The final week: Continuing our journey

068Hard to believe we are about 1 week from the end of the Fit Family Challenge. Wow!! How time has flown!!!! It really does seem like we just started and for our family, this is our beginning. We talked about it recently and it rings true now more than ever! We have learned so much about ourselves, how to be active as a family together and how to have even more fun!

For the next few weeks, we have Tanner with us and we plan to incorporate what we’ve learned to include him. It really is “a family thing” and such a positive experience we are thrilled to have been a part of!

MacKenzi is really excelling in swimming this season. Just in the past two weeks, she 044swam the “IM,” individual medley, which is 2 laps of each stroke (back, breast, butterfly and freestyle) and had never done more than 2 laps in a swim meet – ever. In our last swim meet, she finished :50 ahead of the other swimmers in her heat. To see the pride she had for what she accomplished brought tears. We are always incredibly proud of her efforts and this was an exceptional moment for her. Congrats Kenzi!!!!!!! She also did well in her other events, which brings smiles too!

As a family, we are walking, swimming, biking and playing a bit of tennis when it’s not so sweltering hot! Going forward, our plans include hiking in the NC mountains and me finishing physical therapy to run again. (It will happen before the end of the summer – fingers crossed for extra luck!).

I want to thank MUSC and Coca-Cola and specifically recognize Dr. Susan Johnson, free cokeWellness Director, Ms. Janis Newton, and Mrs. Debbie Petitpain. Each were very knowledgeable, helpful and available to answer questions and concerns. You are AWESOME!

We will continue our journey and hope you do the same! As I saw on a Facebook post recently, “You are so much stronger than you think.” Agreed!!

Best wishes for better health!!

Donna, Jody, MacKenzi and Tanner Hollars

Week 9: Diving into summer

Summer is in full swing for the Hollars family, which means we are going every which way! I had hoped we could slow down at least a bit to regroup! It’s fun, though, staying busy and running around.

Now that softball is over for the season, MacKenzi has plunged into swimming and continues to do really well with it and tennis. Keeping her busy is super important because, like me, she might prefer to veg out. We are excited about her summer sitter, Blake, who is an amazing athlete and swimmer and comes from a healthy family who engages in a healthy lifestyle. I’m looking forward to her guidance with MacKenzi these next few weeks, as MacKenzi might just listen to her as a really cool teenager, rather than her old parents.

MacKenzi also has full school days, having been accepted into the summer SMAART program offered through our school district.

Jody seems to be on the road more than ever, and I’m always working. I imagine someone can relate to this type of lifestyle. I have incorporated what I learned from Debbie Petitpain at MUSC about bringing my lunch to work, and also doing the stretching exercises Alicia at the MUSC Wellness Center taught me.

All in all, thanks to the Fit Family Challenge, our family has been successful at several new things:

1) We eat as a family and without television!

2) We walk and bicycle together more.

3) We play more games as a family.

For us, that’s success in baby steps. But hey, we’re getting there!!!

- Submitted by Donna Hollars

Week 7: Practicing healthy habits away from home

Playing at the beach during Memorial Day weekend. (Photo provided)

Our family had a great week in Florida! Traveling while incorporating new habits can be tough. Sometimes we did great and other times, not so much. As for our healthy choices, we packed nutritious snacks for the road, and used the hotel gym and pool to work out. MacKenzi and I rode stationary bikes and did laps in the pool. Jody walked on the treadmill and played with MacKenzi. I was so happy we worked out together!

I’m ready to walk for exercise again and run soon! I’ve decided to sign all of us up for the Myrtle Beach 5K, which is in October (on my 50th birthday!!), and register myself for my 4th half-marathon the following day. The last one I couldn’t do due to injury so I’m super pumped about this one!

Another recent accomplishment was meeting with Alicia, a Medical University of South Carolina personal trainer who is ahhhh-mazzzzzing! At our consult, she said “no pain equals no pain” versus the age-old saying of “no pain equals no gain.” As I was trying each exercise for my injured leg, she would not let me feel pain. As soon as I felt pain, I had to stop. She was able to identify several exercises I can do, plus the recumbent bike. Now, a little over a week later, I feel so much better! I can even play kickball with no pain!

MacKenzi continues to stay busy with tennis and swimming, and has incorporated more daily activity this week than ever before! We are really proud of her!

It is Memorial Day weekend and today we went to the beach with friends and started a game of keep away: kids vs. parents. Guess who won? Yes, the kids smoked the parents by a long shot! Afterwards, we took a 75-minute walk before dinner.

All-in-all we are doing great! As a suggestion from MUSC nutritionist Debbie Petitpain, I’m tracking my weight daily (this is not for everyone, but I’m OK with it) and keeping a journal. Accountability is important!

If you haven’t signed up for the Fit Family Challenge, go to: and join our family and others to get fit and have fun!!

