Article updated August, 2023.

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 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 by DrEvil. I’ve since heard that Tony Robbins, Mark Wahlberg and even some of our local Illawarra Dragons NRL players are using it.

cryotherapy shellharbour

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, now Secret Skin, in Shellharbour was initially 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.

Clients ranged from athletes to chronic pain sufferers and the popularity of the treatment grew steadily as word spread.

Post-pandemic, the business is being operated by Dr Rob Laidlaw and Ken Harris, with a focus on cosmetic services. The business also features an infrared sauna.

So what should you expect on your first cryotherapy session?

I’ll give you a run down of my own experience for my first session of cryotherapy in Shellharbour. On arrival, there were the expected forms to fill out, basically waving any liability and accepting responsibility should my nipples drop off. I was given a robe, some thick socks and a pair of gloves to put on. Staff were very attentive and explained to me that some people prefer to wear 2 pairs of socks as the feet tend to feel the cold the most. I decided to stick with one pair. I am hardcore, right?

The chamber itself was a space age looking beast with silver dots all over it and I watched on as the staff began preparing the cooling chamber. Once it was ready, I stepped inside, closed the door, disrobed and passed my robe to my support crew over the top of the door. The floor then raised up so that my head was poking out of the top, and I was butt-naked except for my socks and gloves. As the cooling process began, my friendly assistant was excellent at keeping me distracted as the temperature dropped. 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 was cold, but far from unbearable. At the two minute mark, I was actually feeling quite smug – I was covered in goose bumps and jiggling around a little, but I was doing it easy.

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

My skin literally felt icy to touch. I could feel the blood returning to my legs and there was a stationary bike there to speed up the process. I actually felt pretty incredible at that point – possibly a little adrenaline rush happening?

Now, I’m not sure whether it was 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, it was hard to get a good gauge!

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

If you have any questions about cryotherapy, contact the team at Secret Skin for more information.

Secret Skin is located at 2/7 Minga Ave, Shellharbour City Centre. Bookings can be made by calling (02) 4210 4311  .