Are cryotherapy clinics and sweat lodges just a fad? Or do they aid in training and recovery?
Alex Barr is a long-distance runner in the Sarasota area. She is tough on her knees and hips.
After training, there’s one way she knows to ease aching joints.
“The first time I did cryotherapy was after a marathon,” said Barr. “I knew from then on, after the effect that it had on me, that I was in love with it.”
Barr works at CryoXL at Hydr8, a Sarasota cryotherapy facility. The process requires a client to strip down fully for women — shorts on for men — and to wear socks and gloves for extremities. Clients step into the cryotherapy chamber with only his or her head sticking out. The chamber lowers the temperature to minus 135 Fahrenheit.
The temperature is that low, owner Fernando Vega said, because that’s the ideal temperature to oxygenate red blood cells, basically rebooting the body’s circulation system. The new blood cells travel to joints to relieve arthritic pain and swelling. Those blood cells then travel to the brain and release endorphins.
“It helps my joints, and I am coming back from a hip injury, so the cryo helps that as well,” said Barr. “But after every session, I always sleep super well every night. Like when I go to bed, I knock out for eight hours at least. It’s awesome.”
Lowering your body to that low temperature for three minutes, which is how long a session usually takes, seems intimidating.
But if cold temperature scares you, try a sweat lodge.
Purify an Urban Sweat Lodge, co-owned by Samantha Albano and her mother, Sandy Albano, just opened at the beginning of August.
“As soon as I heard about sweat lodges, I knew we had to open one in Sarasota because there’s nothing like this here,” said Samantha Albano. “It’s like you’re working out without going to the gym.”
In a sweat lodge, the rooms are curtained off into sections, with an adjustable bed in each. A person who comes to the sweat lodge dresses down to a clean sweatshirt and sweatpants, provided by the lodge, and wraps themselves in a giant heating blanket with only their head exposed.
The temperature inside the blanket gradually climbs to 140 Fahrenheit so as not to make it uncomfortable. Each session lasts 50 minutes. The final 15 minutes — the climax period — is when sweat starts to really pour out of your body.
The Albanos say sweating removes toxins from body, burns calories and relieves stress. Of course, it can also dehydrate you, which is why they advise each of their clients to drink plenty of water before a session and plenty after as well, to replenish their bodies.
Dr. Ron Torrance, a Sarasota orthopedist, said both sweating and cryotherapy can be beneficial.
“Sweat does get rid of toxins,” he said.
He also stands by cryotherapy.
“It is definitely good for arthritis and autoimmune diseases. It helps with muscle soreness, arthritis and autoimmune diseases quickly,” said Torrance, who sometimes recommends cryotherapy to his patients.
Although these trends seem new, sweating out toxins is an age-old Native American tradition, and cryotherapy was developed 25 years ago in Japan to treat rheumatoid arthritis.