Today we pay homage to the “Godfather Of Fitness” and manly man Jack LaLanne, who died Sunday afternoon at the age of 96.  Not a decrepit 96 either, he was more fit in his 90’s than I was in my 20’s.  Jack aged like a man is meant to, growing stronger and more fit until something finally does him in.  Trees don’t get decrepit, they grow stronger with each passing season until something finally kills them.  That is Jacks legacy.  He was a living example of health, vitality, energy, and fitness up until the very end.  Today we pay homage to a manly life well lived.

Jack was born on September 26th, 1914 in San Fransisco on the lower end of the economic scale.  His rise to fame is a fantastic example of achievement through dedication and hard work.  He was a self professed sugar addict in his teens, but came to a turning point during a lecture by pioneering nutritionist Paul Bragg.  Paul advocated the benefits of brown rice, whole wheat, and vegetarianism.  This lecture so captured Jack’s attention that he went after the lecture to talk to Mr. Bragg for an hour and a half in his dressing room.  Paul told Jack something that would alter the course of his young life, “Jack, you’re a walking garbage can.”

Soon after that meeting Jack began working out in his backyard on a makeshift gym he constructed and joined the Berkley YMCA. He invited firemen and police to come work out with him and began creating a fitness routine from what he learned.  His own daily routine consisted of two hours of weightlifting and an hour in the swimming pool.  “It’s a lifestyle, it’s something you do for the rest of your life, “ LaLanne said. “How long are you going to keep breathing?  How long do you keep eating?  You just do it.”

Jack was a pioneer in his field, learning all he could about human anatomy, body building, chiropractic medicine, and weightlifting.  All things that were virtually unheard of in the 1930’s. He once refereed to “Henry Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body” as his first fitness Bible. In 1936 LaLanne opened his first health spa in Oakland, California and dedicated his life to encouraging people to better themselves through exercise and fitness.  Like any manly man, he invented the tools needed to do his trade if they didn’t exist.  In Jacks case, it was the world’s first leg extension machines using pulleys, cables, and a selectable weight set.   Pulley machines using cables and weight selectors are now a standard in every gym in the world.  Thank you Jack.

One final point of fantastic manliness, Jack remained married to the love of his life, Elaine, for 51 years.  That too is a record worth striving for.   His feelings can easily be surmised from this quote, “She’s a super wife and a good friend. To me she is living proof of all that a woman can be!.”  Men take note, that is how to complement your wife.  That quote alone tells you all you need to know about their relationship.  May you strive to live up to that example.

I can only hope that his spiritual well being was as good as his personal health so that I can personally congratulate him on a life well lived in heaven some day.  Given this quote from an interview I believe I’ll get to do so.

Andrew Cohen: And based on your understanding, what is God-realization or enlightenment?
Jack LaLanne: You’re speaking about God? Well, especially being in my profession, if you don’t believe there is a Supreme Being, you’ve got to be psycho—you’d have to be sick! Do you think that man could ever make a calculator like your brain? Do you think that man could ever make a pumping system like your heart? Do you think that man could ever make a filtering system like your kidneys? Do you think that man could ever make a machine that the only way to hurt it is by not using it? I’ve just bought a new Corvette. Now that car, the more I drive it, the quicker it wears out, right? But how about this God-given machine? The only way you hurt it is not to use it. See, when I got enlightenment about all these things I was a young kid about twelve years old. I was in San Francisco, in Golden Gate Park, and we had an old Model-T Ford and I had to get out and crank it, and when it kicked it broke my arm. I had a cast for two months, and when I took that arm out of the cast, do you know what it was? A bone! I cried. I couldn’t believe it. Was that old age? No—inactivity! You see, you don’t get old from age, you get old from inactivity, from not believing in something. So that’s what I’ve said a million times—and you’ve got to believe it—man could have never put together what we have, this human machine.

Now take a look at Jack LaLanne’s feats, honors, quotes, and pioneering firsts below, then take a look at your own life.  If you find yourself feeling a little inadequate, you are not alone.  Go buy one of Jack LaLanne’s many books and begin the process of becoming more than you currently are.  Step one?  Walk to the bookstore to buy your book.

