Note – SCULLHOUSE is now open!! Check out our review here.
What if we told you there’s a machine that offers a total-body burn (working 85% of the muscles in your body!) and a high-intensity, low-impact workout? And that we didn’t find it on an infomercial at 1am but instead tucked away in the corner of your gym?
Meet your new favorite boutique fitness class: indoor rowing. The highly effective workout has caught fitness junkies in the States under its spell (and was deemed “the biggest fitness trend of 2016” by Oprah) is finally making its debut in Canada with group fitness classes at Toronto’s SCULLHOUSE, opening in February.
Founder Kristin Jeffery is as legit as it gets. She rowed on the University of Western Ontario team, has competed around the world, and even represented Canada at the World Rowing Championships in Poland in 2009. So she knows a thing or two about the sport.
We caught up with Jeffery to find out how SCULLHOUSE’s workouts are tough-as-nails but all about cameraderie, and why we’ll all be talking about “stroke rate” and “split times” over post-workout smoothies this year.
About that whole “total body workout” thing…
“Rowing is more efficient than any other exercise, aside from perhaps cross-country skiing, when it comes to total muscles used for one activity,” explains Jeffery. “You’re using over 85% of the muscles in your body with every stroke. Because of that you’re burning more calories than you are cycling, running, swimming.”
Jeffery also expects a class that gives us a chance to get a highly-effective workout in a minimal amount of time will be appealing to time-crunched Torontonians.
“To be able to have a workout that allows you to get a cardiovascular workout and a strength-training workout, to train 85% of the muscles in your body, and to be low impact all at once… I think the efficiency of that will speak to people,” she says.
More than just a calorie torcher, rowing can also help fix some of the damage we do by sitting all day.
“For so many of us, we’re sitting for so long and our core strength is nonexistent,” she explains. “We end up with poor posture and trouble with our back, or our sciatic nerve is irritated. Rowing is so good for this because you use your entire core with every stroke. And you’re strengthening your back and you’re strengthening your shoulders.”
So what does a SCULLHOUSE workout look like?
The signature class is the Classic Row, a 55-minute workout where you’ll be on the rower for intervals of 8-12 minutes, then switch to a mat right next to their rower for a few minutes of strength training, then back on the rower for 6-8 minutes, and then back on the mat, and so on for the duration of class. Towards the end of the workout there will be some sprint work thrown in, followed by some core exercises, and wrapping up with a stretch. Tired yet?
“I want everyone to leave the class with the tank empty and knowing they are leaving nothing behind,” Jeffery says.
Variations on Classic Row are Express Row (the same format but fewer intervals at higher intensity for 45 minutes, offered during lunchtime) and Core Row (the same format as Classic but all work on the mat will focus on strengthening – you guessed it – your core).
Straying from the Classic format is the Row & Flow class which is 25 minutes of rowing at a steady state and 30 minutes of yoga. Jeffery envisions this as sort of an introduction to meditation.
“We’re trying to tap into the idea of ‘moving meditation,’” she says. “Rowing is very rhythmic, very fluid, and graceful. Look at your split number, focus on this one thing, and follow the rhythm with everyone in the class.”
What if I’ve never rowed before?
Jeffery is determined to make SCULLHOUSE accessible to everyone. Each class will start with a technique session (intended for both total newbies and experienced rowers) mixed into the dynamic warmup. The Progression Drill, something even she and her team did as a warmup at the World Championships, creates a sense of inclusivity from the outset of the workout.
That tone continues throughout the class as everyone (classes hold about 20 people) rows in unison. Yes, you read that right.
“When we trained as a team at Western and when I trained on the national team, all of our workouts used the stroke rate as a tool for structuring the workout,” Jeffery explains. “Everyone hits a specific stroke rate together. It means that everyone can feed off each other and off the sound of the rowing machines going together. Everyone moving in sync carries you along in the workout and makes it a whole lot easier to do an eight-minute segment than if you were to do it on your own.”
But that doesn’t mean an experienced rower has to take it easy.
“The rowing machine allows each person to push as hard as they want to push,” she explains. “Someone who has been rowing for longer will have a lower split time, so they would be going further with every stroke that they take than the person that is new.”
What else do I need to know about SCULLHOUSE:
- Location: 35 Jarvis St, Toronto, ON, M5E 1N3
- Showers/Locker-rooms: Yes and yes, including towel service and products like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
- Rates: Single class ($26); 5-Pack ($125); 8 Classes/Month Membership ($176/month); 12 Classes/Month Membership ($240/month)
- Registering for Classes: The early bird gets the discounted rower with 25% off all pre-sales!
- Website: here.
- About the Rower: SCULLHOUSE uses Concept 2 rowers (you may have seen these in your local CrossFit box) which are more ergonomically designed than a water rower, according to Jeffery. But most importantly, the display (where you’ll find stroke rate and split time) is up at eye level, keeping rowers from straining to see their numbers.