If it’s good enough for Erling Haaland, it’s good enough for the Dazed team
Erling Haaland has been on a hot streak the likes of which have scarcely been seen in the world of football. A once-in-a-generation talent, the Manchester City player racks up hat tricks like he’s a robot designed in a lab to score goals. Aside from pure raw skill, Haaland’s teammates have said that he is always looking for ways to optimise his game, regularly reading scientific papers about improving his body through diet or sleep. One of the biohacking methods he uses to make sure he is at peak performance is cryotherapy. In October, it was reported that Haaland splashed out £500,000 on a personal cryotherapy chamber for his home in Cheshire.
It’s not just Haaland. Lewis Hamilton goes into the chamber after every race to help his body recover, and Christiano Ronaldo, Sir Mo Farah, Usain Bolt, LeBron James and Andy Murray all use it as part of their training. Why am I listing all these athletes? Because while there haven’t been a lot of studies done on cryotherapy chambers so far, and the research that has been done has found mixed results, anecdotally it’s obvious that the best athletes in the world believe that they have discovered a way to unlock their body’s highest potential.
But it’s not just athletes. ‘Wellness’ has become increasingly extreme over the last few years, as people swap bath bombs for IV drips, so it’s not surprising that cryotherapy chambers have seen a rise in popularity with many people incorporating them into their regular wellness routine. To see what all the fuss was about, members of the Dazed editorial and social media teams took to the cryo chamber and underwent the deep freeze for ourselves.
Cryotherapy is a treatment that uses extreme cold temperatures to stimulate a range of different health benefits including reducing pain and inflammation and supporting joint function. Cold therapy as a way to support health and treat injuries has been used for centuries, from the ancient Egyptians in 2500 BC to Hippocrates in 400 BC Greece. But it was the Japanese in the late 1970s who originated cryotherapy as we think of it today, when Dr Toshima Yamaguchi used it to treat conditions including rheumatoid arthritis. In the late 00s Los Angeles discovered it and the rest is history.
Cryotherapy encompasses everything from ice baths to cryosurgery, but in this case we are talking about whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) where the full body is immersed in sub -100 celsius temperatures for between two to four minutes. The cryo chamber we headed to is located in the 180 Health Club, a tranquil space where you can also take fencing lessons, check out the infrared sauna and get hooked up to an IV drip. On your arrival, you are required to strip down to your socks and bra (if you wear a bra) or your bare chest (if you have male nipples), and are given some tight shorts, gloves, two hats, a face mask and some very stylish slippers (not being sarcastic, they are chic).
Cryotherapy chambers are basically fancy freezers in which temperatures drop to around -110 celsius (colder than the coldest recorded temperature on Earth) with vaporised nitrogen. The extreme cold triggers a chemical fight-or-flight reaction. “It tricks the body into thinking it’s going into hypothermia, but it’s not,” Maria Ensabella, the founder of LondonCryo, told Dazed in 2019. “It’s so the brain can send a message to the bloodstream to rush to the internal organs to protect them. Once there, it gets reoxygenated, replenishes its nutrients and releases endorphins.”
Alongside reducing pain and inflammation, cryotherapy is said to help with muscle recovery, stiff joints, mood, immune system, metabolism, migraines, nerve irritation, fatigue, insomnia and anxiety, as well as aesthetic benefits like tightening the skin. A study by Wrocław University in Poland yielded positive results when a group of subjects suffering from depression underwent cryotherapy. The report states that “the worse the mental state of the patients is prior to the cryotherapy, the stronger its effect.”
Once properly attired, you step inside the first section of the chamber which has temperatures of -60 celsius which allows your body to (somewhat) acclimatise. After 20 seconds, you move into the second chamber where you are exposed to the full -110 degrees for up to three minutes. The first time I went into the cryo chamber I had no idea what to expect. -110 degrees is a temperature I could not even conceive of. And I will say, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Once you focus on taking deep breaths and you get used to the feeling of frozen nose hair, it is more or less smooth sailing.
The first time I tried the chamber, I didn’t notice much of a difference in mood or in my body. But this second time, I felt so good when it was over. I was full of energy and felt like I was ready to take on the world. It’s quite a euphoric feeling and I wonder if that would only get stronger with continued use. Unfortunately, at £50 per session (three minutes in the chamber) it’s not something I can incorporate into my routine on a regular basis. But given the chance, I would absolutely do it again. And, to varying degrees, the rest of the team felt the same. Here, they share their experiences.
