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Brrr! Vivir Wellness brings cryotherapy to Peoria

Vivir Wellness

You've probably seen images of athletes grimacing as they sink into painful ice baths following an injury or tough workout.

But what if you could get the effects from an ice bath ... without the pain?

Cryotherapy — the practice of standing inside a nitrogen-fueled chamber set at -220 degrees Fahrenheit — is gaining popularity throughout the United States.

Chicago and St. Louis have had cryotherapy spas for years, and now Peoria has one, too.

Late last year Rob Hurley and Rose Saleem co-opened Vivir Wellness, 6035 Knoxville Ave., in Keller Station. The spa has saunas, message therapists — and, as of a couple months ago, cryotherapy.

In a conversation with Hannah Alani, Hurley describes what cryotherapy is, and why he believes it is so effective.

Rob Hurley: So it's essentially a cold therapy treatment that targets inflammation. So it's anti-inflammatory and targets any sort of arthritis or aches and pains, as well as muscle recovery. There's some other ancillary benefits. But those are the major benefits that you get with cryotherapy.

… It’s essentially pushing the blood from the extremities to the vitals … and what that does is super oxygenate your blood once it goes to the center. And once your session is over with, it pushes that blood … you get a little bit of endorphin rush that goes back to your extremities, which is kind of euphoric. We call it similar to a ‘runner's high.’

Vivir Wellness
Liquid nitrogen fuels a cryotherapy chamber.

Hannah Alani: I see the nitrogen tanks next to us, can you explain how the machine works?

Rob Hurley: The feedstock is liquid nitrogen. And liquid nitrogen … its melting point is minus 220, which is what you're going to experience while you're in the cryo tank. So as the liquid nitrogen gets injected into the tank and released into the air, it actually cools the air to a minus 220 Fahrenheit temperature, which is what you're experiencing while you're in there for three minutes.

Hannah Alani: Now, I'm sure a lot of our listeners just went, ‘Minus 220 for three minutes. How do you not freeze to death?!’ Can you explain what that actually is going to feel like?

Rob Hurley: So, what I always say to the first time user is, that it's a lot less painful than a cold bath or a cold shower. There's a difference between a dry wet and a cold wet. And when you're experiencing dry wet, is a lot more tolerable. You don't have the water molecules irritating your skin. Although it is cold. There's no way around it. Minus 220 is definitely a cold temperature. But it's a lot more tolerable than a cold shower.

Hannah Alani: Have you had a lot of first time customers come in to do cryo, since you opened?

Rob Hurley: We've had a lot of curiosity. I'm fairly certain this is the only whole-body unit in Greater Peoria area. And that’s both good and bad. Because a lot of first-time users, or would be first time users, are deterred, because of the thought of being at in a minus 220 tank is very intimidating. But once you get in there … and you get that first time user in there for one session, it's a lot easier. A lot of those fears are allayed. And they come back for another session, or they buy a package.

Hannah Alani
The cryotherapy machine at Vivir Wellness.

Hannah Alani: When you say ‘whole- body,’ people might think that they’re, you know, head to toe encased in something. But that’s not how it is.

Rob Hurley: No. In our unit, specifically, your head is going to be outside of the tank. So any sort of claustrophobia really doesn't impact you while you're in this tank. Because your head, and most of your neck, is outside. You do not feel like you're confined within a small area.

Hannah Alani: How did you and Rose think to open this business? Is cryo something that you personally got to experience, and it changed your lives?

Rob Hurley: Yeah. Before I moved here, my gym outside of the country had a cold pool. And I would use that religiously. I started using it out of curiosity and I really liked the effects. … Just the immense recovery that you had, basically [muscle] turnover from your workouts. … Two times, three times your normal recovery. So when I moved back here to the States, I didn't have a cold pool, or any sort of cold therapy. So then when I was traveling for business, I would just kind of stop in at these new cryotherapy places. I've never tried it before. And fortunately, for my benefit, I came to find out, this is the same thing that I experienced in a cold pool, and a lot less painful.

Hannah Alani: Where did you live outside of the states where you were using the cold pool?

Rob Hurley: I lived in Beijing for 4.5 years.

Hannah Alani: What brought you to Peoria?

Rob Hurley: So I've worked in agriculture for the last 10 years. And my story over the last five or six years or so, before moving to Peoria, was based off of exporting U.S. agriculture products to China. And so when I was asked to join a locally-based company, I took the chance and moved from Beijing back to central USA in the heartland, and ended up in Peoria.

Vivir Wellness
Additional services at Vivir Wellness include red light therapy, message therapy, Normatec compression therapy, and hot sauna therapy.

Hannah Alani: Have you had any challenges after opening the spa?

Rob Hurley: Yes, there's always new challenges with a new business. But one of the biggest challenges that we found was getting that stable supply of liquid nitrogen. And getting used to the tanks. You really have to calibrate them appropriately. And make sure that you're using them as efficiently as possible, because you don't want to have a tank that's inefficient. And therefore you're getting less sessions per tank, which we've experienced. But that’s just part of the learning process. And once you pin that down, this unit is very efficient, very easy, user-friendly. And so we've been very fortunate in that regard.

Hannah Alani: How much does a tank of nitrogen cost and where do you get it from?

Rob Hurley: So we get it from air gas, a local air gas supplier? And I think we fixed it at $350 a tank.

Hannah Alani: Is there anything else you'd like to say to our listeners?

Rob Hurley: Yeah, stop on by and check us out. We love to get any first-time users in the cryo machine. It's really a unique experience. Whether you've got aches and pains, arthritis, or you're serious about fitness and you really want to take advantage of advancing your muscle recovery, I think it would be worthwhile to stop by and check us out.

Learn more about Vivir Wellness online.

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Hannah Alani is a reporter at WCBU. She joined the newsroom in 2021. She can be reached at hmalani@ilstu.edu.