Some people love to be cold. You probably know a guy who says things like “I love winter,” and “I can’t wait for it to snow,” and “I obviously had many bicycle accidents in the years before helmets.” The Danes have a term, “hygge,” loosely translated as coziness, that is embraced by people who wear sweaters year-round and hold their coffee mugs with both hands while thinking about knitting. Hygge is horrible. You know what they call hygge in Miami? Nothing, that’s what. In Miami they’re out on the beach dancing to Pitbull and doing body shots. And anybody in their right mind would rather be doing that than being cozy. This statement is brought to you by MTV’s The Grind.
Now, to get around to that buried lede: If moderate cold is unpleasant, imagine getting mostly naked and teleporting to Antarctica. That’s the premise of cryotherapy, the first and only health craze that involves stripping at minus 130 degrees. The idea here is that you get so cold so fast that your body assumes you’re about to end up like Ted Williams’ head, and so it releases some endorphins, because why not? There’s a theory that your body pulls oxygen away from your skin and toward your core, and then when you step out of the cold chamber—psych, we’re not dying!—the return of said oxygen makes you feel awesome. The process can maybe even goose your metabolism. So I decided to give it a try. Anything to help me look better when I’m standing on a floating pool platform and dancing to CeCe Peniston while wearing jorts. Have I mentioned that I hope MTV brings back The Grind?
The first thing I do at the cryo place is sign a bunch of waivers to the effect of “I realize that this could go really wrong for me.” Then a woman ushers me back to a changing room and mentions that if I have any piercings, now might be a good time to remove them. I’m pleased to think that I look like the kind of person who might have nipple studs, though sadly I do not, as far as you know. She hands me socks, neoprene boots, fleece gloves and a towel. “Leave your underwear on, pull the socks up all the way, put on the boots and gloves, and make sure you’re not wet,” she says. “Anything wet will freeze instantly.” I spend the next few minutes worrying about incipient armpit frostbite, the thought of which causes me to perspire, thus creating a vicious cycle of pre-cryo flop sweat. I’m also self-conscious about my stylish outfit. I look like I’m dressed for a salacious Iditarod calendar titled “Mushers of the Month.”
You wear a robe while you’re waiting in the common area, but everyone still knows you’re wearing scuba boots and not much else. The sartorial embarrassment at least takes my mind off the scene in front of me, where a small room contains a gigantic stainless steel nitrogen tank connected to an insulated chamber up on a platform. The nitrogen tank looks like it should be wheeled in by the kind of person who says, “Welcome to my la-BOR-a-tory.” The chamber itself has a cutout on top for your head, such that the person standing inside looks like someone who’s about to be cut in half by a magician. Since I’m third in line, I get to watch two women go through the process first, which probably doesn’t help my state of mind. When the chamber door opens to let someone out, an icy fog billows out and wafts along the floor, chilling tendrils snaking out into the hallway. On the upside, both women seem giddy when they’re done. Which is either because of the cryotherapy or because they’ve escaped the cryotherapy.
I climb into the chamber, remove my robe and immediately start shivering. “It’s going to be colder for you right away, because we were just running it,” says the technician, as if that’s a good thing. “You can get out whenever you want, but we normally do three minutes,” she says. So I can get out whenever I want, if I’m a big fat baby.
As soon as she closes the door, the nitrogen jets start blasting me, taking the temp down to -130—the beginner level. For about a minute, I wonder if I can stick this out. It’s so cold it doesn’t even feel like cold. You’re just kind of in shock, unsure how to process this sensation. Then, about halfway through, the unpleasantness ceases and you feel like you could stand there indefinitely, which is why it’s a good thing you have supervision. After three minutes, I climb out, feeling curiously loose and buoyant, like I’m unsure if I want to go for a run or take a nap.
I opt for the nap. Curled up under my down comforter, my phone playing the sound of a babbling brook, I dream of fireplaces and fisherman sweaters. I’m not sure I’m down with cryo, but I might be coming around on hygge.