The late Jack LaLanne was renowned as the “godfather of fitness.” He did a great deal to promote physical fitness and healthful nutrition to the public. Additionally, he was known for his feats of physical endurance, and he competed in physique competitions and graced the covers of various fitness magazines in the mid-twentieth century.
Today we present an entertaining and inspiring profile of Mr. LaLanne which originally appeared in the October 1963 issue of “Strength and Health,” in an account given by the prolific iron game writer Earle Liederman.
PRESIDENT KENNEDY’S Physical Fitness drive has one of its biggest boosters in a fellow who has been in the muscle game limelight for well over a quarter century. Mr. Perpetual Motion himself, Jack LaLanne, is now emphasizing the National Fitness idea on all his morning television shows from coast to coast. In recognition of his role as the nation’s No. 1 TV exercise leader, LaLanne recently was appointed as a special consultant to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, and his specific task is to lead a campaign selling the Council’s adult fitness plan to the American public.
Jack now stands at the pinnacle of success. His half-hour programs, which have existed for many years, are now shown from more than one hundred television stations throughout the United States. And it has been carefully estimated that his vast unseen audiences total around 27 million people, all regular followers of his programs. Jack’s electrified personality together with his fine articulation throughout his peppy and forceful directing, which he delivers with machine-gun rapidity, is considerably contagious.
When a college man has the gift of public speaking and also command of language, and who also practices all he preaches, you have an outstanding personality who is admirable. And so this makes Jack an almost incredible fellow who is not only an authority on health, diet and bodily exercise but one who has actually done things that will remain unforgotten.
Did 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes
This astounding feat was done on the You Asked for It television program with Art Baker and also before three judges who acted as critics. Each push-up just had to be done correctly or else it would have been cast out and not counted. And the amazing part of it all is that Jack LaLanne performed all these push-ups without resting a moment! And if you do some arithmetic is [sic] boils down to making about 45 push-ups each minute.
And another feat which excels the above mentioned was Jack’s making 1,000 chins and also 1,000 push-ups in one hour and twenty-two minutes! These he did in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions by alternating throughout the performance. Bona fide judges also carefully and critically recorded each chin and push-up throughout this whole performance. In plain words each one of them had to be made properly.
Amazing swimming feats
He swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, while wearing handcuffs. This event was specially covered by Life magazine at the time. This distance is about 1 1/2 miles and against strong ocean currents which prevail through that section of the rough sea.
And he also swam the treacherous Golden Gate channel, towing a 2,500-pound cruiser. This feat also involved fighting the cold, swift ocean currents that made this one-mile swim equivalent to a swim of 6 1/2 miles in calm waters as far as strength and endurance are concerned.
Next he swam the Golden Gate under water in diving equipment, including two air tanks; this feat stands as an undisputed world’s record.
One day about 15 years ago, Jack LaLanne happened to visit Hollywood. It was then I chanced to enter a gymnasium where I usually did my own training at the time. However, on this particular occasion, I merely sat at the sidelines and watched LaLanne go through his weight workout. I did not know Jack at the time as I had never seen him before then, yet I marvelled as I watched him making his “nonstop flight” through his workout. Not one moment’s rest at any time–just fairly leaping from one weight to another after making many sets and reps with each new bell he selected. And it was not until several years later that I had the privilege of meeting him. And today, he is still at it, and although he is near fifty years of age, he continues incessant training without stopping to take a “breather,” just leaping from one exercise to another during his two-hour workout each and every morning seven times weekly! I still marvel at his exceptional endurance. And it proves how a body can be trained to become accustomed to any sort of activity or prolonged endurance efforts.
He was in the Navy during World War Two, and shortly after joining he was assigned to medical rehabilitation work. It was then that he used to write frequently for several research journals.
Jack LaLanne is not a large man. He stands 5 feet 7 inches and weighs 170 pounds. He does not wish to become too muscular and therefore has held onto his thoroughly trained condition throughout the years. He now has 16 3/4″ flexed arms, 47 1/2″ chest, 28″ waist, 23″ thighs, and 15 1/4″ calves.
When in his early teens he was very thin and actually sickly. And like all fellows possessing such handicaps his thoughts turned to bodily betterment, hence his adoption of weight training.
I was at his home and in his outdoor gym where I had him photographed especially for this magazine; but as I said, space prohibits the showing of too many of his exercises, hence I must use words to supply the highlights of his training. And these can be diminished to but a few such as–it takes Jack two hours to do all his morning training. He generally does 10 reps and 20 sets in most of his exercises. And here’s something else: Prior to his two-hour morning workout, he runs one mile with his trained German shepherd dog who seems to always want to be with Jack wherever he goes. It even stays with him for the two hours during his workout.
LaLanne demonstrating some of his workout routine, in a photo spread that accompanied the article. Click to enlarge (appears in new window/tab).
Jack LaLanne’s home life
As stimulated as he is physically, he possesses terrific enthusiasm for knowledge. He reads considerably and only worthwhile books, from the Bible down to so many of the classics. He has worked very hard at his television programs all of which are taped, so that he could relax a bit to have something else to do, or else take a year’s vacation. He informed me that he has prepared over 500 taped programs all ready for future presentations, and so these advanced programs could mean rest and ease; but Jack cannot remain idle. I inwardly term him “Jumping Jack,” as he is always in motion; it seems he appears chock full of ebulliency and anatomical electrification.
He lives in a palatial home in the Hollywood Hills. And there, with his two-year old son and his charmingly pretty wife, Elaine, as well as his two all-white dogs, plus a cat, the beautiful abode appears to be, and undoubtedly is, filled with happiness.
Jack has his library where he is constantly studying, reading, researching, testing and planning new ways to achieve his goal for better health for humanity. He feels as though he belongs to the world–and he really does, too! He has proven himself to be a mighty useful personage. He is a friendly type individual, unassuming and a good conversationalist at all times, able to talk upon almost any subject. He has a well-informed mind.
When he showed me around his large home, which is practically a showplace of excellence, I confess I became bewildered as he led me down winding stairways inside the home and which emptied to various rooms all of which finally ushered into Jack’s outdoor gym.
Jack LaLanne is a sensible eater who never stuffs himself. He eats fish daily, yet a few times weekly he also adds a good lean steak; but fresh fruits and fresh vegetables are his standby for healthful purposes. He is therefore not a “health-nut” in any sense of the word. He balances his meals but avoids all fats, starches, creamy sauces, rich desserts and fried foods.
Those of you who have seen and heard Jack LaLanne’s TV programs would well recall the beautiful all-white dog that assists him occasionally during his talks and demonstrations of various exercises for the benefit of his viewers. However, at Jack’s home, there is another white dog that could be a twin and yet happens to be the “son” of “Happy” the TV dog. And when the two of them get together, there is a lot of running and playing, and anyone who happens to get in the way of their canine delights is liable to be knocked helter-skelter. It almost happened to me . . . bless their dog-gone hides!
I usually ask a provocative question as various people offer such different answers to it. Hence I asked Jack LaLanne this: “If you had but one important thing to say in life, what would it be? And after a short pause, Jack replied, “O, I think I would ask God to help me to be of greater service to humanity.” ● end