- Submitted by Donna Hollars

Week 6: Getting out and active + meal planning

We’ve started the challenge!! MacKenzi and I were excited to go to Charleston Mayor Joe Riley’s press conference officially kicking off the Lowcountry Fit Family Challenge along with representatives from MUSC, Coca-Cola, CVS and more! MacKenzi felt like a rock star meeting so many people and taking part in two interviews!

Our family keeps getting busier and busier! I am enjoying getting in the yard with MacKenzi hollars1to play volleyball and kickball. I’ve also noticed her daddy getting out there (without any “hinting”). MacKenzi created a daily date to do a family activity she wants to be responsible for coming up with. Last night, we danced ourselves silly before she led a bike ride. We thought it would be a short ride around our neighborhood, and it turned out we rode through ours and two adjacent neighborhoods before heading home.

I had two consults this past week. The first was with Alicia, an awesome and amazing MUSC physical therapist who worked on my hip and leg pain. I’ve been doing the recommended exercises and the pain is dissipating. I wouldn’t have believed it if it hadn’t happened! It feels great to think I may be running again soon!

The second consult was with Debbie Petitpain, an MUSC nutritionist. Having lost a bunch of weight on my own, I have a pretty good idea of how to eat, but continue to struggle with meal prep and portion sizes. I also eat a large amount of protein via meats, and she gave me a more balanced plan. Some of her other tips are to fix my entire week’s lunches in two bags (Mon-Wed, Thurs-Fri). Each bag should contain a good amount of protein, carbs and veggies. A normal day could be chicken; salad made of spinach, cucumbers, and carrots (I’m a pretty basic salad eater); a frozen bag of steamed veggies, which also doubles as the ice pack; and plenty of water. My snack is non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a sprinkling of fiber cereal. I’ve been really hungry between snack and dinner, so her recommendation was to drink a protein shake on the way home from work. I have not had a chance to look into this, but will check what’s available. Other great tips were to have the same place to eat. She referred to an author who wrote that we have the same place to sleep and the same place to go to the bathroom, so why don’t we have the same place to eat? Last night, we ate dinner in the living room, but with the television off. That was definitely a first! Tonight, we ate at the kitchen counter; again, no TV.

hollars2Since I’m still injured, we came up with our own outside gym this weekend by working in the yard. For several hours, we raked, bagged and carried off plenty of debris. I was glad when that was done! From that came our other major milestone this week, which was purchasing herbs and veggies to grow. MacKenzi found the plants and wanted us to try it. We should have cucumbers, tomatoes, banana peppers, red bell pepper, squash, sweet basil and dill super soon! I am not a green thumb by any means, so this is going to be interesting if anything actually grows!!

I cannot say how honored, albeit humbled, we are to be a part of an experience that it is bringing our whole family together in ways I could not have imagined. These steps may not seem like much, and granted they are small, but we are all taking steps in the right direction. We are by no means perfect but to say I’m proud of my family is an understatement. Both my husband and daughter continue to amaze me! One day, we may grace the cover of the Lowcountry Parent magazine as a family who exercises together, as the Glowackis recently did.

My hope is if you are reading this blog, you too are learning some new tips and ways to get fit and have fun with your family.

- Submitted by Donna Hollars

And now, a word from MacKenzi…

As part of the Fit Family Challenge, I have been working on my exercise and eating habits. It has not been easy but I have been trying.

I just met new friends, Ethan and Quinn, and yesterday I played outside for several hours with them playing hide-and-seek, and then monkey-in-the-middle with our parents. Kids won! Yay!

On Saturday, I helped package food for the hungry near my school.

I just started swim team. We swim for one hour, four days a week, and sometimes we do exercises in between laps.

My family and I are starting a flower/veggie/herb garden. We cleared an area we thought we would use, then decided to put them in pots.

I’m most happy that tonight I led a family bike ride after dinner and tomorrow play tennis.

Today, I realized something… I shouldn’t be lazy… I should go outside and play!!

- Submitted by MacKenzi Hollars

Week 5: Setting challenge goals

The Hollars family had another crazy week (so what’s new?!!). Jody has been on the road and I’m working 14- to 16-hour days, plus the other hats we wear. It seems we moved one step forward in the right direction and 1 ½ steps back… BUT the good news is we ARE getting on track! I didn’t want every week’s blog to be blah, blah, blah, so to correct it, we are getting ourselves prepared. We have grocery shopped, planned our family activities, and are getting excited that the Fit Family Challenge is about to officially begin!

This week, I had a wellness consultation with Janis Newton, MUSC Interim Wellness Director, and she offered excellent tools for us individually and for our family. The first task is to set our challenge goals. What do we as a family want to accomplish these next 8 weeks? Then how can we begin to accomplish these tasks to get to our goals?

