The humble rowing machine, which has long gathered dust in the corner of the gym, is having something a renaissance. Dubbed “the new spinning”, gyms and clubs across the country are launching indoor rowing classes and it’s set to be the workout trend to try in 2018.
British Rowing’s director of innovation, Helen Rowbotham, tells HuffPost UK that the trend is “sparked by a growth in boutique studios specialising in indoor rowing workouts in the US”. In fact, British Rowing research into the size of the indoor rowing market and found 15.8 million people would consider using the machine and that four in five people have access to one.
Clare Varga, active director at trend forecaster WSGN, believes there are a few underlying reasons for the surge in popularity.
“One is tech - there’s been a huge upgrade to rowing machines. The focus has been on making the experience more real with water tanks that simulate conditions and interactive or VR versions that simulate race conditions and take the monotony out of rowing,” she tells HuffPost UK. “Also there’s been so much focus on Low Impact Training (LIT), too - this is set to revolutionise workouts going forward. Incorporating resistance-band work alongside rowing and elements of pilates, LIT involves no jumping, running or weights, making it easier on the bones and joints.”
Another reason for the growing trend is the undeniable health benefits of rowing. As an ultimate full body workout, Rowbotham says the stroke using 85% of your muscles across nine major muscle groups. An indoor rowing workout is highly efficient, she says, and a short session burns upwards of 300 calories in 30 minutes.
“Indoor rowing is a great cross training tool with lots of athletes from different sports using the machine for cardiovascular training,” she adds. “Rowing workouts are flexible and can be varied so that you never get bored.”
There are plenty of independent gyms offering indoor rowing classes with a difference. Caroline Bragg, a master trainer at London’s Move Your Frame gym, runs a new cardio class that includes indoor water rowers. “The water rower uses natural water to generate resistance and provide tension to create the closest feeling to real-life water rowing,” she says. “As you increase the pace of rowing, the resistance naturally increases as well rather than changing the resistance manually.”
British Rowing have had “significant interest” in its fitness professional training courses and is rolling them out to a number of gym and leisure providers across the country, as well as a number of rowing clubs that have started to offer indoor rowing classes to their local communities. “In addition to technique these focus on the delivery of high-quality group fitness classes,” says Rowbotham.
Julien Tavener, president of the Bristol Ariel Rowing Club (BARC), says the club has “certainly” seen an increase in indoor rowing in the past year. BARC is one of a few clubs who are piloting the British Rowing ‘Go Row Indoor’ project. “The idea is to use our facilities to encourage a wider range of participants, those who would never dream of spending the time and dedication learning how to row on the water, to nevertheless enjoy the physical activity of rowing in a safe, small group environment,” Tavener says.
These classes teach participants technique as well as progressive fitness session to work on increasing endurance. Tavener says she feels the increased interest is because people are beginning to understand what a great physical activity it can be for both personal health and fitness.
Rowbotham says: “The great thing about the rowing machine is that no matter your fitness or experience level you can get a good workout. From elite athletes achieving incredible times to those who are using the machine to get fit, you can work out on the machine to a level that suits you.”