Staying cool is one of the keys to working out with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Heat has always been one of my MS triggers, causing tingly toes and blurred vision within seconds of stepping outside during warm summer months. But a person can only spend so much time indoors working out at the pool and gym. There comes a time when one needs to change their routine. Living in British Columbia, Canada, it’s hard to not be drawn to working out in the great outdoors.
The summer of 2008 a good friend, MJ, presented me with an opportunity to try something new – dragon boating. She was the coach of a local team (Dragon Express) and was in need of a few paddlers. It was a frightening proposition as it meant intense workouts outside, where there was no air conditioning. The temperature would be as Mother Nature decided, and since it was summer, that meant it would likely be hot.
The good news: the water was close by. I could jump out of the boat and into the cool ocean if needed. So I decided I would meet my MS half way and work out on top of the water rather than in it in the cool safety of a pool. I said yes to MJ and there began my paddling career.
It was a fantastic summer. Workouts were three times weekly approximately an hour and a half each. Races were every second or third weekend. Over time I developed more confidence in my ability to manage my MS outside of a controlled air conditioned environment.
I monitored my body’s reaction to the combination of heat and exercise closely. If I began to overheat I would dip my hands deep into the water as I paddled and would splash myself if I needed to cool more. I drank plenty of water before and during workouts and took comfort in knowing that if anything did happen I could jump out of the boat into the ocean for a quick cool down.
By summer’s end I realized that workouts outside of the gym and pool were manageable, they just required a little more forethought and preparation. I wanted more!
Luckily MJ had more in mind for me than the dragon boating. There was a crew of competitive outrigger canoeists that paddled out of the same club as our dragon boat team. MJ encouraged me to try out and I have been outrigger canoeing ever since.
Dragon Boating continues to work well for me. If you are someone using dragon boat trainging to battle your disease I encourage you to contact me so we can share your story with others.