That time I stepped into a cryogenic chamber to freeze my body for three minutes
Here’s a list of things I hate so much: mayonnaise, cat hair, electrical cords, spotty Wi-Fi connections, parking decks, cilantro, bad smells the source of which I can’t find, clutter, putting on lotion and temperatures below 75 degrees.
I never said my life was hard. Anyway, when I got an invitation to step into a cryotherapy chamber cooled to -220 degrees F, I sucked it up and decided one out of ten things I hate would be tolerable. My exact response was:
“I am an extremely heat-tolerant hater of any temperature below 75 degrees so this should prove to be a hilarious endeavor.”
I arrived at Charlotte Athletic Club, home of CryoFix, four minutes after my attempted arrival 15 minutes early because I had spent the previous 20 minutes driving in slow, cautious, maddening circles through the bowels of Duke Energy Center’s hellish underground parking deck.
Two out of ten.
After squeezing into possibly the only spot left in the entire deck and wandering aimlessly on foot in search of the elevator, I emerged victorious and found my way to the bright white reception desk at the club.
I was greeted by Maureen Kennedy, the smiling, friendly Cryosauna Specialist who would be subjecting my live human body to an extreme freeze. Delightful!
She handed me an iPad waiver filled with medical questions that would disqualify me from participation. Contraindications for the service include: pregnancy, severe hypertension, cardiovascular disease and a host of other complications.
I was in the clear pending one big one: “Are you claustrophobic?”
“I guess we’ll find out!” I laughed, not at all amused anymore.
The cryogenic chamber is exactly what you’d expect it to look like: a human-sized cylindrical tube with white vapors floating out of the top. It’s like something straight out of Austin Powers.
I stripped down to my stylish one-piece bathing suit and was provided mittens, socks and slippers. #ootd
The maximum exposure allowed in the chamber is 3 minutes so I went all in on my first try. Maureen stays in the room to chat and make sure you’re comfortable. Thanks to a hydraulic lift, your head is above the chamber otherwise I would have lost it. She coached me on just getting through the first 90 seconds, “Your body will start to adapt,” she said, always smiling. “Just get that far.”
I felt panic start to rise around 60 seconds. My arms numbed first and then I got a pins and needles sensation in my legs. I didn’t know if I should move or not move or ask to get out so I just stood there, quite literally frozen.
I imagine I looked particularly outrageous, my panic-stricken face sticking out of a cryochamber only half-listening to whatever Maureen was telling me about the benefits of this practice.
Having her there was a great distraction. She talked to me the whole time and cued my 90-second mark, two minutes and final 15 seconds. It actually went by really fast but I bulldozed out of there and into the warm embrace of a white robe even faster.
It’s not quite as dramatic as it sounds. Cryotherapy is basically a modern ice bath, a practice used by athletes to reduce inflammation and speed up recovery. (I can tell you I’d take this dry freeze over an ice bath ANY DAY.) It was invented in Japan in the 70s to treat rheumatoid arthritis and today is popular among professional athletes, people in pain and just regular people like me.
Benefits of cryotherapy range from reduced inflammation and increased flexibility to pain relief and even collagen production. It also allegedly burns up to 800 calories in a 3-minute session. (What is this sorcery?) Maureen says some clients even use it as an alternative to a shot of espresso since it invigorates the body and wakes you up.
I think I’ll stick to coffee myself, but this is a pretty cool offering. The cryogenic chamber at CryoFix is the only one of its kind in Charlotte and they’re hoping to expand to more locations.
You can give it a try for $30 for your first session. Meanwhile, I’ll just be over here driving around Charlotte with my AC off.
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