Most people come to our EverWalk Nation knowing at least something about Diana’s past as a champion swimmer. But EverWalk’s co-founder, Bonnie Stoll, comes from a world-class athletic background herself.
In the 1980s when racquetball was the rage sport all across America, talented pros entertaining large crowds in the tournament glass courts, Bonnie was a superstar. For her ten years on the pro tour, she was always ranked in the top ten and at one point reached #3 in the world.
Bonnie’s athletic history was rooted in quickness and power. Diana’s was a case of extreme endurance. Diana was Bonnie’s fitness trainer back in the racquetball days. Then, in a magical circle of events, Bonnie became Diana’s trainer during the Cuba Swim days of 2010-2013. It was then, during those life-and-death attempts to make history, Bonnie in the end becoming the head of the entire expedition, that their 40-year friendship sealed its deepest bond.
Bonnie: “Honestly, the last exercise Diana and I ever thought we’d gravitate toward was walking. We were, you might say, a couple of hard-core athletes. We never thought walking would be tough enough for us.”
But the two very much wanted to share the values they acted out during the Cuba Swim. The thrill to be covering ground, actually traveling on one’s own steam, in the great outdoors. To work toward something with a team purpose.
Bonnie: “We talked for months about leading the masses toward what we loved about crossing the ocean. And we came upon walking. Everybody has different talents and levels of fitness, but just about everybody can get out the door and walk. We called our movement EverWalk because that word Ever refers to Everybody, Every Day, Forever. And here I am, a dedicated walker, all the better for it.”
Bonnie was a lifelong runner but she says she enjoys walking so much more.
She admits now, “I never actually enjoyed running. Did it my whole life. Never enjoyed it. Too much pounding on the body. But I did it because I knew I had to — even though running is really tough on the joints and just wears your body parts down.
“I’ve had four back surgeries at this point. So the only thing I don’t do now is run. I run on the tennis court, of course. But what I did love about running was that it was so efficient. The only negative about walking is the time consumption. It takes so much time. But I feel so good every time I do a walk. I really enjoy observing all the little things I pass by. I enjoy the company, of my fellow walkers….and my great dog Mister. Diana and I take walking meetings and actually get much more done than sitting in a closed space.”
Bonnie switched exclusively to walking after her first back surgery in 2013. She recalls: “It was right before the Cuba Swim. And then I went on the swim too soon for my back. So I had to have it redone. They put in a titanium disc this time — and now my back is the only thing that doesn’t hurt. Never ever does it hurt.
“The truth is that my back itself never hurt. I had a piece of disc fall off and it was sitting on a nerve to the leg. So that’s what was painful. Now it never hurts at all!”
What Bonnie loved most about running — especially when she traveled — was being able to see things differently and up close. Now, she finds that “walking is even better. Because you really get to look when you’re walking. You really get to appreciate nature!”
After her successful racquetball career, and her studies in Exercise Physiology at the University of Connecticut, Bonnie moved to Los Angeles and began a personal trainer business that has been very successful for more than 32 years now. She’s trained well-known actors to get them ready for roles where they have to be looking buff, and a wide range of people who need to tend to injuries and who need motivating.
Bonnie recalls, “I always wanted to live in California, and it’s the perfect place to start a training business. So that’s what I did. I got in on the bottom floor in LA. And I’m still doing it.”
Diana: “Some of Bonnie’s initial clients are still working out with her, after 32 years! There’s no stronger testimonial than to witness people’s respect for both Bonnie’s deep knowledge of exercise and her dedication to their well-being.”
Bonnie brings her training expertise to every EverWalk event. She encourages EverWalkers to stretch both before and after they walk. For Bonnie, stretching is something that also became more important after her back surgeries.
As she tells it, “I postponed getting into yoga and Pilates — anything that was a workout but didn’t get a sweat. Then after one of my surgeries, I started doing yoga and I realized my body never hurt. Ever. Then yoga got me into stretching. I always used to stretch after playing or walking. Which I still believe in. Now I feel a good rule of thumb is to stretch after exercise as much as you stretch in the beginning.”
