- Jack LaLanne started life a sickly, sugar-addicted junk food junkie.
- A chance encounter with a nutrition guru helped to turn his life around.
- He dedicated his life until his death at 96 years old to help people improve their health through nutrition and exercise.
- Jack LaLanne was an integral part of the fitness world we all know and love today.
Jack LaLanne is a household name for those in the fitness world. He was a true pioneer for healthy living, advocating that everyone live a healthier life for the good of the country.
Over the years, he’s been called many things, including:
Are those titles just terms of endearment, or did the man himself live up to the hype? Today, we’re going to take a look at:
- The life of Jack LaLanne
- His inspiration for change
- The empire he built
- His life in fitness
- The people he met and changed along the way
- The legacy he left behind
A Fresh Start from a Chance Encounter
Born Francois Henri LaLanne in 1914, Jack was a lifelong resident of sunny California. He was a self-professed sugar addict and junk food junkie up until the age of 15. Sickly for most of his life up to that point, he was weak and no challenge for the girls who picked on him.
What happened at that time which altered the course of his life and many others who followed him? Attending a public lecture with his mother presented by Paul Bragg (yes, that Paul Bragg) about good nutrition benefits.
At the young age of 15, he knew he needed to make some serious changes in his life. He no longer wanted to be a “human garbage can,” as said by Bragg. So he stopped eating crappy food and cut out sugar to focus instead on health and nutrition.
What followed after was success after success that elevated him to become sought after and highly regarded.
The fitness industry was guaranteed to never be the same and was better for it because of Jack LaLanne. His life work was dedicated to getting as many people as healthy as possible through a good diet and regular exercise.
Jack LaLanne was credited for many feats throughout his nine decades in this world. Here are the ones that gained him the titles that people so eagerly offered to him, for changing their lives.
1. The First Modern Health Studio
Jack LaLanne is credited with opening the first modern health studio in the United States back in 1936. The studios were known as Jack LaLanne Physical Culture Studio.
He had offerings not found under the same roof anywhere else:
- Nutritional advice
- Supervised weight training
- Juice bar
- Health food store
Doctors called him nuts and ensured patients that his ways would just cause them more health problems. He was also called a charlatan and warned that he would induce heart attacks in people. Thankfully, not everyone believed the hype, and those that didn’t were healthier for it.
LaLanne’s gym popularity soared and he had well over 200 locations around the world by the ‘80s. Back then, they were called Jack LaLanne’s European Health Spas in other parts of the world.
Eventually, he ended up licensing them to Bally and they all became part of the Bally Total Fitness empire. The clubs ended back in the early 2000s but Bally is still part of the nutrition world in another capacity.
2. Exercise Machines
Machines that you see and take for granted every day in the gym were inspired or created by Jack LaLanne.
LaLanne’s extensive knowledge of fitness and nutrition led him to further his path in helping people get fit. Most bodybuilders in the 50s and 60s relied on free weights to get their workouts in.
LaLanne knew there had to be more that could be made available to serious fitness buffs. Since the rest of the country wasn’t keen on physical fitness, he took on the challenge of creating systems himself.
He is credited with inspiring and/or creating the following gym additions that are still used today:
- Leg extension machines
- Cable pulley machines
- Weight selectors for the machines
- Calf machines
- The original model of what we now know as the Smith Machine (collaborated with and eventually patented by Robert Smith)
- Resistance bands
Jack LaLanne even encouraged women to lift weights which was unheard of in that day. The thought was that they would get too muscular and become unattractive if they did. He also encouraged the elderly to workout as well as the disabled.
According to LaLanne, “ “You have 640 muscles in the human body. I take every one of them into account as I plan an exercise routine.” ” He had poured over Gray’s Anatomy book and studied the body to perfect his exercise plans based on individual needs.
Jack seemed to know what others didn’t and pressed on convincing those who wanted to listen to follow him. If they wanted proper nutrition and exercise advice, they would need to ignore the background noise and continue their path.
3. A Doctor in His Own Right
Not many know, but LaLanne was also a Chiropractor. After learning from Gray’s Anatomy, he furthered his studies to get his degree in Chiropractic care. He went to Oakland Chiropractor College even though the profession wasn’t widely recognized in those days.
Undeterred, LaLanne used his newfound knowledge to create innovative exercises and the machines listed above. Doctors who learned about him and his studios would send rehab patients to him for care.
