of the minds ... and bodies
In a fitness first, muscle master Jack La Lanne meets Body-for-Life
phenom Bill Phillips for a philosophical workout. They agree:
Nothing keeps you young like vigorous exercise.
Jack La Lanne (left) and Bill Phillips. Chat
with fitness expert Bill Phillips on March 21, noon
Date of birth: Sept. 26,1914
Started working out: Age 15
Most recent book: 1995's Revitalize Your Life After
50 (Hastings House)
Syndicated TV show: 1951-84
Web site: jacklalanne.com
Coming soon: "Jack La Lanne's Back to Basics
Chair Exercises", a 2-part video
Date of birth: Sept. 23, 1964
Started working out: Age 14
First job: Exercise instructor at a gym at age
Weeks on best-seller list: 75 and counting
Hobby: Scuba diving
Favorite charity: Has given more than $1.9 million
to Make-A-Wish Foundation
an impossibly perfect California afternoon recently, two generations
of fitness gurus met for lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in
Santa Barbara to discuss health and fitness. The old guard
was represented by the "Godfather of Fitness," Jack La Lanne.
Back on his 70th birthday, he swam a mile and a half while
shackled as he towed 70 boats in Long Beach Harbor. Now fit
and feisty at 86, La Lanne still works out two hours a day
when he's not giving motivational speeches or tending to his
Web site. Representing the younger set was Bill Phillips,
the 36-year-old Colorado native who sold his vitamin supplement
company for nearly $200 million before penning his mega-successful
fitness book, Body-for-Life. As the two got acquainted over
eggs, fresh fruit and chicken breast sandwiches, La Lanne,
a quick-witted testament to the benefits of nutrition and
exercise, summed up his perspective: "You don't get old from
calendar years," he said, removing the yolk from one of his
four hard-boiled eggs. "You get old from inactivity."
USA WEEKEND: What would you tell a 50-year-old who
is thinking of starting a regular exercise regimen?
LA LANNE: Get a physical. Then just start walking around
the house. You can join a gym. There are a lot of good books
and tapes, too.
PHILLIPS: Before even considering an exercise and nutrition
program, I recommend that the person put on some swim trunks
and have somebody take a photo of them. Then take a good look
and ask yourself: Is this who I really am? If you don't see
yourself as that, you have the opportunity to change it. But
you need to change your mind-set.
LA LANNE: I tell people that the scales lie. You may
have played basketball and weighed 175 pounds, with a 30-inch
waist, back when you were in college. And you may still weigh
175 at 55. But you probably have a 35-inch waist and you've
probably lost 30 or 40 pounds of muscle -- and gained 30 or
40 pounds of fat. The tape measure doesn't lie. Get that tape
measure out and put it on your hips and your waist. Keep checking
it. And keep exercising and cutting those calories down until
that tape measure gets close to where you were in your prime.
PHILLIPS: Progress is made where progress is measured.
People will set a New Year's resolution: "I'm gonna get in
shape this year." But they don't set a parameter for how they're
gonna measure it. Or if they do measure it, they wait until
the first day of the next year. You'd never run a business
that way. Document your progress.
USA WEEKEND: Should people who are 50 and over dive
into the sort of workout program someone much younger would
PHILLIPS: Tufts is a leading university in research
on strength training and muscle metabolism in people over
50, and they've shown that muscle cells increase in response
to intense exercise -- whether you're 18 or 88. But the intensity
is what's lacking in most seniors' workouts. And there are
doctors who'll give you the advice, "Well, don't push it."
LA LANNE: That's ridiculous. What the hell do doctors
know about exercise? Most of them know zero. You gotta push
elderly people to failure like anybody else. Then the body
USA WEEKEND: Lots of people start fitness routines.
But how do you sustain it over a period of months, even years?
LA LANNE: Change your workout every 30 days. That's
why I invented all those cable machines and the leg extension.
You can't just do barbells and dumbbells.
PHILLIPS: I'm a believer in routine. I like to see
people work out in the morning before they eat, because stored
body fat is fuel for the workout instead of the carbohydrates
you get in breakfast.
LA LANNE: And make it quick. One of the reasons so
many people fail is they get on this treadmill for an hour
or an hour and a half. That's totally unnecessary. If it's
cardiovascular, you don't need more than 15 to 17 or 18 minutes
if it's vigorous.
PHILLIPS: We also talk about progress -- not perfection
-- as one of the things that helps change the mind-set. People
feel so guilty about not exercising. Especially people over
50, who feel like they've gone a lifetime without taking care
of themselves. Instead of aiming for perfection, you should
try to celebrate the progress you're making.
USA WEEKEND: What's the biggest mistake people make
when they decide to get into shape?
LA LANNE: Their goals are too high. You start out with
an hour on the treadmill, then another hour of lifting --
hell, in two weeks you're not doing anything anymore. You
gotta be reasonable.
PHILLIPS: Sometimes people -- especially people over
50 -- underestimate what they really are capable of. They
believe they're not capable of doing something great. I tell
people who are over 50, "I don't want your best. I want better
than that. I want better than what you perceive your best
USA WEEKEND: How do you guys feel about nutritional
LA LANNE: I was the first one to come out with a protein
supplement, so I think they're useful. I was also the first
one to come out with the nutrition bars. The problem with
stuff like creatine is they don't know too much about it.
PHILLIPS: I think creatine is good for people who have
quite a bit of experience and are very serious about building
muscle. But if you're just starting out, you don't need it
to see fast results. People were building great bodies back
in the '30s and '40s without ever using it.
PHILLIPS: What about these people who say you should
eliminate carbohydrates from your diet?
LA LANNE: No!
PHILLIPS: I agree. The brain's preferred source of
fuel is carbohydrates. And when you go on a low-carb/high-protein
diet, your brain is using low-octane fuel. You'll be a little
groggy, a little grumpy.
USA WEEKEND: If somebody was gonna do only one exercise
LA LANNE: Swimming. No doubt about it.
PHILLIPS: I'm always asking people to do something
in their mind [first]. So if they're gonna do one exercise,
it would be to ask themselves what they want to change about
themselves in the next 12 weeks. Once they solve that, the
body will follow.
LA LANNE: You can't separate the mind and body. It's
USA WEEKEND: What should people do first thing in the
LA LANNE: Count your blessings.
PHILLIPS: Plan what you're gonna do that day and commit
-- Moderated by Bob Makela