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We tried: a recovery session at the Wellness Empowerment Collective

It seems rather ironic that I’m heading somewhere to indulge myself in an hour or so of wellness and pleasure in the same facility that causes me so much pain.

The Wellness Empowerment Collective is situated in the revamped National Hockey Centre in Lyneham, just up the back of the grandstand that overlooks the main pitch where every Sunday I drag this old body around a hockey field.

In the cryofacial nitrogen is gently blown over the face.

In the cryofacial nitrogen is gently blown over the face.

It’s a Tuesday and usually this is the worst day, post game, a reminder that perhaps, at 51, a couple of games, extra umpiring duties and sitting around spectating in the cold to support my club for a few hours, is not the best way to treat myself.

But today I’m here to treat the aches and pains, so I’m hoping it will be a good day. I want this session to be about recovery not pampering and I make that clear to Ebony Anderson, the founder of the collective.

I tell her up front I’m not one for a “spa day”. Don’t waste your money buying me vouchers for facials and massages and foot rubs (instead just come over and give me a foot rub). While I love the stretching and strength work that yoga offers, I don’t have the right mindset for meditation. Indeed, I’m a little cynical about all the “whoohoo” things. Anderson calls them that herself; she’s an accredited ThetaHealer and reiki master and a transformational coach as well as a former firefighter, fitness trainer and nurse with qualifications as a psychiatric nurse practitioner and yoga instructor. She understands people have different needs.

She’s keen however to showcase the exceptional range of treatments offered by the collective, which has just had its official opening in the past few weeks.

We start with an infrared sauna, which on a chilly Canberra morning is a nice way to kick things off. Sitting in the sauna is quite relaxing, it’s meant to help with detoxification and circulation and I work up a light sweat in the 30 minutes imagining all that pain seeping out of my body.

Temperatures in the cryosauna get down to -165C.

Temperatures in the cryosauna get down to -165C.

Next it’s the other extreme: the cryosauna. I’m keen to try this one. I’ve heard good things about cryo treatments and I pride myself on my cold tolerance. The apparatus is the CryoArctic Cyrosauna, the only model that treats your entire body and it blasts you with cold air rather than nitrogen as a lot of other machines do. I’m given instructions to enter the sauna and keep turning around, I’ve selected a song to play, and Anderson talks to me the entire time. For three minutes I spin and chill, it’s actually a great feeling, only towards the end can I feel my skin start to tingle, that tingle that you get playing a hockey game in the cold and wet at 9pm. You know the feeling. Apparently I’ve burned around 800 calories in three minutes. ('Can I stay in here for a few hours?' I’m thinking.) It’s a weird sensation but I like it. I wonder what benefits extended treatments would have.

Anderson also gives me a cryofacial, where cold nitrogen vapour is gently blown over my face stimulating collagen production and increasing circulation. Again, this was a pleasant experience and I wonder about the benefits of ongoing treatments.

While she’s doing this I wear the Normatec Recovery compression boots, I’ll call them. Not the most flattering of items but one I am keen to know more about. The benefits of compression are well documented in athlete recovery, not that I’m calling myself an athlete, and these boots are like 2XUs on steroids. You zip them up your legs and they inflate, the compression rolling up and down your legs, pulsing and tightening. Benefits include reduced inflammation and improved circulation, among other things. This I would go back for.

Next I’m into a float tank. I’ve never done one before and am keen to see what the fuss is all about. They’re cute little eggs and I love the sensation of the water. I do get a little chilly towards the end of the 30 minutes, although I figure this is because I have a lot more body floating on top of the water, but it’s nice to switch off, and I did most of the session in total darkness.

To finish up I’m into the Salt Room. This one I’m a little cynical about. Here “a halogenerator grinds up pharmaceutical grade salt into minute particles that are dispersed through air into the room” according to the spiel but I feel I’m just sitting around doing nothing. Anderson tells me the particles are inhaled by the client to help relieve inflammation and loosen congestion, creating easier and improved breathing. She’s had great success treating clients with asthma and allergies and eczema. I ask her why there’s a children’s playmat on the floor and she said many parents are bringing in their children with those conditions and seeing results.

The verdict: It's great to hear stories about people getting results. I’m realistic enough to realise this teaser morning is not going to give me the promised new body but it’s opened my eyes to a different range of treatments. That said, my dodgy knee didn’t play up as much when I played the following Sunday.

Details: Wellness Empowerment Collective, 196 Mouat Street, Lyneham, inside the National Hockey Centre. 0410 105 569.

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