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How to combat IBS with exercise when you have toddlers

Like many coeliacs, I have IBS. To combat the symptoms, I've discovered exercising regularly with plenty of stretching works WONDERS. As in, ever since I began doing regular exercise, I've only once had to grab a hot water bottle for my tummy pain. That's right: once. This is indeed a miracle.

And speaking of miracles, having 2 children at the age of 40 is another. I am incredibly blessed. But without regular exercise my IBS likes to rear its ugly head and therefore the workout has to happen (no matter what).

Exercise mat
Things are going smoothly...for now...

From the picture above, you'd think I had it nailed. And I did (for about 2 minutes).

The question is, how on earth are you meant to do a proper work out (i.e. more than 2 minutes) when you've got tinies under your feet? In normal times, it's fairly straightforward: you can either get childcare or go to a postnatal class.

There's also a third option - waiting for your little one(s) to fall asleep so you can exercise, but I've found this totally unreliable. Either they wake up during your workout, won't go to sleep at all or they are asleep but you spend the whole time fretting they'll wake up. Add in a second child and it's game over before you've even got your sports bra on.

I've tried going in the garden (oh, the joy of having one!) but that brings its own complications. Firstly, I can't screen a workout outside (I tried on my laptop but the glare of the sun meant I couldn't see a thing); doing a routine without someone to follow never seems particularly productive.

Then there's the toddler issue. Playtime suddenly gets a bit muddy. And watery. And alarming (when they inexplicably pick up a hoe I never knew we had).

When I first began trying to exercise at home, my son could walk but my daughter couldn't, making a workout desperately complicated. She'd start crawling over my mat and come for cuddles while he'd find a large wooden toy and drive it into my feet. It all seemed impossible and for a while I gave up altogether, desperate for a time when things would become easier.

But that time wasn't going to come fast enough for my needs. I couldn't wait forever. For one thing, my IBS was so bad I kept thinking I'd been glutened, which made me incredibly anxious every time I ate out. So I decided to adopt a new mantra: to persevere.

At first, it was as bad as it had ever been, but after a while they came round to the idea of yoga. My son would run upstairs to put his leggings on to join Mummy with tree pose (given he was just two years old, it was the only move he had any hope of mastering). Before I knew it, I was ordering them both an exercise mat.

But as I mentioned earlier, neither of them was keen to work out for very long. It meant I'd have to occupy them whilst I worked out in the same room (or risk them trashing everything in the rest of the house).

The best way for me to get you to understand how I do this is to show you. So here's a time lapse video of my latest workout.

It all looks quite manageable, doesn't it? But that's time lapse for you. You're not hearing the tantrums and the wails. Allow me to walk you through it.

Ali Walsh doing a workout
Me trying to work out with toddlers in the same room.

The first 8 minutes or so are perfectly manageable. You can see them both sitting on the sofa eating apples. After they've finished, they happily get into a large cardboard box. That happiness doesn't last. Suddenly they're fighting about a toy necklace and who gets to play with it. Then one of them finds a silica gel packet (aaarghh!) which I hastily remove before meticulously wiping down their hands. A few minutes later, you can see my daughter wandering into my workout space, narrowly avoiding being trodden on as I lunge backwards.

Ali Walsh working out with toddler
A precarious position for a toddler!

She then decides she's going to get her purple exercise mat out but doesn't actually use it (what a ridiculous idea!). And somehow I manage to get through a 45 minute video whilst not only getting a decent amount of exercise but also having fun. Who knew?!

Ali Walsh after workout
Happy after finishing my workout!

So slowly but surely, I've managed to get to a point where it's possible to do a home workout with children. I just have to roll with the punches, as it were. But it's a heck of a lot better than the punches IBS gives me otherwise.

I'd love to think that others are doing the same so do share your workout stories below!



Hi! Great to have you here...

My name's Ali and I help people on gluten-free diets have a better, easier and healthier lifestyle. 

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