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Polish women emulate sports stars with cryotherapy-fueled workout

Janek Skarzynski / AFP - Getty Images

Women stand during a session in the cryotherapy room at the Olympic Sports Center in Spala, Poland, on March 7, 2012.

Janek Skarzynski / AFP - Getty Images

Participants exit the cryotherapy room at the Olympic Sports Center in Spala, which became famous after it was used by the Wales rugby team.

Shaun Botterill / Getty Images, file

Sam Warburton of Wales wins the lineout ball during the RBS 6 Nations match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on February 25, 2012 in London, England. The Welsh went on to win by 19 points to 12.

At a sports center in Spala, a town 60 miles southwest of Warsaw, a group of women step out from a 10-square-foot sealed chamber amid a cloud of ice-vapor. They are trying cryotherapy, a workout aid used by a growing number of international sports stars that entails standing in temperatures as low as -256 degrees Fahrenheit (-160 degrees Celsius).

According to Welsh rugby star Sam Warburton, cryotherapy is like an 'evil sauna'. The first time he stepped inside one of the oversized fridges in Spala last year, he recalled, one of his teammates freaked out and began banging on the door to get out

But the Wales team's unusual training methods seem to have paid off. Since they took up cryotherapy as part of their training regimen, they have powered into the World Cup semi-finals — their best performance since 1987 — and to the top of the standings in the Six Nations championship.

"Cryotherapy reduces inflammation" explains Adam Beard, the team's head of physical performance. "It dampens the nervous system, so it gives you that painless feel, and it allows you to flush toxins away from the working muscles pretty quickly, because obviously you're in extreme temperatures and the blood wants to move away from the limbs to regulate the core temperature," he told Agence France Presse.


Janek Skarzynski / AFP - Getty Images

Participants use the gym after a session in the cryotherapy room in Spala.