Chattanooga marathon runner Steve Rogers used two words Friday to sum up three minutes spent inside a cyrotherapy chamber that was chilled to about 170 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.
Rogers was one of a number of curious visitors to the Norspring Center for Rejuvenation, a new spa at 140 W. 14th St. in Chattanooga's Southside neighborhood that gave a sneak peak Friday of what it will offer when it opens Monday for business.
-Single session: $35
-Head start: $50 for first two sessions; one-time offer for new clients
Norspring's centerpiece is the eCryoChamber, a German-made cyrotherapy chamber that retails for about $330,000 and can hold four people at a time.
Rogers stripped down to running shorts and was given socks and slippers, mittens, a surgical mask and an ear-warmer headband to protect his extremities. Next, he stepped inside the first room of the chamber for 15 seconds, which was about 70 degrees below zero, and then he opened the door to the inner chamber, which was negative 170 degrees.
A cryotherapy technician stood at the chamber's touchscreen controls, watched Rogers through the glass, and spoke into a microphone to let him know how much time he had left over a speaker system inside, which played techno music during Rogers' three-minute sub-zero experience.
Exposure to the extremely cold, dry air pushes blood from your extremities to your core, causing the body to produce a spike of mood- and health-enhancers such as serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin and anti-inflammatory cytokines, said Bret Moldenhauer, an acupuncturist who'll treat clients at Norspring.
Later, as the constricted blood vessels dilate to larger than normal diameter, he said, they deliver fresh blood and oxygen to the body's surface.
"For the next three hours, you are at the peak of your performance," Moldenhauer said.
Some of the clients for the treatment — which costs $35 for a single session — will be athletes looking for an edge, he said.
However, Rogers, who placed second in the 65- to 69-year-old age group in a marathon in Chattanooga in March, mainly hopes cryotherapy can make him feel young again.
"When you get older, you get all kinds of miscellaneous aches and pains," he said. "I'm hoping this will [help]."
Norspring's whole-body eCryoChamber is different from other cryotherapy chambers in which the client's head sticks out.
"That makes a big difference. Your head getting in there changes everything," said Bill Emendorfer, Norspring's chief executive officer.
Emendorfer was a standout offensive guard and defensive tackle on the University of Tennessee at Knoxville football team in the early 1970s who went on to be a dentist until 1981, followed by a 27-year stint as CEO of a multi-state restaurant company. He's one of six investors in Norspring; the other investors prefer to stay anonymous, he said.
Instead of only offering cryotherapy — which Emendorfer doesn't think is the best business model — Norspring will offer complementary alternative treatments, he said, including therapeutic yoga, acupuncture and Vida-Flo, a franchised therapy in which clients are given vitamins and medications intravenously.
Also involved in Norspring clinic is Dr. Bill Moore Smith a family practice physician with offices on Lookout Mountain and Signal Mountain Road, who's the longtime team physician for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs.
Norspring has the exclusive rights to sell the eCryoChamber. So the Norspring Center for Rejuvenation, which has mid-century modern decor, is meant to show off the German-made device.
"It's partly a showroom and partly a clinic," Emendorfer said.
Universities with football and basketball teams are potential customers for the eCryoChambers, he said.
"I think every university should have a couple of them," Emendorfer said.