If other world-class athletes are in awe of somebody, that person must be something special. The exceptional trailblazer, Jack LaLanne has just passed away, aged 96.
On his 70th birthday, Jack swam from the Queens Way Bridge in Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, a mile and a half.
Did I mention that he did that septuagenarian swim while: handcuffed, shackled, fighting strong winds and currents and also towing 70 boats with 70 people?
Five years earlier, on his 65th birthday, Jack swam pulling 65 boats filled with 6,500 pounds of wood pulp in Lake Ashi, near Tokyo. At 60 he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat.
Jack LaLanne was very special indeed.
An inspiring person to be around, I knew Jack when working as an instructor at the Jack LaLanne health club in New York.
Here is a picture taken 35 years ago with him when I was a teenager working for his health clubs. I had just broken some of his world records a few weeks earlier.
His example and a vitamin supplement box I found in the club, listing his various world muscle-endurance records, had spurred me to break my first world record –for handstand pushups.
A young Arnold Schwarzenegger, freshly arrived in the US, first encountered Jack LaLanne when twice his own age, doing thousands of push-ups and chin-ups on Venice Beach. After a challenge —Arnold, the youngest Mr. Universe at the time, lost badly.
“I beat him in chin-ups and push-ups,” LaLanne recounted. “He said, ‘That Jack LaLanne’s an animal! I was sore for four days. I couldn’t lift my arms!’ ”
Jack used his TV fitness show “The Jack LaLanne Show” which made it’s debut in 1951, to mobilize millions of Americans into embracing fitness.
The show ran for over thirty years. As a founder of President Kennedy’s Council on Physical Fitness, he helped to create the physical fitness curriculum in American schools.
Ahead of his time, Jack was warning people of the fatal dangers posed by excess dairy, white flour and sugar; by insecticides and pesticides long before modern awareness.
As recently as 2007, I presented alongside Jack at the Active Aging Festival, part of the Arnold Sports Festival, in Columbus Ohio. Jack was still committed to prove that people can be more active, and feel better longer, regardless of age.
He often said, “I can’t die, it would ruin my image.
Nothing can ever tarnish your image, Jack. You also said: “I don’t care how old I live; I just want to be LIVING while I am living!”
Few have lived as alive a life.
Jack will be honored at the 2012 International Sports Hall of Fame during the Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Festival weekend.