The Big Chill
"Be sure you are completely dry prior to entering the cryotherapy chamber,” says Barbara, a steely technician at the Lodge at Sea Island’s Performance Therapy Center. “Any moisture on the skin will most certainly cause frostbite.”
I am seated at a lovely china-laden table set for high tea in the ladies’ drawing room at Georgia’s famous resort, yet I am hardly relaxed. Barbara’s casual mention of frostbite has me focused less on how I take my English breakfast tea and more on the misery I am about to experience. Unaware of my anxiety, Barbara continues with her foreboding preamble: No metal below the neck. Your legs will likely go numb. Fainting is entirely possible.
However intimidating, Barbara’s introduction to cryotherapy is a must. After all, the treatment consists of being submerged from the neck down in a chamber of nitrogen-iced air that reaches the punishingly cold temperature of −264 degrees Fahrenheit. But the process, which lasts just 3 minutes, promises a bevy of healthful benefits: Proponents assert that a single treatment can burn up to 800 calories, as well as improve sleep, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and hasten injury recovery.
Cryotherapy was developed in the 1970s by a Japanese doctor who created a freezing chamber as a means for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Over the last several decades, the therapy has been employed to alleviate everything from muscle tension to poor circulation. More recently it has emerged as a nationwide trend, heralded by everyone from weekend warriors to professional athletes, including LeBron James, as a means of accelerating muscle recovery. In March, Sea Island became the first hospitality property in the United States to offer cryotherapy programs (which are priced from $60 per 3-minute session).
“Cryotherapy is basically the next-level ice bath for athletes,” says Ella Stimpson, the Performance Therapy Center’s director of spa. “But I find it also brings incredible mental clarity.” She claims that the therapy is especially effective for golfers, both before and after a round.
Once suitably disrobed—and, I hope, bone-dry—I follow Barbara to the small room that houses Sea Island’s cryochamber, where the technician procures a pair of thick wooly socks and rubber boots to protect my feet. I step into the standing-only chamber, and the frigid breeze begins to blow, tipping my fight-or-flight response and sending my heart into palpitations. The chill takes my breath away, requiring all of my attention to focus on the simple action of breathing in and out.
When my 3 minutes of frigid suffering are up, I exit the chamber to find my legs are indeed numb. Still, I am proud—elated even—to have powered through the process. The treatment’s boost to my ego continues the next day, when, at the Sea Island Golf Club, I shoot the round of my life.
The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, 855.714.9197, seaisland.com