Bonnie Frankel: “Engage in an exercise that your specific personality and emotional make-up resonates with”

Engage in an exercise that your specific personality and emotional make-up resonates with. For example: When I picked the right exercise, it led me to become a world-class runner at the ripe young age of fifty. So many of us have tried dieting. All too often though, many of us lose 10–20 pounds, but we end […]

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Engage in an exercise that your specific personality and emotional make-up resonates with. For example: When I picked the right exercise, it led me to become a world-class runner at the ripe young age of fifty.

So many of us have tried dieting. All too often though, many of us lose 10–20 pounds, but we end up gaining it back. Not only is yo-yo dieting unhealthy, it is also demoralizing and makes us feel like giving up. What exactly do we have to do to achieve a healthy body weight and to stick with it forever?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve A Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently” we are interviewing health and wellness professionals who can share lessons from their research and experience about how to do this.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bonnie Frankel.

Bonnie Frankel is an author, athlete and inspirational exercise/sports training specialist. With her experience in instructing others, she has developed a unique plan utilizing the elements of Fire, Air, Earth and Water that are shared in her book, Bonnie’s Theory — Finding the Right Exercise. She made history by changing an N.C.A.A. (National Collegiate Athletic Association) rule, now known as “The Bonnie Rule.” Ms. Frankel became the oldest woman to compete in a Division 1 women’s sport — swimming. She is also known as a world-class runner, and trained to qualify for the Olympics, as she still trains today.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in the Bel-Air area of Southern California living a privileged lifestyle among the rich and famous. What stands out the most in my childhood was the relationship with my mother, and how it significantly affected my life. Unfortunately, she was plagued with severe depression leading to her numerous nervous breakdowns which triggered her multiple suicide attempts.

Her solution to remedy my dismay was to get me involved in a day camp that offered different forms of physical activity. At only five-years old, this was where I was able to attain a healthy and fit lifestyle for my body and mind. I also learned how to release my emotional distress by performing different forms of physical activity. It is also where I began my long journey by engaging in a variety of physical exercises.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

The late Pat Cady took my love and talent for running to the next level, after my college years. Meeting the right person, and proper timing, can shift and expand a person’s career direction. Pat was the head coach of cross-country/track and field, and a teacher at Santa Monica High School. He offered me the privilege to train with his students which challenged and transcended my skills in the art of running. He also inspired me to take this gift to the next level. The experience eventually led me to qualify to become head cross country coach at Loyola Marymount University.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Yes, my best friend Mary stepped in with her unconditional support. I had to replace my right hip in the throes of trying to qualify for the Olympic trials. I was able to leave the hospital early. Mary, a small woman was a tower of strength. She personally lifted me into her car to take me home. I was very depressed as another chance to qualify for the Olympic trials slipped through the cracks. I felt that I might never walk again. I was fifty-years old. She unselfishly nursed me back to health, paid my bills, cleaned my house, and gave me the hope that I would run again. It was a long process of recovery, but without her strength and kindness, I wouldn’t have ever made it — There should be a special Mary in everyone’s life.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

The most interesting mistake I made in the phase of my running career was that my subconscious mind allowed other people’s opinion/voices to dictate the outcome of my quest. My goal was to train to qualify for the Olympic trials and most people said that I was too old to accomplish this task. Looking back, I allowed my mind to let their negativity dictate my thoughts. What I learned was a simple lesson. Believe in yourself. Try to walk your walk, and talk your talk. Eliminate others who are not supportive of your endeavors. Being uniquely blessed with the gift of exceptional athletic skills, I unfortunately fell prey to negativity.

Today I practice what I know I can do. At seventy-six years old, I kick butt. My training schedule includes 30–40 miles a week running on hilly turfs. My speed is like a surge of lightening. College kids watch me run, and want to train with me. Other negative voices — I don’t hear. Lesson learned.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Where you stumble and fall, there you will find gold.” Joseph Campbell

I vividly remember that when I stumbled and fell many times in my life — I later found gold. Let me share with you a particular story that still resonates with me.

