Having a strong passion for what you love and you will always chase your dreams. My passion for running is what enabled me to continue to pursue my commitment even when I was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anemia and had to have a hip replacement.
Sometimes it appears that top-level athletes were simply born set up for success. But the truth is, many world-renowned athletes had to overcome great adversity to achieve the success they currently enjoy. Simone Biles is one example. Simone’s biological mother could not care for her, and Simone was placed in foster care. Serena and Venus Williams are other great examples. They were born and raised in Compton, California, a city renowned for its high poverty rate. Peyton Manning had neck surgery that left him unable to throw a football. He recovered, however, and won an MVP award, set the single-season touchdown record, broke the career passing touchdowns record, and played in a Super Bowl. What exactly is the mindset of an athlete who can overcome adversity to achieve some of the highest levels of athletic success? In this interview series, we are talking to top-level or professional athletes who were able to overcome significant challenges to achieve success. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Bonnie Frankel.
Bonnie Frankel is an author, elite athlete, and an inspirational exercise sports training specialist. She made history by changing an N.C.A.A. (National Collegiate Athletic Association) known as “The Bonnie Rule.” Bonnie is also known for her training to qualify for the Olympic Trials, after foregoing a hip replacement at age sixty.
Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and the story of how you became a professional athlete?
Ireturned to the educational system giving up a cushy lifestyle in my mid-forties after going through a traumatic divorce, suicide attempt, and a victorious battle with breast cancer. It all started when I enrolled in a running class which was coached by Tommie Smith. I was unexpectedly hooked in finding the right exercise for me and never stopped running.
Running became a professional goal and my target was to qualify for the Olympic Trials.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Having to have unexpected hip surgery (sickle cell anemia) in midstream of attaining my goal. My goal was to rehabilitate myself in order to get in shape to return to running. My target was to qualify for the Olympic Trials, the sky’s the limit. The takeaways I learned from this unexpected challenge was to pursue what I love at all costs. Faith, persevere, and patience are ingredients that helped me to continue my goal.
You are a successful athlete. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each.
My unwavering belief in my ability to attain my goal. I quickly returned to racing in competitions when I was cleared to compete after having my hip surgery.
Helping others to achieve their goals. When I changed the NCAA rule, it opened the door for other women to compete in a division one collegiate school.
To inspire others no matter what their situation or age may be to follow their dreams. I started at forty-four years old my running career and still at seventy-eight pursing my passion. In my mindset I am still training for the gold.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that.
Unexpectedly, I was appointed interim head swim coach for the women’s team at Loyola Marymount University. My gut told me to pool the resources I had at my fingertips and work as a team. Unfortunately, these kids were plagued by abandonment and were not interested in working together. I knew that feeling all so well; when my mother left me when she committed suicide. Do something from your heart, without expectations.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now?
I am writing my second book, giving coaching tips to encourage young athletes that are involved in track and field and cross country, and trying to sell my life story.
How do you think that might help people?
It will show you the importance of why your gift of movement is so important to use as a remedy to ease your emotional uncertainty, be mentally sharper, and physically stronger. Exercise will build and strengthen your emotional and physical immune system to fight disease. My goal with my current projects is to help the young stay motivated, healthy, and pursue their passion of running. My hope is that my life story will inspire others to never give up on life.
What do you do to prevent injuries during your workouts or during your competitions?
I warm my body up with a short easy run, vary my workouts and the time to do it in, as well as using different forms of terrain and places. I take a day off. Use various forms of stretches, lift weights, and cross train with the water. I change my shoes every six months. Have good form and run lightly. Before a competition or not, I take a rest day.
What type of workout regime has helped you to rehabilitate from injury?
Water workouts. Yoga, using visualization/meditation. Chiropractor, and use of a massage machine or a masseuse.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about how athletes overcome significant adversity to achieve success. Can you share your story of one of your greatest challenges or struggles?
After having my hip replacement, my priority was to engineer a way for me to run again to continue my pursuit of my goal, to qualify for the Olympic Trials. I was able to accomplish this. I also needed to find a coach to help me to attain this goal and John Carlos saw me run and he was on board.
What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?
Despite my being crestfallen, I knew that I would find a way because of my persistent drive to do what I love to do. The sky’s the limit. My determination in my ability to train again was bigger than life itself with my unusual gift of talent, endurance, fearlessness, and patience.
Can you please tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?
I was able to overcome the adversity with passion, patience, challenge, fearlessness, and diligent training. Faith led me to forge ahead no matter what the outcome of my goal would be. The journey would provide a victory. Unfortunately, I did not achieve my goal. Expectations can come in a surprise package.
The most important thing in the next chapter is that I inspired others to find the right exercise that fits their lifestyle. I have been able to do this by writing my first book and sold my story to Universal Studios (although it was never actualized). I will always consider my chapters in life a success, as long as I am still able to perform my passion — running.
This is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, can you please share five actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity?
Having a strong passion for what you love and you will always chase your dreams. My passion for running is what enabled me to continue to pursue my commitment even when I was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anemia and had to have a hip replacement. Secondly, let go of uncertainty. My fearless mindset helped to not only rehabilitate but had me running again with a shot to try to qualify for the Olympic Trials. Thirdly, have patience. This helped me through the interruption in my career and to keep forging ahead to achieve my goal. Next, have the courage to go through the tumultuous challenges like I did when I had to have hip surgery. Lastly, find a support system like I did with my coach who believed in my talent despite my age and handicap.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Healing through movement.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
bonniefrankel.com, Facebook, Goodreads
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
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