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From The Desk Of Clarence Bass

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“The emphasis is in YOU. God gives us the power to act for ourselves, but let me tell you something. At five in the morning I’ve never heard, ‘Hello Jack, this is Jesus. I’ll work out for you today.’” Jack LaLanne

“My greatest joy has been loving, laughing and working alongside my beautiful wife Elaine for some 60 wonderful years. I want the same happiness for you.” Jack LaLanne


How many people celebrate their 95th birthday with a “knock-your-socks-off” autobiographical overview of his life full of wisdom for all ages? I would venture to say that there’s only one: Jack LaLanne. Jack has said so much, written so much, and done so much, I didn’t think he could possibly top himself. I was wrong.

With the help of MuscleMag publishing genius, Robert Kennedy, LaLanne has produced a stunning book. The awesome photos of Jack over the course of his very long life make you feel 20 years younger. The million-dollar grin that began lighting up TV screens in 1951—the Jack LaLanne Show became the longest-running exercise show in history—would be worth at least a billion today.

 I’d give anything for a smile like that. Well, almost.

Jack’s background is well-known to aficionados—legendary might be a better word. A sickly child prone to fever and addicted to sugar—I was a raving maniac and tried to shoot my brother…and set the house on fire—he was saved at 13 when his mother took him to a Paul Bragg seminar. “My mouth was open wide as I listened to this man talk about building the body, eating correctly and exercising. Everything he said made sense to me. I was instantly converted to the health-and-fitness lifestyle.”

A cynic might remind us that almost all of the physical culture icons of the day claimed to have overcome sickly childhoods. In Jack’s case, my guess is that it’s grounded in truth. The narrative may be embellished for affect, but only a killjoy would object to Jack’s energetic account. People love Jack for his infectious enthusiasm and positive attitude.

Driven by the results of his new lifestyle, Jack bought weights and started a gym in his backyard during his senior year in high school. It was so successful that he was able to buy more equipment and expand. At the age of 21, he opened North America’s first modern gym on the third floor of an old office building in Oakland, California. One thing led to another. He developed the forerunners of many pieces of exercise equipment found in gyms today. “He was the first to have women work out with weights,” Robert Kennedy relates in the Foreword. “He also encouraged the disabled and elderly to exercise for health, a bizarre concept at the time,” adds Kennedy.

Jack’s most important contribution is his unceasing effort to help people help themselves. “The only time I’m completely without shyness,” he writes, “is when I’m 100 percent into actively helping someone else better their lives.” If anyone does that better, Jack is a darn close second.

LaLanne has been ahead of the curve—way ahead—his entire adult life, and he wants everyone to be out there with him. At 95, recognizing his mortality, he wants to “get the health and fitness word out to the world one more time.” Upbeat as always, his Introduction ends with these encouraging words: “Anything in life is possible and YOU make it happen!”

On the off chance that’s not enough to make you want to read Jack’s new book, I’m going to tell you about my favorite chapters. I’ll also suggest one area where Jack’s enthusiasm may be working against him. (Read carefully or you’ll miss it.)

In 288 glossy pages of black & white and color photos, beautiful and informative graphics, and easy to read print, Jack covers everything: Motivation, Killer Habits, Managing Stress, Personal Care, Eating Clean, Perfect Posture, Hydration, Stretching, Finding Energy, Solid Relationships, Working Out, Retirement (he’s against it), and Consuming Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables.

Jack writes as well as he talks. He’s kind hearted and full of fun. The man is a delight, even when he’s dead serious, which is most of the time. His tour around the supermarket is full of wit, wisdom, and good sense. The tips for dining out—Jack and Elaine eat out six nights a week—are priceless.

I enjoyed every chapter, but my favorites are on working out and retirement.

“I don’t tell others to follow me through my extensive two hour morning weight-training and swim, but I do feel it is extremely important that you do some exercise at least three or four days a week,” he writes in the Introduction. I believe Jack (personally) would do even better with less training—and more rest—but I’m with him all the way on the importance of exercise.

“Exercise could almost be called nature’s cure-all,” he opines in the well-illustrated and sensible chapter—almost 50 pages—on weight training. “It’s amazing in its powers. Exercise helps you increase energy, it cleans out your arteries, improves your posture, increases your mobility, adds muscle tone, improves strength, builds confidence, burns fat, strengthens bones, hypes your metabolism, augments your flexibility, strengthens your immune system, and shapes your body like nothing else in the world.” Did he miss anything?

Jack’s take on retirement reeks of wisdom. “When you slow down too much, you come to a stop,” says Jack. Most men who retire die within five years. That’s a fact, Jack reports.

The only exception, he observes, are people who have an “all-encompassing interest” to replace their work. Better still, says Jack, is to find work you enjoy and stick with it to the end. That’s what he has done. “We only have one life, and it’s a happy day when you actually enjoy your work.”

At 95, he still works full time doing what he loves, namely “helping people live longer, and enjoy their lives to the fullest.”

“I’ve been involved with fitness just about all my life and I’ve loved every minute of it,” he emotes. “It’s a blast.”

Jack LaLanne has come about as close as anyone to bottling that magic. Step up and get yours.

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Copyright © 2009 Clarence and Carol Bass.  All rights reserved.