It’s -84 degrees celsius in a one-person container at the back of 111Cryo in Harvey Nichols. This is the place for cryotherapy in London. While ladies are getting pampered next door, I’m about to embrace extreme cold, which is one of my worst fears, in just a sports bra, shorts, protective footwear, gloves and a paper face mask. The mask I’m told, is more for comfort than safety.
111Cryo is small and discreet, you’d never suspect that behind the curtains and beyond the changing rooms is a frost-lined temperature controlled chamber, filled with tiny snowflakes whizzing in the air. “Don’t touch the sides, you can get frostbite,” I’m told as I gingerly examine my surroundings. It’s hard to gauge what this level of sub-zero will feel like and what clothing you imagine you’d need to survive. Cryotherapy sounds like everything counterintuitive to survival but there’s a science to the madness. Sensorially, -84 degrees means that you might not feel your joints. For some it can be hard to breathe, even if you’re not claustrophobic. It’s like forcing yourself into a cold shower, even though your body is screaming to be let out – but it’s also more bearable than that because it’s so dry. And in actual fact, it almost doesn’t matter what it’s like because it’s still the longest three minutes of my life.
Afterwards, I feel like something has happened – you know, beyond submitting myself to unbearable temperatures. But I can’t quite place what I feel but it’s positive. Upon research, it’s the potent mix of adrenaline, increased oxygen and endorphins. I think at this point it’s important to say that results will vary among individuals but I experienced what I believe the majority do too – after the shock, I was extremely awake. I went home and built two shelving units, cleaned my entire room and Marie Kondo’d my whole wardrobe. And then I slept like a baby.
Long term results of cryotherapy
It took about three days for me to notice other side effects. I’m not going to pretend that the 500-800 calories burnt per session wasn’t the main motivation for trying this health craze. I’m also under no illusion that my fat was frozen and melted away à la CoolSculpt. But I am undeniably and substantially trimmer following the treatment. A jump on a scale later on that week showed I had lost 1kg following the 90 second blizzard of abuse. Sceptics will have raised brows and I can already see you itching to question me on this, so save your breath: I decided to call it because there is no other explanation. It was a week of abundant carbs what with my mother visiting, and limited exercise because I’ve been heckled with deadlines and travelling, so chose sleep above the weight rack. The reason for this drop? As your body is jolted into fighting for survival, your base metabolic rate is increased (I think mine is usually rather sluggish) and my hypothesis is that cryotherapy actually boosted its efficiency in the following days.
Then there was my skin. There are a few treatments and products, alongside tons of water and a lot of sleep that can make me radiant. Glowing is a lifestyle, not a filter. I guess I can now add being blasted with ridiculously cold air to that repertoire. Straight after I washed London’s pollution and hours-old makeup off my face, I could see that my pores were tight and my skin plump. Someone on Instagram even commented that it looked as if I was wearing gold highlighter all over.
Other effects of cryotherapy which points to its original medical use, is advanced muscle repair (also, someone on Instagram messaged me to say three sessions had reduced her scar tissue significantly) and anti-inflammation that can aid in reducing the size of small tumours.
Since, I’ve been back to 111Cryo to see if the effects of the first trial would repeat itself. My first post-therapy temperature came in at 15-17 degrees and my second 12-14 degrees. According to the sports scientists at the Harvey Nicks branch in London, your body can withstand a drop as low as seven degrees before suffering damage. In spite of an even lower drop during my second time, the experience was much easier. I knew what to expect and how to focus on moving rather than freaking out about my joints going numb. When they say ‘it’s all in the mind’, in this case it really rings true. The cryotherapy team have said it takes about three sessions to see optimum effects and I’m 100% down for it. Sign me up, because who doesn’t love feeling superhuman?
4th floor, Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge