Welltrends: Why rowing is the new spinning with Club Row’s Nate Morris

If you've ever spent some time in Vancouver, you know that fitness classes are entirely their own social scene. In a city often known for being tough to meet new people, classes are actually a pretty great way to make some new friends - - and get in shape while you're at it. But like anything, the fitness world is always looking for the next best thing. Enter Row Club, our favourite new "social workout" that is no doubt about to take off. 

The brains (and muscle) behind Club Row is Nate Morris, owner of Crossfit gym Driftwood Athletics, and coach at Tight Club (if you're not familiar with Tight Club, it's basically the epitome of Vancouver's social fitness scene, in the best way). Always on the hunt for a new challenge, Nate came up with the idea for a new kind of workout, inspired by the candlelight, loud music, dancing on your bike spin class trend - - only instead of a bike, Nate uses rowing machines. We've tried Nate's class a few times and can confirm that he is most definitely on to something. 


Nathan Morris of Club RowWhy did you start Club Row?
I used to run a lot and did a lot of other high impact workouts, but my knees really started to bug me. I have six rowing machines at my gym, and I’d always really enjoyed rowing. I found when I rowed I wouldn’t feel sore after, but I could still get my cardio in. Rowing alone can be extremely boring, you need a TV or something to distract you, so I thought of making a class that was more social and enjoyable.

What makes Club Row unique?
I have a Crossfit gym and it’s great, but because the idea of a Crossfit gym is to compete with others, you just end up competing based on where you are, your price and the quality of your coaching, it’s intrinsically not original. So in terms of being creative, and making something new and original, it limits you in that sense. I wanted to try something new. There are around 30 spin studios in Vancouver, and they’re all trying to differentiate themselves. So when I open, we’re basically going to be the only spin studio that doesn’t use bikes, we use rowing machines.

What parts of your body does rowing work?
I'll start by saying, when people go to the gym a lot, especially what I would call a "body building gym", there's a real misconnection of what working out is. People rarely know what to do intellectually when it comes to fitness. For example, body building became really popular in the 70s. With body building, you aren't doing multi-joint movements, you’re basically sculpting, which is like working one part of a statue, and then you sculpt another part. Similarly, a body builder will intentionally isolate his bicep, then his back, but with any other athlete, it’s not separate that way. When you're trying to pick something up that’s heavy for example, you use all your muscles. So on a rowing stroke, you’re pulling, and if you’re a good rower you use every muscle that’s available to you, you use your entire body, from your legs to your hips to your arms. It’s actually closer to swimming than other cardio exercises like running.

With rowing though, I don’t think we’d want to be anyone’s only gym. The spin studios sell themselves as whole body workout, because you do some weights for a few minutes, but I think that’s a mistake. We want you to go to other gyms too, we want you to do strength training as well. While rowing is a great full body workout, why not go for a run sometimes, play sports, do different stuff, that’s a huge philosophy for me, in fitness, in health, in everything.

Are other people doing this type of class yet?
There are other people who are doing rowing classes, but not like this. There are maybe 10 rowing gyms in the world, but none are really beat based. Though if I hadn’t thought of this, someone else would have. This is a progression of spin and studio classes, barre, yoga, etc., as opposed to workouts where you put your headphones in, don't talk to anyone, and watch TV while you work out. People want to enjoy their fitness, as opposed to endure it.

You talked about Vancouver being the perfect place to test this out, can you explain why?
One thing that’s really unique about Vancouver is the studio scene. It originally comes from Lululemon, they used to have a sign in sheet, and if you didn’t go to the classes, you didn’t get them. So it forced people to try new things. Before you used to have ownership of a clientele at a gym, so in Vancouver all these Lululemon people were going from gym to gym, always chasing the new thing. Now it's become the norm in Vancouver, instead of going to the bar after work, people go to a class.

  • The 80s hip hop of studio fitness, disrupting what you thought a workout could be. Row to the beat in a full-body workout unlike any other. 
Come, make waves and learn to rhythm row.
  • When the lights go out and the whole room feels YOUR energy. 🌊🌊🌊⠀
📷: donevon ⠀
  • Come, make waves and learn to rhythm row 🌊🌊🌊
  • Inventing the rhythm row 🌊🌊
We row together, the beat as our guide.
📷: @complex

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Kylie McGregor is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, Culinary Nutrition Expert, and editor-in-chief at Well Daily. After four years working in Toronto as a publicist, Kylie’s passion for nutrition, a desire to learn more and share this knowledge with others led her to enroll in Meghan Telpner’s Culinary Nutrition Expert Program, which provides an in-depth education around the healing properties of various foods and how to prepare them. Upon completion of this three-month program, Kylie decided to further her education and enrolled at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Vancouver, where she completed the one-year diploma program. Kylie hopes to share the knowledge she’s gained on her own journey, and encourage others to take control of their own health, wellness and happiness.