I shared with her that MacKenzi created an “exercise mug” that holds different types of exercises listed on slips of paper: 50 jumping jacks, 25 squats, 5 burpees, 5 minutes of running in place, and more. We are going to use her exercise mug as our daily “plan B” so for those days it rains or we just can’t get outside, that will be our go-to exercise. For those days we can get outside, we will be biking, swimming, playing tennis, kickball, softball, walking/jogging and, of course, jumping on the trampoline.

School is about to be out, which gives MacKenzi plenty of time to be active and participate in swim team, which averages five hours/week. One of my biggest goals is to begin running again (once my hip heals). I miss the strong feeling I get when I run, and now that MacKenzi is running with me, I really want to get back to it! There’s a saying: “I may run slower than 90’s dial-up internet, but I run.” That is pretty true!!!! MacKenzi’s goals are to eat healthier and be a bigger part of the preparation. At 10 ½ years old, she is becoming more interested to help and I want to continue to encourage these activities. Jody’s main goal initially is to find out what’s happening with his knees and recently he injured his ankle which left him with a swollen foot (we are a funny sight with my hip & his ankle issue!).

But, we are NOT going to let this stop us! We are hanging in there and will do everything we can and then some to participate in this challenge. We have already gained so much more than we imagined. I want to encourage you that if we can do this with our hectic, injured and crazy lifestyle, so can you! And if you are reading this blog and possibly following our journey to better health and family fitness, go to and sign your family up. Let’s get healthy together!

- Submitted by Donna Hollars

Week 4: Oh, what a relief…

Remember the part of the Alka-Seltzer jingle, “Oh what a relief it is?”…well I can say about last week, “Oh what a relief it is” to have it behind us! I’m also happy part of the stress, lack of exercise, and overall yucky feeling are gone too!

I haven’t been able to get my hip better, so walking has even been hard. Plus, our family stayed incredibly busy — in three different directions. With Jody’s and my current work schedules, we are rarely on the same page with me leaving early and coming home late. He starts later and finishes earlier so he can care for MacKenzi. Most weekends are difficult with our work schedules, so this coming Mother’s Day will be more blessed because we are going to be together! We are looking forward to quality family time and hope to spend part of it at MUSC’s Adventure Out program!

photoMacKenzi has really come alive in her elementary softball league. This past week she made several key plays and helped the team get to the #1 spot. Only a couple more games left! She also spent time swimming, biking, tubing and, of course, jumping on the trampoline. Although our days are exhausting, I know this time won’t last long with her, so in an effort to savor each moment, I am going to get on the trampoline and jump.

In an effort to be positive, MacKenzi, Jody & I played volleyball, jumped on the trampoline and she and I walked 1 ½ miles across the neighborhood. Now, that felt good!

- Submitted by Donna Hollars

Week 3: Where did the time go?

It’s nice to be able to write when things are going good, like when we are able to get outside and play, get a bike ride in or for me, a good run. It’s not so nice when those don’t occur and a week has passed and you wonder “where did the time go?” For this past week, we are in the latter category and it feels yuck!

M&S tubing w Nicolls.042714MacKenzi played in two fantastic softball games, her team victorious over the #1 team in our league. She swam and she went tubing with a friend (thanks Skyler!) and jumped on the trampoline a bunch of times. However, our family did not get out as much as we have in weeks past. I know this is just one week, but it feels like a month! Both Jody and I are also injured – him with ankle and foot pain and me with hip/sciatic pain. When we go outside, we kinda’ look like we are 30 years older than we really are as we limp around!

As I look at this coming week, I’m working the next seven days 7am-10pm (not counting time working from home). Jody is traveling two, maybe three, full days and MacKenzi will be with friends when he is not here. It makes it hard to plan family meals, fun and together time with these hectic work hours. So what do we do? We keep moving forward. I can’t, nor do I want to, change our frenzied family life. I just need to learn how to work around it. Will meal planning be difficult? Yes. Will family fun time happen? Hopefully, but most likely not. Can we get through this time in our life? We can and will! Once we are through the crazies, we are looking forward to family fun! For this momma, I simply can’t wait! Bring on the week!!

- Submitted by Donna Hollars

Week 2: Meeting the health experts

It’s Easter Eve and we are slowing making our way into the morning and the last days of spring break. It’s so nice to not be rushed. Between work, running in early morning races, family duties and more work, weekends aren’t always this lazy. And with the rain deluge we had last night, it looks like it may be an inside day, which gives me a sigh of relief. Making Easter eggs and a treasure hunt for Easter Sunday sound fine to me!

For the Fit Family Challenge we are so fortunate to be a part of, our family met with the MUSC team of experts, including Dr. Susan Johnson, Wellness Director; Janis Newton, Wellness Center Interim Director; and Debbie Petitpain, Nutritionist. We spent time discussing the goals of the challenge, their role in the challenge, what we can expect from this challenge, and what is expected of us during this challenge. Their first goal for us is to write down weekly activity, food, and sleep cycles so they can more fully develop a plan for our family.

