Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne: 4 Secrets of His Success

Jack LaLanne passed away last week; he was 96.

I’ve always taken to heart the age old question, “Why re-invent the wheel?” when it comes to success. I’m looking for short-cuts, and one of the best ones is observation of successful people. The life and times of Jack LaLanne is definitely full of success lessons, especially for those of us doctors involved with fitness.

Some “Jack” history: The Jack LaLanne Show, which aired from 1951 to 1985, brought the fitness guru into homes. Often accompanied by his white German shepherd, Happy, LaLanne needed only a chair and towel to run through a routine and show housewives how to get fit. “Come on, now, girls. We’re going to work on” — he’d pat his rear — “reducing the old back porch.”

Video: Jack LaLanne 10 point plan

Jack was a blogger just like me, Dr Tom Potisk. In his last blog entry he wrote “Hope you all are keeping your New Year’s Resolutions to taking care of the most important person on this earth, YOU!! “ In his December 2010 entry he wroteYour waistline is your lifeline so let’s keep it up!

Jack LaLanne is a true pioneer. He led American fitness, exercise, and was a nutritional expert, celebrity, lecturer, and motivational speaker who is widely referred to as “The Godfather of Fitness“. LaLanne gained worldwide recognition for his success as a chiropractor and bodybuilder, and for his incredible and prodigious acts of strength and endurance. Through his career, LaLanne has won numerous awards including the Horatio Alger Award from the Association of Distinguished Americans, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Hall of Fame.

Early Life

Jack LaLanne was born September 26, 1914 in San Francisco, CA and admittedly, during his childhood days was addicted to sugar and junk foods. At age 15, young Jack heard Paul Bragg speak on health and nutrition which had such a powerful influence, it motivated Jack to focus on his diet and exercise habits.

When he was a teenager, he dropped out of school for a year because he was so ill. Shy and withdrawn, he avoided being with people. He had pimples and boils, was thin, weak, and sickly, and wore a back brace. “I also had blinding headaches every day,” Jack recalled. “I wanted to escape my body because I could hardly stand the pain. My life appeared hopeless.”
Then he met the pioneer nutritionist Paul Bragg, who preached a new way of living, and to his credit, Jack listened. Bragg asked Jack, “What do you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?”
“Cakes, pies, and ice cream,” Jack answered truthfully.

“Jack,” Bragg replied, “you’re a walking garbage can.”

He pointed young Jack in a healthier direction. That night Jack got down on his knees by the side of his bed and prayed. He didn’t say, “God, make me the strongest man in the world.” Instead, he asked for a new beginning. “God, please give me the willpower to refrain from eating unhealthy foods when the urge comes over me. And please give me the strength to exercise even when I don’t feel like it.”

Jack was truly a pioneer, as he studied Henry Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body and concentrated on bodybuilding, chiropractic medicine, and weightlifting, something virtually unheard of in the 1930s.

Health Clubs

In 1936 LaLanne opened his own health spa in Oakland, CA, and dedicated his life to encouraging people to better themselves through exercise and fitness. LaLanne designed the world’s first leg extension machines, pulley machines using cables, and weight selectors, now a standard in the fitness industry.

So what were some of Jack’s secrets that we doctors can learn from?

1)      He had fun with his passion. According to Dr Bill Toth,author and speaker at Createyourfate “Jack LaLanne is largely responsible for my journey into the Health and Wellness industry and ultimately becoming a physician that focused on Sport Injuries. As a child I secretly watched him because I too was the skinny scrawny little kid wanting to be fit and vibrant. He changed an entire culture by being his own brand, by standing for something and weathering the rejection that comes when one is outside the box. He was a consistent, persistent, grateful, humble American original who had FUN!! I am grateful for his example, mentoring and passion for health and wellness. Live with Intention.”

