Bonnie Frankel

Healthy To A Hundred: Bonnie Frankel On 5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Bonnie Frankel.

When various forms of the media described Bonnie during and after she changed an NCAA eligibility rule for women, they described her image as, “She has a Zen-like focus and has a young athletic body.” “What we notice about her is that with her every stride she is running into history.” She is ageless, what is her secret?

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

When I was a youngster, I knew that my life was going to be anything but traditional. It was a cinch that I wasn’t going to have a white picket fence, that wasn’t my Karma. I spent oodles of time safely locked in my own room without the disruption of hearing the squabbling from my nucleus family. In my sanctuary, I would communicate with the universe and day dream. I knew that the universe put me on this planet for a purpose, but I didn’t know what it was. However, I had faith in the universe that whatever it wanted me to do that it would present itself. What I didn’t know then that I was going to have nine lives in one. My biggest awakening was listening to a judge suggest to me that I go back to the educational system in my mid- forties and find out what I wanted to do with my life. I took on the challenge, and discovered that I could rediscover the gift of learning despite my undetected struggles with learning disabilities. Just by giving the educational system a second chance, I was persuaded to take a running class with Coach Tommie Smith. This was the beginning of my affair with an exercise that I immediately resonated with. Running became the new impetus to direct my life to help me stay mentally, emotionally, and physically fit.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

After being diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age in my budding career coupled with an elaborate lifestyle, I began the process of healing. This was going to transcend to transform me in interval stages to change from the hair styling to the running and healthy living business. My lifestyle would declutter to simplify the change for my new passion. Never would I imagine that by going back to the educational system would lead me to become a world class runner and more. Unexpectedly cancer interrupted my life which changed my direction. The universe guided me to my life’s purpose and my values were changing in what I was to be as well as being a service to others. You never know what bad news can do to provoke good news in your life. The profoundness taught me I was living someone else’s lifestyle, not mine. Take a chance, you never know where you will thrive.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that.

The late Coach Pat Cady was head coach of running at Santa Monica High School/history teacher, and a coach at Santa Monica Track Club. He was the most inspirational, skillful, and effective leader coach who enhanced not only my career, as well as the young adults. He thought of me analogous to Susan B. Anthony. He complimented my accomplishments as a woman athletic activist by having me lecture to encourage and inspire his students/athletes. Coach Cady knew how to get the most bang for his buck from each athlete as he gainsaid to one size fits all. I not only ran with his kids, but cheered them when they raced, and became one of his assistant coaches. Out of the blue, the athletic director from Loyola Marymount University offered me the position to be head coach of cross country and I accepted. Pat Cady gave me an extraordinary recommendation for the job. He not only was a role model for a hero, but he improved my running skills, and inspired me to extend my career. Pat shared his infectious enthusiasm and knowledge and I followed his lead.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each

1) Drive — To accomplish your target goal this trait will hurl you to keep the engine humming to enable you to motor you to get the gold. The mental attitude to have, is to go balls out, no matter what the cost is. When I began the task of challenging the NCAA rule, I was repeated told this was unachievable because many women had tried, yet failed. Their response did not dissuade me, and my ability to navigate and push against the odds enabled me to succeed.

2) Skillful — The accomplishment that occurred late in my life to become a world class runner at the age of fifty was being blessed with having a gene for speed, but not to exclude my skill and passion for this form of movement. This gift has ameliorated in my physical fitness, my mental astuteness, and feeling an emotional peacefulness. The run skill provides me with the power of the joyous and strategic way I run my life. My continuous use of running helped me to master, as well as conditioned me to be a better runner, as well as championed me to become a world class athlete. My emotional intelligence geared me to strategize my plan to change a rule which was once denied to be of service others.

3) Flexible/diversity — The flexibility/diversity to be honored to be inclusive in my fortuitous career has been copious, extraordinary, and rewarding. Let’s take a peek at my flexibility/diversity: I started with a running class, changed an NCAA eligibility rule for women, made history to be the first to inaugurate this rule in swimming not running, head running coach for both sexes as well as head women’s swim coach at a college level, personal coach for all ages, author of a book, write articles, lecture to all age groups, and continue with my training with a running program at the age of seventy- eight is no small feat. To be a hero, then be of service to others takes me to a good place in my heart.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about health and longevity. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I had to learn to be a fighter in order to battle to survive life victoriously. My life’s experiences had a mitt in molding me to tough life out. The uncertainty of what life brought to my table has taunted my curiosity to search for answers to breathe to be healthy well, independent, and to live a long fruitful life. Going through my own experiences helped me to become an authority because of having had: depression, suicide attempt, breast cancer, hip replacement, and substance abuse issue. The wealth of knowledge from my husband (Dr), the educational system, friends, leader coaches helped shape my command in the wellness business. One of the coaches, who coached an Olympian as well as Head Cross Country Coach at Pepperdine University, once said to me, “Bonnie, people go to school to learn what you know naturally.”

Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests in search of the “elixir of life,” a mythical potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has your search for health, vitality, and longevity taken you on any interesting paths or journeys? We’d love to hear the story.

Exercise is the key component in order to build to sustain an emotional, mental, and physical healthy immune system. This is what nurtures us to live to enjoy a long, productive, vital, and an independent lifestyle. This is my secret because I am living proof of this. When we exercise, our juices begin to supply all the parts that make up our body so that we function in a beneficial way. After I had a set back after I finished competing, coaching college, and my life story sold but didn’t get made, I also had a fall, and was engaging in substance abuse. Fortunately, I saw my doctor for a physical, and he told me that my liver enzymes were high. Thankfully, my bones and muscles healed and I began to walk to run again. I went from unhealthy to healthy.

Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? (Please share a story or an example for each)

1) Positive attitude — Light shines brightly when you have a positive attitude. When you have your most challenging lessons/events in life, somewhere during this time you will feel that the feat is achievable. When I had a hip replacement in the prime time of my trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials, this would delay my ability to do just that. In fact, I did not know how it would affect my ability to run a quality of fast again. With my optimistic attitude, I rehabilitated myself, and sure enough at the young age of sixty, I was training to qualify for the Olympic Trials with Coach John Carlos.

2) Physical movement program — When you exercise you will have your physical system purring like a cat. The physical activity seduces your emotions to feel upbeat, and you are mentally keen. Recently I began coaching this young lady who was anorexic because her parents had heard about my leadership coaching skills and were concerned about her well-being. She was one of the young adults that stayed to herself with next to no contact with others. I took on the challenge and had her take a look at my book so that she could identify with the right exercise she would resonate best with. We set up a workout program for the exercise she liked, and after a short period of time, she began to eat more because the exercise gave her the right appetite. The physical activity parlayed her feel good emotions about herself, her mental agility improved, and she also joined a social group that had similar interests as she did. She was in the process of being fit as a fiddle and lonely no more.

3) Good support system — We all need a good system that we can go to when we need a boost or to boost another. Sometimes it’s one person, some need a few more, and there are those that need a variety of groups. There is no one size fits all. It is always important to vent your issues or even your positive things that you have going on personally. Find a balance of being active with exercise, talk with others, hugs others when appropriate. Remember, to nurture yourself and stay in the present moment. Remember that you can walk and talk with a friend.

4) Reduce stress — Have an exercise program that you do regularly by yourself. If you want to work with another or a group that’s also great. Exercise is the key component that starts your day to become a glorious one. It expresses your emotions, keeps you in the present moment, and physically enables you to be fit. Find quiet time, and deep breathe with meditation. You may want to keep a journal and express your feelings and see a pattern of how you change from day to day. Laugh more, it’s contagious. You may want to watch funny entertainment. A good night sleep is when our minds are at peace, and without adequate and quality of the sleep, we just don’t look at the bright side of life, nor do we function at our best.

5) sleep — The importance of sleep is underrated in our society. This is when your body is working to support healthy brain function and also maintains your physical health. It also supports your immune system so you rarely get sick and it encourages you to stay at a healthy weight. It lowers your risk for serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Get plenty of peaceful sleep because it benefits your DNA. Sleep guides you to think more clearly and make better choices, because it improves your mood. I like to deep breathe/meditate as I lay down to sleep. Think of something positive about you because that lays the ground work for a restful and peaceful sleep.

Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?

Physical exercise — find the right exercise and build a program to support it. I cannot stress how important it is to build a program around the main exercise you love to do. Always give service to others as well as build and connect with healthy relationships. Try something new, you never know where that can lead you. Be mindful, practice gratitude, and remember you can’t bat a homerun every day.

Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this nature vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?

Both nature and nurture have a say in how long we live our life. It is important to know your weaknesses and strengths in your given genetics, with great expectations that you can shift them with a healthy life style. The key components to helping the not so hot genes is by practicing these three components: lifestyle, diet, environment. There is so much research that is still being investigated on what we can do to override negative genes that we inherited, but we can help our genetics with practicing a healthy way to live our life. You have to live a healthy lifestyle whether what you inherited.

Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?

Many times, I have had Herculean tasks that bombarded me in the worst possible times, and still do. Believe it or not what works to restore my physical, mental, and emotional immune system is the challenge of the uncertainty, then I go to my BFF, the run. Once I surround myself outdoors with nature and begin the run workout, it simmers my troublesome emotions to feel joyous, my mental sharpness opens up because my feelings are unblocked. Exercise has been a blessing in my life, and I embrace sharing it with others. It magnifies my ability to bounce back from any kind of setback.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“The first wealth is health.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

In my life I have been very fortunate to recover from a life- threatening disease. I feel very fortunate to have lived a full life, and to be a role model and of service to others. If I hadn’t survived breast cancer, I would never would have found my life’s path. Being and feeling healthy is more important to me than having money wealth.

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. 🙂


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