The Performist brings cryotherapy -- the use of extreme cold to speed the healing process -- to Palo Alto's Town & Country Village.
FREEZING AT TOWN & COUNTRY ... The big chill has arrived in Palo Alto. We're not talking weather, ice cream or the 1980s Kevin Kline movie. This chill is in the form of a chamber which gets down to minus 150 degrees centigrade. Part exercise studio, part athletic training, but mostly cryotherapy -- the use of extreme cold to speed the healing process -- The Performist opened last month at Town & Country Village, taking over the former location of Xercise Lab, which closed after a three-year run. The 2,000-square-foot-space has been transformed into a futuristic setting. Its showpiece is the cryotherapy chamber, which is said to offer an array of health benefits, including treatment for muscle soreness and chronic pain, as well as weight loss. That's according to Stephen Evans, a Palo Altan with a technology investment background and one of the owners of The Performist. "I was initially skeptical of cryotherapy," Evans admitted, but after extensive research and a visit to 12 other centers in the U.S., he and his three business partners were so enthusiastic about it, they decided to personally fund the venture. "We absolutely believe in its technology," said Evans, who gets treatments daily. "It's kind of like a supercharged ice pack. I use it every morning. I like it with my coffee." The small room used for cryotherapy has two unusual objects in it -- a 650 pound, 7-foot-tall cryotherapy chamber and a 230-liter tank of liquid nitrogen. When a client enters the chamber, liquid nitrogen is pumped into it, cooling the oxygen that envelops the body. The maximum time allowed in the chamber is three minutes. "You get a real endorphin rush that lasts for the next six hours," said Evans, who also talked about the weight loss benefits. "It burns up 500 to 800 calories in three minutes," he said. So what's the cold hard truth about cryotherapy? Can it really freeze away pain and pounds? "Whole Body Cryotherapy was invented in Japan in 1978 by Dr. Yamauchi to reduce pain and inflammation in his arthritis patients and improve muscle recovery," Evans explained. "It has since become popularized in Europe as people have realized it has much broader benefits, but it has only reached critical mass in this country over the past two years -- now there are 120 locations across the U.S."
The timing of the opening of The Performist comes on the heels of an accidental death of an employee at a Las Vegas cryotherapy center last month. Evans emphasized the numerous safety precautions in place at The Performist. "We have very strict protocols," he said. "We are constantly monitoring the chamber; there is always a trained staff person in the room. And the machine automatically shuts off at three minutes." Additionally, the chamber has a magnetic door that can be released at any time by the user or operator, and multiple sensors are installed to monitor the gas levels, according to Evans. "Also, we take your blood pressure and you must complete a detailed medical survey before you're allowed to enter the chamber," he said. The Performist is open daily, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The cost for three minutes of subzero temperatures is $55, and a monthly membership for unlimited cryotherapy visits is $850. In an effort to introduce the concept of cryotherapy to this area, The Performist is offering a complimentary first session until the end of the year. Evans calls it "First Freeze Free." And that's pretty cool.
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