I consider myself as pretty open minded when it comes to alternative health practices – heck, I even gave colonic irrigation a go once. (Take a moment to appreciate the fact that I’m not writing an article about that experience – no one needs to hear about it and I certainly don’t need to re-live it.)

When my friends mentioned that a new cryotherapy clinic had opened up in Shellharbour and they were keen to try it out, of course I was curious. The only thing I’d heard about cryotherapy until this point was Joshua Fields-Milburn of The Minimalists podcast raving about the massive relief he gets in his back pain after he has cryotherapy treatment. I hadn’t heard of anyone in Australia using it and to be honest, I mostly kept picturing Austin Powers being cryogenically frozen and having his mojo stolen. I’ve since heard that Tony Robbins, Mark Wahlberg and even some of our local Illawarra Dragons NRL players are using it.

So exactly what is cryotherapy and what are the benefits?

Basically, you stand inside a “chamber”, which surrounds you with liquid nitrogen, bringing the temperature down to minus 120-140 degrees and you stay there for three minutes, before stepping out. It’s purported to be beneficial for any sort of inflammation or sports recovery (think of the effects of an ice bath, but achieved in seconds), improved energy levels and sleep quality as well as burning up to 800 calories in 3 minutes. My reading in to it also suggested that cryotherapy is good for ‘flushing out toxins’ from the body as you blood rushes quickly to your vital organs as you chill and then rapidly returns to the extremities as you quickly warm up again. Let’s be honest, though – they had me at 800 calories.

There was only one thing to do and that was to book an appointment…

Cryo Health and Fitness in Shellharbour started up in November 2017 by mother and son-in-law team, Michele and Tom. Michele first used cryotherapy as pain management whilst recovering from a serious accident and was impressed by the many health benefits she was feeling from using it. Tom is a passionate Crossfit trainer and started using the treatment regularly as a part of his recovery between training sessions.

According to Michele, their clients range from athletes to chronic pain sufferers and the popularity of the treatment has been steadily growing as word spreads.

“On their first visit, many feel the difference instantly. When the step out of the chamber, they are able to move better than when they came in to our clinic. Many of our clients tell me they feel energised when they start warming up and have had improved sleep that night after their treatment.”

On arrival, there are the expected forms to fill out, basically waving any liability and accepting responsibility should my nipples drop off, then I’m given a robe, some thick socks and a pair of gloves to put on. Michele is very attentive and explains that some people prefer to wear 2 pairs of socks as the feet tend to feel the cold the most. I decide to stick with one pair.  I am hardcore, right?

The chamber itself is a space age looking beast with silver dots all over it and Michele begins preparing the cooling chamber. Once it’s ready, I step inside, close the door, disrobe and pass my robe over the top. The floor then raises up so that my head is poking out of the top. I am butt naked except for my socks and gloves. The cooling process begins and I must say, Michele is excellent at keeping you distracted as the temperature drops. Unlike a massage, where you want some peace and quiet, cryotherapy is a short, sharp endurance event and the conversation definitely helps the time pass quickly. It’s cold, but it’s far from unbearable. At the two minute mark, I’m actually feeling quite smug. I’m covered in goose bumps and I’m jiggling around a little, but I’m doing it easy.

At 2 and a half minutes, it’s a lot colder! My hands are now at a point where they are clenched in tight fists and I’m hopping from foot to foot as my toes are aching. I should’ve worn two pairs of socks! The last twenty seconds seem to drag, but when the three minutes are up, I’m back to feeling smug again. Robe on, the platform lowers down and I let myself out.

My skin literally feels icy to touch. I can feel the blood returning to my legs and there’s a stationary bike there to speed up the process. I actually feel pretty incredible right now – possibly a little adrenaline rush happening?

Now, I’m not sure whether its psychosomatic or not, but I honestly felt super energised (almost caffeinated) for the rest of the day. I don’t feel like my sleep was affected either way, but with tiny humans hopping in and out of my bed at night, its’ hard to get a good gauge!

Cryo Health and Fitness currently offer three services: A whole body cryotherapy chamber, Hot Vibro Sauna and cryo targeting (a hand held cryotherapy wand to target specific areas of the body). They also have a remedial massage therapist available through Santosha Wellbeing. Cryo Health and Fitness have a mobile cryotherapy chamber that can be brought out to specific locations on request. It has been used at local athletic events including the Crossfit Games, corporate functions and even as a pre-wedding energy booster!

I decided to buy a package of cryotherapy treatments and really give it a go. I can honestly say that I’ve noticed it help with decreasing muscle soreness after heavy training sessions, similarly to the way sauna use immediately after resistance training has done for me. My partner has also tried cryotherapy a few times now and reported a noticeable reduction in jaw clenching (generally stress related) for a few days afterwards as well as pain reduction in ongoing tennis elbow.

If you have any questions about cryotherapy, contact Michele or Tom for more information.
Cryo Health and Fitness is located at 2/7 Minga Ave, Shellharbour City Centre. Bookings can be made by calling 0403 371 118.