IS FREEZING YOURSELF FOR SHORT PERIODS THE ULTIMATE RECOVERY TOOL?
IF YOU’RE NOT 21 ANYMORE, you’d know how a session at the squat rack or even a game of touch footy can leave you feeling the next day. The older I get the more interested I become in getting around and doing stuff in a pain-free state.
The Cryo clinic in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs offers a therapy that may interest you if you tend to pull up shabbily from vigorous exercise. While it’s not nearly as nice as a massage, it may be more effective at relieving soreness by reducing inflammation.
Operations manager Ange greets me warmly and directs me to a booth, where I strip down to undies and socks while watching a video about cryotherapy. Moments later, I step into a chamber about half the size of a phone booth. There’s no roof and I can see over the door to Ange’s reassuring face.
With the push of a button she releases a cooled nitrogen mist that plunges the temperature to minus 130°C. That’s colder than it’s ever gotten in the Antarctic. But even standing there in your jocks it’s not insufferable, just bloody unpleasant for the two minutes you’re supposed to bear it. (Not everybody can, apparently: so-called “jumpers” push open the door and leap out ahead of time.)
The science behind cryotherapy is that by exposing your body to extreme cold you activate a powerful survival mechanism that reroutes a lot of your blood to your major organs while filtering and enriching it. On leaving the chamber this enhanced blood goes to work healing damaged muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments.
Could you get the same effect from an ice bath or cold shower? Yep, but those experiences – while cheaper than cryotherapy – are less tolerable and would require a longer exposure.
I felt exhilaration in the minutes after my treatment and, yes, less sore from the previous day’s exertions. Maybe it works. Or maybe you should see our story on the power of placebo on page 70 . . .