For those who worked out under him and learned from him, they are likely glad he decided not to practice.
4. A Television Revolution
Wanting to dispel the criticisms that seemed to plague him everywhere, he turned to television to get the word out. In 1951, The Jack LaLanne Show debuted as a local program in San Francisco. As his popularity soared, he became part of daytime TV across the country in 1959.
What did his show consist of? Well, of course, exercise. LaLanne went out on stage in his signature jumpsuit and engaged the audience with his dog Happy doing tricks.
Then, when he had the attention he wanted, he started to exercise. Children who were drawn to Happy were encouraged to grab their relatives to exercise along with him.
LaLanne’s wife Elaine also worked out on TV with him. Knowing that the large majority of their viewership were stay at home moms, they capitalized on it. They showed Elaine doing the exact same workouts, and she was neither too muscular or unattractive.
His personality and the way he was able to draw in the crowd worked. He made people feel like they were working one on one with him, and the show continued until the mid-80s.
From the 60s to the early 2000s, LaLanne appeared in various shows and movies, always as himself.
5. A Juicer for the Ages
Jack LaLanne was a smart man and with his newfound television fame, he decided to create another invention.
A lifelong juicer once he kicked his unhealthy habits as a teen, he started with an old fashioned press juicer. It was time consuming to cut up the fruit and vegetables and left a lot of pulp behind.
He wanted to create something better. A countertop juicer that wasn’t bulky or unsightly and that would get used daily by his purchasers.
The Jack LaLanne Power Juicer is probably what he is known and recognized the best for. He graced millions of TV’s when infomercials were big for late night watchers.
The popularity of his juicer is not at all surprising. In fact, you can still buy his juicer today in some retailers and online. In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, his company came out with the 100-year anniversary edition.
6. An Entrepreneur for sure
If you’ve been following along, Jack LaLanne had completed several entrepreneurial milestones:
- Opened a line of successful fitness and health studios
- Became a loved TV fitness personality
- Went on to star in films and TV shows as himself
- Created numerous exercise machines and equipment still used today
- Created a countertop juicer that is still marketed and sold today
He also wrote several books on the subject of fitness and nutrition. He recorded a song with Connie Haines. And he also created a line of liquid supplements.
Jack was a huge advocate for vitamins and supplements. He understood that not all vitamins, minerals, and nutrients were available through nutrition alone.
He considered them an insurance policy to protect his health and keep him going for as long as his body would allow him to.
The Inspired Becomes the Inspirer
Back in 1968, he met a young man on Venice Beach, where all the bodybuilders hung out. Newly minted Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger was only 21 years old at the time. He watched then 54-year-old Jack LaLanne doing chin-ups and push-ups and challenged him.
Little did Arnold know at the time that LaLanne would beat him easily. Schwarzenegger thought he had this challenge in the bag but he was bested by a man almost three times his age.
After that experience, Schwarzenegger and LaLanne began a lifelong friendship. When he became Governor of California, Arnold relied on LaLanne’s knowledge and fitness philosophy. Jack became a founding member of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness.
Back then, Muscle Beach and the Santa Monica Pier were dominated by the two. Their pals also included Les and Abbye “Pudgy” Stockton.
An All Around Fitness Buff
Jack’s life was all about fitness and nutrition. It makes sense that he was always in peak shape because it was literally his business to be.
He was not only a personal trainer for decades, but he was also a bodybuilder and fitness model. LaLanne also came up with many innovative exercises that are still being used in gyms every day.
Here are just some of the exercises that LaLanne is credited for creating:
- The Exterminator
- Jumping jacks
- Lower body firmer
- Get up and Get down
- Rockette Kicker
- Towel Breaker
- Broom Stick
- Posture Improver
His fitness and nutrition efforts did not go unnoticed. He was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2007 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at Muscle Beach, where it all began.
A Day’s Diet for Jack LaLanne
A fitness guru can’t just walk the walk, they also have to talk the talk. And Jack LaLanne definitely did both.
For a reformed junk food addict, he stayed away from snacks and only ate two meals per day.
