The music pounds and I grit my teeth, digging deep to finish the last of six 150-metre sprints on the rowing machine. I check my screen and – YES! – I’ve done it quicker than the last time. I’m thrilled, even if my limbs feel like they’re on fire. I’ve come to One LDN’s Engine Row (oneldn.com) to try a fitness experience tipped for big things in 2018: the indoor rowing-based exercise class. Rowing is one of the oldest-known competitive sports and can be extremely sociable. Straddling the indoor rower has so far felt like more of a solitary pursuit – but that’s all set to change.
Engine Row, Metabolic London’s Meta-Row (metaboliclondon.com) and Virgin Active’s RO (virginactive. co.uk) are all-new group classes that mix rounds on the rower with functional training and HIIT. There’s zero chance to get bored but they’re not for the faint-hearted. Rest assured, though, that you can go at your own pace and will also be taught how to row properly before you start. ‘With rowing you have to work hard, there is nowhere to hide,’ says Lawrence Hannah, founder of the pioneering Meta-Row. ‘But with the correct technique, there is a low chance of injury.’
‘Rowing is a full-body workout that unapologetically torches fat with zero impact,’ adds Laura Hoggins, master trainer at Engine Row. So just why is rowing so good for you? ‘Rowing is predominantly an aerobic workout, and you can expect to burn around 600 calories an hour at a steady endurance pace,’ says Laura.
‘Twenty minutes on the rower will give you a more complete workout than any other piece of equipment in the gym,’ adds Alex Gregory MBE, who just so happens to be a European, world and Olympic rowing champion. ‘Rowing works every muscle from head to toe in a way that doesn’t cause any undue pressure on joints.’ Much as boutique indoor cycling brands like Psycle (psyclelondon. com) have stoked a spinning explosion – with workouts featuring choreographed moves to banging music and using weights – rowing is also primed for a boom.
In fitness terms, where America goes, the UK often follows – and smart rowing studios such as City Row and Row House are to be found around every corner in New York. In the UK, it’s not just in London that fitness freaks are going wild for waterless rows. Organisations like CrossFit (crossfit.com) have long been using rowing as an essential component of their workouts, while British Rowing (britishrowing.org) suggests classes as part of its Go Row Indoor initiative.
And while we all might have an image in our heads of rowers as tall, ripped individuals – and the professionals usually are – it’s suitable for everyone. ‘The rower definitely favours long-limbed individuals,’ says Lawrence, ‘but you don’t have to compete with anyone else – this is your journey. So jump on the rower and just try and do a little bit better than last time, regardless of your age, sex or body type.’ I, for one, am now addicted – so let’s all hail the oarless revolution.