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Jack LaLanne (Sept. 26, 1914 – January 23, 2011): Tribute to a Pioneer

Like millions of third-wave American Baby Boomers, my first memories of Jack LaLanne are ensconced within that black and white image of the man within a room containing two chairs and a seemingly sedated white dog (‘Happy’) lying in the corner. I caught sporadic glimpses of this scene as my mom tried – often in vain – to follow the calisthenics instructions of the muscular television fitness man on whom I think she had crush. I might have been five years old as I stared at this television image, so Jack seemed stern and demanding, like a living room drill sergeant. Yet even at a young age, one couldn’t help but realize instinctively that what the strong man on TV was advocating through instruction was for our own good.

 

Lalanne 
Jack Lalanne espoused the health benefits of bodybuilding long before it was widely accepted – a true pioneer

 

I wonder if those first images of Jack LaLanne were a subconscious catalyst that drove me to doing daily calisthenics in my early teens, and later to bodybuilding. He no longer had a TV show at that time (late 70s), but the hidden influence had been indelible; a stronger body contributes to a stronger mind which helps create and sustain a more positive outlook on life; Jack LaLanne had sown the seeds and I was feeling it. Although I’d periodically stray from the formula in subsequent years (to my detriment), the positive experience now had a file in my mind where it could be retrieved when needed.

 The next really conscious impression of Jack LaLanne for me was when I learned of his “fitness stunts.” I was between two stints in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training in the U.S. Navy. The incredible endurance demands of that training caused these stunts of endurance to grab my attention. I was (and still am) even more interested in “mind over matter” (in this case – “mind over body”) than with bodily fitness by itself. In my opinion, ‘mind over body’ is a relatively abstractive prerequisite for successful bodily strength, health, and fitness anyway. Jack LaLanne demonstrated this perfectly with his “fitness stunts”; I viewed them as symbolic as well as being demonstrably inspiring of what’s physically possible.   

Then there was the juicing machine. Who among us didn’t find Jack’s enthusiasm within the countless airings of his infomercials to be sincere and highly infectious? This wasn’t just a guy with a love for nutrition and fitness, but one with an overall love for life and each day’s blessings as well. It was obvious while observing him that each perpetuates the other.

‘RIP’: “Rest in Paradise”, and Jack LaLanne’s would likely be ‘Working Out’ – Not Resting

Like millions of others, I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the pioneering fitness icon on Sunday, Jan. 23rd 2011. He inspired millions worldwide and blazed the bodybuilding and fitness trail for all of us. He did what he was meant to do in this world and we’re all immensely better off for it.

My deepest condolences go to Jack LaLanne’s wife, Elaine, and his entire family.

And ‘Thank you Jack LaLanne”; like so many American Baby Boomers, I was positively influenced by you. Being a late member of that era, the influence I received from you was largely subconscious…

… But I know now that that’s where it matters most. God Bless!  

 

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