The Cryo Club Leaves Customers Fully Rejuvenated
Nearly 40 years after whole-body cryotherapy was first developed in Japan, the cold therapy treatment has finally made its way to Louisville. The Cryo Club, located at 12101 Sycamore Station Place, has served more than 500 customers since opening on April 2.
Local chiropractor Ross Kowzan first heard about cryotherapy on a podcast last November and recognized an opportunity to introduce the service to Louisville. He told his wife Sara, a speech pathologist, about the idea, and the duo teamed up with their next-door neighbors Dane and Iris Mattingly to bring the idea to life. They registered the business by the end of the year and quickly went to work putting all of the pieces in place.
“We all have our own strengths that make for a perfect partnership,” Ross says.
Dane, a former University of Louisville football player, had never heard of cryotherapy before Ross brought up the idea but had long wanted to enter the health field to help others in his native Louisville. His athletics contacts made for a great fit as cryotherapy has cropped up as a premier treatment for elite athletes and generally fitness-minded people.
Iris, who works at a marketing company and owns a photography business, handles most of the marketing of the business while Sara, who has a business degree, manages the finances. Ross is the go-to on health-related matters, but it’s all hands on deck when it comes to day-to-day operations of the facility.
The group’s connections with the former NFL players who own the Baptist Health Performance Training facility in the East End, and the dozens of potential clients who visit each day, made the building a logical place for The Cryo Club to make its debut. Entrepreneurs Chad Miller and Brad Johnson had opened Personal Fitness & Rehabilitation inside the facility just a month before and let The Cryo Club house their cryotherapy chamber in one of their rooms.
“We live in the area, and this location is the perfect match for us,” Dane says. “We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Some of The Cryo Club’s first clients were runners training for the Kentucky Derby Marathon and Mini Marathon that took place at the end of April. Runners are often plagued with aches and pains due to their strenuous training schedules, and cryotherapy proved to be a much-needed relief.
“I was anxious to see the results myself because we had done so much research into cryotherapy at that point,” Sara says. “I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the amount of people who do see immediate results.”
The timing could not have been better. The Cryo Club’s Facebook page was soon adorned with reviews from happy customers who successfully overcame injuries and completed the race with the help of cryotherapy.
Reduced pain, decreased inflammation, shortened athletic recovery time and weight loss are some of the advertised benefits of cryotherapy, and proponents of the treatment say its benefits far outweigh that of a traditional ice bath. They say the treatment is also far less painful than an ice bath and more like walking outside in the snow wearing minimal clothing.
“I was afraid it was going to be an intolerable cold, but it was totally tolerable for such a short amount of time,” Sara says. “You get out feeling amazing and refreshed.”
The benefits can be enjoyed by a wide range of people, not just elite athletes or those who do strenuous workouts. Geriatric populations and people with immune conditions are great candidates for the treatment, which can also help with brain fog and clearing certain skin conditions related to psoriasis and eczema.
“You have to be at least 12 years of age with parent consent, but we get all kinds of people dealing with different issues who benefit from cryotherapy treatment,” Iris says.
Of course hearing about a cryotherapy treatment is one thing and actually experiencing it is another, so on a recent Wednesday morning, I went to The Cryo Club for my first-ever cryotherapy appointment. The weather forecast was calling for another sunny, 90-plus degree day, so the thought of hanging out in sub-zero temperatures for a few minutes was more than appealing.
I was a mixture of nervous and excited as I sat in the waiting room, but my nerves subsided as the customer ahead of me emerged smiling and unscathed from his appointment.
“We’ve had so many people who were very nervous going in, but they’re always amazed at how easy the process is and how good they feel after,” Ross says.
I filled out a liability waiver while Ross went over the medical conditions that would preclude me from safely receiving a cryotherapy treatment (those who have had a stroke, have a history of heart disease or are pregnant should not do cryotherapy), and my blood pressure was recorded to make sure the cold would not put dangerous levels of stress on my body.
