Boosting self-healing through cryotherapy
Branden Johnson has been on a healing mission since his former days in the NBA Development League. He was first introduced to cryotherapy, a form of medical therapy, after NBA greats Jason Kidd and Jason Terry suggested he try it out.
“I literally fell in love with it,” said Johnson, who then researched everything he could about the service, which was brand new to the U.S. “People were just kind of finding out about cryotherapy at that point.”
Figuring he had gone as far as he would in the pro-basketball world, purchased his own cryotherapy machine to become the third business in the country to offer the service.
“I opened with just a machine and an office back in 2010,” he said of his first location in downtown Minneapolis. He opened up another shop a few years later, sold that, and then opened his latest venture, Therapy of Champions, two and a half years ago.
We caught up with Johnson to find out what cryotherapy is, why he thinks it’s a game-changer in whole-body healing, and what success looks like to him.
MSR:Tell us about Therapy of Champions.
Branden Johnson: It’s a human maintenance facility. We specialize in helping people maintain their body so they do not have to go to the doctor every time they’re injured because they’re not getting injured. And we help with inflammation management.
MSR:What is your primary service?
BJ: Whole body cryotherapy is the number-one thing that we do — it helps activate the emergency response so the body goes into an instant place of healing.
MSR: How does it work?
BJ: With cryotherapy, you get to almost 220 degrees below zero and you stay in the cryotherapy chamber for about three minutes. We use vaporized liquid nitrogen to actually help surround the body, and it forces the body to start that fight or flight response.
MSR:And that helps…?
BJ: Cryotherapy helps release endorphins — it’ll help get get rid of stress very fast. It also forces the body to utilize all available nutrients and helps to reset a lot of the body’s natural capability to heal on its own.
MSR: What other services do you provide outside of the cryotherapy?
BJ: We have a number of other therapies that are really just tailored to helping the body operate at an optimum level where it’s not building up inflammation, making sure the lymphatic system is circulating appropriately, and just really kind of pushing the body to always be in a place where it’s trying to heal.
MSR: How has business been?
BJ: It’s been good. There’s been a ton of ups and downs as a small business owner and people just kind of learning about what the therapy is.
When I first opened up, my first clients were the Timberwolves because I was already in that kind of arena. But, outside of that I maybe had a couple random lawyers or doctors that were also downtown looking for ways to optimize.
MSR: Now you work with athletes throughout the state. What’s been the most rewarding part?
BJ: I never send anybody out unhappy. A lot of people are tired of this whole “go to the doctor and get a prescription for something” that masks the problem when the body can actually heal on its own. I have joy every day because I don’t have to ever give any bad news. Your body has the ability to do it on its own — we can help promote that process beyond anything else that you’ve ever done.
And people are really attached to that. As long as they have regular good eating habits or a regular workout routine and you add the cryotherapy to that, I mean, it just changes everything you’re doing because you can wake up and not be sore in the morning. Your body’s kind of going, “I want more, let’s keep this process going.” And it just makes everything happen faster.
MSR: What was your biggest challenge?
BJ: It was really awareness. You tell people you want to freeze them for two to three minutes, they instantly think, “What, Ted Williams? Freezing people’s heads and trying to bring them back to life afterwards?” I had to say, “No, all my clients are happy. They come in alive and they leave alive! [laughs]”
But yeah, there was a lot of just unknowns for people as far as how the cryotherapy process went and what it did. There was this uncertainty of what exactly it was, what it did, and why we would possibly use nitrogen to make people cold. People aren’t that excited about being cold.
MSR: How did you break through that?
BJ: It helped out that some of the Housewives shows started showing. So, I started kind of getting that crowd that was looking for the calorie burn — a huge part of the cryotherapy is you’ll burn an extra 500-800 calories. Everybody sees it and they’re like, “Hey, I can do this instead of work out,” but it really doesn’t work like that.
Yes, you burn the calories, but you’re going to eat that back pretty fast because your body wants to re-regulate itself. It wants to go into a state where it’s able to utilize nutrients to heal. And if you’re not putting in the correct foods, that’s hard to do.
MSR: How do you see your business impacting the community?
BJ: I see it as kind of a gateway. If you come into our space, you’ll also notice that we have a lending library. All the books that we have here are all tailored to bettering oneself. Whether it’s from a spiritual aspect or business aspect, everything that we have back there is something that’s going to help you be a better version of yourself. I believe that our goals, as a community, should always just be to beat yesterday. You don’t have to have massive lofty goals, but you have to beat the day before.
And this is kind of that “aha” moment for a lot of people after they literally stood in the cold chamber for three minutes and say “I feel amazing.” And we’re just a place where it kind of shows people, hey, it all starts with you. It doesn’t start with us. It doesn’t start with the doctors that you’ve been seeing. It starts with how well you’re handling yourself and you taking care of yourself and making yourself a priority.
MSR: What does success look like for you?
BJ: Success for me is my time. I have kids. So I spend time coaching my kids in every sport, literally. So I’m normally running around outside of the business, but really I want to have five Therapy of Champions around the city. I’m not really too worried about franchising.
I’m not worried about making a billion dollars during the process. I want to be able to have time to raise my kids, is really what it is. Making sure that they see what it’s like to work hard and build something and actually start it and see it all the way from inception to completion.
MSR: What’s one thing you wish you knew before launching?
BJ: Things I wish I knew! We’d have to have a whole new conversation for that! I wish I knew everything before that. One thing, I would say, is be very selective about the people you surround yourself with and make sure you have successful people around you or people that all have goals, so that even if you fall in the middle, you’re falling in a good place.
Therapy of Champions is located at 1415 E 66th St. in Richfield. For more information, visit therapyofchampions.com.
Stephenetta Harmon is a Black beauty editor, curator, and digital media and communications expert who builds platforms to celebrate the power, impact, and business of Black beauty. She is the former EIC for Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (2018-19) and current host of MSR Forefront, a digital roundtable series. She is the founder of Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, the premier directory dedicated to Black-owned hair and beauty businesses. Find her at stephenetta.com.