research Jack LaLanne you realize just how profound a life he lived – all the way to the end at age 96.

When exercising, he worked out with weights until he experienced “muscle fatigue” in whatever muscle groups he was exercising, or when it became impossible for him to go on with a particular routine. Muscle fatigue is still common practice in training today to achieve results.  As I laid in bed last night with aching deltoids from my morning work out, I thought about Jack LaLanne working out for more than 75 years.  He must have felt some amount of muscle discomfort for most of his 75 years due to his philosophy to train as if it is for an event.  He continued with his two-hour workouts to the end of his life and also included walking and swimming on a daily basis.

Jack LaLanne at age 91 - Photo from www.jacklalanne.com

Jack once said, “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.”


*Tonight Parker’s Climb is dedicated to Jack LaLanne.  He stood up against the odds; He never backed down and his life and the lives of others were better for this.  I hope Jack will be watching over the Parker’s Climb Team when we climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and I hope that Geoffrey will be working out like Jack well into his 90’s! pkp

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