I Tried Current Rowing Classes And My Abs Are Still Sore

Photographed by Andi Elloway.
You don’t need to have Herculean upper body strength to attending a rowing class at Current. As someone who’s had her arm strength compared to a kitten’s, I’m here to confirm that most people can handle the high-tech rowing machines, which are called boats.
In fact, the classes at the boutique fitness studio, located in New York’s TriBeCa neighborhood, will work your core more than any other body part, including your arms, says instructor Maeve McEwen. “Every movement comes from your core — whether we’re performing the signature rows, or the ‘laybacks’ which involve your legs,” says McEwen. This is why rowers often find their abdominals are sore and aching in the ensuing days after a class. But it’s not a bad burn.
McEwen says there’s a misconception that rowing starts with the arms — but, in reality, it also involves a lot of legs and core. Founder Josh Ozeri says the boats Current uses are specifically designed to make you use your abdominals, because, unlike many rowing machines, the seat doesn’t move. You’re leaning back with your core as you pull the handle bar to your stomach, or you’re pushing out with the foot pedals while leaning back. You can adjust the resistance of the rowers to make it easier or harder.
“There’s a constant belly-button-to-spine connection,” McEwen says. “You should row with your shoulders down, sitting up nice and tall. That’s what’s going to keep your core active. Be aware that you’re not arching into your lower back or tucking your tailbone.” This is easier said than done, and about 35-minutes into the 45-minute class, I could feel my posture start to disintegrate. McEwen says that’s normal for a first-timer (especially one who sits at a desk all day!). She says that it often takes a few classes to truly get acclimated.
Outlets such as the The New York Times have described the class as the “SoulCycle for indoor rowing.” It certainly is reminiscent of the cult cycling classes. You’re in a dark room, and there’s an instructor up front surrounded by candles on a platform. Music is an integral part of the experience, as you pulse the rower to the beat of slower songs, and “sprint” along with fast tempos. Their custom playlists feature everything from Whitney Houston dance jams to a techno remix of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” You can buy one session for $34, five for $160, or 10 for $300.
One thing Ozeri takes pride in is that almost anyone can do the classes — although they’re technically cardio. They’re low impact, and easy on your knees. McEwen says her classes are made up of a combination of younger and older rowers. There’s definitely an age gap you wouldn’t find in a class with intense running exercises like Barry’s Bootcamp.
One important PSA: You definitely want to wear sweat-wicking leggings or shorts to class. Ozeri notes that sweating in cotton can irritate your skin, and McEwen says that when your sweaty legs rub against the seat of your rower, the friction can cause “discomfort.” If you don’t have moisture-wicking gear, you can try rubbing vaseline on the back of your thighs.
So, there’s core and cardio — but the most important “C” of Current classes might be community. Classes are small, and everyone seems to support each other. Although The New York Times described the class makeup as “TriBeCa moms losing baby weight” and “the occasional finance guy,” it wasn’t my experience. As soon as I put my gym bag in my locker, a friendly woman named Wendy asked if it was my first time. She gave me tips about posture, and told me who to watch in class if I got confused. When I couldn’t figure out how to unstrap my feet from my boat at the end, a friendly neighbor rower helped me escape. It’s common to want to avoid the people you sweat next to. “Why would I give my name to someone who sees me at my sweatiest!?” you might be asking. If you ask the folks at Current, they’ll tell you it gives them a safe space to get better. Current feels like a community — a collective crew team working towards abs of steel.

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