When I went to compete in the World Championship race in the 800 meters, I had an unexpected incident occur. As I started the race, I sprinted to take the lead, and then a couple of runners threatened by my speed tripped me. I lost my balance and fell to the ground. My fast muscle reaction, as well as my tenacity allowed me to quickly recover, and I was back on track. I lost the gold medal, but I finished the race and placed sixth in the world. The take-away was learning how resilient and quickly I recovered. It’s so important to never give up. When the same situation happened again, I was able to run safely, and I got the gold. Getting up when you stumble and fall can lead you to something that is worth its weight in gold.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am starting my second book, The Gift of Movement, and developing an invention with the elliptical machine. I am finally challenging myself to perform quality times in distance running. I am also open to the right person doing my life-story because it will hopefully inspire others in many ways.

My second book is important to entice people that didn’t exercise due to the restrictions with the Covid-19 virus pandemic, to do so. Each of us possesses the gift of movement that presents a golden opportunity for everyone to enhance their body/mind to be fit and healthy.

Challenging myself to run quality distance is right up my alley at seventy-six years of age. This includes changing the way I workout so that I am able to accomplish this goal. In doing so, I hope to inspire others in challenging themselves to do something that they have never attempted in their exercise routine before.

For the benefit of our readers can you briefly let us know why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field?

I am a natural leader, with a lot of experience under my belt in the fitness and wellness area. Thriving, influencing, and persuading others to be physically active is my life’s work. I felt so strongly about women being able to compete when they returned back to college, that I was able to change an NCAA eligibility rule in 1993, and I became the first woman to compete in a Division I sport in swimming. It is known as “The Bonnie Rule”.

Through the years, I have been coached and I have learned from some of the most highly recognized fitness and wellness experts. Tommie Smith, Marie Murphy, the late Pete Cady and John Carlos played a big part in my career. I have been a personal trainer, head coach for cross country/track and swim teams, and recognized as a world-class runner. Also, I am a published author. My book, Bonnie’s Theory — Finding the Right Exercise goes into fitness and wellness, by connecting the four elements of fire, air, earth and water, and recommends the appropriate exercise to match people’s fitness levels. I have further written articles, and lectured at various organizations.

OK thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview and about achieving a healthy body weight. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Healthy Body Weight”?

A healthy body weight means that you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced. Only you know how it feels because each of us are wired differently. A healthy body weight is accomplished by participating in structured physical activity. If you are overweight or underweight, your mind and body will not always be able to continue the exercise you chose because it is the wrong exercise for you.

By being physically active and choosing an exercise you resonate best with will also help to navigate your taste buds to desire the right foods and liquids that are healthy for you. When you are physically engaged in an exercise you love, you are not obsessed with a starvation diet, emotional eating or calorie counting. It is your innate ability to know that you feel your body and mind is working at its optimum level.

Your body is similar to a car. It needs to be used on a regular basis to keep it in good working condition. You must exercise your body machine to keep your body weight healthy.

How can an individual learn what is a healthy body weight for them? How can we discern what is “too overweight or what is “too underweight?”

Each of us individually know what is a healthy body weight because emotionally and physically you feel good, and visually look fit. You can’t recognize what is too overweight and underweight when you are over emotional and lack good physical energy. When you are engaging in the right exercise, you will not experience being overweight or underweight. Finding the right routine encourages you to naturally choose healthy foods and liquids that will better nourish you which will then lead to an optimum mind/body connection. Therefore, you don’t have to always concern yourself with counting calories for weight loss.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons why being over your healthy body weight, or under your healthy body weight, can be harmful to your health?

As we age our body changes and doesn’t work in the same way as it used to. In order to stay healthy for as long as you can, you need to follow a regiment of exercising, eating, and hydrating your system correctly. The new way we think of aging is much different than in past generations. For example, seventy would be equivalent to today’s fifty-year old. If we follow a healthy program for our mind and body, we will be able to continue an active lifestyle up until our later years. If we are overweight or underweight, we put more stress on our mind and body. This leads our systems to be vulnerable to accidents, diseases, and other problems with aging, and it affects people’s mental well-being.

In contrast, can you help articulate a few examples of how a person who achieves and maintains a healthy body weight will feel better and perform better in many areas of life?

When you maintain a healthy body weight, it enhances your mind, body, and spirit to function in a synergetic capacity. Performing at the top of your game attracts people that are on the same path, as it invites positive relationships in your life. A healthy mind and body prevent mental and physical diseases because you have a joyous mind, and have a strong immune system. We now live longer which leads us to engage in a life of quality and independence.