He ate for health and nutrition and to fuel his body. Here’s what a day in his life typically looked life, food-wise:
- Breakfast: Hard Boiled eggs, oatmeal with fruit and soy milk, plus a cup of broth
- Dinner: Raw vegetable salad, egg whites, and fish (usually salmon), plus a mixture of red and white wine
His breakfast came after a daily two-hour workout first thing in the morning. He would sometimes allow himself a roast turkey sandwich. He never drank coffee. And of course, he juiced daily.
He didn’t believe in organic food, rationalizing that fitness took precedence above all else. If you eat a good diet that consists of vitamins, nutrients, and you get enough protein, organic food isn’t needed.
LaLanne ate a mostly vegetarian diet and avoided dairy products. Fish and eggs were the only nonvegetarian proteins he would allow himself to consume.
According to LaLanne, lean proteins, raw vegetables, and fruits are the key to a long and active life.
An Award Winning Life
For his pioneering efforts, Jack LaLanne was awarded various recognition awards over his lifetime.
Some of those awards included:
- Founding member of President’s Council on Physical Fitness
- Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness Lifetime Achievement Award
- The President’s Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award
- Academy of BodyBuilding and Fitness Award
- Dwight D. Eisenhower Fitness Award
- Spirit of Muscle Beach Award
- Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award
- Jack Webb Award
- Medical Media Public Service Award
- Club Industry Lifetime Achievement Award
At the age of 88, he was also given his own star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame. At the age of 94, he received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences.
Feats that Seemed too Good to be True
An extraordinary man such as Jack LaLanne doesn’t get there with entrepreneurial efforts alone. Oh no, he had to complete some extraordinary feats along the way.
To show off his fitness level and prove that age is just a number, he completed some jaw-dropping feats.
- 40 years old – Wearing 140 pounds of equipment as well as two air tanks, Jack swam the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco – underwater.
- 45 years old – Set a record which is still undisputed for completing 1,000 each push ups and chin ups in 1 hour 22 minutes.
- 60 years old – Handcuffed, shackled, and while towing a boat weighing 1,000 pounds, he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf. This was the second time he did this 1 mile swim across the Bay.
- 65 years old – In Tokyo, Japan, he swam Lake Ashinoko handcuffed and shackled. To make it more challenging, he also towed 65 boats behind him which were loaded down with Louisiana Pacific wood pulp. The total weight of the boat caravan was 6,500 pounds.
- 70 years old – Jack swam the 1 ½ mile length from Queen’s Way Bridge in Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary. He was shackled and handcuffed while pulling 70 boats containing a total of 70 people. Due to strong winds and currents, the swim took him over 6 miles to complete.
We don’t know about you, but this list of just some of Jack’s accomplishments are all the motivation we need.
If you are struggling with keeping up your fitness routine, consider printing this list out. The next time you want to skip the gym or binge on junk food, read about Jack’s feats to get you going!
Work Out Tips from a Work Out Legend
Are you ready for some workout tips from the legend that is Jack LaLanne?
Here are some of the traits that Jack lived by:
- Work out every day, first thing in the morning
- Weights and strength training for 90 minutes
- Swimming or running for 30 minutes
- Work out until you experience muscle fatigue
- Consume at least 10 raw vegetables every day
- Eat your breakfast after your morning workout and your dinner early
- Don’t snack
- Jack wasn’t one to warm up before working out
- Train as if you are entering the Olympics
- Circuit train without rests in between
Which of these actions do you already do? Are there any that you want to incorporate into your daily fitness goals? Let us know in the comments section.
The End of an Era
In 2011, the Godfather of Fitness passed away. Jack LaLanne’s death was caused by respiratory complications from pneumonia. He was 96 when he died.
According to his family, he still worked out daily up until the day before he passed.
A testament to the dedication of a lifelong love of fitness and health. From a man who changed the fitness world forever and continues to inspire countless others to take charge of their health.
Jack LaLanne’s Words of Wisdom
To end this article, we’d like to leave you with some quotes from Jack himself. Words that his family lovingly calls “LaLanneisms.”
- Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen, put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.
- Ten seconds on the lips and a lifetime on the hips.
- You eat everyday, you sleep everyday, and your body was made to exercise everyday.
- Your health account is like your bank account: The more you put in, the more you can take out.
- If it tastes good, spit it out.
- If man makes it, don’t eat it.
Now that you’ve learned about Jack LaLanne and his impact on the fitness world, what do you think is most inspiring about his life? Any facts or tips you’d like to add that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!