Ajax Fitness wants locals to shake and sweat to improve their health.
At an event at the fitness center Tuesday night, founder David Mills introduced the facility’s new cold plunge and infrared sauna recovery room, tucked away in a private corner space with its own door and curtains, in what he says is a unique offering. Aspen.
The event will be anchored by a discussion by local physical therapist and performance coach Bill Fabrocini about the effects of extremes, especially cold, on physical fitness and aging.
“I’ve been pushing Dave (Mills) to get these things for a long time,” Fabrocini said. I find the science behind it fascinating and how we fight aging but also improve your athletic performance, reduce injury and all these areas.
Cold therapy has been popularized by Dutch athlete Wim Hof, known as The Iceman for his extreme cold tolerance. He has accomplished feats like climbing Mount Everest in shorts. Much of the Fabrocinis discussion of cold plunges focused on one of Hof’s key principles of controlling respiration and later oxygen in a sympathetic dangerous or stressful situation.
A cold tub is a great way to create that environment, Fabrocini said. Step inside, you start the sympathetic drive, fight or flight, with all these positive biological reactions: thermogenesis, growth hormone, cortisol reduction.
On the hot side, higher temperatures produce heat shock proteins that can help with neuroplasticity and cognitive function, in addition to other benefits such as improved cardiovascular health and white blood cell production, Fabrocini said.
An infrared sauna, unlike a typical steam room, uses lasers to penetrate deeper into the body, heating more than just the skin and only mildly the subcutaneous tissues. It is also more concentrated and therefore does not increase the temperature of the whole room as much.
The discussion also discussed how cold and heat therapy can be used effectively together. Mills spoke up and said he thinks the transition from cold to hot seems more sustainable than the other way around.
I feel like I’m making a cold reward for the hot, but it looks like I can last longer, Mills said. On the contrary, I jump in and like, Can go back to the sauna where it’s nice.
Fabrocini noted that most of the data he’s read shows that ordering also has better health effects.
The new fitness room offers are not exclusive to Ajax Fitness, you can achieve temperature shock with a cold or hot shower or both, or jump into the river for a winter spell. And other facilities in the area list either a hot tub, cold plunge pool or sauna on their websites, but no indication of another store currently operating that serves both. Opening in 2024, AspenHaus lists a cold plunge and a sauna among its future amenities.
Mills said Ajax Fitness offers the ability to get both cold and hot in a private, controlled environment, including setting specific temperatures for both the cold plunge pool and the sauna, as well as information on how best to apply it to fitness. Mills and Fabrocini do not claim to be experts on the subject.
We don’t want someone to walk up to our door and just forget about them, Mills said. It’s like, let’s talk about this. When should I do my exercises? Like, as opposed to, Hey, just go take a cold plunge.
He added that it’s part of their more mindful approach to fitness, which includes other specialized equipment such as a body scanner and a VO2 Max testing device that measures oxygen consumption.
In a high-performance fitness environment in a city like Aspen, attention is likely necessary, as some athletes like to push themselves beyond what’s safe. Cold showers and saunas cause extreme temperatures and pose a risk of hypothermia and hyperthermia.
Because of that, Mills said, Ajax Fitness consults with all users before their first dive or sauna session, and a disclaimer is required, he said.
The recovery room is open to both gym members and the general public, and its website lists a 30-minute session for non-members for $30.
Mills said the installation was completed Friday and the equipment cost about $30,000.
The question I always have with all these things people ask me is is it worth it? And can you be consistent with that? Fabrocini said. If you can try to convince yourself two to three times a week, half an hour can make a big difference. I think (cold and heat) are amazing and just scratched the surface of the benefits of these things.
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