The Biz Beat: San Jose infrared fitness studio turns up the heat
Nora Heindel, general manager of HOTWORX-San Jose, at the front desk. Photo by Jack Delaney.

HOTWORX-San Jose stands out from other Bay Area gyms as a unique experience where residents can do yoga and work out in an infrared sauna—in as little as 15 minutes.

In 2017, Nora Heindel was attending the University of Mississippi and working part-time at a fitness studio near campus called HOTWORX. This was the company’s first location, which offered customers the chance to exercise in 120 degree infrared heat.

“When I was hired for the job, I thought it sounded cool, but I didn’t really get what it was. I did one 15-minute cycle the day after I was hired—I came out and I was exhausted,” Heindel told San José Spotlight. “I loved it, and I’ve done it almost every single day since.”

Her mother, Mary Jo, was initially skeptical when she came to visit. It seemed too hot and she wasn’t sure what infrared would feel like. But after one session, she too was a convert.

“I walked out of the studio in Oxford, Mississippi, and called my husband,” Mary Jo Heindel said. “I said, ‘We need to bring this to Silicon Valley. People are going to love it.’”

HOTWORX-San Jose, a franchise which opened downtown in 2018, has five saunas with two different types of workouts: isometric, a sequence of static poses which takes about 30 minutes, and higher intensity interval training that typically lasts 15 minutes. Up to three people at a time can occupy a sauna, and all workouts use virtual trainers—a recording that runs through the routine.

The studio is open 24 hours a day and is self-service, though a small staff is on hand during normal hours. All members have an app and a code they can use to get in any time at 54 W. Santa Clara St. in downtown San Jose.

Infrared is central to the fitness studio. Mary Jo explains it’s more than just heat: the calorie burning is accompanied by a range of other benefits. Scientific backing is mixed—some studies support benefits to recovery, for example, while others dispute detoxification. But customers seem convinced.

Resident Shawneen Ramirez said she found HOTWORX by chance a year ago, shortly after moving to downtown. For her, the infrared component is a major plus because it makes the workouts more intense and helps with joint pain. She also likes the smaller feel of the studio.

“I mainly do the classes and my husband loves the 15-minute rowing,” Ramirez told San José Spotlight. “I didn’t think I’d like the virtual part of it, but I love it. I always thought I needed an instructor right there, but it’s actually nice to come in and not be so crowded.”

Resident Michelle Nino agreed that the experience is unique. Besides the novelty of infrared, she appreciates the variety of workouts and the free weights in the back of the studio.

“The heat makes it tough, but the way I feel after a HOTWORX workout is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” she told San José Spotlight.

HOTWORX-San Jose General Manager Nora Heindel completes a yoga session in the infrared sauna. Photo courtesy of Nora Heindel.

A family endeavor

Mary Jo said she knew opening a HOTWORX franchise would require a family effort.

“We had a family meeting before we signed on the dotted line—okay, we’re doing this, and everyone has to participate in whatever form they can,” she said.

Her husband, David, uses his experience in real estate to handle the studio’s finances and repairs. Mary Jo, previously a journalist and now director of admissions and outreach at Almaden Country Day School, manages marketing. Their son Jake, a film producer for the San Jose Sharks hockey team, added his social media chops when they first opened. And Nora, who majored in exercise science, is now the general manager.

Mary Jo, David and Nora Heindel are the family behind HOTWORX-San Jose. Photo courtesy of Nora Heindel.

After the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, the studio was forced to shut down completely to comply with health guidelines. Eventually, the Heindels reopened the studio, but temporarily reduced the saunas to single occupancy.

“Because we are family-owned and operated, we have more of a community feel,” Nora Heindel said. ”Since it’s a smaller boutique studio, everyone knows each other. Sometimes people will come and work out and then talk to me for half an hour before they leave.”

Resident Albert Charles Bolden Jr. knows the studio produces results. He often mixes several sessions of rowing with a longer isometric workout, and tracks his progress on the HOTWORX app. Each day he comes, he usually burns between 1,200 and 2,000 calories.

“It changed my life. I was 309 pounds, now I’m around 235 pounds. This place has really brought me to where I am today,” he said.

Contact Jack Delaney at [email protected]

Editor’s Note: The Biz Beat is a series highlighting local small businesses and restaurants in Silicon Valley. Know a business you’d like to see featured? Let us know at [email protected]

HOTWORX-San Jose: Working up a sweat

Phone: (408) 320-1030

Location: 54 W. Santa Clara St. in San Jose

Website: https://www.hotworx.net/studio/sanjose-downtown

Social Media: Instagram — @hotworxsanjosedowntown

Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for self-service

Staffed Hours:

  • Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

What puts them on the map: Infrared sauna workouts

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