The Father of Fitness Just Keeps Going and Going and . . .
Jack LaLanne has been holding that trademark pose of his since 1951. You know the one--arms akimbo, feet apart, accentuating the wide chest, wasp waist.
“The waistline should never be any different than when you were in your prime,” LaLanne, who turns 83 on Sept. 26, explained during a recent phone interview from his home near San Luis Obispo. “See, your waistline’s your lifeline. So I try to keep that big difference between my chest, 45-46 inches, and waist, 29-30.”
LaLanne, who’s been dubbed the father of fitness (he started the flap in 1936) and maintains a 150-pound frame, lives in Morro Bay with his wife, Elaine, and a brand new silver Corvette.
Question: You’re still working out every day?
Answer: Absolutely. Seven days a week. See, I’m one of these guys, I don’t want to slip backward. I either want to hold on to what I have or to improve a little bit.
Q: And how are you doing that?
A: By hitting the gym between 5 and 6. And to leave a hot bed, leave a hot woman, and go into a cold gym, that takes dedication.
First, I work out with weights for an hour. Then I spend another hour in the pool. And I change my program every three weeks. That’s the key to it. I’ll work my shoulders and chest. Next, I’ll work legs, back, waist and arms. So maybe I’m doing 10 repetitions, then for three weeks I’ll lower the weight and do 20 repetitions. Or I’ll do something six times but real slow. Boy, that kills you.
Q: Do you do any stretching?
A: Well, if you exercise correctly, you don’t have to do much stretching. See, there’s too much emphasis about 15 minutes warming up, 15 minutes cooling down. There’s a half-hour right there shot. Do one or two minutes of cardiovascular to get the heart beating, but the cooling down you don’t need. That cooling down--that’s ridiculous.
Q: What do you do for an hour in your pool?
A: What I do for three weeks, I tie myself to an immovable object with a belt, and butterfly for an hour in place. You try that, boy. And then another three weeks I’ll do just distance. See, I mix it up. The more exercise you do, the more food you can eat. The only way you can hurt the human body is inactivity. That’s the killer.
Q: Want to talk about food?
A: If man makes it, don’t eat it. Everything you put in your body--air, water, food--man has screwed around with somehow.
Q: Jack, what do you eat?
A: At least eight to 10 raw vegetables and three to four pieces of fresh fruit a day. I have natural grains, beans, brown rice, lentils, wheat. And I get most of my protein from fish and egg whites. I eat no meat of any kind.
Q: What’s a typical meal like?
A: I drink my breakfast. Half carrot juice, half celery juice and then I put an apple and a banana in it and 50 grams of protein made out of egg whites and soybean. For lunch I’ll have three pieces of fresh fruit, three to six egg whites and whole wheat toast. And Elaine makes soup for me with vegetables but no cream or butter.
Q: What do you guys do about dinner?
A: Elaine and I eat out practically every night, but we have the restaurants trained. We call them that we’re coming in, and they’ll have a raw vegetable salad and I’ll have oil dressing loaded up with chopped garlic. I take my own pita bread made out of whole wheat with no salt or oils. And I’ll have a baked potato and fish.
Q: Do you ever snack?
A: I never eat between meals, ever. I have little rules and I follow them.
Q: You probably don’t eat desserts either, do you?
A: No. If I have dessert, I have a pear, banana or apple. Sometimes Elaine will make cookies out of nuts, raisins, dates, wheat germ and whole wheat flour.
Q: What do you think about the fitness business these days?
A: There’s so many people out there selling all these phony gadgets and writing books just to make a buck from weight reduction. I don’t give a damn which plan it is--if you’re going to lose weight, you have to count calories. Period. And you know what gets me?
A: We have all these people selling their souls. These Michael Jordans and other guys selling hamburgers and hot dogs. That’s the thing that really frosts me. Out there hawking this stuff and kids think that’s how they got that way, eating that crud. If I’m talking too much, I meant to. We need more role models, guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now there’s a classy guy. I wish he wouldn’t smoke cigars but that’s his problem. He goes to high schools all over the country and expounds on physical fitness. Like I say, we need more role models but . . . that’s America and goddamn we’re lucky to live here. But we can always be better.
Q: Anything else?
A: Yep. I don’t expect people to work out like I do. I’ve been doing this since I was 15 years old. But if you don’t work out, it’s like going into a bed with a rattlesnake--it has to kill you. I just hope that everyone who reads your article will work out at least half an hour, three or four times a week. It’ll help you live to be a hundred. Or at least it’ll seem like it.
* Guest Workout runs Mondays in Health.