CLOCKWISE TOP LEFT: TRUFUSION, HOTWORX, WHITFIT NYC,
MELT HOUSE OF FITNESS (2)
Hot Pilates, Hot HIIT, Hot Barre… While hot yoga has been popular for quite some time, other hot workouts have popped up on the fitness landscape. Many hot yoga studios have added these new classes to their schedules, finding that those who enjoy yoga in a heated room like other hot workouts as well. New state-of-the-art, infrared heated studios have also opened specifically designed for all kinds of hot classes.
Hot studio temperatures range from 90 to 108 degrees, with varying levels of humidity depending on whether they are heated with blown HVAC air or infrared heat. Among the benefits of the heat are increased flexibility, greater exertion, and higher calorie burn. Because of how much you sweat, hot classes are detoxifying for the body, and can help promote relaxation and reduce stress.
But these same benefits can also be dangerous if one is not careful. Some of the risks of hot workouts, according to Maria Restrepo, CPT at FitDominium, are dehydration and overexertion that can cause dizziness, nausea, headache, and, in severe cases, heatstroke. It is critical to stay hydrated before, during, and after a hot fitness class. Participants need to be cautious and listen to their bodies, stopping or modifying exercises as needed.
I first tried Hot HIIT on Day 5 of my annual 31 Days of Fitness at Bode NYC, where I take hot yoga. I was definitely surprised and a bit apprehensive about doing a HIIT class in a room just as hot as their yoga classes. The format of a HIIT class, or High Intensity Interval Training, is alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise to the point of exhaustion, with periods of rest or low activity in between. I was used to the heat for yoga but not for this kind of class. Familiar exercises like squats, lunges, burpees, push-ups, and mountain climbers took on a new level of intensity and sweat in the heated room.
“The content alone sculpts and balances your muscular structure, but the 95-degree temperature and 75 percent humidity amplify the workout’s positive impact on your mind and body.”
I actually quite enjoyed it, but little did I realize I’d be doing another hot workout the next day at Tracy Anderson, which is also a heated studio. For nearly two decades, Tracy Anderson’s studio classes have used infrared heat combined with humidity to deliver what they believe are the most effective results: “The content alone sculpts and balances your muscular structure, but the 95-degree temperature and 75 percent humidity amplify the workout’s positive impact on your mind and body.”
Most traditional hot studio classes create these intense temperatures by heating up the air in the room and adding humidity for an even sweatier experience. Infrared heat is different. It penetrates the skin and heats the body from within, as opposed to heating the space around you. Whereas Tracy Andersen uses a combination, there are a number of new fitness studios that use infrared heat only, believing it to be safer and more beneficial for the body.
Whitfit NYC, for example, is a beautiful new 3000 sq ft. hot studio on the lower east side of Manhattan that offers barre, Pilates, kettlebells, and other workouts in addition to hot yoga. Founder Whitney Berger wanted to provide something that New York City didn’t have — an infrared only heated studio. “There is a major difference between infrared heat and forced air heat, which can trick you into having this crazy workout”, she says. “Sweat isn’t always an indication of exertion. It just might mean your overheated.” She keeps the heat at Whitfit at about 90 degrees.
At Hotworx, however, the heat is cranked up to 130 degrees! With over 500 locations across the country, 3 opening soon in NYC, workouts literally take place in infrared saunas designed to accommodate 1 to 3 people. Each location varies in the number of saunas. I visited the Bethpage, NY location which had 10. One side of the studio featured 15-minute high intensity cardio workouts like cycling and rowing; the other side offered 30-minute “isometric” classes like Hot Buns, Hot Bands, and Hot Barre None.
Hotworx Founder and CEO Stephen Paul Smith, a former professional bodybuilder and Arena Football player, is also the founder of the tanning salon franchise, Planet Beach. He came up with the idea for Hotworx after he installed infrared saunas in a few of his tanning salons, and started to offer hot yoga classes. They were so popular that his revenues doubled, and he decided hot workouts needed their own fitness brand.
Hotworx workouts are designed to get “maximum results in the least amount of time”. Smith wrote the book Hot Exercise, which scientifically explains how you immediately begin to burn calories at an accelerated pace when you enter an infrared sauna as your body’s core starts to heat up. “You can get your heart rate up to your target zone very quickly and get to the fat burning process sooner.” In addition, as infrared saunas are so beneficial for recovery after a workout, here your body starts to recover from the workout during the workout.
The nice thing about all these hot classes and studios, regardless of how they are heated, is even just standing in the room you feel like you’re working out — and the heat feels really good inside when the temperatures are cold outside.