This five part TRAINERS TURNED ENTREPRENEURS series has been crazy – it’s the most fun I’ve had all summer (wow, that’s pretty pathetic!).
All jokes aside, it’s been fun to explore some of the biggest names in fitness, and that’s not even the best part …
What’s been amazing, and something I totally wasn’t expecting, is how every one of them had a start in direct response/information marketing. We discovered that what we’re all trying to do with fitness online actually has a rich, deep-rooted history that stretches back for over a century.
So no matter who you are or what the project is that you’re growing, it should be obvious that we have some tremendous trailblazers that have set that stage and shown us what’s possible.
Ok – now we’re on to our last part of the series, and it’s a man that needs no introduction. For all of our lives, his name has been synonymous with fitness – the great Jack Lalanne.
Now 94 years old, Jack stands as a shining example of what’s possible in fitness – wealth, health, success and longevity. He also stands as an example of the ideal career progression in the fitness industry. Let’s get right into the story:
Jack LaLanne, is one of the oldest living trainers turned fitness entrepreneurs today. Often referred to as “The Godfather of Fitness”, he is the world’s #1 physical fitness expert and guru. He is the creator of most of the modern day gym equipment we use and is responsible for changing the world of health, fitness, exercise, and nutrition forever.
Born in San Francisco, Jack as a child was totally addicted to sugar and junk food and completely unfit. Something typical with today’s youth in America. However, a chance opportunity to hear Paul Bragg give a talk on health and fitness changed his life forever. That talk had such a huge influence on Jack, that he decided to give up junk food and completely focus on his diet and exercise. He studied Henry Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body and concentrated on bodybuilding and weightlifting.
Jack graduated from Berkley High School in 1935. Soon after high school, he attended Oakland Chiropractic College in San Francisco, now popularly known as Los Angeles Chiropractic College. His love for fitness and bodybuilding never really motivated him to practice as a chiropractor. In 1936, he opened his first gym in Oakland, California to promote fitness and bodybuilding amongst the masses. Jack designed the first leg extension machines, pulley machines using cables and other machines which are standard equipment in any gym today. He was also the original inventor of the Smith machine.
Jack also encouraged women to lift weights, eat healthy and become fit, which was contradictory to the general perception of women towards weight lifting in those days. In fact, the first time he met his wife, Elaine LaLanne, he told her to stop smoking and eating junk food and instead start eating apples, oranges and bananas. She looked up at him while puffing a cigarette and hogging on doughnut and said, “oh, yeah”.
It’s as if they were meant to be together, Elaine like Jack, spent her early years on loads of junk foods and chocolate doughnuts. She was 27 when she met Jack, and was working as a TV show host in San Francisco, California. Jack’s comments when he first met Elaine got her thinking about her lifestyle and where she was headed. She decided to junk her ‘junk food lifestyle’ and commit herself to health and fitness, by joining a fitness class that Jack instructed at a nearby gym.
There was no looking back after that – Elaine transformed herself from being an unfit junk food addict to a leading woman in the fitness industry. She followed in her husband’s footsteps and took to health and fitness completely. Now in her early 80s, she is a sought-after lecturer on health and fitness and has written five books.
Between 1951 and 1985, Jack’s career as a fitness expert on television took off. “The Jack LaLanne Show” was the longest running television exercise program in the history of television. Initially critics panned the show saying that it would last less than six weeks, but it ended up lasting 34 years. During the same period, Jack also ventured in publishing books and producing videos on fitness and nutrition, appeared in films, recorded a song with Connie Haines and marketed exercise equipment, a range of vitamin supplements, as well as two models of electric juicers. While marketing one of these juicers – the Juice Tiger, he coined the phrase, “That’s the power of the juice!”
Unfortunately, not everything went smoothly all the time – 70,000 Juice Tiger juicers were recalled in March 1996 due to some defects which resulted in at least eight lacerations to the hands, face, arms, and chest and one permanent eye injury. However, this is just about 9% of the Juice Tiger models of a total of close to 700,000 units sold all the way up to today.
By the 1980s, Jack had successfully set up more than 200 health clubs, a franchise he would later license to the Bally Company. These clubs are now popularly known as Bally Total Fitness. Today, at 94, living with wife Elaine in Morro Bay, California, Jack is no longer associated with any gym or health club but he continues with his own workout regime for two hours every morning
Jack was the Inaugural Inductee into the National Fitness Hall of Fame in 2005. In Dec, 2008, Jack was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts alongside 11 other legendary Californians.
Jack followed simple principles in life. His main aim was to help people to help themselves feel better, look better, and live longer. Jack has motivated millions of individuals throughout his 70-year career to improve their lives by improving their health. He once famously said “Exercise is king, nutrition is queen, put them together and you have a kingdom!”
Jack will always be known for his success as a bodybuilder and a fitness entrepreneur, as well as his prodigious feats of strength. He has won numerous awards, including the Horatio Alger Award from the Association of Distinguished Americans and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
I can’t think of a better way to have ended this series. Jack is just one of those legendary people that all of us in the fitness industry owe a debt of gratitude to for paving the way for all of us. I actually got my start as a trainer in a Bally Total Fitness which was originally a Jack Lalanne’s, so I guess I owe him for that directly.
Let me know what you think of Jack’s amazing story in the comments section below. And as you can see, we’re changing the look of SUPER-TRAINER, so as they say, please pardon our appearance or something like that. And I’ll be coming back in a couple of days with more info from the best fitness business blog on the web (I think I wrote that in an email once so it must be true). Ciao.