The Experience: I Froze Myself
Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) involves exposing your body to ultra-low temps in the name of better health. Low temps, as in subzero — 220 degrees below zero, to be exact. I don’t know about you, but this used to sound pretty batshit crazy to me. How could sitting in -220 degree temperatures, in nothing but a towel, be safe, let alone healthy? I was slightly nervous, but undeniably curious to find out more.
As skeptical as I was, the benefits of cryotherapy are pretty indisputable. The therapy operates by triggering a series of anti-inflammatory responses within the body. The extreme cold first stimulates our skin sensors, which then communicate to and activate the Central Nervous System (CNS). Activation of the CNS causes the body to release large amounts endorphins, the naturally-occurring hormones that relieve pain and elevate mood. Our circulatory system is also affected, in response to the extreme temperature, and the majority of our blood is redirected to our core in order to protect our precious organs. This enhanced circulation begins to decrease inflammation by clearing out toxins and metabolic waste, supplying our vital organs with oxygen and new, nutrient-rich blood. In turn, our metabolism increases and the process of cellular regeneration (i.e. deep healing) takes place.
After a little research, I ended up choosing Iceland Cryo in Tequesta, FL as my freezing destination. The studio was among the first to open in the U.S. three years ago, and has been turning skeptics into full-on devotees every day since. The super knowledgable studio owner + operator, Edison Kiela, was kind enough to walk me through the process and lay out the therapy’s many benefits for me.
Obviously, there are a lot of amazing things this crazy, not to mention chillingly powerful, treatment can do for you. Just about every professional athlete you can name is likely freezing themselves for better post-game and workout recovery. Individuals with chronic pain (a confusing and painful disorder with little to no proven treatment) swear by cryotherapy for easing and even completely eliminating their symptoms. It dramatically reduces body-wide inflammation, boosts the immune system, reduces fatigue, increases sex drive, facilitates faster injury and surgery recovery, clears skin disorders, combats anxiety + depression, and treats insomnia. Oh yeah, and, it also casually burns 800 calories per session.
Done. I'm in. Let's get to freezing...
I quickly changed out of my clothes and into a towel, two pairs of leg warmers, socks, Ugg boots, and gloves. Because the blood will be rushing to your core, the extremities are particularly susceptible to the cold, so it’s suggested that you cover up a bit. And off to the freezing tank I went! It looks almost like a stand-up tanning booth, without a top. I stepped in, closed the door, and was lifted up just enough to allow my head and neck to stay above the cold. The cryosauna technician stays right outside the tank the entire time, monitoring and timing the freeze. The tank is powered by nitrogen — you are essentially taking a liquid nitrogen bath. Freezing cold nitrogen smoke surrounds your body in every direction as you hangout and try to think about ANYTHING other than being cold. And yes, it was definitely cold, but I have to say, it wasn’t as bad as I imagined -220 degrees to be. It kind of felt like I was running outside naked during an NYC blizzard; for sure not enjoyable, but definitely doable. The session lasted for 3 minutes, at which point the door opened and I stepped out. I had my skin temperature taken (51 degrees), then sat down to warm up and rehydrate for about 10 minutes. Once my skin temperature rose to 80, back in I went. The second session felt significantly colder, but this time, I mustered up the courage to drop my towel, exposing my entire core. After another 3 minutes, I reemerged, this time with a skin temperature of 40. I hung out for another 10 minutes or so, and that was that!
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Post-freeze, I felt totally blissed out and relaxed. I drove right home and fell right asleep, which I have to admit wasn’t ideal in the middle of a busy Tuesday afternoon. But every person's body responds differently to the treatment — some leave feeling quite energized and invigorated, while others make it a point to step in at the end of the day to unwind and relax. I must say, I slept incredibly deep that night, with tiny polar bears and snow flakes dancing in my head.