Issue No. 207: Hot and Cold

Illustration: Courtney Powell

There’s more to fitness than the physical. That’s also true for the home gym.

Temperature Check

In early 2019, prior to Peloton’s IPO and before its pandemic boom, a viral tweet satirized the brand’s premium allure:

“Love putting my Peloton bike in the most striking area of my ultra-modern $3 million house.” – @ClueHeywood

Three years on, spending big money on a personal sauna and/or cold tub has replaced Peloton as the new home fitness flex.

  • Growing at a CAGR of 4.1%, the global cold plunge market will reach $429M by 2030.
  • The global sauna market, including residential and commercial segments, will surpass $4.6B by 2025.
  • 44% of consumers say recovery services like massage, cryotherapy, and sauna are important; 46% want to improve immune health (per Mindbody).

Why now? Benefiting from the rise of recovery tech, and popularized by athletes and influencers, hot/cold exposure has been gaining traction.

In recent years, Wim Hof’s namesake method and Laird Hamilton’s XPT protocol incorporated the techniques. Stoking interest, Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman and biologist Dr. Rhonda Patrick regularly tout the health benefits.

An inflection point, the pandemic changed the way many people think about home design and personal well-being.

Prioritizing mind and body, consumers are taking a more holistic approach to wellness.

  • 82% of Americans believe mental health is just as important as physical health.
  • 78% say mental well-being is the top reason for exercising, outranking physical well-being.

Promising a host of benefits, from alleviating stress to extending health span and reducing all-cause mortality, regular sauna sessions and ice baths check a lot of boxes — so much so that pricey home units are in high demand.

Beyond garage gyms, wellness spaces are becoming a must-have amenity.

  • About 50% of prospective home buyers say an exercise room is essential or desirable.
  • “Mental health at home,” including meditation rooms and spa-inspired escapes, was one of Zillow’s top trends in 2022.

Further, the American Society of Interior Designers said wellness is a dominant force — leading homeowners to create spaces and seek out products to “relax and restore from the increased stresses of everyday life.”

Riding a convergence of trends, high-end, space-saving, and tech-enabled saunas and cold plunges are coming home.

Crank the Heat  

While traditional heat units from Nordic Sauna and Almost Heaven can cost upward of $10K, infrared and portable options can be much cheaper — even if purists don’t consider them to be as effective.

Still, brands like Sunlighten and Clearlight have benefited, selling infrared saunas for $2K–5K+. Meanwhile, HigherDOSE increased revenue 300% by pivoting from in-person studios to an at-home sauna blanket during COVID.

Next up, upstarts Ancient Ritual and Florens are combining sauna with immersive wellness to create a new at-home experience.

Just Chill

If an ice-filled tub won’t suffice, you could drop 15 grand on a rapid-cooling, self-cleaning cold plunge.

Morozko Forge, Plunge, and BlueCube offer top-of-the-line tubs, while Edge Theory Labs created a portable bath and Monk is working on a smart unit/therapy app combo.

Eyeing growth, BlueCube founder Thomas Schiffer told the NYT he thinks cold plunges will be “as ubiquitous as a sauna or a Jacuzzi.”

Takeaway: Whether it’s a matter of convenience, status, or simply a lifestyle, home gyms are looking more and more like the health clubs they were meant to replace. While gym operators, wellness studios, and social clubs field growing demand for sauna and cold plunge, those who can outfit their house will spare no expense in pursuing optimal well-being.

💙 Holistic Healing

Feeling good is the new looking good, and consumers are all-in.

On the Fitt Insider Podcast: Pause Studio co-founder and CEO John Klein discusses his chain of modern recovery clinics for the body and mind.

We also cover: how his time at Equinox prepared him to scale Pause nationwide.

Listen to today’s episode here

🎢 Ups and Downs

Mindbody laid off staff in the second round of cuts since 2020.

Need-to-know: The wellness booking platform didn’t confirm the number of employees affected, but some reports put the number at ~400 people.

Catch up. Early in the pandemic, when gyms and studios shuttered, Mindbody laid off 700 of its 2K employees. Then, last year, the company acquired fitness marketplace ClassPass, banking on the return of IRL wellness.

In August, ClassPass CEO Fritz Lanman took the helm at Mindbody, replacing former chief executive Josh McCarter. Appearing on a recent episode of the Fitt Insider Podcast, Lanman said the industry was rebounding and poised for continued growth.

Similarly, the company’s 2022 State of the Industry report found that 87% of consumers plan to maintain or increase spending on wellness services, and 85% are prioritizing in-person fitness.

But… the latest layoffs point to mounting concerns that an economic downturn will hamper the industry’s recovery. Taking no chances, Mindbody (and ClassPass) are still searching for the best path forward.

🏓 Game On

Pickleball is giving health clubs a boost.

What’s happening: Making pickleball a key component of its “Athletic Country Clubs,” Life Time has become one of the nation’s largest court operators.

