Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thank you, Jack LaLanne!

Fitness legend Jack LaLanne passed on this week leaving behind the entire TV/video fitness business as a legacy.  I'm sure I am but one of countless others who can say The Jack LaLanne show changed my life.

It feels strange saying that a TV show made a difference in my life, but it's true.  I had tried to exercise consistently for years, but never saw any real results out of it.  I had gone to gyms, which didn't stick because there was too much wasted time.  I had used expensive equipment, which never really worked.  And then, I don't even remember how, I found reruns of The Jack LaLanne Show back when they were airing on ESPN Classic.

Yes, the show is of a different time.  Yes, viewed through today's eyes it could be considered condescending or even sexist.  To do so would be to miss the point entirely, like reading Doyle's Holmes stories and seeing only the undercurrent of racism.  What I saw was a man showing off simple exercises that required little or no equipment beyond a chair or towel.  This was not some P90X fad aimed to make fit people ripped, this was a show aimed at people like me who were starting at the bottom and just wanted to be in better shape.  And Jack presented more than just exercises on the show, he gave motivational speeches and preached on the importance of good nutrition, and he ended with a song or a blessing.

The real revelation for me was how little the message of fitness and nutrition has changed since the 50s.  The simple things that Jack preached are the same ones we hear today from Michael PollanJamie Oliver and Michelle Obama.  Except... Jamie and Michelle are focused on the children, in a sense having given up on the adults.  Jack believed that everyone, young or old, man or woman, could better their lives through relatively simple means.

The best tribute I can offer Mr. LaLanne is to say that thanks to the start his show gave me, I am in better shape at 35 than I was at 20, and God willing I will be better still at 50.

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