by Anne Dimon
This is me (years ago) about to enter North America’s first cold sauna. I’m here on a press trip for the official Opening Weekend of the Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon, B.C. and the buzz is all about the Cold Sauna. It’s the signature (and somewhat controversial) treatment at the resort’s Kur Spa.
My Experience at Sparkling Hill Resort’s Kur Spa
How It Started: Before the Cold Sauna
Yesterday, wellness manager Tinus Pieterson gave us a test run in the three-chamber treatment area that looks very much like a very large walk in freezer. Each wood-lined chamber—set at progressively lower degrees of cold (-60 degrees to -110 or colder)—is big enough to accommodate three to four people. Anxiety levels run high. No one knew quite what to expect.
There’s been a lot of talk and a lot of controversy about the therapeutic effects of deep cold therapy – also called cryotherapy and Pieterson acknowledges that it’s “not a magic cure, but mainly used to assist with recovery” from conditions such as musculoskelatal issues, depression, and fatigue. He says people will begin to see benefits beginning at around 10 sessions.
The standard sessions are three-minutes but Pieterson introduces it to us with what he calls an “appetizer”—about one minute and 10 seconds in the deep freeze.
The experience takes one beyond bitter cold. Think walking inside a wooden box, many times colder than a meat freezer and just hanging out for awhile.
During the Sauna
Today, those who are up to the challenge, are going for the full three minutes. I’m a bit nervous about it. It is colder inside that third chamber than I could have possibly imagined. Our group of about a dozen gather in the sauna’s designated reception area talking among ourselves, trying to decide who among us is ready to give it a shot. Finally, three brave souls decided to go for it.
As you can see, dress is most unusual for a spa treatment: head band to cover the ears, surgical mask and what you cannot see is that I’m also wearing gloves, socks and running shoes, and a bathing suit. No fashion statement here. The ears, nose, mouth and extremities are being protected while the maximum amount of skin is being exposed. We need to take off all jewelry, so no metal is in contact with the skin.
So, inside the first air-tight chamber we go, quickly closing the door behind us, into the second and, then the third where we stay for the full three minutes at -110 degrees. The air in here seems crisp enough to break. Our breathing creates a slight fogginess.
We’re told to keep move around slowly, wiggle our fingers and toes, talking/singing to make the time go more quickly. In a futile attempt to take our minds off the cold we start talking about yesterday’s wine tasting tour. We keep moving slowly, taking tiny steps around the small space, wiggling fingers and toes. At the two-minute mark my fingers begin to tingle like the sharp pain of frostbite. My bare legs begin to ache with cold. And, then it’s over. The spa attendant, watching us through the one small window gives us the sign and we very quickly move out, one chamber at a time making sure to close each door quickly so the cold does not escape.
After the Sauna
My skin is rosy pink. I’m shivering, and I feel a little shaky. Exhausted, yet also stimulated. I wrap myself in my spa robe but all I really want to do is jump into one of several steam rooms or warm saunas located just down the hall. But we’re told that it’s best to just relax and bring the body back to normal temperature before heading to a hot environment.
A lovely place to do that is the comfortable Tea Lounge just steps away. As I stretch out on a comfortable white leather lounge looking out onto another of the many great views that surround this new resort, my fingers are still tingling and even my organs seem to be shivering. But I do feel alert and certainly refreshed. Within the hour I’m warming up in a fitness class and all physical evidence (goosebumps, shivering, tingling) of having spent three minutes in -110 degrees have disappeared.
Beyond the Cold Sauna, generally, there are thought to be many benefits of saunas such as, improving your heart health, alleviating pain and reducing alleviation.
What You Need to Know about Cold Sauna Treatment
Cold sauna treatment can help treat a number of physical ailments. It all depends on what your physical and mental health goals are. From reducing inflammation throughout your body to helping you distress and even healing physical injuries after an accident or helping athletes recuperate after a high intensity workout; this treatment has a lot of great benefits. It even boosts your metabolism and accelerates fat burning compounds throughout your body, helping you look and feel great!
With regular treatment (usually about once a month), you can turn your body into a lean, mean, healthy machine! Cold sauna treatments, also known as cryotherapy have been a big health and fitness trend in Europe for a long time but are only starting to make strides in North America. Standing in a cold chamber that’s -110 degrees Celsius might not sound all that appealing at first, but the Kur Spa at Sparkling Hill Resort has a three-chamber system that helps guests adjust their natural body temperatures to the extreme cold. You only have to stay in the chamber for 1-3 minutes per session.
Unlike cold sauna treatments, an outdoor sauna offers a truly unique yet equally awesome experience. Loved in Nordic countries, this type of sauna blends the healing power of heat with the calming beauty of nature. Usually heated between 165-305 F /70 and 100 degrees C, they boost circulation, ease muscle tension, and can give your skin a healthy glow by making you sweat.
How to Prepare Yourself for the Treatment
Wearing the appropriate attire for cryotherapy treatment is crucial. This includes bathing suits/swim trunks, underwear, or shorts. The more exposed your skin is, the more effective the treatment will be. Many spas offer thermal socks, robes, booties, and gloves for the comfort of clients. Also, you should avoid wearing jewelry and remove all metal jewelry before entering the chambers.
Speak to Your Healthcare Professional before Commencing Treatment
As always, I also recommend that you discuss your treatment with a healthcare professional to make sure it’s right for you, especially if you have any health concerns. While cryotherapy is meant to treat a lot of health conditions, it might not interact well with some of them and for that reason it’s always a good idea to get advice from your doctor first.
How Many Sessions Are Recommended?
It all depends on your lifestyle, the amount of time you can commit to treatment, and if you have any health conditions that prohibit you from undergoing cryotherapy. Technically, you could undergo treatment on a daily basis, but this isn’t realistic for most people due to time constraints, other obligations, and even distance. For beginners, it’s recommended that you do at least 5 to 7 sessions within the first few weeks to help boost your metabolism, get your body into fat burning mode, and cleanse your body of toxins. After that, you can decide how often you want or are able to do the treatment.
After Treatment Care
Your body will also require what industry experts like to call maintenance sessions. Depending on the health issues you’re treating, the regularity of these can vary. Cryotherapy treatment is great for workout recovery, inflammation, pain relief, after surgery care, injury recovery, and so much more. Simply explain your reason for undergoing this treatment and the spa professionals or kinesiologists will make maintenance recommendations based on your needs.
When Should You Avoid Using a Cold Sauna?
You should avoid using a cold sauna if you’re pregnant, have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, have a fever, have angina, have suffered a myocardial infarction, suffer from uncontrolled seizures, have Raynaud’s Syndrome, have a lung disorder, or are under the age of 18. For more information on this, you should speak to your healthcare professional or can discuss your concerns with the staff at The Wellness Clinic at Kur Spa Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon, British Columbia.
For more on Cryotherapy and the Cold Sauna at Sparkling Hill visit: https://www.sparklinghill.com/blog/cold-sauna-services-at-sparkling-hill-resort