Delving into the Unknown: MS and Heat Training for Hawaii

Heat terrifies me.

Thus far, by working at my fitness level and overall health, I have had very few issues with my Multiple Sclerosis and have managed to minimize the impact of a number of my symptoms. I’ve progressively trained my body to manage the demands of physical stress and have been able to participate in some pretty neat swimming, dragon boat and outrigger competitions. What I haven’t done as of yet is pushed my body in extreme heat.

Two summers ago, I was selected to be part of a crew of women outrigger paddlers who were training for a race in Hawaii. Quite frankly, I was honoured; I was new to the sport and the race would be both physically and psychologically demanding – two things about a race I really like. After extensive consideration, sadly, I turned my seat in the boat down. I just didn’t know if my body could manage the heat in Hawaii.

The hardest part of having MS (for me), is having to say no.

So, in my typical “don’t say no because of MS” fashion I decided that I would one day go to Hawaii to race in an outrigger. I immediately began heat training spending 5 to 10 minutes in the steam room after my workouts to try and build my tolerance to physical heat. I also increased my training intensity so my body would develop a greater tolerance for exercise educed overheating.

It is now two years since I made that decision and I am 1 week away from leaving for Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and 2 weeks away from racing in the Queen Lili’oukalani Canoe Race with 5 other women from Ocean River Paddling Club.

Here’s what I am up against:

I know that I have Uhthoff’s Syndrome, which is a worsening of neurological symptoms related to MS when the body becomes overheated from hot weather, exercise, fever, saunas or hot tubs. In Hawaii, I will be faced with a double whammy: overheating from hot weather and exercise (the race).

I also know that I have had the following symptoms in the past, symptoms I have fought so hard to keep in the past by remaining fit:

  • optic neuritis – visual problems, temporary blindness
  • numbness/tingling in my hands, arms, legs and feet
  • fatigue and weaknes
  • balance and dizziness
  • L’hermitte’s symptom is the occurrence of episodic tingling and electric current-like sensations down the back, into the arms and even down the legs

What I don`t know is if the heat training has been enough.

Working on ways to manage your Multiple Sclerosis in the heat? Contact me so we can share your story with others.


> Read MS Success: Racing in the Heat in Hawaii


2 Comments on “Delving into the Unknown: MS and Heat Training for Hawaii”

  1. Carol says:

    Hi Susan:

    Interesting blog as those are exactly the same issues I am currently needing to consider in my pursuit of competitive outrigger and dragon boating. Right now I am holidaying in a warm part of BC and as I do some cross training here I was thinking that I need to find a way to train my body to be accustomed to the heat. I find your comment on the steam room an interesting thought and will try to incorporate that when I go home. Good luck and thank you for the information.


    • msathlete says:


      Great to hear from you! Hope you are enjoying your holiday and not spending too much time training. The steam room seemed to be a good place to start. I started with about 1 minute at a time and slowly worked my way up. There were a few times where I had tingly toes – when ever that happened I hit the shower to cool down. I was surprised at how long I was able to stay in as hot tubs and steam rooms are supposed to be no-nos for us. If you do try it may I suggest that you really pay attention to your body’s response during and after. I have found this one of the best tools of all.

      Hope to get together with you for coffee in the fall.


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