Always a popular sport and outdoor workout, rowing has been making its way back into the boutique fitness regimen since about the time Frank Underwood was seen using his home machine on House of Cards. It’s great because even though it’s low impact, you still burn hundreds of calories in less than an hour.
If you’re looking to row in the District, you really have two options. Negotiate with the weather for rowing on the Potomac or head to DC Row, the only strictly-rowing studio in the DC area (located at 1947 14th Street NW).
Those totally new to rowing will likely want to book one of DC Row’s Crew Clinics to start. This is technically the first-level, or beginner class, and has a strong focus on technique. Our favorite, however, is the Row Flow, which is also great for newbies, but adds bouts of stretching in between rowing portions… and a little extra zen.
Our favorite part of Row Flow was actually a breathing focused meditation that, while synced with the sound of the water rowers, made us feel like we were out rowing on the water on a calm day.
The studio also offers Scull & Sculpt and Strictly Row, best for those who have more experience or were on a crew once upon a time.
But before you get on the rower, you have to get to the studio! ProTip: Give yourself a few extra minutes to find the place — even if you have the address — since the entry is a nondescript, nonbranded door on 14th Street in between Capital One and Soul Cycle. (You may even have to call to get the entry access code!) Then you’ll climb two flights of stairs.
While the studio space has an unfinished look, rest assured DC Row’s rowers are top quality rosewood finished water rowers — and there are 20 of them. So class size could be substantial, but never too crowded. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere (yet) to store personal belongings, so try not to take much of value with you, but it will all be within sight, so lockers aren’t a necessity.
Once your class starts, you’ll be rowing immediately. Instructors are attentive and enthusiastic, and explain — sometimes hands-on — how your body placement should be… and what all of those numbers mean on the tech attached to your rower.
Time, distance, speed, stroke rate, and heart rate are all available (if you just know where to look), and while some workouts will focus more on stroke rate or split time its so helpful to gauge your own progress when you understand what this information means. (Stroke rate is the number of strokes you take per minute. Rowing harder does not necessarily mean more strokes per minute. Split actually translates to speed. No matter the distance or time you’re rowing, split will be telling you how fast you’re going.)
Keep in mind that a rowing workout is not all about the upper body. In fact, if it feels too intense on your arms, you probably aren’t using the right technique and should be pushing more with your legs and core.
While the workout was strong, it wasn’t daunting. Getting into the rhythm was actually cathartic… as well as aerobic. With consistent attendance, we’re sure we’d be shredding those splits in no time!
DC Row’s individual classes run $35 but discount packages are available. While this studio doesn’t have lockers, a unisex bathroom is available, and towels and complimentary water are provided.