Doug Brooks is a long-time runner who last year set the goal of running in the six major marathons -- Berlin, Boston, Chicago, New York, London and Tokyo.
His training involved running high mileage and weight-lifting and despite his many years as a runner, he said the intense workouts began to take a toll on his body. It didn't help that his job as an international pilot would sometimes leave him with sore knees and an aching back. "It is really easy to work out and really difficult to recover," said Brooks, 43 of Buckhead.
To reduce post-workout inflammation he would take ice baths, but it wasn't getting the job done and it was a hassle. An online search led him to cryotherapy and Icebox, the two and a half-year old company that offers whole body cryotherapy to the public. Brooks went to check it out and ended up signing on for unlimited sessions.
"I slept better and it helped with soreness," he said. "As soon as you step out, you feel like a different person. You are in a haze after a workout and it takes you out of that haze."
Once it was on his radar, Brooks began to notice how many people use the therapy. Celebrities like LeBron James, Demi Moore, local hip-hop artists and the many Falcons and Hawks players that he would see walking in and out of Icebox during his visits.
Cryotherapy has been around since the 1970's and is popular in Asia and Europe, but only recently has it begun to go mainstream in the U.S. and Atlanta is leading the charge in the Southeast.
Atlanta-based Impact Cryotherapy, a national manufacturer of cryotherapy units, launched in June 2014 and in December, Georgia Tech was the first NCAA Division I athletic program to use the startup's American-made chambers.
Today, there are almost a half-dozen retail cryotherapy centers in metro Atlanta. Alia Alston, co-owner of Icebox, the first location of this kind in the U.S., had heard about the therapy from Nike's Oregon Project, a training program for elite runners.
The foundation of whole body cryotherapy is a machine that looks like an upright tanning bed. Your head sticks out of the top as the contraption fills with nitrogen gas. For up to three minutes, your body is exposed to temperatures between -250 to -300 degrees fahrenheit. "It's cold. Definitely cold," said Alston.
Here's a video of Olympic marathoner Dathan Rizenhein, who is part of Nike's Oregon Project, during a cryotherapy session:
The cold temperature pushes blood to your core to rejuvenate the body and exposed skin is broken down and regenerated. There is a minimal chance of a sunburn-like burn, said Alston, but technicians are trained to monitor each client's skin temperature to avoid the risk.
Though elite athletes have been quick to embrace the therapy, it is now being used by a range of individuals. Alston has been a regular user since an automobile accident left her with numbness and inflammation. There are post-surgery clients, young gymnasts and anyone seeking holistic therapies, Alston said.
In addition to whole body cryotherapy, Icebox has a localized machine that allows them to do spot treatments on smaller areas. The 10-minute cryofacial has become so popular, it recently had a waiting list, Alston said.
Cyrotherapy isn't cheap thanks to its reliance on liquid nitrogen and depending on your goals you may have to do it more often. Whole body cryotherapy is generally recommended for two to three sessions per week over a seven to 10 day period, Alston said. For a cyrofacial, once a week for five weeks, is a good schedule.
Many centers offer introductory pricing to help you decide if it works for you. Icebox offers first time customers a $25 per session deal. The regular price is $65 for a single session.
While cryotherapy is not a magic pill, Brooks said he couldn't have accomplished his goal without it. He now runs half-marathons, does CrossFit four to five times a week and heads to the ice chamber every day.
Want to give cryotherapy a try? Here's where to go:
Nedra Rhone covers the environment and culture for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where she has been a reporter since 2006. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, she enjoys writing about the people, places and events that define metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia.