Rock the Boat

If the words “rowing machine” dredge up images of a malodorous high school weight room, it’s time to change that mindset. Designed to mimic a Spin studio, indoor rowing is coasting its way across the country and making a splash with fitness enthusiasts everywhere—even if the only water touched during the workout is squeezed out of a bottle. Modern rowing gyms have swapped everything from the dingy lockers to the unwieldy machinery for chic studio spaces and high-tech equipment.

Row45 is the first Long Island fitness studio to focus entirely on rowing. For now, the class resides within D-Fine Fitness, an intimate, one-on-one personal training gym in Albertson owned by certified personal trainer Craig Hatchett. Hatchett’s own fitness history spans 16 years and includes a variety of disciplines. Growing up in Oceanside he was active in track, football and lacrosse. After working as a personal trainer in Manhattan for a few years, he opened D-Fine Fitness in Roslyn Heights in 2005 and, later, an additional location in Melville. In May 2014, Hatchett added Row45.

The idea of a gym devoted to rowing came about while Hatchett was working out in a hotel gym in South Beach in 2013. “I had used rowing machines here and there in the past, but I never kept them in my facilities, so I only really used them when I went away,” Hatchett said. “I worked out for about 45 minutes and when I was done, I was dripping with sweat. I was thinking about the Soul Cycle model, and I thought, ‘Why couldn’t you do a rowing class like a Spinning class?’”

Once back home the only comparable classes Hatchett could find were Brooklyn Crew and RowZone in Philadelphia. Shortly after that, a rowing studio called CityRow opened in Manhattan and Hatchett got his first taste of WaterRowers, the rowing machines he would ultimately select for his own gym. The machines have gotten a sleek makeover from the clunky, older models. A WaterRower doesn’t have a flywheel, instead it mimics the resistance of a boat gliding across the water by pulling a rudder wheel though a water-filled vessel. The resistance increases with the speed and intensity of the rower. A monitor on each console provides feedback on pace, distance and calories burned, which helps students monitor their progress throughout the class.

It’s actually a full-body workout when done correctly. The rowing stroke incorporates everything from the legs to the arms and everything in between. “It’s a complete workout,” Hatchett said. “You’re not hunched over, your posture is aligned and you’re getting more upper body and core into it. The workout is sixty percent legs, twenty percent core and twenty percent upper body.”
The Row & Sculpt class focuses on technique, cardiovascular endurance and strength training. The Indo-Row class, where students work in teams or as partners in competitive drills and distance races, builds strength. Short bursts of high-intensity training are the norm in the Shockwave class, which is also broken up by muscle-sculpting sets for toning. Each class can burn between 500 and 800 calories.

The set-up of the mirrored room is comparable to a traditional cycling studio, there are 10 machines arranged around the space (an ideal setting for checking form). Next to each rower is a mat for floor work and stretching. The instructor starts the class with a technique tutorial followed by a warm-up for students to gradually increase the pace of their strokes. The seat of the machine is padded and slides easily along the rower’s frame, encouraging proper posture and form. The pull itself starts with the legs, then the core and finally the arms, with the return stroke operating in reverse.

One of the biggest differences between this rowing class and a traditional Spinning one is that the 45-minute-long workout happens on and off the machine. After warm-up, the circuit begins. It’s a series of progressively faster rows, called sprints, mixed with relay-style rowing where students can’t start rowing until the person before them has rowed for a certain distance or amount of time.

Between sets, everyone unstraps from the machines and moves onto the mats for one-minute sessions of planks, push-ups, lunges and shoulder work with weights. It’s a break from the cardio that also ensures students challenge every muscle in their bodies. If it sounds intense, it is—most students are begging for the floor work intervals after about 10 minutes of rowing. But beginners shouldn’t fret. Students never race each other on the machines, they’re simply pushed to beat their own best times.

In fact, the primary benefit of rowing over other forms of intensive cardio is that it’s non-impact so you won’t limp away with creaking joints and a bad back. “I’m a runner,” Hatchett said. “But that means my knees kill me and my back kills me. Rowing is such a great cardio workout, but it doesn’t impact your body in a negative way.”

One common misconception about rowing is that it only works the arms and shoulders.

It’s actually a full-body workout when done correctly. The rowing stroke incorporates everything from the legs to the arms and everything in between. “It’s a complete workout,” Hatchett said. “You’re not hunched over, your posture is aligned and you’re getting more upper body and core into it. The workout is sixty percent legs, twenty percent core and twenty percent upper body.”

The Row & Sculpt class focuses on technique, cardiovascular endurance and strength training. The Indo-Row class, where students work in teams or as partners in competitive drills and distance races, builds strength. Short bursts of high-intensity training are the norm in the Shockwave class, which is also broken up by muscle-sculpting sets for toning. Each class can burn between 500 and 800 calories.

Heave Ho
Gliding along the water is part of rowing’s roots, even if you’re a few short of a crew

On this Sunday morning, the hazy heat of late summer hasn’t quite settled onto Beekman Beach in Oyster Bay. A group of people decked out in fitted clothing pull funny looking kayaks into the harbor. The long thin boats with riggers on the side are actually single and two-person sculls that belong to Sagamore Rowing, part of their adult group rowing program. The club is one of several on the Island that teaches adults how to scull (one, two or four person boats with two oars per person) or sweep (four or eight person boats with one oar per person). It’s like that rowing machine at the gym, but on the water where quickly pushing legs down to move a seat back—and slowly moving the seat while rotating oars in and out of the water—glides the boat backward across the surface. Gyms are high energy but out on the water’s quiet surrounds, time seems endless and the sculler is alone. —Bridget Shirvell

justine lorelle lomonaco

Born in California and raised in the Midwest, Justine Lorelle LoMonaco spent the last four years indulging her East Coast side on Long Island and in NYC. She has contributed to a variety of lifestyle magazines and websites and maintains a blog, StopMeIfYouveHeardThisOne.com. In her spare time, she loves reading, running and eating in her Astoria neighborhood.