Weekly High Five Report: Bonnie Prudden, Ski Patroller and Exercise Guru

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Bonnie on the cover of Sports Illustrated, 1957

Bonnie Prudden is my new hero. She was the first woman to earn a National Ski Patrol badge, an exercise expert before there was even a name for such a thing, and a champion of children’s fitness. Six months ago I’d never heard of her. She passed away in December, and I recently wrote an article about her life for National Ski Patrol Magazine (to be pubbed next Winter). Even though I never met Bonnie, after interviewing her long-time business partner and close friend, Enid Whittaker, I feel like I know her. After proving herself in the very male world of skiing patrolling and rock climbing (putting up many first ascents in the Shawagunks), Bonnie wrote articles on fitness for Sports Illustrated in the 1950s, such as “Shape up for Stretch Pants,” as well as recorded what must be the very first ski fitness album, Fit to Ski, based on television episodes of the same name. Bonnie was a few decades ahead of her time, before VCRs and Jane Fonda and YouTube.

Bonnie Prudden

She taught fitness not as a means to subsidize her own lifestyle, but knowing that fit people were happy people, she wanted to spread her message. Plus, who could argue with the title Shape up for Stretch Pants? That has to be the world’s best Sports Illustrated title ever. Bonnie went on to cofound the President’s Council on Physical Fitness which utilized the “President’s Fitness” test we all endured in P.E. classes, in which I wondered who in the world could do so many pull ups. It was probably a good thing I hadn’t heard of Bonnie back in the awkward years of sixth grade gym class. It only would have given me someone to blame (even though Bonnie’s version of the fitness test was much easier than the one later adopted by the Council). But I did live on Grape Nuts as a kid, and Bonnie was a spokesperson for them, which is awesome. If Grape Nuts needs me to be a sponsor for them, I am totally available.

Recovering from a ski injury these past few months, I can look to Bonnie Prudden for inspiration. She claimed that it wasn’t years that aged us, but rather pain. I can relate. But she had a solution for that too. She called it myotherapy, and while researching my article I enjoyed a few sessions. It was totally awesome. Even if you aren’t in pain, you can always pretend and go get some sessions anyways.

As Bonnie liked to say, “You can’t turn back the clock. But you can wind it up again.”

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