Halima Jibril, Features Writer
“I hate the cold. I’m the kind of person who still feels cold in the summer, even in the scarily warm summers we now have in the UK. So I knew going into the cryo chamber would be a challenge for me. When I got into the first room of the cryo chamber, I was stressed. Due to my hatred of the cold (and of trying new things), my mind instantly panicked. It was so damn cold, but I tried to focus on my breathing. This worked while we were in the first room but when we entered the second room, it was game over for me.
The cold air felt so cold in my lungs it was unbearable. I couldn’t relax and take in the experience because I was so shocked by the temperature drop. I was (unsurprisingly) the first one to leave the chamber in my group. After a few minutes of heating my body up and profusely stating that I would never go into another cryo chamber again, my body started to feel different. It’s hard to explain, but it felt like I could take deeper, more profound breaths. I could feel all the air going in and out of my lungs in all its fullness. The chronic pain in my legs disappeared (only for a few hours), but my body felt more open, flexible and pain-free than before going to the cryo chamber. I almost wanted to go back after my rather dramatic exit to elongate the after-effect.”
Habi Diallo, Commercial Writer
“I actually really enjoyed the cryochamber. I obviously knew it was going to be cold but it was unbelievably colder than I anticipated. You initially go into shock mode, but once you get over the fact that you can feel the hair in your nose turning into ice cubes it feels quite exhilarating.
I have a condition that leads to chronic pain in my joints and after we did the chamber I felt immediate relief in most of my joints, particularly my knees. I did not feel much pain for the rest of the day and that alone is enough of a reason for me to try it again. However, the thing that surprised me the most was how energised I felt afterwards. I literally felt like I could go for an hour-long run… which I don’t think is a thought that has ever crossed my mind.”
Chester McKee, Social Media Coordinator
“I was hesitant going into the cryo chamber at first. We pumped ourselves up before heading in expecting the cold to eat us alive but honestly, once we were in, it was kinda slay and exactly what I needed that day. After getting used to the temperature my body started adjusting to my new life in the chamber. I took this time to concentrate on deep breathing and relaxing thoughts to take away from the fact it was well cold!
“Once I was released from the chamber of coldness, I was kinda sad. I really started liking my life there, but the energy I felt once out was unbeatable. I had a new kick in my step and felt like I could go on a run for miles. It cleared up the headache I was suffering from and I just felt an all-round sensation of euphoria. I definitely recommend a trip to the chilly box – God knows I needed it.”
Marios Mystidis, Deputy Head of Social
“I was quite sceptical going into the cryo chamber to begin with as, I’m not gonna lie, chilling in -110ºC doesn’t sound idyllic. However, I thought I would give it a go as the benefits were more than appealing, plus the session is literally two minutes and you can leave anytime if it’s not for you.
“The first room was quite nice and crisp, and eased the idea of going into the proper chamber, however, nothing prepared me mentally or physically for the cold we were about to experience. To be very transparent, the feeling is intense. You do feel your body slowly freezing to a numb state, and although we’re wearing surgical masks I could feel my snot literally freezing. However, the staff is alerting you every 30 seconds of how much time you have remaining, plus doing it with a friend is quite entertaining as you’re both yelling into the void about how cold it is.
“We were able to finish the session successfully, and when we came out indeed I felt a rush of energy, very similar to the one you feel post-gym. Not sure if it’s something that I would stick to doing regularly, but I would defo suggest giving it a go!”
Emily Dinsdale, Art and Photography Editor
“This is the fourth time I’ve been in the cryo-chamber, steadily increasing the duration from two minutes to three. The first time I tried it I went in alone and I felt quite afraid – it’s like stepping onto a planet with a hostile atmosphere... the noise of the freezer, the frozen particles of moisture floating around in the air like mist. You go into shock slightly, and I had to really focus on my breathing to keep calm. But when you come out you really feel euphoric. It reduces inflammation and has tonnes of health benefits and you feel quite high and energised on the endorphins and dopamine. The following day, I felt like my skin looked brighter and tighter too.
“It was more fun going in with Halima, Alex, and Habi – I could see frost forming on their eyelashes. When were in there, we were repeating something we’d been told, ‘this is the coldest place on Earth’ and it was sort of invigorating to think we were enduring this unearthly cold, even if it was for just a brief few minutes.”