“What doesn’t kill you only makes you run faster”

There is no Great Stagnation:

Among the tools at Salazar’s disposal is the good ol’ cryosauna, which works like this:

A container of liquid nitrogen turns to gas and is pumped into the cylinder where the athlete stands, plunging the temperature below negative 200 degrees Fahrenheit for a short burst of time. The body believes that it is dying and rushes blood to protect its vital organs. Two minutes later, when the athlete emerges from the container, the concentrated and enriched blood rushes back through the body, providing an instant cleanse and relief.


Sounds dubious. The word "cleanse" rings alarm bells.

That "makes you stronger" line sounds cool, but in real life the saying should be:

"That which does not kill you, softens you up for that which will."

Only a matter of time before the body's going to be proven right on this one.

I have heard this was developed for horses. a google of "cryotherapy horses" suggests this might be true. Also there is a meme that human athletes get treatments years after they have become standard on equine athletes. (except the shooting for a broken leg injury part)

Could it be that overly strict safety and ethical controls are stagnating human medicine but not equine?

Yeah, "cleanse" is an alarm bell right there.

But I'm also willing to believe that that bit of woo is more the author of the piece than anything else, so I'm not willing to condemn the entire thing on that (generally apt) heuristic.

Iamreddave's information, especially, seems promising; if it works in horses - at this level - it's likely to work on other mammals, like people.

Heuristics are good but science is better. Sometimes cleanse is just a word and sometimes the Arab isn't a terrorist.

I'd hate to see what else Salazar has at his disposal.

That's what they should have told Han.


Yikes! My first thought is that (especially at this level) to gain something, you have to give something. This treatment potentially working in horses and having had the opportunity to test it makes it sound a bit safer. But my guess is that the negative effect is on long-term health.

That's what a cold shower and polar bear plunge are for. Except there is less risk of actually dying.

I'd say more risk in the polar plunge.

Why did you link to the NYT instead of the followed link to the WSJ even though essentially your entire quote comes from the WSJ?

Nominee for 2011 "Sports Builds Character" award. Speed to [almost] die for.

I concur with the "cleanse" remarks.

However, I'm even cynical about "relief". Relief from what? The freezing? What's that got to do with running faster?

Also, the blood becomes "enriched" with what? What makes the blood get "concentrated"? Did some of it evaporate?
This cryo process may or may not produce running benefits, but the author gives zero insight as to why it might.

Wow, who knew I was getting an awesome therapeutic treatment each time I remove cells from the liquid nitrogen tanks. I can also confirm this treatment is associated with profound relief. Of course it's generally profound relief that all my fingers and toes are still intact...

Tyler, came across this page on wikipedia, I'd like to see you comment on it:


The biotech part of this list is a joke. Genetic engineering is not emerging. It's firmly established and expanding. Synthetic biology is not emerging because it does not exist at all (there was never any synthetic bacteria). Artificial photosynthesis makes no sense because photosynthetic efficiency is very low. Anti-aging drugs listed are 100% fraud. Cryonics and hibernation have been emerging at least for the past 50 years. In vitro meat makes even less sense than synthetic photosynthesis.

Good stuff getting big in 20 years or so: stem cells treatment, personalized medicine.

Cleanse? Where does the waste go?

Wouldn't 2 minutes at that temperature simply kill you? The "cleanse" part is pure junk science.

Cold chambers used by rheumatism patients have similar temperatures.

Minus 200 Fareheit is minus 128 Celsius. You would die instantly.

You would die instantly if your body cooled to -128°. Being exposed to gas at that temperature is not lethal. Even dipping your hands in liquid nitrogen is OK for a couple of seconds. (Anyone who tries this and loses their fingers, don't type me any rude emails).
The secret is that you don't lose your body heat instantly. If you aren't an idiot you get out before you do, then you get to find out what on earth "cleanse" means.

It is worth knowing a little about Salazar's career. Being a great distance runner is a combination of performance at a particular discomfort level + ability to endure high levels of discomfort or even pain, but Salazar's mix included much more than usual of the latter. At one race his temperature rose so high that he had to be put in an ice bath, this is extremely rare for an elite runner and for most people the body will turn itself off well before that stage. In his late 40s Salazar had a (near) fatal heart attack that involved excruciating pain that would have disabled almost any person, but he didn't go to the emergency room (even though he knew he had a dangerous heart condition) and told himself he could endure it (so what?). Eventually he was revived.

So Salazar may have a penchant for training methods that involve suffering rather than conditioning, and perhaps this is a neglected aspect of conditioning. The East Africans have a high endurance for discomfort because their livelihoods depend on it, many of them don't enjoy running at all but they don't enjoy farming either and running provides more income.

While the description of how it works is pure junk, it might well work (for reducing inflammation and speeding recovery). It sounds not qualitatively different from a whole-body icepack.

Galen Rupp just ran 60:30 for the half marathon, so Salazar must be doing something right.

300 Club: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/300_Club

Also, I seem to recall that Salazar basically ruined himself because of his Boston Marathon win. He over heated to the point that it caused damaged the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. He went into a precipitous decline after that and retired from running not so long afterwards.

Comments for this post are closed