Safety is paramount when taking part in cryotherapy, whether as the person receiving treatment or the one administering it, and the owners completed a specialized training and certification process in Dallas, Texas before opening The Cryo Club. They each have their own jobs outside of The Cryo Club as well as their families to balance, so they brought on Hayley Piazza and Jessica Bates as recovery specialists who are also specially trained and cover about half of the hours.
“You’re dealing with nitrogen, which none of us had dealt with previously, so there are a lot of safety precautions,” Sara says. “Our staff has gone through a lot of education to handle the experience safely and appropriately.”
Clients can choose between four settings for their appointment that vary in length of time and temperature range. I opted for Intermediate, which is three minutes in the chamber at -276 degrees. A Beginner setting is available for just two and a half minutes, but I figured I could handle an extra 30 seconds. Three minutes is the maximum time one can spend in the chamber, but the temperature can go all the way down to -321 for the properly named Extreme setting.
Cryotherapy is most effective when the cold air can touch as much bare skin as possible, so clients go in wearing just their undergarments (women should refrain from wearing a bra with metal clasps) and are provided with a pair of socks, slippers, and gloves. Clients can do a cryotherapy session immediately following a workout, but the skin and clothing worn in the chamber must be dry for safety purposes.
Ross showed me how to enter the chamber and secure the door, then left me in the room to prepare. Once I had entered the chamber, I pressed a button to alert Ross that I was ready for him to come back in the room and start the treatment. He first used a lift to raise me up in the machine so my head and neck were sticking out the top.
The session started, and liquid nitrogen vapor began to fill the chamber and immediately cool my body. Just as Sara had said, the experience was not painful, but I was shocked at how cold I felt after just a few seconds. Ross and I made small talk to keep my mind off the cold, and he encouraged me to move around as needed. There was enough room for me to move my arms back-and-forth and wiggle from side to side, and Ross said some clients even move around in tiny circles.
Three minutes went by quicker than I thought, and before I knew it Ross was leaving the room again as the chamber entered a drying cycle. I exited feeling wide-awake and refreshed, and could definitely sense some differences in the way my body was moving. My skin’s temperature was lowered between 30-50 degrees while in the chamber, but I warmed up relatively quickly when it was done.
All in all I was at The Cryo Club for only about 20 minutes and was told to expect even shorter times at future sessions since I would already be familiar with the process. I had a few areas of redness on my skin that all disappeared within 24 hours, and I felt great after my workout that afternoon. I’ve had chronic knee pain for over 15 years, and it was lessened dramatically in the 48 or so hours after my appointment.
Clients can experience benefits from cryotherapy by doing a session just once a week, all the way up to daily sessions, depending on the severity of their pain levels.
“Clients who have a chronic issue typically visit more in a shorter time frame,” Ross says. “Everybody is a little bit different, and some clients are just doing it for recovery purposes.”
The Cryo Club offers a special rate of $40 for first-time customers interested in trying out cryotherapy and give a 25 percent discount to active military, veterans and first responders. If you try it out and are hooked, they offer memberships for unlimited monthly visits (maximum one treatment per day).
The owners plan to expand The Cryo Club in the future by adding more chambers and possibly additional locations. They already work with Louisville City FC, a professional soccer club, to provide treatment for the players and hope to create other local partnerships.
“We wanted to start The Cryo Club to help people, and we also want to give back to the community through different nonprofits,” Iris says. “That’s what we’re hoping to do as we continue to grow.”
Going to Dallas last spring to get certified also gave them something to look forward to in terms of what demand for cryotherapy may look like as the treatment gains popularity in Louisville.
“We’re the first cryotherapy center in Louisville, and it was huge for us to start the market here,” Iris says. “It was cool to see their facility in Dallas and envision what ours could eventually look like.”
For more information on The Cryo Club or to book an appointment, visit thecryoclub.com.