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The Rowing Revolution

rowing machinesDoes rowing make you think of burly Ivy League dudes in boats? This year, three new businesses will try to change that, by pairing the workout intensity and efficiency of the erg (the indoor rowing machine) with the fun, high-energy feel of group fitness.

Until now, rowing has largely been ignored (or unsuccessful) in group fitness, with just a few exceptions. Equinox introduced a rowing-based circuit training class, Shockwave, last year, and Indoorance has been using the machines for partner-based workouts that simulate rowing on water. The erg’s use in CrossFit, which has been skyrocketing in popularity, may have newly turned people on to the possibilities of the machine.

“I just think it’s such an effective workout, and the rowing machine is so underrated,” says Ryan Wilke, the co-founder of Throwback Fitness (and a CrossFit enthusiast). The machine’s power is no joke—it works your legs, arms, and back muscles and delivers a level of cardio that’s hard to sustain for more than a few minutes.

But will it finally take off as a group fitness concept? We introduce you to the three major players in the city’s new indoor rowing regatta.

Both your feet and seat slide on Brooklyn Crew's dynamic rowing machines.
Both your feet and seat slide on Brooklyn Crew’s dynamic rowing machines.

Brooklyn Crew

This Williamsburg studio officially opened last week, and it uses “dynamic” rowing machines that simulate the feel of rowing on water. Classes are 45 minutes, the majority of which are spent on the machine, and owners Josh Ozeri and Robert Minucci hired rowing coaches, not trainers, as instructors.

But, Ozeri emphasizes, the workout is aimed at workout types, not crew athletes. They offer intro level classes for novices and are “meticulous” about form, which is easy since classes are capped at eight.

“With the coaches and the music we have, it changes the dynamic of using the erg. Our coaches are great at pacing and motivating,” Ozeri explains, “but you do have to be mentally prepared for this workout.”


Personal trainer Carter Cramer and his former client Helaine Knapp are behind Row, which is scheduled to debut in the Union Square area (exact location TBD) later this spring.

It takes a less erg-centric approach—12-person classes will be based on intervals that alternate on and off the rowers (which will have water resistance flywheels). When you’re not rowing you’ll be doing toning and sculpting work on a mat, with moves that pull from disciplines like yoga and Pilates.

Throwback Fitness

“We wanted to meld the fun, exciting feel of spin classes with the intensity of CrossFit,” says Wilke’s co-founder Brian Gallagher. The two finance-guy friends are currently shopping around for a location and expect to open in late fall. Classes will be half rowing and half high-intensity body-weight exercises.

And you’ll get it all in in just 30 minutes. “If you want to be fit and you want to be able do functional things like carry groceries or run three miles, you can do all that—in a lot less time,” Gallagher says. “We’re shooting for simplicity and efficiency in the workouts.”

Which isn’t a bad idea when appealing to Type-A, time-crunched New Yorkers. —Lisa Elaine Held, with additional reporting by Sharon Feiereisen