Video: Is cryotherapy the secret to speedy marathon recovery?

24th Apr 19 | Lifestyle

Prudence Wade tries out the celeb-favoured treatment by climbing into the -85C chamber.

cryotherapy capsule in cosmetological clinic

By stepping into the cryotherapy chamber, I was joining the auspicious ranks of athletes like Floyd Mayweather and Michael Phelps and celebs like Mark Wahlberg and Mandy Moore.

As well as looking fire on your Instagram, it’s a popular way for athletes to recover after training or a big event. Sure, I wasn’t recovering from a marathon when I went in, but any runners dreading the post-race aches and pains could do worse than booking a session after they pass the finish line of the Virgin Money London Marathon this Sunday.

So how does a session go down? As far as therapies go, this one is definitely very time-efficient at only three minutes long. Before getting into the freezing cold, I put on shorts, sports bra, insulated slippers, gloves, a headband and face mask. Yes, I definitely felt a bit silly wearing basically my underwear and gloves, but it’s all to protect your body from the -85 degree Celsius temperature of the cryo chamber. Then I walked into the small freezing box, and as a first-timer three minutes is all I would spend in there to stay safe.

Of course, as it deals with such extreme temperatures, cryotherapy is not without its risks. It’s not the kind of thing you should undergo if you’re pregnant, at risk of stroke or have a high blood pressure. An attendant was with me the whole time – she monitored my body temperature before and after my time in the cold, and made sure I didn’t touch the walls of the box (as this could lead to frost burn).

The experience itself is pretty much as chilly as you can imagine – my eyelashes and arm hairs started to freeze when I was inside, and I had to keep the mask over my nose and mouth so I could still breath. I found myself doing some awkward movements and stretches to get through the three minutes, which felt almost interminable. However, it was definitely a rush coming out of the chamber and realising that yes, I actually did survive -85 degrees wearing basically my underwear.

Athletes particularly like using cryotherapy because it is said to speed up muscle recovery process – it’s basically like an extreme version of an ice bath, or popping a bag of frozen peas on a twisted ankle.

A lot of the benefits of cryotherapy are disputed, but professional sportspeople often use it after training because it is said to reduce inflammation and any pains in the body, so it could also help marathon runners recover as quickly as possible after the big event.

Unfortunately, my timing was all off when I underwent cryotherapy – I was just coming out of Easter weekend so my muscles felt more like they were full of chocolate rather than being all torn up from a heavy gym session. However, I did go to the gym straight after, and felt noticeably looser and barely ached after a weights session. This was probably because I was advised to do some stretches in the chamber, and some studies claim stretches are actually increased in the frosty temperatures.

Even if you’re not a marathon runner, there are other benefits which can potentially be reaped from cryotherapy. It claims to help with weight management, and has been said to boost collagen production in your skin (which can result in plumper skin and fewer wrinkles).

A lot of these benefits are said to come from regular cryotherapy use, so unfortunately, after a three minute blast, I can’t exactly say I feel like a new person. If anything, I was just feeling a bit smug that I had basically started my day like Mark Wahlberg.

One three minute session in the cryotherapy chamber at KXU, Chelsea, London, costs £95.

© Press Association 2019