As I was finishing up my second article for this newsletter I read on the web that fitness icon Jack LaLanne had passed away on Sunday January 23, 2011 at the age of 96. Immediately I decided to postpone one of my articles and save it for the February newsletter so I could briefly reflect on Jack LaLanne ‘s life and see what lessons could be cherished and remembered to make our lives consistently thrive.
Those who have followed the life of Jack LaLanne remember him as a man who completed many feats of strength throughout his many years; like performing 1,000 push-ups in 23 minutes when he was 43, or swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco in the frigid water at age 60, in handcuffs, shackles and towing a boat! Not only was he a living legend in the fitness world he is also responsible for openly preaching the importance of exercise and physical fitness for everyone, which essentially was the genesis to why trainers, like myself, are able to make a career out of what we love to do.
I never had the opportunity to meet Jack but what I liked most about him was that he reminded me of Bruce Lee in the way he had hundreds of memorable quotes that boiled exercise down to the fundamentals, making it so easy to ponder, understand and realize. I want to share five of my favorite Jack LaLanne quotes and put them into perspective so maybe we can take them with us and keep his memory and spirit alive for many years to come.
“How do you build up your bank account? By putting something in it everyday. Your health account is no different. What I do today, I am wearing tomorrow. If I put inferior foods in my body today, I’m going to be inferior tomorrow, it’s that simple.”
This primary message is simple; you can think of it in the old adage, “You are what you eat.” Exploring this a little deeper we can assume that this could sum up his whole philosophy for health and life. Not only are we what we eat, but like a bank account to accrue a rich and stable balance, it takes discipline, consistency and must be done over time. We can’t lose weight, become more flexible or deadlift 400 pounds in a matter of a few days; we have to frequently accumulate our training and nutrition over time until we have built up our strength and health to desirable levels.
“If you can’t use your legs, you can sit in a chair and you can do curls, you can do presses, you can do stretches. There are all kinds of things you can do. Or maybe you can’t use your upper body but you can work your legs. “
This simple statement can be interpreted as “No Excuses.” We all have excuses and some of us may have more obstacles to overcome than others, however sometimes it is better to focus on what we can do and not what we can’t. We all have the same 24 hours in the day, we all have responsibilities, we all have some restrictions and resistance in our lives; No Excuses; write down a few goals, schedule in some time, make some tough, conscious decisions and stick with it. Some days will be more challenging than others, No Excuses, do what you can and look forward to tomorrow.
“That is the beautiful part about weights: even if you are 100 years old, you can lift something. Maybe it’s only a half a pound or a pound or two pounds. It will still do something. “
I have always maintained the idea that I share with people: There must be something you enjoy when it comes to fitness. Weight training is a great activity and can be conceivably maintained for the rest of one’s life, however, if weight training is not your idea of a good time there are plenty of other activities that do not discriminate with age; swimming, bicycle riding, and dancing come to mind and there are countless others. Find the activity you enjoy and go with it, No Excuses.
“We don’t know all the answers. If we knew all the answers we’d be bored, wouldn’t we? We keep looking, searching, trying to get more knowledge.”
This parallels another one of LaLanne’s philosophies that inactivity is a killer. Inactivity of the body as well as the mind sends a person down a downward spiral full of health and mental problems that only get worse with age if neglected. Are you a glass half empty type of person believing there is too much to learn, you are too old to take something on or that you can never learn that? Or do you see new avenues to explore with optimism, excited to take on a new venture. There is so much out there to learn not only about fitness but about math, science, business, health and travel. All of which potentially can make our lives better. Remember life is like a bank account and so is learning something new. Find something you like to chip away at and over time you will have great knowledge in something new.
“I want to be able to do things; I want to look good; I don’t want to be a drudge on my wife and my kids. And I want to get my message out to the people. I might live forever or it may seem like that.”
Exercise, health, fitness, training, however you choose to call it, it does not have to be seen as a selfish endeavor. Sure the immediate effects of performing better, looking and feeling good might seem like the positive goals we want strictly for ourselves, but they will also help the others around us as we build up our health bank account. Many people dread getting older and the potentially negative consequences that are associated with it. The physical and mental ailments not only make our own lives more difficult they put a burden on our friends, family, and society in general because they have to take care of us when we can’t do things physically and financially.
Nothing is foolproof and exercise and healthy living does not mean we are immune to any disease thrown in our way. However, you will have a better chance of living a richer and more independent life, like Jack did, if we take care of ourselves. As Jack said “I can’t die, it would ruin my image.” Even though he has passed on, living and preaching the lifestyle he did has solidified his inspiring image for lifetimes to come.