Special needs

Special-needs parenting: Why fitness is especially important

Lifting wheelchairs and towing walkers are just part of the everyday routine for some parents of kids with special needs.

AnchelFamily

Anchel and Dilip want to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Over the years, my husband Dilip and I have started—and then stopped—our efforts to get back into shape. We’ve had varying degrees of success.

This fall marked the entry into a whole new world for our little family as Syona started junior kindergarten. It took a few months for us to settle into our new routine. It’s all been a whirlwind and, at the end of the day, we tend to collapse into a bit of a zombie-like state.

My four-year-old daughter is very petite, but she’s getting taller and gradually gaining weight. Her equipment—like her wheelchair and her walker—is getting larger and heavier as a result of her growth spurt. When Syona’s at home, we carry her around 95 percent of the time. We climb stairs while carrying her multiple times a day. In addition to lifting Syona, we are constantly transferring her into her equipment, which often means we’re squatting and supporting her, while rotating things around. We don’t have an adapted vehicle, so we lift her wheelchair stroller and walker into our trunks on a regular basis—in total, these pieces of equipment weight about 80 lbs. Getting her in and out of her car seat requires a combination of yoga and pilates as we lift our daughter and  help position her body securely in the car seat. And, like every other family, we do most of the above-named activities while in a frenzied rush, with little attention paid to how we’re actually moving our bodies. We discussed making the house more accessible and getting an adapted vehicle, but we want to wait a few years to get a better idea of what we will need to make our home more accessible.

In the meantime, Dilip and I decided it was time to make our health a priority.

Read more: 10 surprising ways to get kids eating healthy>

We analyzed our daily habits and figured out a plan. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do a workout together on a regular basis because of conflicting job schedules and Syona’s appointments, so we agreed that Dilip would take mornings and hit a gym close to his work while the evenings were mine. Our next challenge was figuring out where we’d exercise. We needed multiple options—some close to home, some close to work. I tend to like classes, while Dilip prefers to do a workout on his own. We decided on memberships with GoodLife Fitness. They have clubs everywhere, offer a varied schedule and have memberships that allow us to work out at different locations.

We’ve been going somewhat regularly over the last three weeks. Dilip tends to be more consistent because his mornings are fairly predictable. My evenings are often a little tougher because schedules vary, but I’ve been going as often as I can.

Since Syona’s diagnosis, my perspective on my body has changed. Not in the sense that I’d like to wear real pants, with a real waistband (though that would be nice!), but from the point of view that my body needs to be stronger. Syona and I talk about how we both want to build big muscles. Syona works harder physically than anyone I know, and there is a big part of me that feels like I owe it to her to be the absolute best version of myself—spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically. Making my health a priority was something that was long overdue.

We’ve always been fairly healthy eaters and batch cooking on the weekends means healthy, balanced meals throughout the week. But between holiday treats, my wicked sweet tooth and Dilip’s inability to say no to anything that is deep-fried or salty, it’s been a bit tougher to keep eating on track. I think that’s something we’ll need to make as our new year’s resolution.

I’m going public with our commitment to getting healthy and plan to report back to all of you in the next few months. My hope is that that we will stay on track over the long term with both Dilip and I are signed up for a year-long membership. I haven’t set a specific goal, but I do know that I want to feel stronger, more energetic and ensure my body is able to handle Syona’s needs. Over the past few weeks, Syona’s noticed that I’m going to the gym. When I get home we talk about how Mommy and Daddy are trying to build big muscles, just like Syona. I don’t know what that translates to in terms of numbers on a scale, but I do know that it will make me a happier and healthier mom, which is good for our entire family.

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.