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February 3, 2011 posted by

Jack LaLanne vs The New York Times


No matter how righteous we feel our fight is it wouldn’t be a fight without a nemesis and, even in his wake, Jack had his. So before we re-focus on the job at hand, mainly the development of P90X mc2, Asylum, and my own training and dieting experiments, let’s yield the floor, one more time, to my buddy Jack. Denis over at the Fitness Nerd MCs:

“This weekend, New York Times Food Critic Frank Bruni wasted space in an otherwise fine newspaper with this editorial on Jack LaLanne and his (negative) impact on American fitness culture.”

What, you might wonder, in a country with an obesity rate creeping towards 40% – that’s projected to double in the next 10 years – could Bruni be criticizing? Good question.

“That sense of failure you feel when you haven’t exercised in days? That conviction that if you could pull off better push-ups, you’d be a better person through and through? These, too, are his doing, at least in part. What he left behind when he died last week, at the toned old age of 96, was not only a sweaty culture of relentless crunching and spinning but also the notion that fitness equals character, and that self-actualization begins with the self-discipline to get and stay in shape. In the post-LaLanne landscape, it’s not the eyes but the abdominals that are windows to the soul.”

Obviously Bruni hasn’t spent much time in the Cincinnati airport, a oversight not missed by Faye,”If Bruni seriously thinks America is fitness-obsessed, he needs to walk away from all those fancy, Manhattan bistros he reviews and spend an afternoon hanging out at a Jack in the Box – maybe one next door to the gym at an ‘exurban strip mall.’”

The ‘Nerd then goes into some more depth, analyzing what might motivate Bruni to take such offense to a pursuit that’s not only good for you, but a foundation for our existence as human beings. Because Jack wasn’t about having six-packs or beating up the guy who kicked sand in your face; he was about being healthy and living life as humans were meant to.

The simple fact that Bruni misses is that exercise is not really an option. That society has made it one is an unfortunate mistake. Kids can grow up in front of a computer and television, eating food that’s been delivered to them, and get an excuse to skip gym class, should their school still bother to provide it. These kids, whose brains won’t develop properly without exercise, can then grow into underachieving adults who lack the energy to move their bodies. And this option is growing daily as we lose our grip on just what it means to be a human animal. But one trip through any Midwestern mall, southern city, most every public school in America, or any statisticians’ office will confirm that this is not going swimmingly for the healthy of humanity.

All mammals, of which humans are a part, need exercise. And not just so we can score an attractive member of the opposite sex to mate with—though that’s a big motivational aspect. Exercise is what makes the body work in harmony; to release the proper hormones that develop our brains and muscles, to eliminate toxins we take in from the environment, to keep our bones and connective tissues dense, to keep our heart beating strongly, etc. Without exercise our bodies literately fall apart and die.

Modern medicine, and drugs, can—arguably—slow this, or at least make it seems more natural. But given that we’re living in the first generation where children’s life expectancy—despite huge improvements in medicine—is less than their parents I see no platform for Bruni’s stance other than a personal vendetta against fit people ranging from when he was picked on as a child. Not exactly a pulpit in today’s society.

Jack LaLanne 1
New York Times 0


  • Bravo!

  • Great rebuttal! There is no better way to feel than fit!

  • No way, dude. Obese for life!

  • At the end of the article Bruni says…"There’s a bullying strain to the modern fitness ethos, a blurred line between cheerleading and hectoring. And it’s hard not to wonder whether that kind of intimidation — in addition to the social and economic realities of diet and exercise — helps explain the paradox that for all the newfangled aerobic machines and reduced-rate January gym memberships, Americans aren’t noticeably haler and healthier.When exercise comes wrapped in value judgments, does it wind up entangled in an anxiety that threatens the very resolve to get fit? As Mr. LaLanne was siring new methods for shaping up, he was fathering something else, too: a potent, and in some cases immobilizing, strain of contemporary guilt."***Those of us who "feel it" can forget how far gone many of our fellow humans are. It is hard to understand how those with the opportunity to pursue health do not. Coming from fragmented families, industrialized education and mass media inculcation with little to no real power is it any wonder we look like a species bent on self annihilation. The awareness of wellness and embodiment is very important for us as a species. Let's try to remember how difficult it is to come from the couch to the game. While Bruni does sound a little whiny at the onset of the piece the summation is quite succinct and dead on. Religious fervor and righteousness are traps I absolutely fall into when not careful to remain open and compassionate. Thanks for the link. Spurred good thought.

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  • Jack did say on a show once. "A country is only as strong as its citizens." Literally. And the way things are going physically, that can't be good. I believe it. Look at those Spartan guys. When we become lazy and complacent with our bodies, that reflects on all of our actions, as individuals and as a nation. At the rate we're going, we'll be too fat to defend ourselves. Wise man that Jack LaLanne.

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