Feats and Honors

“Why did Jesus perform miracles?—to call attention to his profession. Why do I do these incredible feats?—to call attention to my profession!”  ~Jack LaLanne


  • 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.
  • 1955 Age 41: Swam, handcuffed, from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf in
    San Francisco, CA.
  • 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.
  • 1958 Age 44: Maneuvered a paddleboard 30 miles, 9-½ hours non-stop from Farallon Islands to the San Francisco shore.
  • 1959 Age 45: Completed 1,000 pushups and 1,000 chin-ups in 1 hours and 22
    minutes. “Happy” is born and The Jack LaLanne Show goes nationwide
  • 1974 Age 60: Swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf, for a second time handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat.
  • 1975 Age 61: Swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, underwater, for a second time handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat.
  • 1976 Age 62: Commemorating the “Spirit of ‘76”, swam 1 mile in Long Beach Harbor, handcuffed, shackled and towing 13 boats (representing the 13 original colonies) containing 76 people.
  • 1979 Age 65: Towed 65 boats filled with 6,500-pounds of Lousiana Pacific wood pulp while handcuffed and shackled in Lake Ashinoko, near Tokyo, Japan.
  • 1980 Age 66: Towed 10 boats in North Miami, Florida filled with 77 people for over a mile in less than 1 hour.
  • 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.
  • 1992 Age 78: Academy of Body Building and Fitness Award
  • 1994 Age 80: State of California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 1996 Age 82: Dwight D. Eisenhower Fitness Award
  • 1999 Age 85: Spirit of Muscle Beach Award
  • 2002 Age 88: Jack receives his very own star on the Hollywood Blvd. Walk of Fame
  • 2004 Age 90: Jack celebrates his birthday with a major media blitz in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. ESPN Classic runs a 24 Hour marathon of the original Jack LaLanne Shows
  • 2005 Age 91: Received the Jack Webb Award from the Los Angeles Police Historical Society, the Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award, Interglobal’s International Infomercial Award, the Freddie, Medical Media Public Service Award, and he was a Free Spirit honoree at Al Neuharth’s Freedom Fourm.
  • 2007 Age 93: Received the Treasures of Los Angeles Award, Lifetime Achievement Award from Muscle Beach, and the Y.M.C.A. Impact Award.
  • 2008 Age 94: Inducted into the California Hall of Fame, Parker Seminars Award, received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from the Southern California University of Health Sciences, receives the People of Vision Award from the RP International, receives the Heroes Humanity Award, and was inducted into the Gallery of Legends hosted by the World Acrobatics Society.
  • 2009 Age 95: Jack receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Club Industry. Jack LaLanne days were observed in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Manly Wisdom from Jack LaLanne

  • Anything in life is possible if you make it happen.
  • Anything in life is possible and you can make it happen.
  • Your waistline is your lifeline.
  • Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen, put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.
  • Don’t exceed the feed limit.
  • The food you eat today is walking and talking tomorrow.
  • Ten seconds on the lips and a lifetime on the hips.
  • Better to wear out than rust out
  • People don’t die of old age, they die of inactivity.
  • First we inspire them, then we perspire them.
  • You eat everyday, you sleep everyday, and your body was made to exercise everyday.
  • Work at living and you don’t have to die tomorrow.
  • I can’t die, it would ruin my image.
  • If man makes it, don’t eat it.
  • Your health account is like your bank account: The more you put in, the more you can take out.
  • It’s not what you do some of the time that counts, it’s what you do all of the time that counts.
  • Eat right and you can’t go wrong.

Jack’s Firsts, the hallmarks of a pioneer

“It’s tough to do, but you’ve got to work at living, you know? Most people work at dying, but anybody can die; the easiest thing on this earth is to die. But to live takes guts; it takes energy, vitality, it takes thought. . . . We have so many negative influences out there that are pulling us down. . . . You’ve got to be strong to overcome these adversities . . . that’s why I never stop.” ~Jack LaLanne

  • Opened the first modern health spa
  • The first to have a nationally syndicated exercise show on television
  • The first to have athletes working out with weights
  • The first to have women working out with weights
  • The first to have the elderly working out with weights
  • The first to have a combination Health Food Bar and Gym
  • The first to have a weight loss Instant Breakfast meal replacement drink
  • The first to have a Coed health club
  • The first to combine weight training with nutrition
  • The first to have an edible snack nutrition bar
  • The first to sell vitamins and exercise equipment on television
  • The first to teach scientific body building by changing the program every 2 to 3 weeks
  • The first to encourage the physically challenged to exercise… to work around their disabilities
  • The first to do feats of strength and endurance to emphasize what exercise and nutrition can do for you
  • Developed the first:
    • Leg Extension Machine
    • Weight selector machine
    • Cable/Pulley machines
    • Calf machines
    • Wrist roll machines