HOTWORX-San Jose brings the heat to fitness

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HOTWORX-San Jose sets itself apart from other Bay Area gyms as a unique experience where residents can do yoga and exercise in an infrared sauna – in just 15 minutes.

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

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

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

“I walked out of my studio in Oxford, Mississippi, and called my husband,” Mary Jo Heindel said. “I said, ‘We have to take this to Silicon Valley. People will love it.’”

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

The studio is open 24 hours a day and is self-service, although few staff are on hand during normal business hours. All members have an app and code they can use to enter anytime at 54 W. Santa Clara St. in downtown San Jose.

Infrared is central in the fitness studio. Mary Jo explains that it’s more than just heat: burning calories comes with a host of other benefits. Scientific support is mixed—some studies support recovery benefits, for example, while others challenge detoxification. But buyers seem convinced.

Resident Shawneen Ramirez said she stumbled upon HOTWORX a year ago, shortly after moving downtown. For her, the infrared component is a big plus because it makes training more intense and helps with joint pain. She also likes the smaller feel of the studio.

“I mostly teach classes, and my husband likes to paddle for 15 minutes,” Ramirez told the San José Spotlight. “I didn’t think I would like the virtual part, but I love it. I always thought I needed an instructor right there, but it’s actually nice to walk in and not be so crowded.”

Resident Michelle Nino agreed the experience was unique. Besides the novelty of infrared radiation, he appreciates the variety of training and 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 the San José Spotlight.

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

A family business

Mary Jo said she knew opening a HOTWORX franchise would take 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 way they can,” she said.

Her husband, David, uses his real estate background to take care of the studio’s finances and repairs. Mary Jo, formerly a journalist and now director of admissions and outreach at Almaden Country Day School, handles marketing. Their son Jake, a film producer for the San Jose Sharks hockey team, added his social media moves when they first opened. And Nora, who graduated with a degree in exercise science, is now the managing director.

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

After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the studio was forced to close completely to comply with health guidelines. Eventually, the Heindels reopened the studio, but temporarily reduced the saunas to single rooms.

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

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

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

Contact Jack Delaney at [email protected]

HOTWORX-San Jose: I’m sweating

Phone: (408) 320-1030

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


Social Media: Instagram — @hotworxsanjosedowntown

Open 24/7 for self-service

Staff opening hours:

  • From Monday to Thursday from 11 am to 8 pm
  • Friday from 9 am to 6 pm
  • Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm

What puts them on the map: Exercises in an infrared sauna

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