What’s Cryotherapy & Why Do I Like It?

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The cryosauna

When I discovered Champion Cryotherapy in the Trails at 620, I was curious. I knew cryotherapy had something to do with extreme cold, but I live in Central Texas precisely to avoid such arctic blasts. Why would I want to try it? Because I am both pathologically skeptical and open-minded; I couldn’t resist the intrigue, and I’m always up for new ways to feel better.

When I walked in for my appointment, I was greeted by owner Todd Pendleton. Todd has a friendly and genuine demeanor. He and his office staff make you feel welcome in that casual, Hill Country way — like you’re old friends already. They know you have no idea what cryotherapy is, and they’re happy to let you in on the details.

Whole-body cryotherapy is a research-proven cold therapy that activates the body’s natural pain and inflammation fighters. While chilling in a cold-air sauna for three minutes, the body’s restorative processes are activated to provide…

  • relief from pain and inflammation, 
  • accelerated muscle recovery, 
  • boosted energy levels, 
  • increased metabolic rate,
  • enhanced complexion.

Todd led me into the cryotherapy room. In privacy, I disrobed and donned Champion Cryotherapy’s toasty warm socks, boots and gloves. I looked down at myself: underwear, boots and gloves — not a look I usually sport, but comfy nonetheless.

I stepped into the cryosauna, which Todd had adjusted for my height so my head would stick out the top. Then, he cranked the temperature down to negative 185 degrees and began talking, prompting me to turn every so often. What does that level of cold feel like in little else but a birthday suit? Surprisingly, not bad since it’s devoid of moisture.

While I literally chilled, Todd explained what was happening to my body. The low temperature was prompting it to protect my vital organs. Blood left my extremities and cycled through my heart, becoming re-oxygenated. That blood would return to my extremities refreshed when I warmed up. He continued speaking for the duration, as much to distract me from the cold as to provide education.

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NormaTec compression massage

Feeling invigorated after the intense cold, it was then time to experience NormaTec compression massage. After re-dressing, I reclined in a comfortable chair as Todd helped me put on thigh-high boots made of durable black cloth. He hooked them up to a machine, and the chambers within the boots began filling with air. They periodically inflated and deflated, moving from my feet up my legs. It was like a massage. The lighting was low, and I was offered a cup of water or tea — instant relaxation. The NormaTec system was developed to speed muscle recovery and mobilize fluid, which is why it can also help with varicose veins.

20 minutes later, my time was up. I was sad to take the boots off, but my legs felt good. When I got home, I noticed when I bent to touch my toes, my hamstrings were relaxed — not tight like they normally are. I also noted my fingers were no longer swollen and I could get my rings off (which I haven’t been able to do in a while.)

I’d chatted with another client, Michael, while I was there. He reported sleeping better after his previous session — the biggest benefit, as far as he was concerned. After two nights of sleep, post “squeeze and freeze” (which is what they call the cryotherapy/NormaTec combo session) I agree; I fell asleep faster than normal and didn’t wake up as often.

Most notable to me, however is this: days after my treatment, I still feel unusually upbeat — centered, focused, productive, emotionally satisfied. I live with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), and one of the key symptoms is cyclical depression. Cryotherapy has been shown to produce endorphins (feel-good hormones) as well as reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. 

Cryotherapy is excellent for muscle recovery, but you don’t have to be an athlete or injured to enjoy it; it had the feel of a short but highly effective spa treatment. For me, it was better (and faster) than a massage. And with the positive effect it had on my mood and ability to focus in the days following, well, that seals it. I’m a fan.

Champion Cryotherapy is located in the Trails at 620 Shopping Center Wilson Parke Rd., right next to ARC. For more information, visit ChampionCryotherapy.net.

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