One of the fastest growing trends in the fitness industry is recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic, among other societal factors, has caused people to seek out the most effective ways to get rest — especially after a long workout.
Now, the shift is slowly making its way to campus rec departments across the country. One popular recovery method seeing high levels of satisfaction is cryotherapy.
Marcus Wilson, the CEO of CryoBuilt, said more schools are embracing cryotherapy for their athlete’s recovery routines. For example, he noted the latest colleges partnering with CryoBuilt include the University of Oklahoma, the University of Texas at Austin and Iowa State University.
“Recovery is often viewed as more important than the workout. So not having recovery at your gym or fitness studio is a huge miss,” said Wilson. “High-end recovery such as cryotherapy is not accessible at home. It’s a great way to contend with Peloton-type workouts done from home.”
But what exactly is cryotherapy and how can it benefit students?
Recovery with Cryotherapy
Wilson said the method works by freezing temperatures pushing old blood to the core to protect vital organs as the body’s natural response to extreme cold. Blood is then oxygenated with white blood cells and pushed back out to the body. This helps heal muscles and leads to faster recovery and a reduction in inflammation.
“Endorphins are released, leaving users with an energy boost that many praise as the best pre-workout,” explained Wilson. “To counter the increased endorphin levels, glutathione and melatonin is slowly released, giving benefits of increased relaxation and better sleep, further aiding recovery.”
Despite the benefits and the fact young people are more likely to try something new and possibly a bit intimidating such as cryotherapy, there are some key factors you should keep an eye out for when investing in this method.
Wilson said to consider electric cryotherapy chambers. He explained nitrogen can be dangerous, expensive and doesn’t include the whole body in the recovery process.
“Also, buy American,” advised Wilson. “These systems are very high-tech and need service, and many overseas manufacturers have bad track records with fixing their equipment after the sale.”
Other Recovery Methods to Try
If that method isn’t ideal for your school, Wilson said other trending recovery methods in fitness including:
- Leg compression
- Massage chairs
- Percussion guns
- IV therapy
Massage therapy in particular is a method more campus rec centers are embracing. For example, students at Texas Christian University (TCU) and the University of Minnesota (UMN) have access to professional massage through campus rec.
Ryan Keller, the assistant director of Fitness and Wellness at TCU, said they have offered massages therapy for over 10 years on campus to maximize holistic wellness opportunities.
“We felt it was important to focus on recovery in addition to all of the high-energy activities we offer,” said Keller. “Massage therapy has always been a very popular service. Although it may not be as highly publicized as we would like, most of our clients are repeat clients who give our therapists nothing but positive feedback.”
TCU’s massage studio is located in one of the quieter corners of the Recreation Center. Keller described it as a very cozy space recently renovated to have an improved aesthetic and calming vibe.
At UMN, Benjamin Kohler, the director of Fitness and Wellness, said they were able to take over the massage therapy clinic on campus formerly used for medical purposes after restructuring occurred a few years ago.
“Being the Recreation and Wellness Center, it made sense for us to take over the program,” said Kohler. “There was a bit of a transition when the pandemic struck. It took a hit, and it closed for most of the pandemic, but it recently opened back up.”
EXTRA CREDIT: The Wall Street Journal reported that gyms are seeing an increased demand for “gentler classes and recovery spaces.”
Kohler said they currently have three part-time massage therapists on staff, and they are allowed to set their own times throughout the week. Clients can sign up for either 30, 60 or 90-minute appointments, and they offer a variety of relaxation options.
Sessions are not free, but Kohler said they have a discounted price for students compared to what community members pay. He said they see the most activity in afternoons, evenings and on Saturday mornings.
“Some of the feedback we hear is it’s a moment for them to escape,” said Kohler. “They aren’t on their phone or dealing with the pressures of school. It’s been very positively received from students. But we do see it really used for workout recovery. They are utilizing it to work through some of that rehab.”
TCU’s program similarly has 60 and 90-minute appointment options, and Keller said they offer Swedish, deep tissue and sport massages. He added there is a recent trend with massage machines like HydroMassage beds, but they can be very pricey.
“They offer a convenient recovery option, but they can’t really compare to a real-life therapist,” said Keller. “Massages offer many of the same benefits we try to earn when we use foam rollers or massage guns, but these benefits can be maximized when we put the work into the hands of a licensed professional. They can get to muscles we can’t reach or target on our own, and they can find the problem areas much more accurately.”
EXTRA CREDIT: Based on trends in the health club industry, wellness and recovery spaces are the right direction to be heading.
Keller advised for campus rec leaders to first have conversations with massage therapists before committing to developing a similar program.
“Our therapists have been in the field for a long time and have worked in many different settings, so they have a great perspective on ways to build a program that will be satisfying for the clients and for the therapists themselves,” said Keller. “Allowing them to take ownership of the program has been a huge help for making it successful.”
For Kohler, his most pertinent piece of advice for those considering this recovery route is to keep a clear focus on what matters most: The happiness and well-being of students.
“Come at it like it’s a wellness service, and that it will not be a huge revenue generator,” said Kohler. “We are not just a gym. Student mental health is a very large conversation on campus. Massages are a really great way for students to unplug and to recover. It fits into our mission of serving the whole student.”