Hi, friends! I’m back with another class review. This week I’m reviewing CITYROW, one of the hottest workout classes in New York City. CITYROW is currently expanding to several other states, so, I figured now is the perfect time to tell you about my experience. If you’re interested in hearing about CITYROW from a fitness instructor’s perspective, keep reading!
What is CITYROW?
The description provided by CITYROW is as follows: “CITYROW combines interval training with an indoor row machine to provide high-intensity sweat, low-impact burn, total body results.”
Each CITYROW class uses both a rower and weights. You’ll spend some portion of the class on the rower, and another portion of your class doing mat work (some using bodyweight, some using dumbbells). Each class is different, but the “finisher” at the end of the class is the same throughout the entire month.
CITYROW has one of the best intro deals I’ve seen. As a first-timer, you get 3 classes for the price of 1! $32 (plus tax) will get you 3 classes, which I think is very reasonable. They’re also on ClassPass, so you can always try them that way as well.
Pricing for regulars is on par with what I’ve seen at other boutique studios in NYC. There are several membership options as well as class passes:
I think this pricing is very reasonable for the area, especially since you get both cardio and resistance training in the same class.
I went to the Upper East Side location, though there’s also a studio in Union Square. The studio was clean and had a cute merch wall along with some cool decor. It’s a pretty Instagrammable location - plenty of rowers and photos/signs to pose in front of!
The place is pretty small. There’s no real “waiting area” for people who arrive early. There’s a small bench that can probably fit two people, but it’s inconveniently located right in front of the stairs to the actual workout room. I arrived 15 minutes early for my first class as instructed; it was totally unnecessary, though. I had already filled out the waiver online when I signed up for class and there was nothing else to do but stand and wait for the class before mine to exit. It got pretty cramped with just three of us waiting to get into the class. So, I wouldn’t show up more than 5 minutes early.
There are electronic lockers upstairs to hold your belongings. But one potential pain point is the fact that there’s only one shower to be shared by men and women. I came on weekends so I was able to shower at home afterward. Still, I can see this being really inconvenient if you’re someone who likes to take classes in the morning before work. CITYROW isn’t a low-sweat workout; so, you’ll definitely need to shower afterward. Other reviews have said that people sometimes wait up to 30 minutes for the shower after class.
The workout room itself is pretty small, although none of the weekend classes I took were full. They were all at around 50% capacity. I found the space between rowers to be pretty cramped. To the right of your rower is the mat you’ll use for class. I couldn’t help but bump into a rower or weights during some portions of the workout. I think it would be great if CITYROW actually took some of the rowers out and made class sizes smaller. The room just doesn’t seem large enough to fit the number of rowers and mats they currently have.
I really, REALLY enjoyed my CITYROW experience. The workout was very well-rounded and truly full body. The class is beginner-friendly but can be tailored to people with lots of rowing/weight training experience.
Each class begins with a warm-up that goes through the basics of proper rowing form. Whether you’ve been there once or 100 times, you’ll get a quick refresher on form during your warmup. The class alternates between intervals on the rower and strength work on the mat. I loved that we spent about half the class on the rower and half on strength work. You get some great cardio bursts, but you’ll also get some great weight training in. It’s up to you how heavy you want to go with your weights. You can always grab a couple of different sets and tailor the weight to the level of challenge you want.
I love that each class ends with the same finisher for the month because it allows you to track your progress and make sure you’re improving. In my second class of the month, I made sure to get more reps in with the finisher than I did the first time. I found that I didn’t push myself quite hard enough during the first class, but after the second class, I was dripping with sweat! The finisher was a great way to compete against me from class to class.
I went to CITYROW two days in a row and the classes were totally different from each other. One thing that was similar, though, is that both classes gave a full-body workout. The mat work targeted every body part! Plus, rowing itself is awesome because it works the whole body while being a wonderful source of cardio. I love that it’s a low impact way to get a great workout!
Lastly, I loved that the class is very metrics-based. You learn how to track your speed and power, and you actually have a target to try and hit. One of the things I didn’t like about SoulCycle was that there weren’t really any metrics to go by during class - I didn’t know if my resistance was too low or too high. But, CITYROW really gets you thinking about hitting your numbers. This helped me make sure I was pushing myself hard enough.
The difficulty of your class is going to depend on who your instructor is and how much you decide to push yourself. I found that the class offers plenty of opportunities to scale - whether it’s the number of meters rowed or how heavy your weights are. My first class was moderate and my last two classes were a little more challenging.
I’d say the CITYROW classes were relatively challenging, but not on the level of a class like CrossFit. The heaviest set of dumbbells I saw was 25 lbs. So, I can’t see a regular CrossFitter coming here and having a difficult time with the class. I left class feeling like I got a good workout even if it was nowhere close to the most challenging workouts I’ve had. I’m looking forward to trying notoriously difficult classes like Barry’s Bootcamp and ToneHouse to see how they compare to CITYROW.
CITYROW is good for a day when you want some cardio with a little weight-training mixed in. If you regularly incorporate resistance training into your workouts, you probably won’t be sore the next day.
If you consider yourself very fit or athletic, CITYROW may be good as a ClassPass or drop-in option. But you might not find it challenging enough to use as your main form of exercise. If you’re more of a beginner or just don’t want something as intense as a CrossFit, you could definitely use CITYROW as your main workout and supplement with other classes here and there.
I took a class with three different instructors - Chris, Shea, and Luis. They each had different teaching styles. I enjoyed my time with each of them, but my personal favorite was Luis! His teaching style really stood out to me. His class was the most challenging of them all and he really motivated me to push myself. I also just loved his personality and jokes. Chris stood out to me for being super inviting to those of us who were new and making sure we felt comfortable. I wish I had the chance to try a class with all of the instructors! As with any workout class, it’s important to find the instructors with the vibe that works best for you. We all have different preferences for class/teaching style!
Each of the three instructors I took a class with was super friendly! My fellow class members were also pretty friendly. I found the front desk staff to be a little less friendly. They didn’t do anything in particular; they just seemed a bit annoyed when spoken to. Not a dealbreaker for me as I think this just tends to be the vibe in a lot of NYC fitness studios.
From what I’ve seen in my three classes at CITYROW, the crowd tends to be relatively fit people who work out but aren’t juiceheads. You don’t get the stereotypical CrossFit crowd, but most people have prior workout experience. The instructors seem to have a few regulars. There’s also a pretty high transient population since this is a popular ClassPass option. I don’t get an overwhelming sense of community from this particular location. It’s probably not the best place to try and meet new people. It seems like most people come to get their workout and leave.
I didn’t feel any competitive vibes in any of the classes I took at CITYROW. While you do have metrics you’re trying to hit, you’re never really encouraged or pressured to compete with anyone else. Everyone does their own thing and competes with themselves, which I liked!
I absolutely think CITYROW is worth a try and worth the price - for the right person. I’d recommend everyone who has a location near them to try it out. With such a reasonably priced intro special, why not? Rowing is an awesome low-impact way to get your cardio in. If you’re a fan of classes like Barry’s Bootcamp that mix cardio with weights, you might consider supplementing with CITYROW to avoid too much constant pressure on the joints from the treadmill. If you’re new to working out or just want to lose weight, I think you’ll love CITYROW - it’s very beginner-friendly and provides a solid full-body workout. While the amenities leave something to be desired and the studio is a bit cramped, I think the membership pricing is fair.
Dominique Cheylise, 27 year-old engineer and group fitness instructor.