My Interview with Jack LaLanne
PROBABLY MORE THAN ANY OTHER PERSON, Jack LaLanne embodies the ideals of a fitness coach. In 2008, I had the chance to get to know the late 96-year-old legend.
Jack’s staggering accomplishments, like his energy, have no end in sight. He started 200 Jack LaLanne Fitness Clubs throughout the U.S. (which later became Bally’s) and invented many of the weight machines we use today. He’s broken several world records, including swimming from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He’s been quoted as saying: “I cannot afford to die, it will ruin my image.”
After combing through his answers, I’m reminded of Yoda’s statement to Luke in Star Wars: “Size matters not; look at me.” His statements may be simple, but in true guru form, they resonate with clarity and depth.
How has your fitness lifestyle played a role or contributed to your successful marriage?
Both my wife and I have our health, lots of energy & vitality, and pride in how we look and feel, which has contributed to our marriage.
Is there one exercise that you still do on a regular basis?
There’s been a lot of news coverage about doping and steroid use in sports—what’s your take on all that?
If you take steroids, you have to pay the price. They can kill you; there are no shortcuts. It’s like going to bed with a rattlesnake, it’s got to get you.
I read an interview in which you specifcally mentioned, in particular: the importance of pride and discipline.
Yes—pride & discipline. Pride, because you should be proud of what you’re doing, but not conceited. If you can’t be proud of yourself, you’re a failure. Kids need to be taught this in the schools. And discipline. To do anything in life you have to have discipline. To accomplish anything, you have a goal, challenge yourself, and work until you accomplish that goal. Practice what you preach.
What’s the hardest thing you did in your career as a fitness coach?
When I quit eating all that junk food and started exercising when I was 15—I exchanged bad habits with good habits. Also, all my birthday feats.
There have been so many stories in the news lately about celebrities who may look great physically, but they’ve gotten in trouble with the law for using drugs and alcohol. Do you think using substances undercut your health & fitness, and how have you avoided falling into that trap in your own life?
They lost their pride & discipline. You have to figure out: “What does it do for me? Is it going to make me feel better, live longer?” Goals & challenges are my drugs.
You’ve said, “Jesus performed miracles to call attention to his profession. I do these physical feats to call attention to my profession” At 93 years old, what are your physical goals for yourself?
Anything in life is possible if you MAKE it happen. My physical goals are to keep doing what I’m doing. I can’t do what I did at 21, but I can help people and want to LIVE while I’m living.
As a trainer who feels “called” to the profession, what advice do you have as I grow my practice?
Be an example of what you teach. [As a personal trainer], delve into your student’s life, know everything about him. Be interested.
If you had to distill your life’s work into one message that you could “send out to the world” for all time and eternity, what would it be?
Anything in life is possible, if you MAKE it happen. So, never get satisfied. The minute you stop trying, you go downhill.
Anything you’d like to add?
The MOST IMPORTANT person on this earth is YOU. What are YOU doing to help the most important person in this world: YOU? To live right, you have to exercise, have goals and challenges. And, never, ever get satisfied; keep the carrot in front of the horse. I’ve never been satisfied, I keep striving for more