(All Images: Authors Collection)
On the off chance that you’re heading to Orlando, Florida, a “must-see” on your list should be The Jack LaLanne physical fitness studio. Located at the NBC Universal Cabana Beach Resort Hotel (within Universal Studios), you’ll experience workout equipment that Jack himself designed, in addition to modern equipment. The 5,000 square foot facility contains awesome photos, trophies and memorabilia—including Jack’s famous jumpsuit worn on his television show. Also on hand is the paddle board Jack used to paddle 26 miles from Farallon Islands to San Francisco.
The undisputed “godfather of fitness”, Francois Henri “Jack” LaLanne hosted The Jack LaLanne Show from 1953 and 1985. Poor health spurred him to change his diet and exercise regimen was that he was weak and prone to illness at the age of 15. LaLanne’s life changed forever after attending a lecture by Paul Bragg about “the evils of meat and sugar”. LaLanne stated in numerous interviews throughout his life that he was “born again”. This appeals to anyone looking for a point of departure in ther own workout program. A student of Anatomy and Physiology, LaLanne graduated from Chiropractic College and opened one of the nation’s first fitness gyms in Oakland, California. As a successful bodybuilder, LaLanne was driven to promoting exercise with vitamin supplements and books, noting that “physical culture and nutrition is the salvation of America”.
While his daily television shows were viewed primarily by housewives, Jack LaLanne invented exercise machines. Perhaps his best-known invention was the leg-extension and squat machine found in every gymnasium circuit. He also invented the weight selector pulley. A man of phenomenal strength, LaLanne was an Olympic wrestler, maintained a 28-inch waistline and celebrated his birthdays with feats of distance swimming that were of public concern as he pulled a patchwork of boats filled with passengers for miles through his sixties and eighties.
In 2007, then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger moved to induct Jack LaLanne into the California Hall of Fame for his prodigious contributions to making Americans healthier and stronger. Governor Schwarzenegger placed him on his Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness as well. As if these accolades were not enough, Jack properly has a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. As a motivational speaker on his television program and in personal appearances, LaLanne’s promotion of health and fitness came decades ahead of the appeals of such celebrities as Jane Fonda, Jillian Michaels and Richard Simmons.
Jack LaLanne died on January 23, 2011 at the age of 96. He is revered by the fitness industry throughout the world as a pioneer, who in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, inspired “billions all over the world to lead healthier lives”.