2)      He was dedicated and persistent. According to AJ Khubani Founder/CEO of TeleBrands, the “As Seen on TV” products company, “Jack LaLanne was a true legend. He created a huge persona in the world of infomercials through his exercise and health equipment. He always strived to be the best he could be and to translate those attributes to those across the globe. Jack was dedicated to making us all healthier and would never stop. I remembers a piece of advice Jack gave him about exercising. He said, The only thing that you have to focus on is getting to the gym — once you get there, you are certainly going to do something. I followed that advice and continue to exercise for my health.”

3)      He practiced what he preached. Danny Russo, health and fitness expert who worked with LaLanne in California years ago, had this to say, “Jack LaLanne was an amazing human being. He practiced what he preached. He was the real deal. He was a great man and a tremendous influence on me and my fitness career. What is really cool is that everything he taught us starting in the 50’s and 60s and onward, is still true and applicable today. Jack motivated Americans to pump iron, eat healthy and get fit decades before it was cool. The principles he taught are more crucial than ever today with the country facing sedentary lifestyles and an obesity epidemic. You want a hero? Jack LaLanne now there’s a hero.”

4)      He loved people. Wally Runnels, author,  said, “I worked as an art director on the Jack LaLanne ad account. Periodically we’d shoot our commercials in one of the LaLanne studios. Jack was a very nice man, not large but his presence made up for size. Always energetic. Jack and I were talking in the lobby when two older ladies came in. Jack saw them and went to explain the studio was closed. They saw Jack and they just melted. He took them by the hand and chatted for a few minutes and they left giggling. They had met Jack LaLanne. Jack came back and said, “Yeah, it’s about people isn’t it?”’.

Wow! This is a person we can all learn from. I wish I would have met him in person. He had a profound influence on countless lives. Here are a few examples:

“Jack Lalanne was one of the nicest guys in Hollywood to work with. On one occasion (he was roughly 58, I was 22) he lifted me with one arm above his shoulders! Jack is one of the real
gentlemen (and real people) I’ve ever worked with in my 40 year career.” – Marc Curtis, President, US Plan B, Inc

“I grew up watching Jack on TV while my mother exercised to his program. I’m now a private practice dietitian, partly because of his positive influence. He’s been my hero ever since then. ” – Alice Baland, MA, LPC, RD/LD, Dietitian, Psychotherapist

“Jack was true to form during my interview of him for my Doctorate studies – he made
me do jumping jacks, sit ups and push ups.  Jack gave insights in to his youth, his own personal transformation, how to overcome obstacles, and how to achieve true lasting success, health and happiness. ” –  Professor Howard Haller Ph.D., CEO, The Leadership Success Institute

“It was his genuine care and concern about people that instilled, or at least cultivated, the same in me. For that I am most grateful. It’s not about fame or fortune except as those might both be used to help more and more people to their own healthy and fulfilling lives. He needs to be honored as the forefather of Americans taking up Personal Responsibility for our Physical Health and Fitness!!!” – Amy Lee, Founder, Whole Health Club & Her Native Roots

“He influenced me in my early days of my youth seeing his photos in the gym, seeing his commercials, reading his work , and how he was able to be physically fit and muscular yet still be concerned with internal health. This role model led me into the direction I am in now which reaches all levels of health i my new book, Natural to Super Natural Health. I am now doing tv, radio, articles in natl. magazines etc so basically he changed my life for good…. ” – David Herzog, certified health coach

“Years ago when I was in my thirties, I was influenced by Jack LaLanne because I believe exercise is the secret to good health besides healthy eating. He was the TV rage for mothers who stayed home with their children. My mother and I did the exercises with Jack. I have exercised all my life and at 83 years have added twelve years to my life.” – Floriana Hall, author

“I believe Jack truly cared about people and their health. He set me on a track of incorporating exercise into my schedule and I still have one of his health shakes every morning. I talked to him several times throughout the years after I started my own PR business in the eighties. I am sure Jack is still doing pull-ups somewhere out there.” – Sharon Cook, publicist/public relations

All of us doctors need to have people like Jack as our mentors. I’ll never forget the time I saw him on television and he said ‘I can’t die because it would be bad for my image!” Rest in peace Jack, you deserve it!

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