Sharon Foxwell by Sharon Foxwell Additional Needs

Sharon Foxwell

Sharon Foxwell

I'm Sharon, I have a daughter with epilepsy and a severe learning disability. I blog about our livewire life.


I wanted to dedicate a post to this form of self-care that I believe becomes even more important when you have a disabled child. It’s dawned on me in recent years that I need to keep as physically strong as possible as our little girl is starting to become not so little. She’s now nine and a meltdown on a pavement is no longer solved by scooping her into her pushchair for safety.

I need to be able to move fast to catch her if she bolts, or if a seizure starts. My motivation is now more about the mental health benefits than the physical ones. I started exercising ‘properly’ about three years ago. Prior to that I dabbled, because I felt I should, I never really enjoyed it and also knew I was not doing enough.

I hated PE at school.

Now I look back, it was because I thought I was bad at team sports, got picked last, and felt like a burden to the side I was on. Not a great way to foster a love of movement. Along with thousands of others like me, it gave me a long-held dislike for all forms of exercise. This was of course illogical as I had conflated competitive team sports with lovely things like going for a swim, cycle or a walk.

Now is the time of year when exercise is talked about the most; I don’t think that pressure is helpful. Here are five tips from me, as a relatively new ‘exerciser’ on how to build it in to your life:

1. Enjoy it.

It’s the old cliché but pick something you like. If you hate the thought of anything, pick the thing you hate the least and give it a go with some things to soften it. For example, walking with a podcast you love (if you want a laugh and virtual company from other parent carers, try ‘The Skies We’re Under’ podcast), or swimming with a friend.

2. Plan

in your next activity when you finish each one. When I finish a run or walk, I mentally calculate when I will aim to do my next one. I normally have a few days break in between. If for any reason I cannot make it, then I reschedule for the next day. With things like classes it’s a bit more straightforward as you can book in advance.

3. Be honest with yourself.

If you are not using a membership, cancel it and do something else. I do classes at my gym but for 6 months had being paying extra to go to the gym itself. I never got there and kept feeling bad. In the end I removed that bit from my membership and stuck to what I love – classes.

4. Build up gradually.

I can be a bit of an enthusiast and when I first started I got overexcited and did too much, causing me muscle pain.

5. Team up.

Often committing to going for a walk with a friend helps me stick to it. You can end it with coffee and cake then too.

6. Balance it.

When I finally discovered running I thought that was all I needed to do. A few injuries later, a wise physio told me that if you are over 40, you can’t just do running, you need to balance it with some strength too, to prevent injury.

The benefits? There are so many. For me it’s my mental health. My anxiety has been so much better since I have had a regular exercise routine. When the stresses of being a parent carer become too much I know I now have something I can easily do to help me. Sometimes it’s a 10 minute walk in the dark and rain, but I never regret it.


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