My Life Transformed

Row17 Blog

How did this Happen?


It all started on a Sunday in March, 2016 when I participated in my very first Rowing Class.  There sat a group of people in a studio still under construction, some trained fitness professionals and others group fitness enthusiasts all there to see what this rowing class dubbed “The Perfect Calorie Burn” was all about.  The Instructing Trainer named Doris Thews from California sat down, strapped us in and we all took off rowing.

All of a sudden, Doris said  “Thank you for joining me for your first class today.”  A look of complete surprise washed over every face in the packed room.  We had just finished a 50 minute class in the blink of an eye!!  The class was nothing like we had every experienced before, complete with detailed instruction in the setup of the WaterRower Machine, how to properly row and the best part… the race at the end of class.  The level of excitement in the room was like nothing anyone had done in a group class before and we couldn’t wait to do it again, so we did!  The second class was even better because we knew what to expect and because our ability to push harder on each stroke was already showing through.  The WaterRower has a built in display with various readings so you can track instant workload values as well as class totals.

With training now complete, it was time to get ready for the Row17 Crew to bring IndoRow to the streets of Calgary.  The doors opened on April 2nd, and hesitant people started coming into the studio located on Calgary’s vibrant 17th Avenue SW.  Quickly we started hearing the same things over and over again.  “I’ve used a rower at the gym and I’m dead in 10 minutes… how am I going to be able to last for 50 minutes?”  Every single time they would come out of class and say “Wow, that was amazing.  I’m hooked!!”

The classes quickly progressed and evolved, and to date there are 7 different class styles offered.  With the classes came a demographic that was unexpected.  There wasn’t one!  People at every age, and I mean every age started coming to try it out.  The Zero Impact environment made it ideal for so many different people to experience a group fitness setting that they couldn’t do anywhere else.  Even though it is set up as a team feel in the room, the workout is actually very individual.

Here’s how.  Imagine yourself in a boat on the water with an oar in your hands.  It dips in and out of the water just over 2 seconds apart every time, so you have a stroke rate of about 28 strokes per minute that propels you across the water.  Absolutely anyone can achieve this stroke rate.  Now, push harder with your legs, brace your core more and pull harder with your arms. What just happened?  Two things.  First of all you are now traveling faster.  Secondly, the distance that you travel every time your oar dips in the water has increased.  You haven’t changed the frequency or speed of your stroke rate, only the intensity.  Now bring that theory back inside, sit an elite athlete beside someone who is attending their very first class.  They both row at the same rate in class, meaning they push off and initiate their stroke at the exact same time, feel like team members in the same boat yet have very different meter totals at the end even though they took the same amount of strokes!!

This is when things get interesting.  After a few classes, a new Row17 participant will always say “I expected it to get easier the more I came to class.  When does it get easier?”  The answer is, it doesn’t ever get easier.  You get more efficient and you go farther every time.  This is so unique in the fitness world, and the other thing that is unique is that you cannot fake it!  There is no dial to turn down, no brake to loosen off, only the number at the end to let you know how you performed.

So back to my fitness experience with rowing.  I was and am instructing 4-6 classes per week.  I was scheduled for 4 every week and always picked up a couple of sub spots.  I really enjoyed the classes, there are so many components to them that I didn’t get bored with them at all.  My typical class goes like this.

  • 2 song warmup where we go over the stroke and I tell you what to expect.  We pick team names here too!  That’s right!!  Team Names!!
  • 3 song First Wave.  We jump up and down through different pace and pressure
  • 1 song ab workout on the machine.  Who doesn’t love someone holding your feet to do sit-ups and other fun and effective ab exercises.  We grab water here too
  • 3 song Second Wave.  We work really hard here!!  All out until we recover.
  • 1 song recovery.  We put the handles down, grab air, grab water and prepare our monitors for the Race!!
  • 2 song race.  The teams take off in a relay style race against the other teams.  Excitement takes over, everyone is fired up and cheering on their team.  Faces light up and the competitive juices start flowing.  This is unlike anything you have ever experienced before in a Group Class!!

In the beginning, I was travelling about 7000 meters per class, and now generally row over 9000 per class.  My fitness level quickly changed, I started losing weight and inches.  Clothing no longer fit me properly, and in fact I was swimming in it.  From April to August I had lost 30 pounds, and have since lost a total of 45!!  210 down to 165.  I have also gained muscle mass and completely reshaped my body.  Now are you ready for the most shocking part?  This was all unplanned.  Yep, I had no goal in mind, did not change my eating habits and it didn’t feel like a chore at all.  The complete transformation was fun, and happened completely before my eyes without me noticing.  My kids notice that I do so much more with them now, like running up the toboggan hills, skating, swimming, lacrosse… you name it we do it together.  I sleep better at night, and trust me I eat.  A Lot!  My diet has recently changed because I burn so many calories, and I now have an interest in taking it to the next level.  I have recently started weight training.

All of this started with one class on a Sunday in March.

~Reese Risdon // Owner & Trainer