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Jack LaLanne died last week. He was 96. Many of us only know him from his infomercial for a juicer. I have no idea if it is a good juicer. He will not be remembered for it. He will be remembered for his legendary feats of fitness, and for encouraging America to get off their duffs.
(developed from a brief blog post)
(developed from a brief blog post)
He popularized fitness more than Frank Shorter, Jim Fixx, Bill Rodgers and Bruce Jenner combined.
At his most commercial, health was still a forefront of what he was about. Even his late night juicer infomercial ultimately would lead a customer to a better diet. Mostly, his direct impact was before my time, but his influence carried on. By the time I was born in 1966, he was beyond fable, but his story kept growing.
When he was a young man, he did some impressive things. By young, I mean when he turned 40. In 1954, according to his website, he swam the length of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge underwater with 140 pounds of equipment, including two air tanks. No, I don’t know why, but my jaw drops just the same.
He later swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, underwater, handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat. Pretty cool, huh? Any 40 year-old would be more than impressed with himself. LaLanne this time, however, was 60.
Why he matters to running is that he gave a voice to overall fitness beyond weightlifting and Charles Atlas bodybuilding types. While Atlas certainly addressed and encouraged fitness, LaLanne’s goal was not to build big men, but healthy, strong men through smart exercise and eating. Most of us will never be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but we can be fit.
LaLanne started out addicted to sugar and junk food as a child. He watched his father die at age 50, and determined to live better. His philosophy became, “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.”
His exercise television show, “The Jack LaLanne Show” was originally broadcast from 1956-1970, but books, videos and public appearance kept him in the American eye. Long before Richard Simmons was asking us to sweat to the oldies, LaLanne was showing how to eat right, workout smart, and get fit.
Famous for his phrase: “I cannot afford to die, it will ruin my image,” we know Jack LaLanne lived well. Do a few pushups in his honor this week. Before you give me any lip about being too old to do them, consider that he was 45 when he did 1,000 pushups and 1,000 chin-ups in 1 hours and 22 minutes.
Running Playlist Song of the Week
“American Fast Food” by Randy StonehillWith Jack LaLanne’s view in mind that “physical culture and nutrition — is the salvation of America,” I am pulling out a rare oldie by the very funny Randy Stonehill from his 1983 album “Equator” (most famous for the track, “Shut De Do”) Anyone know this one? Play it just as you start getting the munchies near the end of a long run. Maybe it will inspire you run another mile instead of stopping at Burger King.
“American fast food, what a stupid way to die
American fast food, order me the jumbo fries
Oh, oh, it’s easy
It’s so easy and it’s trouble free
It’s quick and disposable, just like me
If I don’t stop eating this greasy American fast food.”
Writer Anthony Trendl loves BBQs, banjo music and porches. Contact me to send your favorite tips, songs, recipes, or to tell me about your road race. See http://anthonytrendl.com/
Author blog: http://anthonytrendl.blogspot.com/
Author’s running blog: http://runnersdilemma.blogspot.com/