What! super size me? no! downsize me!


THE ‘Godfather of Fitness’, Jack LaLanne, died last month. He was 96. Jack who? I hear you cry! Well, it was Jack LaLanne who brought aerobic regimes into the living rooms of millions of Americans 30 years before Jane Fonda slipped on her leg warmers and sparked the modern keep-fit boom.

He progressed from puny weakling to the world press-up record-holder. The Jack LaLanne Show, which inspired TV viewers to trim down, eat well and pump iron decades before diet and exercise became a national obsession, ran from 1951 until the 1980s – when I lived in Los Angeles and caught many of his outrageous strongman stunts from the safety of my sofa.



His record is indeed amazing making muscle-clad Madonna look like a couch potato.1033 push ups in 23 minutes at 42. Swimming a mile from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf handcuffed, shackled and towing a boat at 60. Likewise Long Beach harbour at 70. Two hours of weightlifting in his nineties.

I recall fellow bodybuilder and former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, crediting LaLanne with taking exercise out of the gymnasium and into living rooms.

But how many other fitness gurus have disappointed with their life spans! Jim Fixx, author of The Complete Book Of Running and credited with igniting America‘s zeal for jogging in the ’70s, died of a heart attack at 52. Kung Fu expert, Bruce Lee, at 33. No, Jack LaLanne knew that, to be the real deal, you had to live a long time. He had no choice. In fact, he once joked: “I can’t die, it would wreck my reputation”.

Now we all know of people who have never once exercised or eaten ‘healthy’ foods in their lives. We all know of someone’s great uncle Charlie who ate a huge fried breakfast every morning, had a 40-a-day habit, drank like a fish and never once exercised, but lived longer than Lalanne. The same great uncle Charlie who made it to over a hundred. And would be the first to whinge that, if he hadn’t exercised so much, Lalanne, too, might still be around today.

Given death’s still about 100% certain no matter what, last I heard, I think I’ll aim for some middle ground here. And since I occasionally get some exercise moving my Jack Lalanne Power Juicer from the back of the cupboard to a high shelf, I fancy I’m in with a chance. Let’s hope there’s a glut of tomatoes this year…

Nora Johnson’s novel, The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) available at Amazon. Profits to Cudeca


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