My Cryotherapy Experience: -201 Degrees Isn't as Bad as it Sounds

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As long as I can remember, I have been one of those people who, when somebody says, “Oh god, that sounds absolutely awful”, I feel immediately compelled to try it. I know that it’s ridiculous, but I can’t help myself. This is the part of my personality that has compelled me to go to a jungle in Thailand by myself, to run half marathons without training, to jump whole-heartedly into a college sport that i’ve never done before, and a myriad of other adventures that weren’t founded in much other than a desire to try. As you can see, this part of my character leads me to subject myself to a lot of odd physical challenges just for the hell of it.

It is also what led me to my first Cryotherapy appointment at Glacial Cryotherapy in Lake Forest Park last week.

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Whole-body Cryotherapy involves standing in a cryochamber for 2-3 minutes and being blasted with cold air. The chamber is open on the top, so at all times you can both talk to your technician and see everything that’s happening. The cooling happens when nitrogen gas fills the chamber and drops the temperature to as low as -250 degrees Fahrenheit. Not a typo. Per the Glacial website, “Over a period of 3 minutes the patient’s skin surface is lowered approximately 30-40 degrees. This sudden drop in temperature triggers the body’s survival mechanisms. As a result, there is a release of endorphins as well as a rapid circulation of oxygen rich blood throughout the body. Capillaries will expand up to four times their natural diameter, which enables your white blood cells to access and heal your injuries up to five times faster.”

You’ve probably heard of Cryotherapy. Most people that I talked to had seen videos of some news personality yelling in discomfort in a cryochamber on YouTube, but admitted to being too nervous to actually try the service for themselves. I talked to one other blogger who had tried it, but confessed that she only lasted for one minute of her three minute session. I’ve been wanting to try Cryo out for a year, give or take, but hadn’t quite felt completely comfortable until I found Glacial Cryotherapy on Instagram. Because I actually live on social media and not in a house, I stalked their account for weeks. I read their website so many times that I almost have it committed to memory, and looked for outside resources on the logistics of what my experience would look like. Ultimately what drew me to Glacial was that it was run by women. I’ve done enough random wellness adventures to know that I feel much more comfortable when a woman is present for me to pester with my paranoid questions. Also I am a huge believer in supporting local female-owned businesses. Once I felt like I had read enough articles to have a general idea of what I would be getting myself into, I booked an appointment.

Like any good millennial, I laid in bed that morning letting my anxiety dream up reasons that I shouldn’t go to Cryotherapy. What if I got locked in the chamber and died? What if it got so cold that I peed myself and a bunch of people saw? What if I became completely addicted to Cryotherapy and sold all of my worldly possessions so that I could schedule an appointment every single day for the rest of my life. I did what any self-respecting blogger would do and told everybody that I talked to that day what my plans were for the afternoon so that I wouldn’t be able to chicken out. I sat in my car hyping myself up to some early 2000’s pop (as one does)., and then ventured inside.

When I told people that I was going to Cryo the most common questions I got was, “BUT HOW WILL YOU STAY IN THERE SO LONG?!” The assumption seemed to be that I would be in that little chamber suffering my brains out for anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. Before doing my research but after mentally deciding that this was something I would do, I had the same thought. I made a mental list of podcasts I could catch up on, songs I could sing in my head, or celebrity breakups that I could mull over during my time in the chamber of cold, cold doom. Contrary to the urban myths of social media and my friends, the longest that you can go in a Cryo chamber is 3 minutes. I was told that most people go for two minutes for their first appointment. Since I have a fitness background I the owners guessed that I would probably be able to withstand 2.5 minutes, the idea being that I probably had a higher tolerance for discomfort since I do things like burpees and hot yoga for fun.

