Living in Australia can sometimes challenge someone with MS when it comes to dealing with the heat. Especially if you are an athlete living with MS. A lot of people with MS have an intolerance to the heat and if our core body temperature goes up then our symptoms can become worse.
Years ago doctors used to think that the worsening symptoms meant a relapse and even 15 years ago when I was diagnosed I was told in no uncertain terms that I would never do sport again! Well you might as well have chopped my head off. Needless to say I am pig-headed and stubborn and refused to give in, so continued with sport as my body dictated. Now however we have learnt that the fitter you are the better you are able to deal with relapses and symptoms. But it still doesn’t help with the heat!
Now when I talk heat I mean the scorching heat that is plaguing Australia right now causing 100’s of bushfires. Today it was forecast to hit 39 degrees (celcius that is!) in Melbourne, with temperatures well about that in country Victoria. Well it ended up hitting just over 40 degrees in Melbourne late this afternoon. I had decided with my coach Helen, that I would switch my training days, take today as a rest day and then ride my 2 hours on Saturday (predicted temperatures are much better then), but when I woke up it was a cool 16 degrees. Lately the highs predicted have been hitting a lot later in the day, so I decided that I could actually go out before the heat. It was good, I left at 7:30am making it home just past 9:30am and the temperature had only got to the mid 20’s…perfect!
But how does someone living with MS cope with these stifling temperatures, well sometimes not so well. Most of the time I will just stay inside in the coolness of the house or at least be somewhere in airconditioning – building or car. But sometimes there are places we need to be and things we need to do that means heading outside so there are other tactics involved. I have an ice vest which once submerged in water is then put in the freezer then worn like a vest. Certainly not a great fashion statement but boy it works! You can also purchase hats, neck ties and wraps which once frozen help to trick the body into believing it is cool. I know that I used to wear a wet hat while I was rowing and this seemed to help as well. Of course you can also turn to popsicles and icy poles or a nice big gelato or icecream if you have a sweet tooth! This sometimes isn’t good for the waist line though!
If you are someone with MS some of these cooling vests can be purchased through Arctic Heat in Australia but I do believe that they have an office in the US as well.
So what happens if you have to race in extreme weather…well you just do! That is the excitement of racing around the world in different countries and their climates, you never know what you will have to race in. Last June at the World Cup in Segovia, Spain on the day of my Road Race the temperature hit 37 degrees. I was kept cool by our physio, Anouska, with wet towels and ice before the start of the race which help immensely. But as the race wore on I was hit with extreme fatigue and the loss of sensation in my hands and feet. In the end I came 2nd so really can’t complain and eventually as I cooled down the feeling came back.
I certainly can’t get upset about something I have no control over. All I can do is the best that I can and learn to accept that what is…is!
The good thing is that now that I have done my session today I will be able to have my Saturday free to do anything I want to! See there is always a positive side to everything.