Working out with fitness legend Jack LaLanne
By Mike Cassidy
San Jose Mercury News
Work out with Jack LaLanne?
Sure. How hard could it be? What is he, about 180 years old?
So there I was outside San Jose's Fairmont Hotel at the crack of dawn Thursday, approaching a short man in a chair who was watching the crowd gather for a community exercise class led by the legendary fitness guru himself.
Yes, the Jack LaLanne. The godfather of fitness. The man whose "The Jack LaLanne Show" brought regular workouts to living rooms nationwide from 1951 to 1984. The man we have to blame for all this healthy living.
I stroll over and start to introduce myself.
"Shut up," he barks. "No autographs. Well, except yours. Say, you look pretty good. Can I have your number?"
For a minute I'm trying to remember whether I've come to see Jack LaLanne or Robin Williams. But I learn a lot from LaLanne - quick.
First, he's 92, not 180. And this guy could bench-press me. With one hand. Turns out I'm the proverbial 98-pound weakling, facing down the 92-year-old he-man.
Jack LaLanne is a force of nature, a physical dynamo, a comic, a cut-up, a guy who has so many bromides that it seems he's rattling them off rapid-fire to make sure he doesn't run out of time before he gets to them all.
The reason Americans are obese? "They're exceeding the eat limit." Why avoid sweets? "Ten minutes on the lips; a lifetime on the hips."
LaLanne is in town to promote the U.S. gymnastics national championship at HP Pavilion this weekend. He's also here to promote fitness. And, well, himself.
"I'm a salesman," says LaLanne, decked out in a blue track suit. "I get them laughing. I get them crying."
I tell LaLanne I've come to work out with him and interview him. Silly me. You don't interview Jack LaLanne. You stand back and listen.
You've got to exercise, he says. Vigorously.
"You can't just be sitting on your big, fat butt and watching TV," he says.
My big, fat butt? And suddenly I wonder whether he notices the doughnut crumbs stuck to my sweat shirt. I ask him what it is with exercise people. Why do they have to exercise so freaking early in the morning?
You're too tired at the end of the day, LaLanne says. Besides, it's good for you. "To leave a hot bed, to leave a hot woman and go into a cold gym," he says, "man, that takes discipline."
There's got to be an easier way, right? Some magic fitness pill?
"You know what the magic pill is, baby? Having goals."
His goal, even since before he opened his first health club in Oakland in the 1930s, was to help people. Sure, along the way he built a lucrative empire of gyms, juicers and videos. But that wasn't the goal. That all happened because of the goal.
"Let me see you get on the floor and do push-ups until you die," LaLanne erupts.
"Where's the fun in that?" I ask. I figure it must be the doughnut crumbs. But no, he's making a point. Exercise won't kill you. Your body knows when to stop. So do what you can.
Eventually, LaLanne takes the stage to fire up the crowd of about 80 early-morning fitness freaks in the Circle of Palms downtown. One thing I notice: LaLanne's buff assistants actually do the working out. LaLanne does a lot of encouraging - "Let me see you squat. Drop your butt down. Way down." - but he doesn't do any exercising. Could that be his secret?
No such luck. He tells me he put in 45 minutes in his hotel room before the 6:30 a.m. event. In fact, LaLanne, who now lives in Morro Bay, says he works out seven days a week. He never drinks coffee or eats anything "that comes from a cow or a pig."
So I ask whether it might be better to live 50 years of a wild life than 100 years of a disciplined one.
Not a chance, LaLanne says. Life is what it's all about. And he's more than willing to do the work to make his an incredibly long one.
"Man ought to live to be 120," he says.
Well, I don't know about me. But I do know one guy who's got a chance.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Old fitness guru still going strong
I read this article in the newspaper today. In it Jack LaLanne gives some great fitness/weightloss advice. If this 94-year-old can do it, why can't the Teeters?