Bonnie believes that the most important stretches for a walker are calf stretches. As she likes to say: “There are three heads to your calf: You have to point your toes out, point your toes in, and straight ahead when you’re on the edge of a step.”
For walkers, it’s all about keeping the joints happy–hips, knees and feet. Keeping the calves, quads and hamstrings loose and stretched will go a long way toward making your joints happy. For walkers who bring their life stresses to their walks, Bonnie also recommends consciously trying to relax your shoulders by dropping them. Then shake out your hands and your arms. If you feel some part of you is tense, let it go. Yes, the legs seem to be doing all the work but Bonnie found out through experience that the core is under constant flexion while walking, too. She was pleasantly surprised to find her abs tightening as she became a daily walker
For someone who is experiencing ongoing pain or injuries that flare up while walking, if a good regimen of ice hasn’t really brought relief, Bonnie suggests taking a day or two off. She believes, “Listen to your body; it will tell you the truth.”
However, if you’re feeling tired — but you’re close to achieving your distance goal or the end of your walk — just take a brief break. Maybe even lie down on a patch of grass and put your feet up in the air, give them some relief by allowing the blood to drain downward. Then get up and keep going. The satisfaction of achieving your goal is worth it.
Most importantly, remember to enjoy walking!
What Bonnie herself enjoys most about EverWalk is the camaraderie of the people. She reflects, “The Epics I like. But do I really enjoy doing 20 miles a day? Not particularly. Even though we start so early that it’s over by 3-4 o’clock. I could do 12 miles a day every day. But our Epics (usually 140 miles over 7 days) only come once in a while. And for that experience of sharing a pretty tough week with great people, I am willing to get my 20-a-day in. I am not only so darn proud of all of our EverWalkers by the time we walk under our Achieve Arch at the end, I’m also proud of myself, And I’m beaming with pride over what Diana and I are offering to so many people.”
On her own, Bonnie mostly walks outside. She never listens to music or a podcast or a book. She just enjoys being outside listening to nature. As a rule, she avoids main streets and tries to only walk on side streets when she’s in a city.
However, when she walks inside on a treadmill, Bonnie has the same routine: “I watch Gunsmoke, Rifleman and Bonanza. Every day. Chuck Connors to me is the most handsome man that ever lived!”
Despite her love of nature, Bonnie owns that she doesn’t really appreciate hiking. She’ll do it, but because she’s looking down the whole time, she doesn’t feel that you can enjoy nature quite as much while hiking. “The only time you get to really look up is when you stop.”
Outside of her physical pursuits, Bonnie is an avid reader — both the New York Times every day as well as books of all kinds. She is an art lover and has a superb photography collection. Her favorite artist is photographer Catherine Opie. While Bonnie has collected the work of artists from all over the world, for her, “Nobody can touch Cathie Opie.”
As EverWalkers all know, this international walking initiative is led by both Bonnie and Diana, whose lifelong friendship and ongoing business partnerships shape the organization every day.
Asked if their friendship most resembled Lucy and Ethel or Oprah and Gayle, Bonnie laughingly admitted: “A mixture of both. If we’re building or moving something, definitely Lucy and Ethel. I think we have a lot of respect for each other, so that part is like Gayle and Oprah. But really, Lucy and Ethel.”
As with all great partnerships, both Bonnie and Diana have come to appreciate the give and take, the learning and the letting go, and of course the accumulated knowledge of one another that so much history together brings.
Every day, every month, every year, growing EverWalk brings them both new challenges — which they have to learn to negotiate together.
Oprah Winfrey famously said, “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
Bonnie and Diana have pumped that up a bit — through storms at sea and across miles and miles of land — they have taken the limo, the bus, the boat, and their own two feet, using their friendship to inspire the world to never, ever, give up on their dreams, on movement, on their bodies, on their lives.
Together, they — and EverWalk — move onward!