For the actual session (which was shorter than a Britney Spears song) I wore running shorts and a sports bra that I had been instructed to bring with me. In the changing room I also put on the giant wool socks, mittens, and rubber clogs that are provided to each client. The only thing that I really had to do to prep for the appointment was so avoid putting any creams or lotions on my body before, because they could cause FROSTBITE in the chamber. This, for some reason, only terrified me a little bit. I skipped deodorant that day just in case, but also because I was just feeling too lazy. Let a girl live.

i expected my 2.5 minutes to crawl by at a glacial pace (humor me!) but I honestly hardly noticed what was happening. Once I was fully inside the chamber the owners chatted with me and instructed me to turn around from time to time so that each part of my body was getting equally cooled. Even after I saw that the temperature had dropped below -200 degrees Fahrenheit, I really just felt like I had run out into the snow with minimal clothing. It wasn’t terrible at all. I was starting to feel a little bit colder than i would have liked, but all in all it really wasn’t that bad. It might even have been… pleasant? Honestly, I liked it. I liked it so much that I am already trying to figure out when I can go again. Once my session finished I put my clothes back on, perused the line of CBD products they had for sale (my people!), and then went on my way. I felt a little bit chilly but not unbearably so.

I went into Glacial on day two of a juice cleanse (because why not try one but two new weird things at once?) which was making me less than pleasant to be around. Despite being relatively deep into the depths of juice-cleanse-grump-status, I left my appointment feeling remarkably cheerful and energized. In the hours before my appointment the reality of my cleanse was beginning to hit me, as was the fatigue caused by changing up my nutrition routine. Both of these things, to put it lightly, were making me a literal monster to be around. At one point Dan suggested that I take a nap, for no other reason than I was being a literal terror. All that aside, Cryo cheered me up and made my body feel alert. It’s a difficult sensation to articulate, but it was almost as if my entire body had just stepped outside after being in a cozy bed, but in a pleasant way. I felt alive. I was smiling and energized, like I had just taken 3 espresso shots through my eyeballs. The owners of Glacial are DELIGHTFUL humans to talk to, and despite my anxiety I felt immediately calm when they welcomed me through the front door.

New year, cold me. I can’t wait to go back.

Your first appointment at Glacial is $35. After that, each individual session costs $65, or you can buy a package of sessions.


Benefits of Cryotherapy

  • Can help reduce inflammation. Cryotheraphy is the general use of low temperatures in medical therapy- like putting an ice pack on a twisted ankle. Being in the Cryotherapy chamber is like putting a really intense ice pack on your entire body. I have a lot of neck and upper back ever since getting in my car accident about two years ago. When I went in for my Cryo appointment I had been experiencing a dull throbbing pain throughout my Trapezius muscle. After my session the throbbing had all but gone away, and I found that it was much easier to find a comfortable position for my neck to relax in that night. If you were to go to Cryo regularly, some chronic pain symptoms could potentially be reduced. I’m obviously not a doctor, but there are some studies that back this up!

  • Speeds up your metabolism. According to Glacial, “After a session of cryotherapy, it takes a lot of energy to reheat the body. During a two-three minute treatment, you burn approximately 500 to 800 calories. When skin is cooled to around 35 degrees F, it requires a lot of energy to reheat it to our regular body temperature.” Because of this, I had been advised that I might feel SUPER hungry after my appointment, and I did! Even though I had only done some light yoga that day, I felt like I had just finished a long, intense run and wanted to wolf down some carbs. There are absolutely more sustainable ways to lose weight, like eating well and exercising, but I could see supplementing with this if I was actively trying to drop lose weight for health reasons.

  • Happiness booster! This was fascinating to me. The process of Cryotherapy releasees endorphins into the blood stream. As we’ve al learned from our Queen, Elle Woods, endorphins make you happy. It could have been the placebo effect, but I was noticeably perkier after my appointment, the results of which lasted through the night. i was in the midst of a juice cleanse when I went to Glacial and, arguably, the grumpiest I had been in weeks. I stand by the fact that my appointment vastly improved my mood and made me less of a monster. Read more on Psychology Today.


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Disclaimer: Glacial Cyotherapy gifted me this experience. That being said, all experiences expressed here are completely my own.

Lizzie BraicksComment