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Put a Healthy Spin on 1998

WS talks to fitness legend Jack LaLanne

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

America’s fitness craze began with Jack LaLanne. For 34 years, his television show introduced generations to exercise and nutrition. Now 83 years old and fit as ever, LaLanne tours the country giving lectures and setting an inspiring example for men and women of all ages.

In this interview with Working Smart, LaLanne discusses how to maintain a healthy mind and body.

WS: How can a busy executive find time to exercise?

LaLanne: That’s the worst excuse! We’re talking a half-hour three to four times a week, for crying out loud. Let me ask you something: Would you sell your arm for $1 million?

WS: No.

LaLanne: How ‘bout your leg?

WS: No.

LaLanne: You’ve just admitted your body is a priceless possession. Now if you bought some horses for $1 million, you’d probably find the time to take care of them.

WS: Still, for some managers finding 30 minutes every few days is tough, even for something as important as exercise.

LaLanne: Believe me, I’ve heard managers tell me that over and over. Most people work at dying. Let’s work at living. There are a lot of people who wake up with their coffee, donut and cigarettes, and then they wonder why they’re getting sick all the time or just not feeling right. Put as much energy and vitality into your exercise as you do into your job, and it’ll help you succeed. You’ll command more respect immediately. You’ll have more confidence. And you’ll enjoy the results, because you’ll really have to earn them.

WS: When you meet someone, can you tell whether he exercises or not?

LaLanne: I can tell immediately, and I don’t even need to look at his weight. I just look at his face. People who exercise have a certain energy. They’ve got great posture. They’re positive—they don’t complain as much. They’re more patient and they seem to have a better grip on their emotions. People who don’t exercise lack that glint in their eye. They’re slumped over. They’ve got bad skin or bad hair—that goes for men and women.

WS: You started talking about nutrition years before there were nutritionists. What can a manager who’s on the run do to eat better?

LaLanne: Most managers have their meals out, but they don’t think about the fuel they’re putting into their bodies. And if you travel, just because you’re stuck in a strange city far from home doesn’t mean that you have to settle for fast food. I’m on the road all the time, and when I’m home my wife and I eat out almost every night. Here’s what I do: For breakfast, I eat fresh fruit, whole-wheat bread with no butter and a six-egg omelette made with egg whites only. Almost any restaurant will do that for you if you ask. At lunch, I eat fish or skinless chicken and a salad. And I always ask the server to include at least six types of vegetables in my salad, preferably 10. For dressing, I’ll use a little oil and vinegar or lemon juice.

WS: Any other dining tips?

LaLanne: Use honey as a replacement for sugar, and when ordering a baked potato, don’t douse it in butter or sour cream. And don’t just eat the inside of it and leave the skin on your plate; the skin’s where all the nutrition is, so eat the skin!

WS: You’re 83 and you look great. Do you think just about anyone can realistically follow your example and enjoy the longevity and health benefits you have?

LaLanne: Well, I get up at 5 a.m. I leave a warm bed for a cold gym, and let me tell you, it’s hard. Exercise’s got to be hard to produce results. But no matter what age you are, if you start exercising regularly you’ll reverse the aging process. Even if you haven’t exercised at all in 15 or 20 years, you’ll increase your mental capacity and feel better by exercising.

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