Your job will be more productive, your personal relationships will be more rewarding, your life will feel more joyful, because your mind, body and spirit will work in harmony. When the world is in a health crisis as it is today, by being fit, you have the ability to better weather the storms.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion, can you please share your “Five Things You Need to Do to Achieve a Healthy Body Weight and Keep it Permanently?” If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

1) Engage in an exercise that your specific personality and emotional make-up resonates with. For example: When I picked the right exercise, it led me to become a world-class runner at the ripe young age of fifty.

2) Alter the time and type of workout you do. You can vary your workout days because you will maintain a permanent healthy body weight. As an example, do an easy day, a day of interval training, and a day of distance.

3) Cross train with another exercise to prevent injury as well as strengthen your exercise of choice.

For example: In my case, I am a runner and cross train with swimming. When you train with a ground sport, you need to cross train with water, and vice versa. I was pleased to find that I was able to compete with my cross-training choice of swimming on a collegiate level when I was forty-nine years young.

4) When you exercise consistently, it enables you to want to eat and drink healthier.

I had the experience of training a gal who had an anorexic personality, when she discovered an exercise she resonated with, her taste for foods and liquids reappeared.

5) Rest day or days should be part of maintaining your healthy body weight, because your mind and body need time to rejuvenate.

One of my coaches was an Olympic marathon runner, she never took a day’s rest, and was continually plagued with injuries which affected her performance. Once she was able to take a day off, she was able to perform at her optimum level — injury free.

The emphasis of this series is how to maintain an ideal weight for the long term, and how to avoid yo-yo dieting. Specifically, how does a person who loses weight maintain that permanently and sustainably?

A person will maintain the weight loss permanently, as he or she is no longer in the pattern of yo-yo dieting, because they are physically engaged in an activity. Their obsession with food is no longer problematic because that person is not emotionally binging. As mentioned, with exercise, your mind and body shifts the way you eat. You are more likely to sustain your fitness because of the love of the exercise that you are bonded with, and food becomes less of a priority.

What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to lose weight? What errors cause people to just snap back to their old unhealthy selves? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?

The mistake people make is that they go back to old habits which are more comfortable for them. People don’t give enough time for the shift of the healthy new pattern to kick in, and they quit. They choose fad diets as a way to lose weight which is not sustainable. Most errors people commit when they return to unhealthy habits, is that they don’t see results quick enough for them to want to continue. People then don’t make time to exercise. Our lives are centered around food, and we are constantly challenged to try and eat healthy. Physical activity burns calories as it speeds up your metabolism, but most importantly it releases your emotions.

How do we take all this information and integrate it into our actual lives? The truth is that we all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

Most of us are more comfortable with old habits. It’s a good idea to begin change by shifting your emotions to a healthy activity. Find an exercise to engage in that best resonates with your personality traits and your emotions. Another blockage is the way our mind sees our own image. Exercise will focus your mind with a different and better image of yourself. Physical activity challenges you to change your mind and body to being more aggressive — and less lazy. It also frees up your thinking as you begin planning ways to eat healthier. Eat to live, not live to eat.

On the flipside, how can we prevent these ideas from just being trapped in a rarified, theoretical ideal that never gets put into practice? What specific habits can we develop to take these intellectual ideas and integrate them into our normal routine?

Create a specific plan of what you want to accomplish. Start with your endeavors being simple and short so that it doesn’t overwhelm you and then just do it. Here are a few suggestions to carry out your specific plan: Keep a journal, send a message to your technical device to remind you, and have a friend or a group that supports your plan. Put up notes in key places that you visit frequently. Set a specific time for exercise — and keep positive.

The plan you make will add a new dimension to your life. The steps you take in creating a new format for yourself will result in your improved mind and body. It will also give you a feeling of accomplishment, as it will open up other doors for positive changes in your life.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The movement I would start I’d call: “Exercise — Health is Your Wealth.”

If you don’t have your health, you may not be around to enjoy your wealth.

18) We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them.

The person I would like to have a private meeting with is talk show host and political commentator Bill Maher. The reason is because I think he has a brilliant mind and expresses his thoughts freely. He was one of the only people that mentioned when the Covid-19 pandemic hit that no one was talking about building your immune system in eating nourishing foods. I also really enjoy his overall political wisdom and humor.

How can our readers further follow your work on line?


Bonnie’s Theory-Finding the Right Exercise is available on:

Amazon (paperback) 14.99 dollars (kindle) 6.99 dollars.

Barnes & Noble

Good Reads

Book Bub

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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