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SOUL WELLNESS

What It’s Really Like to Try Cryotherapy

hether you’re feeling a little muscle soreness or just wondering why someone would sit in subzero temperatures for a few minutes, it’s hard not to be intrigued by cryotherapy. After all, it promises all sorts of wonderful things like reducing inflammation of joints, fast muscle recovery and an even speedier metabolism.


However, the jury is still out on cryotherapy’s actual benefits — in fact, it still isn’t endorsed by the FDA.

“Specifically speaking about whole body cryotherapy, where the body is exposed to extremely cold air for short periods of time, few — if any — well-designed scientific studies exist to confirm (or refute) claims of health benefits,” said Dr. Andrew Farber, a New York-based physician who specializes in patients' overall wellness and fitness. “Those who offer or enjoy this modality suggest it has potential beauty and health benefits that include firmer, more elastic skin, decreased inflammation and improved circulation, to name a few.”

While Dr. Farber isn't sold on whole body cryotherapy, he does test the waters by recommending local cryotherapy — or plain old ice on sore muscles and joints to decrease swelling — to his patients, despite the fact that the benefits of this aren't clear-cut either.

“There are a few well-designed studies that indicate the use of cryotherapy (ice) has either no positive effect or a negative effect on healing and athletic recovery,” Dr. Farber said.

So with all the journals, research guides and doctors’ opinions coming out flush in regards to cryotherapy’s benefits, there’s still one thing they can’t tell us: What is it actually like to sit in a more-than-freezing-cold chamber for several minutes?

Dallas-based instructor CAT CROWE, who also moonlights as an ultra-marathon runner, sat down with us to share what cryo really feels like, if she’s noticed a difference in her joints and muscles and why she heads back to the freezing chambers time and time again…


What made you want to try cryotherapy?

I had read about how good cryo can be for recovery for athletes and with all the running and lifting I do in addition to my classes each week, I thought it would be a great addition to my routine — especially in anticipation of running the Chicago Marathon.

So, be straight with us — what did it really feel like?

It feels exceedingly, mind-numbingly cold — negative 167 degrees Fahrenheit cold. Some people find it more unbearable than others. Compared to some of my friends I honestly don’t find it to be that uncomfortable! It’s a dry sort of freeze and totally bearable.

Bearable? Are you sure?

As long as you don’t have any moisture or sweat on your body before entering the booth, it doesn’t sting or tingle and the session is over before you know it. Plus, the attendants who work at The CryoZone in Dallas, where I go, chat with you for the duration of it, which definitely helps take your mind off of how chilly you feel.

What do you wear in the chamber?

We just wear gloves and socks with warm slippers to keep the extremities warm.

How long does each session last?

Each session lasts three minutes.

How did you feel in the hours following your session?

You feel like a million bucks almost instantly. After a session, I definitely feel noticeably more limber and flexible, and kind of exhilarated. After about five minutes, you warm back up externally, but the cryotherapy has stimulated the body to release endorphins. For a while afterwards, you’re left feeling a rush, similar to how riders feel at the end of a SoulCycle class.

So you really do leave cryotherapy feeling great?

I feel that superhero-like energized feeling for about an hour or two after each session. I also find that cryo helps me sleep better at night.

Definitely a big plus! So we take it you’ve been back since your first session?

Definitely. I’ve been going six or seven times a month and plan to continue doing so even after the marathon. It makes my joints feel amazing and has been said to boost metabolism as well.

How does cryotherapy compare to other inflammation and soreness-reducing techniques like icing joints?

When I played lacrosse competitively, we used to take ice baths to help with soreness, and for me the effects of cryo are a lot like those without the (sometimes painful) shock of taking that cold plunge.

That’s interesting that the ice bath had more of a shock to your system.

Whereas an ice bath has direct contact with the skin, cryotherapy is dry, indirect contact and is only about three minutes. Cold exposure following a hard workout reduces tissue swelling due to muscle breakdown so you have quicker recovery time and less inflammation. To me, cryo is honestly way more tolerable than taking ice baths but I still get the same benefits.

Do you do anything else to keep your body at a peak performance?

I get massages every now and then when I really need them! Last weekend, I ran a half marathon on my one day off a week and then subbed a 4:00 PM SoulCycle class, so a deep tissue massage was in the cards for me shortly thereafter!

Wow! You have some serious strength to do 13.1 miles and tap it back. Anything else to add?

The team at The CryoZone are amazing! The Dallas instructors love seeing them both at SOUL and Cryo on the regular. Overall, I personally think that the benefits of cryo are helpful to everyone, no matter how active a lifestyle one has.

The information presented is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, probable diagnosis or recommended treatments. Please take an individual approach and consult your physician on which dietary choice is best for you.

Catch classes with CAT at SoulCycle Preston Hollow! Questions or comments? Email SOULlife@soul-cycle.com! Want to ride? Grab a series HERE and book a bike!
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