When we think of genius, for the most part we think in terms of mental or intellectual power. We think of brilliant human beings.

We think of mathematicians or inventors or writers. Painters and sculptors may be in a slightly different category — a little more physical and intuitive — but even here, we still don’t think of artistic gifts as a physical skill. It’s the quality of the mind and heart that manifests as paint on canvas.

In light of this, let’s look at the foundation of our topic for this session, which is physical genius– the genius that expresses itself through physical action, whether it’s running or swimming or hitting a ball or, perhaps, even hitting another person. By the time we’re done,

I think you’ll have an appreciation of what physical genius really is — how you can connect with it in your own life — and how the person I’ve chosen as our model in this session can help you do that.

He once did 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes — an average of 44 push-ups every 60 seconds.

He towed 70 boats at once, carrying 70 people each from the Queen’s Way Bridge in Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary ocean liner, which was anchored a mile and a half away — and he was handcuffed and shackled while he did it. This was to celebrate his 70th birthday.

He also has made the supposedly impossible swim from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf, in San Francisco. He not only made it, but once again he was handcuffed and shackled when he did it.

Just to make it more interesting, he was towing a 1,000 pound boat.

Jack LaLanne is over 87 years old, and there’s one more feat he intends to accomplish. It’s a swim from Catalina Island to Los Angeles — a distance of 26 miles – and he wants to do it underwater.

Jack LaLanne did not start out as a genius of physical fitness. Into his teenage years, he was a sugar addict and junk food junkie. In an interview, he explained what this meant. “It made me weak and it made me mean,” he said. “It also made me sick. I was nearsighted, and I had terrible skin problems.

He was 15 years old when he attended a talk by a nutritionist in his hometown of Oakland, California. This was a turning point in his life — and at that moment, he decided to totally recreate himself.

He began lifting weights at the local YMCA, and he made changes in what he ate and drank. He also read everything he could find on anatomy, nutrition, and health. Very

quickly, Jack developed the lean, muscular body of an athlete – and a thorough knowledge of physical fitness to go with it. But rather than keep all this to himself, he was determined to share it with the world.

He began to develop approaches to physical fitness and nutrition that were both highly effective and scientifically sound. Many, if not most, of the exercise devices in today’s health clubs were first thought of by Jack LaLanne. As he said, there are 640 muscles in the human body, and he wanted to have a specific exercise for each of them.

So he invented the tools that could do that. Since then, Jack LaLanne has done many amazing things. But none of them are more amazing than the way he invented an entire industry.

In 1936, he opened the nation’s first health and fitness center, on the third floor of an office building

in Oakland. He was 21 years old –and he knew more about the workings of the human body than most doctors. Even so, he was viewed with suspicion by many people.

Weight lifting which LaLanne has always advocated, was believed to cause heart attacks. Incredible as it seems, even coaches discouraged weight training by athletes, which was supposed to make them “muscle bound.”

Over the years, LaLanne’s message was heard. In the 1950s he began to appear on television as an advocate and motivator for fitness and health. The message was simple but compelling: Everyone should engage in physical exercise every day — and everyone can do that, including the elderly and the inform. Even in 2004, approaching his ninth decade, LaLanne practices what he preaches.

He took up golf at the age of 50, and shot his age four times when he was 73 and five times when he was 74. He still describes his daily workout as the top priority in his life, and he’s still coming up with new ideas and exercise programs.

When an interviewer asked about the differences between today and when he was ørst starting out, LaLanne replied, “It’s gratifying to see that everything I was preaching and advocating 50 years ago is being accepted. Back then I was a crackpot. Today I am an authority. And believe me, I can’t die. It would ruin my image!”

If this has sounded a bit like an infomercial for Jack LaLanne, don’t let that distract you from the facts of what LaLanne accomplished.

He wanted to bring knowledge and experience of physical fitness to everybody — and he did it. Today there are many others in the field that he pioneered, but Jack LaLane was one of the very first. And his message was simple: you can become healthier and stronger, starting right now, no matter how unlikely that may seem. Just as importantly, he himself exemplified exactly what that meant.

In this sense, Jack LaLanne models what I mean by physical genius better than many professional athletes and Olympians. The fact is, I could train as long and hard as I want, and I’ll never play in the NFL or run in the Olympics.

But I can do what Jack LaLanne teaches. I can exercise and pay attention to what I eat and drink. You can do this also. And when you do, the genius who is your model– whether you realize it or not – is none other than Jack LaLanne.