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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

Abu Dhabi’s new cryotherapy facility: why ice cold is the new hot

It seemed that before every one of my five cryotherapy sessions, I was tired and worn out, mentally and physically. I left with a spring in my step, my body and mind completely reset.
Ann Marie McQueen at CRYO chamber. Courtesy Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen at CRYO chamber. Courtesy Ann Marie McQueen

As I walk into Abu Dhabi’s new °CRYO facility, technician ­JayBee asks: “Where are you from?” When I say Canada, she laughs and responds “You’ll be OK, then”.

My chilly birthplace aside, I don’t think anything can prepare a person for the experience of stepping into a -140°C chamber in the barest of clothing – and then spending three minutes there. Everything about the new °CRYO in the capital, which is located at the Abu Dhabi Country Club, says “icy”.

The glass-fronted business looks just the way I imagine most will in the future: its white interior with blue accents is suitably crisp and chilly-seeming.

I am shown to a small changing room and advised on the gear assembled for me: disposable smalls, blue, medical-style shorts, socks and neoprene booties, a pair of thick fleece gloves and a big fluffy blue robe.

JayBee – a nurse trained in the Philippines – takes my blood pressure and advises me about what will happen when I step inside the chamber. I am told to hold my hands up by my face and keep moving by walking in place; this is not a standstill experience.

It turns out the robe is only for walking to and from the °CRYO chamber, and I am filled with regret when it’s time to hand it to JayBee and slip, already shivering, through the fog of liquid nitrogen mist spilling out from inside. I’m actually pretty OK with the three minutes, though by the time I start losing feeling in my lower extremities, I am more than ready to jump out of the chamber and inside that robe.

JayBee talks to me the entire time and makes me do some quick squats to get the circulation going after. Within seconds I’ve forgotten all about being cold.

As for the immediate impact, I’m sold. It seemed that before every one of my five sessions, I was tired and worn out, mentally and physically. Several times I was in a bit of a funk on arriving, only to leave with a spring in my step, my body and mind completely reset.

And since I was in the middle of a demanding, CrossFit-like physical regimen, I was very sore for each session. On the third try I hurt so much I almost took an ibuprofen before remembering I had cryo in the afternoon; when I walked out, that pain had been diminished by a third.

With each session I also had a Heavenly Facial, a 10-minute localised cryotherapy session for the face. JayBee first removed any lip gloss – moisture is not your friend in cryotherapy – and then waved a wand exuding cryogenically cool air from forehead to chin and neck. The experience was incredibly relaxing, and while I can’t speak to the long-term ­impact of CRYO facials, they did give me a glow and left me looking refreshed and less puffy every time. Even better, during one session I had an annoying tension headache that the cool air all but erased.

• While packages are available, single whole-body sessions are Dh350, localised treatments are Dh325 and facials start at Dh325. There are eight °CRYO locations in the UAE; for information about the treatment and how to book, visit www.cryo.com

amcqueen@thenational.ae