Row House | Photo by Jennifer Robertson

Row, Row, Row

In Do, February 2020 by Tracy Jones

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This month, I tried rowing a fictional boat in a class full of eager crew members. Row House, Raleigh’s newest rowing facility in Midtown East, teaches the technique, style and stamina that’s needed to keep pace.

Row House officially opened last August and this is the first of six locations coming to the Raleigh area over the next several years.

“We have seen an overwhelmingly favorable response from the local community,” says co-owner Rob Wagner. “Many members and prospects appreciate the high intensity, low impact aspects of the workouts, especially those with previous injuries and joint issues who have limited workout options to acquire a full body, high intensity cardio workout.” 

I was especially looking forward to this class because, like those members and prospects mentioned above, I am dealing with my own injury—shoulder tendinopathy as a result of carrying a toddler continuously on one side of my body. My physical therapist, Will, says that rowing would be a great activity for me as long as I keep my posture intact. 

When I arrived at Row House, I was greeted enthusiastically, given the rundown of the facility and shown to my rowing machine. My coach, Michelle, made sure my feet fit into the machine and gave me a full tutorial on how to row properly utilizing my legs and my core. 

Wagner explains that Row House coaches go through a training program that focuses on proper rowing form so that they can instruct members on how to achieve the most effective workout. Coaches spend the first portion of each class instructing participants, who may vary from beginners to experienced rowers, on proper form. Coaches then lead the class through the workout while actually performing it themselves for about 70 percent of the class. Depending on the type of class, the 45-minute workout concentrates most of the class time on the row machine (or erg, short for ergometer, that’s used to measure energy or work), rowing at different stroke rates mixed with intervals of of body weight and dumbbell exercises off of the row machine. 

Writer Tracy Jones at Row House | Photo by Jennifer Robertson
Writer Tracy Jones at Row House | Photo by Jennifer Robertson

Luckily for me, my particular class was ‘80s themed. I felt a bit out of place in that I failed to dress for the occasion but as I looked around in a sea of neon and scrunchies, I knew that no matter what was to come, I would have fun and listen to some great music.

House classes, like the one I took, switch between rowing on the erg and performing movements off of the erg. The first break mostly involved different forms of squats, which are actually a favorite of mine. The second break was a lot more upper body. With my shoulder issue, Michelle assured me that I could do any other exercises that made me feel comfortable, or simply stay on the erg. Since the erg was wearing me out, I opted for ab work.

Because Row House stays true to the sport of rowing, the class participants row together at the same cadence as if we are all in the same boat, with the stroke rate dictated by the coach who acts as the boat’s coxswain. The performance of the class as a whole is displayed on two large monitors in the front of the room. My stats were kept private and displayed on my personal monitor (which I appreciated because I was a little behind the group). I was assured it would take a few classes to get the hang of it.

All in all, this class was nothing like I’ve ever experienced because I honestly never felt tired during it. My arms burned and I was ready to stop, but it wasn’t the same level of cardio exhaustion that I’m used to. When I woke up the next morning, however, I felt the gain throughout my core and knew that I done real work. Members will typically burn between 400-800 calories per 45-minute class based on their effort. Since the workout is effort-based, I controlled the intensity of my own workout.

If you’re looking for a low-impact, high-energy workout, rowing is probably for you and you can do it as many times as you choose throughout the week. Row House offers a free trial class to anyone who wants to give it a try. 

Row House is located at 1101 Mercantile Drive, Suite 130; therowhouse.com/location/raleigh-midtown

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