Hydrow is the Peloton of rowing machines, so they say. It certainly shares the all-conquering spinbike's premium air, smart connectivity and sweat-drenched home workouts. So naturally I jumped at the chance to try it out – and at upscale London hypermarket Selfridges, no less.
Online sales of gym equipment may have soared to record-breaking heights over lockdown. However, many of us still appreciate the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ now we’re no longer restricted by, er, restrictions - especially if you’re thinking about investing a couple of grand of hard-earned cash on the latest piece of immersive at-home workout machinery.
After all, you want to make sure the bit of kit is every bit as effective, addictive and convenient as the advertising blurb says it is and that you’ll continue to use it for purpose months after getting it home, i.e., for exercise, as opposed to a very expensive clotheshorse (guilty M’Lord, multiple times).
So, in a stroke of genius, the savvy folk at rowing machine specialists Hydrow (read our Hydrow review here) have teamed up with luxury retailers Selfridges to launch the new Boathouse Experience: a rowing-themed space within the Smartech section of the Oxford Street store where fitness enthusiasts can now try an immersive workout on one of three Hydrow Rowers.
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Rock, rock, rock your boat
Pre-booked appointments are available, but I chose to rock up unannounced while in the area in the hope of getting a walk-in space. Once greeted by the Boathouse’s friendly and approachable team of experts, I was soon receiving a guided tour through the Hydrow’s many features and its wide variety of workouts.
Bearing in mind that the traditional boathouse offers a place for teammates to come together and hype each other up before the challenge ahead, it wasn’t long before I found myself sitting on a generously padded Hydrow seat and putting it through its almost-silent paces.
The Hydrow offers daily live classes and an enormous library of over 2,500 on-demand workouts covering everything from heart-pumping interval training sessions to more restorative, mindful rows, all led by world-class athletes who bestow motivational coaching and pointers on technique from real-life locations on the water, including stunning lakes and riverbanks.
There’s also a "Learn To Row" series to take novices from zero to hero, but I chose to skip this and rely solely on the rusty rowing skills I acquired from a few years in the Sea Cadets where a tetanus jab was required before you could row on the River Thames (no jabs needed here, thankfully).
The real-time leaderboard did a fantastic job of motivating me to try and work my way to the top to beat times previously set by other members of the public, but I do wish I’d dragged along a friend as it turns out you can go head-to-head against other people for an added competitive element, and I’m a sucker for a little bit of two-player arcade gaming action.
In fact, it turns out that the ‘gaming’ element is pretty key to the Hydrow’s huge likability. Yes, rowing is a seriously tough full-body workout that uses up to 86 per cent of the body’s muscles but being able to virtually explore a world of glistening waterways, scenic sunrises, and beautiful backdrops from across the globe (instead of staring at a gym wall) does help to detract from the pain.
Add to that the patented drag mechanism, which is computer-controlled, and you end up with a multisensory approach that delivers the sensation of rowing on water with every stroke. In conclusion, I loved it, and I really enjoyed my overall Boathouse Experience with zero sales pressure to make a purchase.
The only downer of experiencing the Hydrow in the flesh is that I realised it’s a big piece of kit. Measuring in at 219 cm long, 64 cm wide, and 120 cm tall with a massive 22-inch touchscreen display, it takes up a fair bit of space. And then there’s the not-so-small price tag: you can buy the Hydrow direct from The Hydrow Shop for £2,295 with a £38 monthly membership cost.
But I enjoyed it that much, and think it’s such an effective workout, that it’s worth noting I’ve doubled down on my saving efforts and am currently questioning whether I really need a bed in the spare room. Enough said.