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Standing in a small, nitrogen-filled chamber wearing only my bra, underwear and a pair of shoes I’m almost certain I saw my grandma wear to the beach last summer (with probably the same pair of wool socks I have on right now, no less), I feel more like a science experiment than a girl trying out the latest fitness fad.
Introducing the CryoZone – “The next generation of cold therapy,” says Tyler Smith, the owner of Victory Sports and Fitness in State College and one of only two fitness facilities in the state of Pennsylvania to have a cryosauna on site.
The CryoZone uses liquid nitrogen that is warmed until it turns into a gas and pumped into the “cryosauna” – a circular chamber just tall enough to stand in while leaving only your head exposed – where the temperature is lowered to between -170 and -250 degrees.
For years athletes have been using ice baths as a release for tight or sore muscles, but according to Smith, just as the ice bucket challenge slowly made its way out of our newsfeeds, ice baths are set to become a thing of the past.
The CryoZone lowers skin temperature to a cool 32 to 35 degrees whereas an ice bath will only bring your skin down to 50 or 55 degrees, which makes a difference in how your body responds to the cold, says Smith.
“Physiologically it’s different because in an ice bath your body is trying to push blood to your extremities to keep them warm,” says Smith, “but with [the CryoZone], it’s so cold that your body skips preserving your extremities and goes straight to preserving the vital organs in your core.”
Well, that sounds… intense?
But pushing your body to such an extreme and back actually boosts metabolism and accelerates your body’s healing process, says Smith. So whether you’re using the CryoZone pre-, post- or no workout, Smith says you’ll experience health benefits including a heightened metabolism, which helps burn major calories, reduced inflammation and muscle soreness, and a stronger immune system.
It was my job to investigate why people are lining up to take a dip in these futuristic iceboxes, and let’s just say the lengths a girl will go to eat an extra slice of Canyon without feeling guilty are pretty crazy.
Before I stepped into the -200 degree chamber for myself, I thought Smith’s talk about the chill was just that – talk. But as a disclaimer, it wasn’t just talk, and it was really, really cold.
Smith let me choose a radio station (Anything playing Luke Bryan should keep me warm enough, thanks) and gave me privacy in the small back-area of the gym where the CryoZone is stationed to strip down to my skivvies and change into the thick socks and rubbery shoes provided by the gym. You wear a robe into the machine, but remove it once you’re comfortably settled in.
My session in the CryoZone was about two-minutes-and-ten-seconds long, which is honestly all I needed. The instructor monitoring your session stays with you the entire time you’re in the machine, giving you updates and talking you through the process, which is helpful because things can get a little freaky when you’re standing in a below-freezing chamber: I got a little dizzy, which Smith says is totally normal.
After stepping out of the machine, not only was I thankful for the not-so-fashion-forward robe and footwear I had on to keep me warm, but I also felt refreshed and rejuvenated. One round in the CryoZone isn’t going to add thirty years to my life, but being able to stay awake through my 11 a.m. lecture without an extra dose of caffeine makes the CryoZone worthy of a recommendation, in my opinion.
With the exception of myself, only really cool people can stand a visit to the coldest place on earth, but at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, don’t wait for winter in Happy Valley and try out the CryoZone today!