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Keeping fit and healthy while raising a child with a disability

By Silvana Ghoussain

“Seriously how does Megan do it? She seems to have everything together all the time! On top of that, she trains while raising her two kids!”.

Yes, there are parents out there who have cracked the code of keeping themselves fit while raising children – but how do they do it?

I believe that self-care and keeping fit is a top priority for us – not just for the physical impact but also the effect it has on our mental wellbeing. As parents of children with disabilities, we know that we must take time for ourselves, if we don’t, it has a ripple effect, flowing out to the people we most love and who need us the most. 

After having my son Jacob in my 40s, I lost myself; I lost all sense of who I once once, and in the chaos of raising a child with a disability my fitness regime went out the window. I’m sure that if you’re a parent reading this you totally understand where I am coming from.

I finally made a decision that it was time to make time for me again; I wanted my son to have 100% of me but I was fatigued and my moods were up and down like a yo-yo. Also, my eating was all over the place; I was grabbing whatever, whenever and not worrying about what was going in my mouth. At the time, I was dealing with a lot regarding Jacob’s needs and I realised that I had resorted to emotional eating to help me deal with the stress.

Over time I have learnt how to manage the stress while taking care of my son’s needs, and my weight training has helped me in this. I lift weights and feel good after doing so.

It does take effort and often a change of mindset to commit to staying physically fit while raising young kids, especially those with additional needs. Here our some things that worked for me that could help you too:

  1. Make the most of the time you have available. If getting to the gym for strength training workouts is impossible, do your own workouts at home – they can be 20 mins max in your own lounge room.
  2. Get up half an hour before everyone else and head out for a walk or a run. Did you know that sprinting for 20 metre bursts is really great to burn those calories?
  3. Include the kids. This could be from running in the park with them, to kicking a ball. So many times I have grabbed a ball and tossed it in the air for my son Jacob to grab. We go on bush walks and talk about our ‘steps’ and the reasons why we need to get them up.
  4. Get organised and plan your days in advance. For me, everything is written in my diary and my phone. I also prep meals for the next day, knowing that I do not have the time, especially with a busy day ahead.
  5. Get started! This is the hard part, having the motivation and confidence to just get out there. All you need is 20 mins, start at home and eventually you can work your way up to a few times a week outdoors. Walks are a great way to get fit and keep moving.
  6. Find a gym that has a child minding service. For me, when Jacob was younger, I used a gym that also looked after children while you worked out. Jacob loved it, as it developed his social skills to be around other children and to communicate with his carers.
  7. You need to make your personal health a priority; your mental health and sleep will improve in so many ways, boosting your mood and productivity.
  8. Find a friend that can buddy with you on your fitness regime. When you have a support network, like friends and family that can help you, it will encourage you to get out and use your time to train.

Good luck!

Silvana Ghoussain – Fitness Coach/Author

Bodybuilding mum

IG: Silvanagfitness

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