What on earth could compel a person to voluntarily dunk their near-naked body for three whole minutes, in a freezing tank that's twice as cold as dry ice?
This was the question ringing through my mind as I drove to my first ever cryotherapy treatment session, at the recommendation of a friend who swore by it as a health and vitality booster.
"You'll feel like a million bucks right after," she said.
Was she right?
I took comfort in knowing that some of the world's top athletes and celebrities were cryotherapy fans too, like: Kobe Bryant, Demi Moore, Jennifer Aniston, the Denver Nuggets, and the Dallas Cowboys.
So even if my friend was crazy, and even if I was crazy… surely all these people couldn't have been crazy too… right?
Hold On A Second… Cryo-what?
Cryotherapy is a form of treatment designed to suddenly and quickly lower your body temperature - which in turn, results in a variety of alleged health benefits including:
* An instant and lasting energy boost
* Anti-aging & skin rejuvenation
* Relief from joint and muscle pain
* Accelerated tissue repair
* Enhanced metabolism & weight loss
* Relief from depression
You start by stripping down to your underwear and slipping on boots and gloves to protect your extremities. You're then all set to step into your cryotherapy tank (sometimes called a cryosauna).
Within seconds, nitrogen gas is then released into the machine, which instantly lowers the temperature to a shocking -240 degrees fahrenheit.
As the cold receptors under your skin begin reacting to this change of temperature, your body enters a form of "survival mode" - meaning all your blood is sent to your major organs to keep them functioning.
According to cryotherapy tank manufacturer Eric Rauscsher, it is in this mode that your blood picks up extra oxygen and nutrients to aid in its recovery.
This triggered mechanism, followed by the sudden rush of blood back to your skin at the end of the treatment, is the core behind many of the claimed benefits that come with cryotherapy.
On paper this might sound frightening. And yet for me, it was one of the most invigorating treatments I had ever experienced.
Let me explain...
The Longest 3 Minutes Of Your Life
Standing in a cryotherapy tank is the longest three minutes of your life.
Forget shivers up your spine - my first minute in the tank was enough to send shivers up my soul.
For one, everything is frozen hard, even the cushions.
And then there's the sensation of filling your lungs with freezing air. It's a strange and disconcerting experience - you're constantly reminded that your body wasn't designed for this.
I must admit - I spent a few seconds panicking, wondering if I was going to freeze to death in there!
My lizard brain's freak-out was interrupted by the soothing music playing on the sound system, and the calming voice of the staff reminding me to relax (they told me earlier that it's important to stay calm because I didn't want to be stressing my lungs with desperate gulps of freezing air).
At this point, I realized the only real danger was in my head all along.
As the clock ticked on, I wiggled my body around in the tank, instinctively believing movement would keep me just a little warmer. Then, just as I was starting to almost get used to the temperature… my time was up.
A Strange, Tingly Feeling
The first thing I noticed as I stepped out of the cryotherapy tank was a strange and intense tingling sensation throughout my body: the feeling of blood rushing back to my skin.
As the tingling subsided within a few short seconds, the next sensation was a rush of pure energy.
For lack of a better word, I was zinging - and the effect stuck with me for hours!
This instant and lasting boost of vitality is one of the most commonly reported effects of cryotherapy - which may explain why this is such a popular holistic wellness treatment among athletes.
After 5 back-to-back days of cryotherapy, I also noticed a number of other positive results, including:
* A faster muscle recovery time from my gym workouts
* My joints felt more flexible; my body more nimble
* The skin on my face felt tighter and more youthful
* I was enjoying deeper and more restful sleep at night
So would I recommend cryotherapy to someone in search of better health and vitality? Absolutely! I just hope you're not afraid of the cold...
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