2018-03-01 / Go Pink Boots

What The Top Takes

Jill Gleeson

Clad in my undies, I step in the cryosauna. Tyler Smith, a former Penn State and pro basketball player, shuts the door on the vertical chamber, enclosing everything but my head. Tyler owns Cryozone, which he operates out of Victory Sports and Fitness. I’m always glad when he’s working because he’s so fun to chat with he keeps my mind from the plunging temperatures — sometimes down to -274 degrees Fahrenheit — which goose pimple my skin, tingeing it a slight blue.

When I upped my training regimen a few months ago, I started getting into the cryosauna, in which a hypercooled nitrogen mist flows over your body. As your skin surface temperature plummets in response, blood is sent to your core, flooding it with “anti-inflammatory proteins, muscular enzymes and higher levels of oxygen,” according to Tyler’s website. Endorphins are released too, big time.

Three minutes in the cryosauna brings benefits including the reduction of inflammation and pain, increased energy and improved mood. I was leery of the whole thing initially, but there are times I went in that chamber limping from what I suspect is sciatica and came out pain-free and invigorated. I would not be able to train half as hard as I have been without Cryozone.

What I’ve been training so hard for is to ascend what South Americans call the “Mountain of Death” — Aconcagua, the highest summit outside of Asia at 22,841 feet tall. I’m not a mountain climber, or I wasn’t until 18 months ago, when I decided to scale two of the world’s Seven Summits, as the tallest mountains on each continent are collectively known. I decided to do so when tragedy after tragedy, including the sudden death of my younger brother, made me wish to remake myself into someone I wasn’t. Someone tough and triumphant, not devastated or weak. Someone who climbs mountains.

I’ve been training since that time, preparing my body for the rigors of trudging up treacherously steep slopes for hours on end. I was able to summit Africa’s Kilimanjaro, 19,341 feet tall, in August.

Aconcagua is a much more difficult climb, so a couple months before I was due to leave for Argentina I stepped things up at my gym, Victory Sports and Fitness, in State College.

When I walked through Victory’s doors 18 months ago I could barely sustain movement for 15 minutes on the elliptical trainer’s lowest setting. Now I get on it wearing a 30-pound weight belt, set the incline to 8 out of 10 and resistance to 80 out of 100 for an hour, cranking it up to max every five minutes for 60 seconds. And that’s on top of the weight training I do, and the stair climbing I sometimes tackle the same day.

The Cyrozone’s super-cooled air envelops the whole body.The Cyrozone’s super-cooled air envelops the whole body.

But while this kind of training will undoubtedly add years to my life in the long term, in the short term it has literally saved my life. Along with mountains, I’ve been battling depression for the past couple years. The endorphins released during my sessions on the elliptical never fail to haul me out of whatever dark place my mind takes me. Without those moments of relief I’m not sure I would have made it.

It helps keep me on track that I look forward to seeing the never-judgmental, always-supportive team at Victory, including my trainer, Steve Jury, who has pushed and prodded, cajoled and charmed me into ever-more-intense workouts. I’m proud that the medicine ball I swing in figure-eights and in “wood chop” motion has gone from 6 pounds to 20, that when my dad recently took my arm to steady himself he exclaimed, “I can’t believe how big your biceps is!”

Big biceps or not, there are no assurances on Aconcagua. Bad weather blows in, making a summit attempt impossible. Altitude sickness strikes, and the only recourse is to descend. Maybe by the time you read this, I will have failed in my quest to reach Aconcagua’s pinnacle. But I’ll know I will have worked as hard as I could to get there and, summit or not, my life will have been changed for the better. •SCM

For more information about Cryozone whole body cryotherapy, visit

Jill Gleeson is on the biggest adventure of her life. Follow her journey on her blog at and via her column at

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