There’s a difference between real cryotherapy and just being really, really cold, The Fuel Stop owner Mila Jouravleva tells me. I’m not sure I would have believed her, had I not already tried true cryotherapy. That’s what I thought cryotherapy was: being really cold for a couple minutes in the name of healthy, beauty, and one heck of a calorie burn. But I was wrong, and I can’t help but feel like her description of their cryotherapy chamber as the “Rolls Royce of cryo” is completely accurate.
We’re chatting in her NYC “anti-spa” after a round of supplement shots made from her proprietary supplement. (She’s crafted a place where frenzied New Yorkers can pop in, get treatment, and leave refreshed in just 15 minutes.) Mila tells me about how a passion for getting cryotherapy lead her down a path of researching the best equipment. She always felt like something was off. With traditional cryo treatments, only parts of her body ever got the intense chill for which it’s known.
That’s because traditional cryotherapy chambers use nitrogen, piped in near your feet. Your head stays in the room-temperature air and sticks out of the chamber since we can’t breathe nitrogen. But that means your head and most of your upper body, if not more, doesn’t ever get down to the temperatures needed to reap the cryotherapy benefits, Jouravleva tells me. And you’re going to want to make sure you get them, because the list of reported health benefits is impressively long.
What is cryotherapy?
Simply put, cryotherapy is cold therapy. They’ve been using cryotherapy for medical treatments for years. It’s used in a localized treatment to freeze off warts and to kill abnormal or cancerous cells on your skin or cervix at the doctor’s office.
Whole body cryotherapy, the trend just now hitting its stride in the U.S., however, is different. That doesn’t mean it’s new, though. It’s been used in Japan since the 1970s to treat rheumatoid arthritis. From there, it hopped over to Eastern Europe. Only in the past few years has it hit mainstream at American spas and gyms, though.
With whole body cryo, you expose your body to temperatures under negative 200 degrees F for anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes. Although, as mentioned, the chambers differ, at The Fuel Stop you’re standing in a walk-in chamber in your undies. Their chamber gets down to around -235 degrees F, and you’ll subject yourself to 3 long minutes in the name of good health.
If you want to know more about cryo, which benefits are real and which are hype, and what the risks are (as well as how to eliminate them), check out our guide to cryotherapy.
What’s so different about the chamber at The Fuel Stop?
It sounds like a minor difference: getting your head in the chamber versus having it stick out. The reality, Jouravleva tells me, is much more serious. If your head never gets the cold treatment, you won’t activate the Vagus nerve, and that’s where most of the health benefits start. So essentially, you’re not getting your money’s worth if your spa doesn’t have a walk-in chamber.
Believe me, you’ll get your head cold at The Fuel Stop. Their walk-in chamber is no joke, which is why an attendant is there just outside a window in the chamber the whole time. They’ll make sure your gloves, socks, thermal headband, and mask are all in place properly before you even think about getting cold therapy. You can also expect them to time the session perfectly, with clear prompts relayed to you about when to go in and when to come out.
But even though they’ll plunge your body into -235 degrees F, you won’t shiver through the whole thing. After getting you to pick some upbeat music, you’ll make your way into the chamber and mostly sway your way through the 3-minute session. You’ll be aware that you’re cold, but it won’t be difficult to make it through the treatment.
Here’s what my session was like
I picked “Midnight City” by M83 since it always makes me feel like dancing. In hindsight, I wish I would have picked “Ice, Ice Baby,” just for the fun of it. My arms automatically bent at the elbow and glued themselves to my chest. I didn’t shiver, but I couldn’t get myself to relax them. I did an awkward shuffle back and forth throughout the song, but the time passed quickly.
Honestly I was more self-conscious about standing in my underwear in front of the attendant than aware of being cold. Huge billows of clouds from my breath showed how cold the tank was, and the warmth melted my eye makeup a little throughout the session. But there was no toe or finger numbness thanks to the gloves and socks they provide.
But the most shocking thing happened when I emerged from the chamber. I felt like my skin had a glow as I warmed back up. The knots in my muscles were looser than they’ve ever been, even after a massage. And, maybe the best part, I felt benevolent. The world seemed like a happy place and I felt safe and comforted. Plus, the migraine I walked in with that was hovering over my right eye was gone by the time the 3 minutes had ended.
So, would I do it again?
I would jump in the cryotherapy chamber at The Fuel Stop without a second thought. Would I try bucket cryotherapy (where your head sticks out)? No. If I’ve found something that works wonders, why would I ever try something that might not work as well? The treatments cost the same, so for me, it’s the “Rolls Royce” or nothing.