Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Milk and Marathons in the Midwest

Two Dairy Farmers, Four Kids, 600 Cows and 26.2 Miles

Written by Megan Sheets

When Andrew and Jennifer Holle aren’t busy running the day-to-day operations of their 650-head dairy farm in Mandan, North Dakota, they can be found running their four kids to various activities, or literally running miles—and lots of them—as they prepare to run with the Fuel Up to Play 60 team in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 8th.
Being a dairy farmer is hard work, and so is being the parents of four very busy kids. So, it seems downright impossible to add in the grueling schedule that comes with training for a marathon. Naturally, we wanted to learn more.
We’ve asked the Holles to share with us just how they manage it all and why they’ve made a commitment to health and wellness in their lives. The good news is – the Holles have graciously agreed to let us follow along as they train for the marathon, so we’ll be sharing their tips, tricks and motivations with you through our blog and other social media channels over the next several weeks using #HolleMarathonHustle, and we hope you follow along on their amazing journey!
With just a few weeks to go, we wanted to kick things off by sharing a little more about Andrew and Jennifer Holle, and what has motivated them to run the Chicago Marathon this fall.

Staying healthy and active is just who we are.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that Andrew and Jennifer are runners. Managing the always-on schedule that comes with running a successful dairy farm and a busy family takes discipline, patience, perseverance, hard-work and let’s face it—good time management skills. These characteristics are also needed when it comes to running a marathon. For the Holles, it’s clear these traits are ingrained deeply into who they are as individuals, and that staying committed to health and wellness is a top priority for the entire family.
Andrew and Jennifer have always been active—both were heavily involved in sports growing up and in college, and eating right and staying healthy was something that was instilled in them at an early age. Jennifer credits her parents for her love of running and physical activity. Thanks to their encouragement, as well as the encouragement of the many coaches both her and Andrew have had over the years, they both learned about health, nutrition and how to take care of their bodies. Now, they share that knowledge and love of running with their entire family, whom often run together on a regular basis as a way to spend quality time.

A Lifestyle Choice, Not a Chore

While the Holles may have many chores to do on the farm, they definitely don’t see running, or any exercise for that matter, as one of them. Jennifer and Andrew have made it a point to make physical activity fun and enjoyable so that the kids will want to do it, and so it doesn’t become just another dreaded item on the family’s already full to-do list. Instead, they want their kids to see activities such as running as an enjoyable way to spend time together as a family. So, while Andrew needs to be a more planful with his run, doing them most mornings at 5 a.m., before the 6 a.m. milking, Jennifer takes a more laid-back approach that doesn’t include regularly scheduled runs or exercise sessions – making her goals more achievable.
“While I do plan out my mileage for the day, I don’t plan a specific time that I’m going to run because our life is crazy, and I know that as soon as I schedule a run, something else will come up and I will be disappointed,” says Jennifer. “Instead, I fit running in during the ‘cracks’ in my time. Sometimes that is at 7 a.m., or sometimes that is during my kid’s practices, or before I go to bed at night. Andrew and I also try and get in a longer run in the afternoon or evening and the kids will ride bikes with us as we go. It all really just depends on the farm’s and our family’s schedule for that specific day.”
Another way that Jennifer is able to fit in runs during the day is to include her kids whenever possible. “Our mailbox is a mile and a half away, so the kids and I will race to the mailbox to get the mail. We also try to do one- or two-mile ‘fun runs’ around the farm, the soccer fields, in town, around the baseball diamonds—whenever we have extra time in between activities. I also make sure to tailor these runs for the appropriate age—longer runs for the older kids and more of a fun, shorter run for the younger.”
This playful approach to staying physically active has not only worked for Jennifer, but it has also allowed the entire family to spend quality time together and is teaching the kids important lessons along the way.
“If you just make it a normal part of your time together, it’s much easier and feels less like something you have to do and more like something you want to do,” says Jennifer. “Our kids have even done marathons as a way to be a part of the runs that Andrew and I do. For them, it’s just part of how we have fun as a family and spend time together, and that’s what is really important.”

Andrew and Jennifer running with her dad on Thanksgiving

Creating Healthy Traditions

The view that physical activity and family time go hand-in-hand can also be seen in the holiday traditions the extended Holle family has established. Their commitment to living a healthy lifestyle has allowed the family to create great memories along the way.
“We have a tradition every holiday that I really look forward to every year,” says Jennifer. “My parents come to the farm and before dinner, we do a “hollow-leg” run to the neighbors’ farm and back, which is about two miles each way. The road is very secluded—no one hardly ever drives down it—so it’s a very peaceful and calming setting, and it allows us to have some really good talks as we run. It’s the perfect trail and the perfect way to kick off the holiday, and the best part is that we’ve made some really good family memories while doing it.”

A Can-Do Attitude

Like most things in life, there is no simple recipe for success as a dairy farmer, just as there is no simple recipe for success when it comes to training for and completing a marathon. But after speaking with the Holles, it’s clear that with a can-do attitude – and most importantly, a commitment to family – you really can accomplish just about anything. These traits are strong and prevalent in Andrew and Jennifer Holle, and now, are strong in their children as well.
We look forward to following Andrew and Jennifer on their journey to the Chicago Marathon and hope you are as well! Be sure to visit Midwest Dairy’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages and follow #HolleMarathonHustle to hear more about the Holles’ journey to the marathon and for more tips and motivation for creating your own healthy and active lifestyle.

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