I hate to be cold. Like, really hate it. As in, accidentally-ran-up-a-$300-heating-bill-in-my-tiny-apartment hate it. So when I first heard of cryotherapy, my initial reaction was less curiosity and more visceral full-body shiver. Voluntarily stepping into a minus-200-degree Fahrenheit chamber seemed not only uncomfortable, but insane.
But after learning more about the treatment from the experts at CryoMaryland, I began to warm up to the idea (wink). Better sleep and blood oxygenation? Minimized inflammation and significant calorie burn? Maybe that was worth three ultra-icy minutes.
HOW IT WORKS: Let’s get one thing straight—this isn’t cryogenics, and no, it’s not what Walt Disney supposedly did. (You’d be amazed how many people asked me about that urban legend.) It’s a three-minute treatment in which a person stands in a shoulders-and-below chamber and is blasted with liquid nitrogen. The freezing cold temps are said to work like a non-liquid ice bath, reducing inflammation and joint pain, increasing flexibility, rejuvenating and energizing the body and torching calories. (Though the experts at CryoMaryland are insistent that the treatment isn’t for weight loss, they estimated that a single session burns 400 to 800 calories.)
To prep for the session, I stripped down to my underwear and put on the office-provided socks, booties and gloves, then entered the chamber and flipped down the facial-protection barrier. The attendant then started the treatment, pushing a button at 30-second intervals to keep the cold coming (a safety precaution). I’ll be honest: The first 30 seconds were freezing. After that, though, my body adjusted—well, until the last 30 seconds, during which the chamber reached its coldest temperature at minus 220 degrees Fahrenheit. When time was up, I made a mad dash for the heated recovery room, where I was encouraged to stretch and enjoy some hot tea.
WHAT I LOVED: The experience was definitely rejuvenating. I felt energetic for hours afterward, and though I don’t really have aches and pains, I felt pleasantly limber for the next day or so. I can definitely see how it would be advantageous to athletes or older people. (Oh, and I was starving shortly after—which could be considered a negative, but proved to me that I’d just burned some serious calories.) At $50/session with reduced rates for packages, it’s affordable, too.
WHAT I DIDN’T: Need I even say it? I was exceptionally cold. But aside from that, the only drawback was the liquid nitrogen floating toward my face during the treatment. Though the attendant advised me to keep my chin up to avoid breathing as much in, inhaling the chemical couldn’t totally be avoided. That didn’t seem like the healthiest thing in the world.
FINAL VERDICT: Despite my cold feet, cryotherapy was pretty chill.