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Polish women emulate sports stars with cryotherapy-fueled workout

Participants exit the cryotherapy room at the cryotherapy division of the Olympic Sports Centre in Spala, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the Polish capital Warsaw on March 7, 2012. The cryotherapy division has become legendary since Wales came here in June 2011 and four months later powered into the World Cup semi-finals in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants exit the cryotherapy room at the cryotherapy division of the Olympic Sports Centre in Spala, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the Polish capital Warsaw on March 7, 2012. The cryotherapy division has become legendary since Wales came here in June 2011 and four months later powered into the World Cup semi-finals in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP - Getty Images
Women stand during a session in the cryotherapy room at the cryotherapy division of the Olympic Sports Centre in Spala, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the Polish capital Warsaw on March 7, 2012. The cryotherapy division has become legendary since Wales came here in June 2011 and four months later powered into the World Cup semi-finals in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Women stand during a session in the cryotherapy room at the cryotherapy division of the Olympic Sports Centre in Spala, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the Polish capital Warsaw on March 7, 2012. The cryotherapy division has become legendary since Wales came here in June 2011 and four months later powered into the World Cup semi-finals in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP - Getty Images

Participants exit the cryotherapy room at the cryotherapy division of the Olympic Sports Centre in Spala, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the Polish capital Warsaw on March 7, 2012. The cryotherapy division has become legendary since Wales came here in June 2011 and four months later powered into the World Cup semi-finals in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants exit the cryotherapy room at the cryotherapy division of the Olympic Sports Centre in Spala, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the Polish capital Warsaw on March 7, 2012. The cryotherapy division has become legendary since Wales came here in June 2011 and four months later powered into the World Cup semi-finals in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP - Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: 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. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: 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. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

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.

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Participants use the gym after a session in the cryotherapy room at the cryotherapy division of the Olympic Sports Centre in Spala, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the Polish capital Warsaw on March 7, 2012. The cryotherapy division has become legendary since Wales came here in June 2011 and four months later powered into the World Cup semi-finals in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants use the gym after a session in the cryotherapy room at the cryotherapy division of the Olympic Sports Centre in Spala, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the Polish capital Warsaw on March 7, 2012. The cryotherapy division has become legendary since Wales came here in June 2011 and four months later powered into the World Cup semi-finals in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP - Getty Images