What’s Cryotherapy & Why Do I Like It?

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.

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.

Health & Relaxation: A Visit to Austin Salt Cave

Salt 2
The Himalayan salt therapy room at Austin Salt Cave

When I walked into Austin Salt Cave to try halotherapy (salt therapy) for the first time, I was greeted with the warm smile and calm demeanor of Jack Cramer, the owner. I’d never tried halotherapy before,so I was unsure of the procedure, but Jack directed me toward a secure locker for my belongings and shoes. He said I could leave my socks on, but I’m a barefoot girl at heart, so I stowed them with the rest of my stuff. (Jack provides disposable booties for those who prefer not to remove shoes.)

I entered the salt therapy room. It was dimly lit with a soft glow coming from the pink Himalayan salt lamps lining the walls. There were also blocks of Himalayan salt around the room and granulated salt crystals covering the floor, like sparkling gravel, under the chairs. The chairs look pretty basic, but sit down, lean back and…wow; they’re perfect. Add a soft fleece blanket if you’re chilly, and that, coupled with the soothing music, equals instant relaxation.

Jack took a few moments to explain the room and the history of halotherapy. Back in the 1840’s, people noticed that salt miners seemed a good deal healthier than other miners. Dr. Feliks Boczkowski found their lungs were in superior condition, so he opened a spa inside one of the salt mines. People spending time in the salt mines (which were at one point used as bomb shelters) noticed significant improvements in their respiratory issues.

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Jack Cramer (owner) & his brother, Colton

To simulate the salt mine environment, Jack pipes salt into the air of the therapy room, while patrons relax in comfort. While I couldn’t detect the salt in the air, it did feel delightfully clean and crisp. On his way out of the room, before our 45-minute session, Jack even provided a book light to a regular attendee who liked to read during her therapy.

Once the door was closed, I admit I felt a minor panic; how was I going to just lie here for a full 45-minutes?

It turns out, it wasn’t a problem. I fell into a supremely relaxed state — not quite asleep, yet not awake either. When Jack opened the door, I couldn’t believe time was already up. I felt calm, and my sinuses, often stuffy from seasonal allergies, were completely clear. In visiting with one of the regular clients, I found she attends salt therapy sessions at Austin Salt Cave up to five times per week and no longer experiences her normal allergy-induced sinus headaches.

I left Austin Salt Cave feeling clear-headed, relaxed, centered and refreshed. And as I drove home up Ranch Road 620, I realized that, in the moment, nothing could ruffle my feathers, not even traffic.

The Austin Salt Cave is your one stop shop for anything salt related, from salt therapy and salt lamps, to edibles salts and salt cooking tiles. Open 7 days/week and conveniently located in Lakeway right behind The Grove. AustinSaltCave.com, 512-838-6545.

Reprinted from Neighbors of Lakeway Magazine, February 2018, Best Version Media.


Farm to Girl

earth-friendly packaging

All-Natural. How many times do you read that on a package? Does it even have meaning anymore? Farm to Girl’s skin care products are natural, but it was the Women Helping Women on their labels that got my attention. Farm to Girl’s creams are actually what I’m looking for in a natural product; their ingredients come from small farms run by women who use traditional processes without harsh chemicals. The fact that Farm to Girl is a local Austin business is a bonus.

In a world where much has gotten irritatingly complicated, where I can’t pronounce the ingredients on the back of my “all natural” cleanser from the grocery store, Farm to Girl keeps it refreshingly simple with a handful of recognizable ingredients in each product. They even extend “simple and natural” to packaging; my order arrived in an eco-friendly box, with newspaper for padding. And the products’ jars allow me to use all of the creams, unlike some pumps or sprays. I was surprised at how small the containers were (one ounce) but as sparingly as I used them, they’ll last a while.

Okay, admirable backstory and simple ingredients and packaging aside, does it work? I tried three products, and here is what I found:

Organic Raw Coconut Lip Balm ($3.95)

It doesn’t get much simpler than this. Two ingredients: coconut oil and beeswax. It has a light, pleasant coconut scent and the creamy moisture felt great going onto my dry lips. On the downside, it didn’t stay put as long as I would have liked, and I had to reapply often; a little more beeswax in the formula might remedy this. Also, the small container can be hard to open.

Namibian Miracle Face & Skin Repair ($17.95)

This cream has a slight, pleasantly nutty scent. It’s not as thick as most face creams, but it goes on easily and feels light and refreshing. I followed Farm to Girl’s advice and kept it in the fridge, which thickened it up a bit. It is non-greasy but moisturizing. I like this as an all-purpose day cream, applied in the morning.

Fountain of Youth Face Cream ($17.95)

This one is the polar opposite of the Namibian Miracle as far as texture; it is thick, rich and creamy. I found that emulsifying it between my fingers before applying worked wonderfully. It has a subtle coconut scent, and is heavier than the Namibian Miracle but still not greasy – just very moisturizing. I like it as a night cream.

Farm to Girl

Overall, I was pleased with my experience. Farm to Girl’s products, at affordable prices, work as well as or better than expensive creams I’ve ordered in the past. After several weeks of using the Namibian Miracle and Fountain of Youth creams, my skin’s moisture is more even, and I have noticeably fewer breakouts. When you throw in the fact that Farm to Girl is local, helping women in other countries and uses simple, healthy ingredients, it’s a no-brainer for me. I’m a fan.