By the numbers: 

  • Since October ’21, Life Time has built five pickleball courts per week.
  • It offers pickleball at 350 locations, planning for 600+ by the end of 2023.
  • In the past nine months, monthly participation went from 17K to 70K+, a 338% increase.

State of play. Pickleball’s rise has gotten a lot of hype. But interest from exercisers and investors is holding strong.

The sport’s pro organization Major League Pickleball (MLP) is expanding from 12 to 16 teams for its 2023 season — leading star athletes LeBron James, Tom Brady, and Kevin Durant to buy in.

“Our mission [is] to reach 40 million [recreational] pickleball players by 2030.” — MLP founder Steve Kuhn

Meanwhile, pickleball and tennis are in a turf war, with tennis purists pursuing legal action for court priority. Still, most racquet sports aficionados agree: More courts are needed for both tennis (~22M players) and pickleball (~5M players).

Answering the call, US municipalities, developers, athletic clubs, and pickleball-themed restaurant/entertainment venues built 1K new courts last year, eclipsing 10K in total.

Looking ahead: Life Time CEO Bahram Akradi believes pickleball will be responsible for a healthier way of life, saying:

“Someday soon I believe that pickleball will be the sport that gets the largest number of people moving for fun, connection, competition, and the simple love of the game.”

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☀️ All-Weather Workouts

Outdoor gyms are outlasting the pandemic.

Coming soon: Equipment maker BeaverFit is teaming with Oregon gym Club Northwest to build an open-air training space. Said to be among the nation’s largest, the facility includes:

  • 1K square feet of turf surface
  • 70’x36’ all-weather shelter (with skylights)
  • 30’ custom modular rig, with squat racks, 12’ bouldering wall, gear locker, and more

Why it matters: Club Northwest enlisted BeaverFit after its makeshift outside space remained popular long after COVID lockdowns.

Not an outlier, increased demand has lifted the outdoor fitness economy, creating new opportunities for manufacturers like BeaverFit. As Club Northwest director of people & programming Jesse Sallas put it:

“After looking at other outdoor solutions, we soon realized the industry was behind in being able to provide what we really wanted.”

More to come: Outdoor gyms meet the needs of consumers in more ways than one, combining the mental health benefits of outdoor activity with a sustained interest in strength and performance training.

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📰 News & Notes

  • WHOOP enters brick-and-mortar retail.
  • Vuori opens NYC store, pushes global expansion.
  • Equinox CEO Harvey Spevak touts membership growth.
  • The NBA’s investment arm wants to back more startups.
  • Fitt Jobs: curated careers from across the health & fitness industry.
  • Hyperice’s Core taps Naomi Osaka for guided mental health content.
  • Startup Q&A: Perform CEO Eric Brownrout on democratizing run coaching.
  • Gympass adds 1:1 nutrition service Stronger U to corporate wellness platform.

💰 Money Moves

  • GenoPalate, a platform personalizing nutrition through DNA tests, closed $5.6M in a funding round.
    More from Fitt Insider: Personalized Nutrition
  • Breathonics, a data-driven mental fitness and breathwork app, raised undisclosed pre-Series A funding from OliveX and others.
    More from Fitt Insider: Mental Health Gym
  • UK-based IV nutrition startup Get A Drip added €4.5M ($4.46M) in Series A funding.
  • Menopause care platform Midi Health secured $14M in a seed round co-led by Felicis and SemperVirens.
  • Google acquired Sound Life Sciences, a sleep apnea detection app, for an undisclosed sum.
    More from Fitt Insider: Big Tech x Healthcare
  • Digital health technology marketplace Elion raised $3.3M in a seed round from NEAMax Ventures8VC, and others.
  • Daye, a UK-based maker of gynecological health products, raised £10M ($11.5M) in a Series A round.
  • Spanish alt protein startup Heura Foods secured €20M ($19.86M) in a bridge funding round from the NBA’s Ricky Rubio, soccer star Sergio Busquets, and others.
  • Buddha Brands, manufacturer of plant-based snacks and beverages, closed $5.25M in a funding round led by Fondaction.
  • Cold-pressed juice company Suja Life acquired “wellness shot” maker Vive Organic for an undisclosed sum.
  • OKKO Health, a UK-based digital eye health clinic, raised £2M ($2.3M) in a round led by Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures.
  • School-based telehealth platform Hazel Health secured $51.5M in a Series C1 round.
  • Color Health, a population health platform, acquired group-based mental health company Mood Lifters.
  • Indonesian vitamin brand YOUVIT secured $6M in a Series B round led by Unilever Ventures.
  • RightMove, a spinout digital MSK platform from Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), raised $21M in a Series A round co-led by Flare Capital and HSS.
  • Behavioral health platform Valera Health raised $44.5M in a growth equity round led by Heritage Group.


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