By Helaine Knapp | photo credit Lydia Hudgens
It didn’t take me long to fall in love with boutique fitness.
As a very social person, striving to lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle, I felt as though I had to constantly pick between hanging with friends and being healthy. It was either a night out for burgers/beers/sushi/wine, or I’d hit the gym and eat some kind of healthy dinner.
That all changed when I was working at a tech start-up and took my first boutique spin class. I wasn’t new to group fitness — I loved the classes at my gym, and took everything from spin to kickboxing to Pilates to boot camps on the river — but this was different.
Signing up with friends and paying for it in advance not only held me accountable from a financial perspective, but the social component made it epically more fun. Before long, weeks were planned around sweating with friends, and then healthy, post-workout meals — often still with a few glasses of wine!
I was doing all types of classes and it was great, yet I wasn’t really seeing the results I hoped for. It was an injury that actually forced me to look for something low impact — but I still craved the high intensity that I knew meant I had worked hard. I quickly found rowing, and at first, I said “no thanks.” In my mind it was the opposite of cool, and had a bad rep for being that dusty machine in the corner.
However, I just couldn't get over the fact that with every single stroke on the row machine, you work 84% of your muscles. It wasn’t just arms either — it was 60% legs, 20% core, and 20% arms. It was the low impact I needed, but also that high intensity, total body burn that I craved. This was by far the best workout you could get on a cardio machine. Yet there was a spin studio on every corner, but nowhere to take a fun rowing class?
The fact was, rowing needed a makeover — bad. Indoor rowing needed to be made accessible and fun, and brought into the mainstream. I found these beautiful and sexy water-based rowing machines, taking a new twist on that old dusty machine in the corner. As someone who always craved the perfect combination of cardio (that I loved), and strength training (that I knew I needed), I decided on a hybrid workout, pairing this amazing machine with high intensity intervals off the machine.
After talking about CityRow for a few months, it became clear that there was high demand for something that produced serious results, but was safe and smart for your body. With more and more resources out there educating consumers on how to treat their bodies, people were looking for something that would provide the immediate results for today, but also keep your body safe.
I was a consumer who fell in love with boutique fitness, and had an idea to make it richer. And after a grueling 18-month journey, CityRow opened its doors in January 2014, on the 15th floor of an office building overlooking Union Square.
It has been an incredible 9 months watching our clients fall in love with CityRow and see the changes in their bodies. They’ve gotten leaner, stronger, and healthier — all in the safest and smartest way out there. Rowing suddenly became new again. By adding fresh moves and a new twist on the traditional rowing workout - the dusty machine in the corner became that sexy machine, front and center.
Helaine Knapp is the founder and CEO of City Row. After spending a few years climbing the corporate ladder at Conde Nast and Reader’s Digest, Helaine left the world of publishing for start-up life, where she became hooked on group fitness. After months of spin and boot camp classes left her with new friends, but underwhelming results and lower back pain, she began searching for a workout that was high intensity, low impact and total body. She initially rejected rowing as something “my dad did in college,” but a few workouts changed her mind and the concept for CityRow was born. It has since been featured in Harpers Bazaar, Shape, Vogue, People and more.