Jack LaLanne: Off to That Big Health Club in the Sky

We say goodbye to an incredibly inspiring, fitness pioneer

The next time you’re feeling too tired to hit the gym, consider this: Jack LaLanne once swam the frigid Golden Gate Channel while towing a 2,500-pound cabin cruiser. Upcurrent. When he was 43.

Sunday afternoon, we lost one of America’s most impressive, outspoken fitness gurus when LaLanne passed away at 96 from pneumonia.

Born in 1914, LaLanne’s childhood was, like many of today’s younger generation, filled with unhealthy junk food. “It made me weak and it made me mean,” he has said. “It made me so sick I had boils, pimples and suffered from nearsightedness. Little girls used to beat me up.” But by his late teens, he had begun bodybuilding and in 1936, years before “working out” even meant anything, he opened his own health spa in California. He went on to invented the original Smith Machine, leg extension machines and calf machines, which means that gym you’re too sapped to hit wouldn’t even exist without him.

But America wasn’t always on board with LaLanne’s ideas about fitness. At the time, people often viewed him as “a charlatan and a nut,” he recalls on his website. “The doctors were against me – they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.”

But slowly, people started to notice exercising wasn’t all that bad. LaLanne soon nabbed his own TV show, along with book deals and the nickname “Godfather of Fitness.”

But throughout his 70-year-career, the inventor of the one-armed push-up did more than swim from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf while handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat. He was good for more than eeking out 1,000 pushups and 1,000 chin-ups in 1 hour 22 minutes. He inspired:

-He motivated us to get moving, no matter our shape, size or age.

-He was an early feminist pioneer, the first to suggest women could work out with weights.

-He was the first to encourage the physically challenged to exercise -- to work around their disabilities.

-He displayed a zest for life that could stir something in even the most sedentary among us.

-He lived his passion.

Despite his famous LaLanneism, “I can’t die, it would ruin my image,” we can say with certainty that this human dynamo’s image will never be tarnished, nor will his teachings be forgotten. We’ll see you again one day in that great, big health club in the sky, Mr. LaLanne.

What's your favorite memory of Jack LaLanne? Chime in below!

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