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Courtesy Row 17

Group rowing classes provide social challenge

By Christie Melhorn, February 7 2017 —

Hearing about Row 17 — Calgary’s first rowing studio — perked my curiosity, but I never acted on it. As a runner and dancer, I often disregard seated workouts. But last week, that disregard transformed into a newfound respect for the incredible workout that rowing provides.

This year, the non-profit organization Calgary Corporate Challenge (CCC) launched the Wellness Warriors project. The goal is to get people moving while supporting local businesses and charities like the Calgary Food Bank. On Jan. 26, Row 17 hosted CCC for a 45-minute “Rowlentless” class at a discounted price, presenting me with the perfect opportunity to try it out.

Nestled into Hanson Square, just off 9 St. on 17 Ave. SW, Row 17 is in the thick of Calgary’s downtown pulse. With its white and blue colour scheme, the studio feels fresh and crisp. The spacious foyer is inviting and provides ample space to shed and store your winter layers. Subtle swirls of purple and blue lights intertwine against the walls in the dimly lit studio, mimicking waves. I found these sensory elements simultaneously relaxing and exciting, which helped soothe my sense of intimidation upon arriving.

The studio’s sleek rowing machines are advanced but not too complicated to use. Minimal buttons set me up for success when following my instructor’s directions. At the centre of the room is a stage for the instructor to demonstrate moves and observe the class. People on the left and right halves of the room face each other. While this may make some people uncomfortable at first, it encourages social interaction and stirs motivation for those with a competitive edge. There is also plenty of room between machines, preventing awkward breaches of personal space.

Before beginning our class, our instructor explained the basics of the machines and rowing form to help us get the most out of our workout. Her thorough guidance was authoritative without being suffocating and was bolstered by her kind demeanor. Including our warm up, we performed four-minute and 10-minute intervals of different rowing techniques at varying speeds. Keeping our heart rates fluctuating, this accelerated the fat burning process while preventing boredom. The intervals provide an extremely time-effective workout for students on a tight schedule.

Such a high-calorie burn is due to the full-body engagement rowing demands. By the final interval, I was shocked at how sore my glutes and hamstrings were, which forced me to use my back even more. Harper’s Bazaar notes that rowing utilizes 40 per cent of your upper body and 60 per cent of your lower body. This completely dismantles the myth that rowing is strictly an arm and back workout. On top of that, it’s a killer core exercise and really gets your lungs pumping.

I had experimented with rowing machines at the gym before but found that the guidance of the instructor maximized my workout and revealed my bad habits. At one point, she corrected me to ensure I was controlling my muscles rather than just relying on momentum. Her advice was tactful and accelerated my workout by highlighting areas for improvement.

Instead of a cool down, our class opted for a mini relay race. In groups of five, each of us rowed consecutively as fast as possible for 100 metres. Not only was this an awesome endorphin kick, but the class finished with a light-hearted adrenaline rush without any sore losers.

Overall, Row 17 offers a refreshing workout on multiple levels. My body was forced to use underdeveloped muscles and challenged my major muscle groups. The environment is mentally stimulating without being overwhelming. However, the social aspect was the most rewarding part of the workout. Many of us were inexperienced but were made to feel welcome by staff. We shared a common ground of trying something new and giving our bodies a break from routine. The no-pressure atmosphere fueled us to have a great workout and sparked interesting conversations among complete strangers. I genuinely left feeling lighter and invigorated. 

If you want to try it out, your first class at Row 17 is only $10. After that, the drop-in price is around $20 — not exactly ideal for a student budget. However, the “6am 6 pack” bundle gives you two months of unlimited 6:00 a.m. classes from Monday to Friday for an initial price of $36 and a $6 per-class fee. This could be a great way to get in a workout for early risers and head to class with a clear head. If the thought of a 6:00 a.m. workout is daunting but you’re still on board to row, class packs ranging from $180 to $320 are available. Monthly memberships offering one class a day are also purchasable from $199–529, depending on the length you agree to.

Wherever your interests and priorities rest, Row 17 is worth checking out.

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