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Jack LaLanne was called "The Godfather of Fitness," and the honorary title fit as snugly as one of his trademark jumpsuits. LaLanne, who died in 2011 at the age of 96, revolutionized the American health and fitness industry. Decades ahead of his time, LaLanne advocated a healthy diet, daily exercise for everyone and training with weights, which many doctors believed would result in heart attacks. LaLanne's daily TV show, which ran from the 1950s to the 1980s, brought his message to the masses. LaLanne pioneered the idea that exercise and weight training were good for women, the disabled and the elderly. He started the first health clubs in America, invented a number of exercise devices, such as the leg extension machine, and served as the nation's leading evangelist for healthy lifestyles.
LaLanne worked out every day. He started early each morning, stretching while still in bed before rising at 4 a.m. -- 5 or 6 a.m. in his later years -- to lift weights. As "The Wall Street Journal" explains, his 90-minute daily weight routine alternated upper body work one day with lower body work the next day. He did 10 to 15 reps until failure and changed up his exercise routine every 30 days, another idea ahead of its time. LaLanne often used ordinary household items -- towels, chairs, broomsticks -- to create or vary exercises.
After the weight session, LaLanne would eat breakfast and then run and/or hit the pool for his 30- or 60-minute daily cardio workout. Known for his legendary swimming feats and stunts -- he towed 70 loaded boats 1 1/2 miles in Long Beach Harbor at the age of 70 -- LaLanne often tied himself to a belt to provide resistance when he swam or paddled against a current in his home pool or in the ocean.
LaLanne advocated exercise and healthy eating, and both were central to his crusade to shape up America. His daily diet consisted largely of egg whites for protein, lots of raw vegetables, and fish and salad for dinner. He didn't snack -- ever. He anticipated the growing obesity problem in America and railed against processed foods, although he always presented his views in a positive or humorous manner. "Would you even feed your dog a cup of coffee and a doughnut in the morning?" he asked. His nutrition rules were simple, although extremely difficult to follow. "If man makes it, don't eat it. If it tastes good, spit it out." LaLanne even anticipated the health benefits of red wine, drinking a glass every night at dinner while noting that the vlno-loving French tended to live long lives.
The 5-foot-6 and 150-pound LaLanne met Arnold Schwarzenegger after the Austrian settled in American in 1968. LaLanne outdueled the future bodybuilding champion in friendly pushup and pullup competitions at Muscle Beach, even though LaLanne was in his 50s. Governor Schwarzenegger later appointed LaLanne to head the California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. LaLanne spent much of his time in those years creating fitness and nutrition programs for kids fighting obesity, and for other maladies relating to a lack of exercise and proper diet.