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Health & Fitness

A First-Timer’s Guide to Cryotherapy

What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold.

It seems like new health and fitness fads pop up every day, so when my social media feeds began to fill with images of friends voluntarily stepping into what looked like freezers, I wasn’t too fazed, but I was intrigued. A short investigation led me to cryotherapy, a healing technique that involves being exposed to sub-zero temperatures.

Developed in Japan in 1978, whole body cryotherapy was created to treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Since then, the treatment has been used as a holistic solution to benefit both the bodies and minds of Olympians and celebrities alike. If it was good enough for Mandy Moore, it was certainly good enough for me, so on a humid Saturday morning, I headed to CryoZone in Uptown in the pursuit of some post-workout pain (and heat) relief.

The Basics

Treatment: Guests enter a CryoSauna, or a cylindrical metal chamber, where they are engulfed in a nitrogen mist from their shoulders down. The mist creates cold air, bringing the temperature down between -160 °F and -260°F for about three minutes. “Chill-Out Specialists” monitor the session.

Claims: You can go down an endless internet spiral researching the benefits of cryotherapy, but some advantages CryoZone specifically draws attention to are cellulite reduction, quicker recoveries after surgery and training, and positive effects on mental health.
Cost:
CryoZone’s Texas locations offer first-timers a discounted price for $25 for a three-minute session. Monthly memberships as well as multiple-visit passes are also available.

What to Wear: Prior to entering the CryoSauna you will (privately) disrobe and put on two pairs of gloves, one pair of socks, and slippers. (Pro tip: One look in the mirror and you’ll laugh any anxiety away.)

The Experience

Expectations:  Even though I knew what a CryoSauna looked like, I still envisioned a Steve Rogers-becoming-Captain America scenario, with a group of scientists observing my reactions. As a Dallas native, I’ve never experienced legitimately cold weather, so I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to handle sub-zero temperatures. At the same time, three minutes—the length of a pop song or a movie trailer—seemed more than doable.

Reality: The first thirty seconds were a breeze. It felt like a traditional Dallas winter; not ideal without a jacket, but manageable. I was able to make small talk with the specialist and pose for the inevitable Instagram picture that my friend captured. I was so confident, I heard myself say, “It’s not as cold as I thought it would be!” The next two minutes couldn’t have proved me more wrong. Even if you’ve mentally prepared yourself for the coldest you’ll ever be, it’s somehow colder. As the temperatures dropped, the air stung my skin, my teeth chattered, and I vowed never to complain about Texas heat again (ha). Once my time was up, I immediately felt the effects of the adrenaline that sustained me during my session. The stinging pins-and-needles sensation I was warned about lasted about ten minutes, and my legs ended up a flattering shade of highlighter pink, but I was just happy to be free.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me: When your body is submerged in -167°F (for beginners), you lose all concept of time. I must have asked about the duration of the session at least five times but our specialist was gracious, and if she was annoyed with my dramatics, she hid it well.

❄️❄️ #fbf to answering an age-old question: what's cooler than being cool? ❄️❄️

A post shared by Estephanie Gomez (@e_gomz) on

The Aftermath

Predictions: I tried to push the experience out of my mind for the rest of the day to prevent myself from attributing every little thing I felt to the treatment.  I wasn’t expecting my cellulite to magically disappear, but I was hoping to alleviate some muscle soreness.

Results: Surprisingly, the biggest changes I noticed weren’t physical. I felt a sense of calm during what normally would have been a stress-inducing weekend full of party planning, cleaning, and packing. While that may not seem like much, for someone who struggles with anxiety pretty regularly, it made an incredible difference. However, everyone responds differently; my friend, who also completed a session like a champ, didn’t experience any significant changes.

Bottom Line: The CryoZone recommends seven visits to experience the full range of healing benefits, but I’m not sure I could put myself through seven big consecutive chills. One visit was enough to educate me and grant me bragging rights. That being said, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

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