In the Tank With US Cryotherapy
Trying out so many franchised concepts is one of the coolest parts of my job. My recent trip into a frigid cryotherapy chamber was only the latest—and most literal—example, showing me cryotherapy is more than a fad for hard-charging athletes and regular Joes like me.
My appointment was booked at an Xperience Fitness gym in Woodbury, Minnesota, which recently added a US Cryotherapy franchise to its roster. The gym’s owner, Tom Davidson, told me what to expect during my treatment, as we watched a regular customer head into the deep freeze. I noted the room was running at a crisp 180 degrees below zero—far gnarlier than this mid-February day.
She jumped, kicked and paced inside the chamber, and I wondered if it was a joyful squirming. I changed into shorts and a T-shirt to maximize the cooling effects, and they had me wear ear-covering headband, mittens, slippers and a painter’s mask to keep my lungs at a healthy temperature. Hoo boy!
My turn came fast, with trainer Wes opening the door as frosty steam poured out. They wanted to give me the full experience, so they set the timer for 3 minutes and I bravely stepped in.
The initial blast of cold was shocking, but not overpowering to this winter-hardened scribe. I began my own dance/pacing routine that’s partially to get the body temperature as low as possible, but also an involuntary survival mechanism. “OK, no problem, we can do this,” I thought, as icicles formed on my arm and leg hairs—fascinating.
As the seconds ticked down, my inner dialogue shifted from courageous to concern as a soothing computerized voice marked the intervals. It gets especially real in the final 60 seconds, where my squatting, pacing and jumping grew somewhat frantic as my eyelashes started to freeze. I thought warm thoughts: hot showers, wool socks, all the blankets in the world.
The real magic happens in the final 60 seconds where the drive to move intensifies, and even my eyelashes started to freeze. I thought about warm things: steaming showers, thick wool socks, all the blankets in the world.
When it was over, they opened the door and I emerged a superhero amid a billowing cloud of steam. Wes measured my neck’s temperature, which dropped a full 30 degrees. Seriously, was there anything I couldn’t do?
My guides directed me to an exercise bike where I pedaled for a few minutes, as they explained what was going on as my body reacclimated to room temperature. It was all about circulation and maximizing the positive impacts of the cold, they said. Sanity slowly returned as brought me into another room for a localized treatment on an old wrist injury. After a minute or two, they showed that my wrist was down to a nippy 46.5 degrees.
The final step was bringing me to a reclining chair where they suited me up with compression massaging pants that like moon boots and snow pants in one, designed to reduce muscle soreness in top-level, heroic athletes like me. So many interesting sensations—like an amusement park for the body and mind.
They told me how many calories I burned, and how I could expect to feel hungry and elated throughout the day. There was no doubt that my achy wrist felt reborn, and in general, I felt like the Kool-Aid man ready to blast through a brick wall. Energized was an understatement.
I said my goodbyes and drove away understanding the appeal of something new, with my heated car seat cranked up to high. I ate my dinner like a hungry wolf and slept like a champion, with my wrist relief lasting for days. I’ve always know there’s something special about life below zero, and it’s about time somebody decided to franchise it.