There’s a secret to better health that’s gaining traction among those in the know. Chicagoans by the thousands are venturing into a vortex of subzero temperatures as they race to catch a cold – all in the name of wellness.
Nearly three years ago, entrepreneur and wellness enthusiast Sara Latham opened The CryoBar, one of the earliest cryotherapy centers in Chicago. Nestled in the bustling, tree-lined Lincoln Park neighborhood, the facility’s serene spa setting beckoned the curious to enter and discover exactly what two to three minutes in a cryosauna could do for them.
With popularity soaring, she opened a second CryoBar location this spring in the nearby Bucktown neighborhood known for the young, the trendy, and the artsy. And with a third site actively being sought – Sara is well on her way to being in the business of ice3.
The CryoBar storefront in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood
But first – what is cryotherapy? Whole Body Cryotherapy briefly exposes the body from the neck down to subzero temperatures – think negative 200 degrees Fahrenheit – inside a futuristic-looking chamber putting the body into a natural fight-or-flight response. The energized effects from each whole body cryotherapy session typically last six to eight hours post treatment. Localized cryotherapy uses a precision-delivered stream of nitrogen to a specific problem area. Think hours of icing in only 5 to 10 minutes. The Cryo-Toning Facial uses vaporized nitrogen to increase collagen production and elasticity in the skin with no downtime. You can literally feel your skin tightening during the 10 minute facial. For all three of the cryotherapy treatments, the more treatments done in close succession, the longer the benefits last.
The science of cold. During cryotherapy, a gaseous form of nitrogen lowers skin surface temperature by 30 to 50 degrees during the two to three minute session. When subzero temperatures hit the skin – a domino-effect of good things gets triggered: inflammatory toxins are flushed away; endorphins kick-in; collagen protein-production is boosted; and increased levels of oxygen circulate within the bloodstream. During cryotherapy, the cold penetrates only the surface of your skin. Vital organs, muscles and tissues don’t change temperature. And no need to freak-out about the use of nitrogen – the natural element is common and safe, In fact, the air we breathe is 78% nitrogen.
Cryotherapy vs. ice bath. If you’re wondering how cryotherapy compares to an ice bath – let’s discuss. Just two to three minutes in the whole body cryosauna is the equivalent to 20 to 30 minutes in an ice bath – no bated breath or icy-cold liquid submersion necessary. Instead, the cold, dry nitrogen vapor creates a mesmerizing gaseous swirl that chills the outer most layer of your skin. While ice baths initially move blood to the extremities and lower the body’s core temperature, cryotherapy draws the blood to your core where it is supercharged with oxygen, vital proteins, and endorphins in mere minutes.
What it’s like. Tales from the chamber.
After being greeted by a friendly, informed employee, you’re ushered into a dressing room to shed street clothes for a cozy spa robe, warm socks and slippers. Your trusty guide brings you into the cryosauna room and swings the door open to reveal a dramatic swirl of chilled fog. The hydraulic lift kicks into action, elevating you so your head clears the top of the chamber, eliminating any claustrophobia concerns and making it easy to chat with your technician.
Once inside the chamber, you disrobe and are handed a pair of mittens. Although you’re in complete privacy, it feels like you’ve entered the theatre of the absurd to find yourself basically naked and wearing only socks and mittens as you wait for the cold to do its thing.
Most anything can be endured for two to three minutes, and there’s something that feels adventurous and brave about seeing this through. To deal with the seeping, creeping cold – you can choose your preferred way to pass the time. Be still. Meditate. Breathe deeply. Distract yourself with mindless chatter with your guide, as your teeth chatter. Jog in place. Inquire at regular intervals about how much time is left. Then suddenly, it’s over. Your robe is passed back to you, mittens are surrendered, and you leave the chamber feeling light and airy as you practically float back to the dressing room in a fog of endorphins.
I started the whole-body cryotherapy regiment during a month when I decided to revive a long-neglected cardio and weight routine. I was amazed at the steady progress of being able to add more and more weights after each and every session, with no post-workout soreness. Mood-wise, I also experienced the feel-good surge of endorphins that lasted hours and hours. And yes, about five pounds were shed without altering my diet in any significant way. Those three minutes in the cryochamber several times a week became a highlight of the summer, a post-workout reward, and something to look forward to that was the very definition of “me time.”
The CryoBar is also family friendly, and older kids and teens are welcome to try it out, per the case-by-case discretion of staff. After three hours of baseball in relentless 100-degree heat, my son was whisked to a post-game surprise waiting for him at The CryoBar. There, he left the confines of a sweltering Earth to experience the other extreme of a cryo chamber that rivaled Mars’ nighttime temps. He went in feeling drained and exhausted to practically skipping home, renewed with energy and enthusiasm.
The CryoBar Story. Owner Sara Latham is in her 40’s but looks much younger with glowing skin and a lithe body (cryotherapy can burn 500-800 calories a session as the body works to warm up). She’s brimming with passion about overcoming her own health trials and tribulations with the help of cryo.
Pain was an early companion to Sara as years of gymnastics and ballet punished her body. Her 30’s saw two hips that needed to be resurfaced along with a host of problems as her immune system went rogue and attacked everything from her joints to her thyroid to her hormones. Struggling with constant inflammation and fatigue, rapid weight gain, and the unpleasant effects of anti-inflammatory medications, the mother of three called herself a “walking autoimmune disaster.” With cryotherapy sessions, Sara found herself revived, refresh, and rejuvenated, enabling her to stop taking her anti-inflammatory meds and hasn’t had to use them since.
“I was already eating well and exercising, trying to do everything right. I felt like there had to be a more natural way to help my body and reduce my pain without medication. I started doing cryotherapy, and it gave me my life back. Every day, I am excited to see how cryotherapy positively impacts our clients. It’s all about the joy of helping people and nothing beats that,” Sara said.
Overall, the top reasons people seek refuge with cryotherapy at The CyroBar include:
- Sports & Fitness – Speeds up recovery time by minimizing muscle soreness and pain, which allows for harder and more frequent training. Over time, improves muscle strength while increasing energy and peak athletic performance.
- Health & Wellness – Naturally reduces inflammation due to auto-immune disorders. Lifts your mood, helping with depression and anxiety. Increases blood circulation, which in turn reduces toxins, promotes lymphatic drainage, and boosts immunity.
- Metabolism & Weight Loss – Increases metabolism, which can lead to weight-loss.
- Spa & Beauty – Stimulates collagen production for tighter, younger looking skin as well as stronger hair and nails. Reduces the appearance of fine lines, pores, and cellulite.
The CryoBar has numerous treatments including whole body cryotherapy, localized cryotherapy, cryo-toning facials, infrared sauna, Celluma light therapy and Cryoskin 3.0.
For more information:
The CryoBar “Chill. From the outside in.” thecryobar website
New Client Packages start at $40 for your first cryotherapy session.
Lincoln Park, 1205 W. Webster Avenue, 773-360-1729 – open seven days a week.
Bucktown, 1917 N. Damen Avenue, 773-904-8065 – open six days a week, closed Mondays.
Photos: Courtesy of The CryoBar