As a personal trainer and nutrition coach in London, I’ve always wondered, who was the first ever personal trainer? And now I’ve found out: it was Jack LaLanne, who opened his personal training gym in Oakland, California in 1936. He called it the Jack LaLanne Physical Culture Studio.
“We have become soft, mentally and physically,” said Jack LaLanne of America, who went on to advocate personal responsibility for your own physical and mental health throughout his life. He was not only the world’s original personal trainer, he became a chiropractor, bodybuilder, nutrition coach, inventor of fitness equipment, motivational speaker, television host, and prolific author of fitness books.
His books are available on Amazon, and include Live Young Forever (12 Steps to Optimum Fitness, Health, and Longevity), Revitalize Your Life, The Jack LaLanne Way to Vibrant Good Health, Abundant Health & Vitality After 40, Jack LaLanne’s Slim & Trim Diet and Exercise Book, and Your Health Cookbook. He was a one-man fitness empire.
If you go into any modern commercial gym, you’ll probably see a leg extension machine for the quads, and a series of weights machines which use pulleys. Both of these were Jack LaLanne’s inventions. So he was not only a personal trainer, but a pioneer of gym equipment too, pretty impressive.
Jack LaLanne was addicted to junk food and sugar up to the age of 15, at which point his life changed forever when he heard motivational speaker Paul Bragg talking about the power of fitness and nutrition. Young Jack LaLanne was in a mess at this time, thin and weak and scrawny, getting into trouble, with suicidal thoughts and headaches and a negative attitude to life. But from the moment he heard Paul Bragg speak, he was inspired to turn his life around. He ditched the junk food, became a vegetarian, and started working out. Before long he was fit, healthy, no more headaches, and a great body.
“People thought I was nuts” he said about his early career in fitness in the 1930’s. He dedicated himself to his personal training clients, ringing them up when they failed to show up for sessions. “How am I going to help you if you’re not here?” he would ask them.
Jack LaLanne died in 2011 aged 96. In a television interview shortly before his death, he said, “I can’t afford to die, it would wreck my image!”
Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London.