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Indoor rowing new workout

Dubbed ‘the new Spin’, indoor rowing has celebrity fans, a cult following and an explosion of studios in the US and UK so you know we had to try it. We sent our health and fitness writer Larissa Yu along to Crew Boutique Rowing Studio in Sydney’s CBD to try a CREW 101 class.

Okay, I’m just gonna put this out there: I am not a fit person who happens to write. I am very much a writer who attends fitness classes. This small but important difference became abundantly clear at my first CREW rowing class.

I loathe cardio in general but the rower is my favourite machine at the gym, so a class where I can just do that is basically my fitness dream come true. But be warned: while you may be sitting down, this 45-minute high-intensity class will KICK. YOUR. BUTT.

indoor rowing new workout

Left: CREW’s new George Street studio. Right: Owner Mike Aldridge. (Photos: Larissa Yu)

The first workout of its kind in Sydney, CREW offers high-intensity LIT (low-impact training) sessions based around rowing… mixed with fast-paced intervals of hand weights, mat and bodyweight exercises, skipping and resistance bands.

After years of playing rugby, owner, founder and very personable head coach Mike Aldridge found his knees and ankles became problematic so he wanted a workout which would offer the same intensity but without stress on his joints. CREW now offers that to time-poor desk workers.

“We’re not just a rowing studio, we do a lot more such as complementary toning and strengthening exercises and a lot of core and ab work. Just rowing for 45 minutes would be pretty tough and boring so we keep the classes fast-paced with short, sharp transitions from the rowing machine to the mat,” says Mike.

CREW’s new studio on George St is bigger and slicker than their previous location boasting extra rowing machines, big TV screens showing the day’s workout program and large wall timers. The core workout is still the signature rowing sprints which will keep your heart-rate up and make you gasp for air like a goldfish out of water (oh wait, maybe that was just me… LUNGS. BURNING.).

Ten minutes in I was red-faced and sweating buckets.

Non-stop movement is the name of the game: your only ‘rest’ periods will be relentless ab sequences on the mat. I was just grateful to be horizontal by that stage TBH so it really was a welcome respite.

Fun fact: after class I found out we had rowed the equivalent of 3km! Interestingly, despite the hardcore nature of the workouts CREW’s core clientele isn’t big muscly dudes it’s actually 90% women (single men take note…), a fact that Mike puts down to women being ‘early adopters’ of new fitness trends (also known as ‘being awesome’).

indoor rowing new workout

CREW’s entrance in the iconic Dymocks building (Photos: Larissa Yu)

Classes are small (max 14 people) which allows for personalised attention and this is where Mike’s PT and athletic experience shines – CREW classes have a proper warm-up and cool-down including stretching and Mike is constantly roaming the room, offering words of encouragement or motivation, a form correction here and a helpful tip there, or a simple reminder to just go at your own pace.

By the end of class, I was drenched in sweat – bring a towel – and had sculled a whole bottle of water. Not to mention I got my ass whipped by both a very-fit 60 year-old dad AND his 15-year-old teen daughter!

Finally THE most important part of any workout: the soundtrack was on point and up loud. Mike’s curated playlist of throwback “2000’s Hits” featured the perfect mash-up of hip hop, R&B and up-tempo old school remixes which had us all mouthing the words and pushing hard. Check out CREWS’s exclusive Spotify playlists here.

BIGGEST MYTH ABOUT ROWING? That it only works the upper body. Mike says: “Rowing is a full-body workout which torches calories. It works 86% of the body’s major muscle groups in every stroke – roughly broken down into 60% legs, 20% core, 20% arms. There’s no hiding or cheating on the rowing machine! Rowing allows you to train more regularly as well, because it is low-impact nature.

TOP TIP: Breathe. Inhale on the forward stroke, exhale on the back stroke to get into a rhythm and maximise the power. And if you’re a short-ass like me, to get the most out of it make sure you focus on lengthening your stroke by really leaning into the forward movement and really leaning back at the end of the stroke to turn your core and abs on.

NEED TO KNOW: Early morning and after work classes are always popular so make sure to book in online. Lunchtime attendance varies. Saturday class was full. There are free lockers and tap water fountains, but take note there are no showers and the bathrooms are at the other end of the floor.

THE VERDICT: If you’re looking for a fun new high-intensity HIIT workout to increase aerobic capacity and torch calories while being low-impact on joints with zero-to-low recovery time, rowing is it. I wasn’t sore at all the next day and I’ll definitely be back for the tunes!

Who: Crew Boutique Rowing Studio
Location: Suite 3, Level 8, The Dymocks Building
428 George St, Sydney 2000
Book: Online here or download the app. All classes are 45 min long.
Prices: Ask about the introductory offer for new clients of unlimited classes for 2 weeks for $40. Then it’s $30 per single class or you can buy a 10-pack for $250 (valid for 3 months) or a membership. 

Looking for more great workouts? Check out our WHERE TO SWEAT section. While you’re here, why not sign up to our newsletter and be the first to receive gym and class discounts, access to exclusive workouts, competitions and a whole lot of fitness information for living a healthy life in Sydney!

(Main image and video: Lyndon Marceau)