This is the first instalment in a series where we are taking a look at some up-and-coming rowing ideas, events and products for showcasing and explaining on our website, and letting you be the first to know about these exciting new ventures into rowing. These articles are not paid or sponsored by the companies mentioned, we simply think they are pretty cool ideas that we want to learn more about.
The most polarising object in a gym is often the rowing machine. Some denounce the machine as “pointlessly tiring” with no real benefit, while others will stand by it until they die, swearing it in as the premier exercise machine. As a rower writing this article for other rowers, I’m inclined to agree with the second opinion. For a performance oarsman off the water there is no greater tool than the rowing machine for general fitness and form. But the rowing machine is branching away from the rowing world – anyone who follows Concept2 on Instagram has seen the impact their machines have had on the CrossFit community. This recent outreach of the rowing machine into the general population and mainstream fitness has now moulded its reputation as the new “in” method to get fit. Go twenty years back and Zumba was what everyone was doing, ten years back and Indoor Cycling reigned supreme. Now though, indoor rowing has taken the fitness world by storm, and a pair of entrepreneurs are riding the waves.
Ask anyone on a rowing machine how they feel and the answer you’ll get (after “it hurts”) will likely be “bored”. It is a monotonous exercise, and seasoned indoor rowers and oarsmen and women immediately go towards the distractions of music or TV/movies. There is one flaw that comes with this distraction however as you often sacrifice coaching or advice on how to improve. Not a big problem with seasoned rowers, but a massive problem for the huge numbers of people who are picking up handles for the first time without having learnt correct technique, pacing or even what to wear.
This is where the app “Rowith” hopes to step in. It’s currently in its crowdfunding stages and being set up by two experts in their fields. On one hand there is Chaymae Samir, a serial entrepreneur and Gen Z/Millennial expert which clearly shows, as she was awarded a grant from Natwest for women-led businesses. Next to her is Morgan Hellen, a former GB Squad member, IRA Varsity 8 winner and Visitors winner with Cal Berkeley. Morgan’s impressive rowing accomplishments have acted as a way to connect the app with performance athletes and not just the average consumer, through his knowledge and understanding of the sport at an elite level.
So, what is the app hoping to become?
In their own words “Rowith aims to make indoor rowing more accessible, enjoyable and beneficial by bringing audio guided workouts from a laundry list of Olympians and athletes like Will Satch, Billy Dib and Ellie Simmonds. Rowith intends to benefit all, from total beginner to expert indoor rower by offering technical guidance, motivation and workout plans to its users. The app will not be limited by your equipment as Rowith will be compatible with any indoor rowing machine, Concept2, Water Rower, RP3, etc.”
Think Nike Run Club, which the creators took inspiration from, on an erg. No need to recycle the same playlists when Cam Buchan is whispering sweet nothings in your ear on YouTube. In fact, as previously mentioned one of the standout features is the number of Olympic and elite rowers and other athletes who have recorded with the app. The list includes: Sir Steve Redgrave (self-explanatory), Will Satch (Olympic champion), Grace Clough (Paralympic champion), Niki van Sprang (world cup medallist), Nareg Guregian (US Rowing Olympian), on top of other elite non-rowing athletes; para-swimming legend Ellie Simmonds, world champion boxer Billy “The Kid” Dib and Olympic marathon runner Zane Robertson cap an impressive list.
It’s not continuous coaching however, as the tracks also contain stories and anecdotes from the speakers. It’s clear that this is an app that has been designed for the masses and accommodates for the athletes rather than the other way around. Although some regular rowers to AllMarkOne may question whether this will be of any use to them, the average gymgoer wouldn’t be all too comfortable with Sir Steve Redgrave screaming encouragement into their ear for an hour. The app has been tailored to fit someone who isn’t an expert rower, and I believe that this is something great for the sport.
Rowing For The Masses
Rowing has always struggled with a reputation as a somewhat elitist sport. There are strong veins of history still present in the sport which may stoke this fire; a private school dominated junior scene, expensive dress wear and events such as Henley don’t exactly encourage wider participation. However, the hard work of many groups and individuals such as Fulham Reach’s Steve O’Connor, charities such as B-Row and London Youth Rowing, and initiatives such as Learn to Row courses all champion youth rowing to wider audiences. However, this is mostly missing for adults due to the youth focus of these efforts, and thus exposure to rowing through events such as last year’s Power8 Sprints broadcast on BT Sport 1 and the BBC, and indoor services such as CrossFit and now indoor rowing classes and apps is filling that missing gap. According to British Rowing statistics from 2017, there are 1.3 million indoor rowers in England and 12.5 million with access. By making the rowing machine less intimidating and more accessible, with audio-guided coaching, tracking and community features similar to Strava or Endomondo, Rowith might potentially turn thousands of people who might be put off by their first erg, into seasoned indoor rowers. Indoor rowing itself is largely separate to on-water rowing, many wouldn’t know about the very existence of indoors teams such as MAD Team or Cornish Gig Rowers, and this app could bridge that gap and get more water oarsmen keener for the ergo.
The app itself is currently reaching the end of its crowdfunding run, and just needs a couple more donations to seal the deal. Us at AllMarkOne cannot wait to test out the app further, and maybe come back to it in a few months’ time, but for now if you want to learn more about the project there is a link below.
Many thanks to Morgan Hellen for letting us take a look at the project. If you think we should take a look at your product or idea send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org