“You know, someone died doing this,” our editor informed us exactly 30 minutes before we were slated to take off our clothes, and submerge ourselves in the kind of sub-zero temperatures rarely seen on this planet.
What? Are you serious?
“Yeah, some lady in Vegas or something. Let me send you the link.”
There it was, reader — the beginning of our prolonged unease in the chamber of froidure: Was this how we were going to die, we wondered?
As it turns out, no — obviously — the only person who writes from the grave is Tupac, and that particular Vegas case involved a woman deciding to do her own full-body cryotherapy session alone, after hours, and with no one around to hear her freeze to death. We were safe.
So what exactly is cryotherapy, Coconuts KL?
Well, first of all — it’s probably something you’ve already done. Ever put an ice pack on an injury? Ever stuck your finger on a bag of frozen peas to cool a burn? Taken the plunge in an icy bath after a big match? Ever had a planters’ wart frozen off?
All of these are technically cryotherapy, kids, and proponents of the treatment believe that the same good that comes from using an isolated pack on your twisted ankle will be multiplied tenfold by using the cold concept on your entire body.
More accurately, this is called “whole-body cryotherapy” (WBC), and it’s probably what all these fancy pants gyms and sports centers are referring to when they’re trying to tell you that not only is cryotherapy good enough for Tom Brady, it’s necessary for you after you Zumba.
This means getting your kit off, putting on some boots, gloves and nipple tape, and standing in a cylindrical chamber while cold fumes get pumped out at you for as many minutes as you can handle. Temperatures can range anywhere from the -60 degrees Celsius range, all the way to -110.
We managed three, somewhere around -90 at the max, and for the record — we were born in the icy northern land that is Canada.
Proponents will tell you that not only will WBC solve your aches and pains, but it will help you lose weight, improve your mood, give you better skin, and yes — yes, reader, the magic words everyone wants to hear: You’ll feel more energetic.
Before you can say, “where my toque?” it’s our duty to also let you know that zero scientific evidence actually backs any of this up, but a few studies that have shown it can actually have adverse effects.
More on that later!
Deep inside the annals of Kuala Lumpur’s Publika shopping center, the kind of upmarket mall that has shops of little utility (but nice soaps), is REV gym. No bigger than a Zara, it offers the usual suspects of treadmills, and weights, but with a few snazzy features like an aerial yoga area (no, thank you), and the aforementioned whole-body cryotherapy chamber.
We’re gonna be straight with you: We work out a fair amount, and we’ve limited our recovery sessions to a couple ibuprofen and some intense reflexology to great success. We weren’t looking for cryotherapy, but a free session was on offer via our fitness app, and we aren’t ever going to say no to free, even if it does involve freezing our tits off.
“Can you get on the scale,” a REV employee asked us.
We winced. In our experience as an average weight individual, who exercises a lot, and eats well — no good can come of a gym employee asking us to step up.
“Did you know that you were 25% fat?,” he asked us. “And you seem to have a lot of visceral fat around your organs. Did you know that?”
Wait, are these rhetorical questions?
In short, no, we had no idea that we were one quarter butter, and more importantly, we had no idea that a scale with a couple of rods poking out to hold on to could tell us what our family doctor obviously didn’t have the nerve to admit: We were about as healthy as a day-old donut, according to REV.
“It’s not that bad,” he assured us. “But using the cryo-chamber will help burn your fat away. We offer a package…”
Next up came a new colleague, who would be doing some imaging of our body in a room that may or may not have been inspired by the 50 Cent banger, In da Club.
We stood fully clothed as pictures were taken face on, and from the side, and waited for the prognosis.
“You have a lot of over-development on the tops of your thighs,” he said pointing to the screen.
Really? Well, we do a lot of bike riding workouts.
“Yeah, you would really benefit from having us retrain you, to use your other muscles, so these thigh ones are not so big. We offer a package…”
At this point, we were ready to meet our icy demise, and asked when the freezing was going to happen. Were we nervous that we might die? Yes. Were we done with body-shaming for the day? Oh, hell yes.
Our first employee of visceral fat fame reappeared. He would be explaining the process to us. First, you take your clothes off, including jewelry and slip on some faux Ugg boots, gloves, and a robe. Oh, and some nipple stickers lest your nips and areola feel the freezer burn a little too much. Hmm, not bad. Kind of stylish, in a wintry Hugh Hefner kind of way.
We came out into the room with the cryo chamber, telling the man that we were ready for it, subzero temperatures be damned, and that we were actually quite cozy.
The chamber was like a hollow cylinder with a door, and a tiny platform inside. We were instructed to get in.
“Now pass me your robe,” he asked.
WHAT?! You mean, we’re not wearing this?
“Hahaha nope, you need to feel the cold on your body,” he politely pointed out.
Right. Hey — had you heard that a woman died doing this, we asked?
“Yes, but she was alone. I won’t leave, promise.”
Right. And so began the longest three minutes of our life, interspersed with equally awkward chitchat while we stood, shivering naked inside a tube, unsure about the rising vapors that were engulfing our body.
“Do you want a video?”
When it was over, we felt a sense of relief that we survived, and the kind of vigor our grandmother spoke about swimming in the cold waters of Lake Balaton nine months out of the year.
Maybe cryotherapy really was the answer to our collectively drained energies?
As it were, science, studies and facts would like to contest that je ne sais quoi they like to call “the placebo effect,” and remind you that none of these purported effects have ever been proven to be true, and that it’s not an endorsed medical treatment for any of the ailments it claims to solve.
Acne? No. Eczema? Nah. Psoriasis? Nope. Weight loss? Still a quarter butter. Pain relief? The jury is still out. Rheumatoid arthritis? Not quite. Improved mood? We’re already over it.
In fact, dermatologists want you to know that there are a lot of potential dangers associated with the process, including frostbite (something several athletes have experienced), frozen limbs and “rashes” (we’re only going to hyperlink, since you might be eating).
So where does this leave us, reader? Well — we’ve never been one to knock the placebo effect: For years we would only board a plane after taking a drop of some kind of “calming tincture” our lake swimming grandma would give us. Years later, we discovered that simple syrup and cardamom had been chillaxing us, but it didn’t really matter since it got the job done.
Got RM200 to spare, and fancy freezing your tits off to better health? Giddy on up to REV, try to ignore their negs telling you you’re already too fat, and don’t ever go inside that machine with wet socks.
REV Publika is at Publika Shopping Gallery
Lot 6 & 7, Level G4, Block C3
Solaris Dutamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Reservations: 03-7890 2068
This article, Cryotherapy me a river: Freezing our aches, pains and fat away with whole-body cryotherapy at REV, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. For more Coconuts stories, you can download our app, sign up for our newsletters, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.