FFC Hollars 2Our family did have several accomplishments this week by getting outside and playing together! We threw the softball and played 4-square (remember that game?). It may not sound like much, but to see MacKenzi’s face light up while we engaged with her was priceless! Also, while I was at FFC Hollars1work, MacKenzi and several friends played 4-square with Jody. Wished I could have seen that experience! MacKenzi and I got more active together this past week as a good friend, Stephanie Thomas, is a licensed Zumba instructor and I began taking classes. To say coordination is not my thing would be a huge understatement, but I can also attest that I was not alone in my disjointed footwork. MacKenzi and her BFF, Caitlin, Stephanie’s daughter, tried it and it was more about giggling than anything else! Plus, the adjacent playground was more inviting than watching us! MacKenzi also took a bike ride with me while I tried to run for a bit and we jumped on the trampoline making up games as we went along. That was fun! I’m hoping these types of activities will continue to engage us in her world.

Our struggles this week centered around lack of time. I worked more this week and was not able to prepare as well as I had hoped. This led to eating out more than we wanted, but not as much as we have in the past. We will keep working on making more time for preparation to have more success. Til next time!

- Submitted by Donna Hollars

Welcome to the Hollars’ Family Blog!

The Hollars family

The Hollars family

Wow! What an honor to be part of the Lowcountry Parent Fit Family Challenge along with MUSC and all the sponsors! Our family is excited to be part of this new adventure and humbled to have been nominated (thanks Emily)! We hope to share our journey with you, its ups and downs (hopefully more ups than downs!) and encourage you to get healthy along with us!

Our family consists of my husband, Jody; our 10-year old daughter, MacKenzi Grace; and Tanner, Jody’s son/my bonus son, who’s 18 and completing 12th grade in Jacksonville, Fla. Our family also has Max and Cooper, our beloved four-legged, furry friends. Max is a 9-year old yellow lab and Cooper is a Heinz 57 kinda’ dog. Don’t know his age or background, but he came to us about 8 ½ years ago and never left.

Jody works as a territory sales manager for a major fitness company and does day and some overnight traveling. I am an IT trainer with MUSC and gearing up for the craziest summer ever with the implementation of our latest program and its July 1st “go live.” leprechaun runAlthough I don’t travel often, I am gone approximately 11 hours daily between home and commute time. Our sweet MacKenzi Grace is completing 4th grade at our local elementary school and is involved in the SAIL Gifted and Talented Program, Fun Fit, and Girl Scouts. She loves jumping on the trampoline, and recently has done her second 5K!

Tanner has been super involved with soccer since he was a young child and currently goes to school, works a few jobs and still plays soccer. Hard to believe, this will be his last summer prior to college.

In the past year, I changed my life and lost 75 pounds through the Lunchtime Losers program at MUSC, and learned to love running (at 49 years of age!). In two weeks, I will run my third half-marathon – typing the words is kinda scary. Although I’m super happy I lost the weight, it’s learning how to keep it off. Old habits die hard and if not careful, I tend to slide back into unhealthy behaviors pretty quick. Can anyone relate?

We consider ourselves a normal, on the go family. With Jody’s day trip travel, he’s home a few days a week with MacKenzi when she comes home from school. From there, he shuttles to tennis, softball, friends’ homes. While we take part of this challenge, she will be swimming 5 days a week Hollars beachfor our community’s summer league. As a family, we love to go to the beach and boating, Jody’s true passion. With our climate, we are fortunate to be able to do this the majority of the year.

Our hopes for this challenge are to learn new ways as a family to have more fun and get healthy – together. This will be something completely new for us.

Because we are on the go, we tend to eat out — A LOT — which has not helped us in our budget or belts! Jody is an awesome grill-meister and chef to our family; however, I’m not the best at planning but hoping to be a better planner whether it’s writing down our weekly meals, shopping from a weekly grocery list and/or sticking to the plan. This will be the hardest part for me. During the week, we end up going the easy route – grabbing a bite on the go. We also want to learn how to be more active and most importantly, set a good example for our children. I hope you’ll join the challenge to make family fitness fun!!

- Submitted by Donna Hollars

Hi, my name is MacKenzi. I am 10 years old and in 4th grade. I am one of the daughters of fam circle cupone of the Fit Family Challenge Spotlight Families. I will be writing blogs every so often about my activities. Recently I ran the Cooper River Kids Run with my BFF Caitlin. The run was a mile and it was my first race without a parent. It was very fun. Caitlin’s mom teaches Zumba and I tried it. It was funny watching mommy!

- Submitted by MacKenzi Hollars