Row, Row, Row Your Erg

Everyone can row.

It’s a low-impact activity that builds both aerobic endurance and muscular strength. Cardio and resistance workouts burn ginormous numbers of calories, and use every major muscle group.

But not everyone has the time to get out on the river. (Or wants to — particularly before dawn, and in our fickle New England weather.)

Now they don’t have to.

Row House is open to anyone, for 45-minute sessions on an ergometer.

It sounds like all the work, with none of the fun. Rowers have love/hate relationships with “ergs” — rowing machines. Workouts can be brutal — but at least the reward is a boat on the water. The Row House is just a storefront, in Compo Acres Shopping Center.

Yet there’s something about that workout — competing against yourself, while rowing with everyone else (“all in the same boat”), with music blasting, lights pulsing and a coach urging you on — that keeps people coming back again and again.

Westport’s Row House is owned by Dana and Rob Montefusco. The couple — her degrees are in speech and language pathology; his in architecture and construction management, and he was a personal trainer — were looking for an exercise-related project.

Row House — which grew from its first Columbus Circle location in 2014, to over 250 franchises across North America today — seemed perfect.

Dana Montefusco, at the Row House front desk.

They opened last April. Now the 25 machines are in constant use. The youngest rower is 13; the oldest, 80. There are husbands and wives, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters.

Some rowers work out at 5:30 a.m., before the train. Then come people with flexible schedules. Late afternoon draws the after-work crew. Weekends are a broad mix.

Feedback is great. “I’m surprised — it was fun and enjoyable,” one person said. “I’m not in pain!”

Another headed to Row House after surgery. It was the only exercise her doctor approved.

A third liked the fact that ergs give a full body workout. (Rowing is 60% legs, 30% core and 10% arms, Dana says.) “I don’t have to do something else afterward,” he noted.

One of the 25 Row House ergs.

Row House works hard to make workouts fun. One day there is a rowing relay race; another day, one side of the class competes against the other.

Row House coaches are an attraction too. An eclectic bunch — they include business executives, marketers and teachers — they create a welcoming environment. (They also instruct newcomers on proper technique.)

Colby Mello is one of the coaches. A 2008 Staples High School graduate whose day job is in consulting, she runs evening and weekend classes.

“There’s a huge misconception about rowing machines,” Mello notes. “People think they’re devilish machines. That’s why they’re usually empty at the gym.”

They’re not empty at Row House.

Row House offers monthly memberships (4 sessions for $99, 8 for $135, unlimited for $167), and class packs ($155 for 5 classes,$260 for 10). The drop-in fee is $32. For more information, click here.

2 responses to “Row, Row, Row Your Erg

  1. Dan, Thank you for posting. I’ve been rowing since Rob and Dina opened the Row House last year. I try to row 3 times a week. It is NOT just rowing. In the 45 minute low impact workout, rowing is combined with weights (depending on class) core floor and standing exercises.
    In each class 86% of muscle is being used. I recommend this to anyone with joint and back issues. The classes are fun, with the coaches working with you. We laugh, we sweat, and we keep going back!
    If you haven’t tried Row House, I urge you to give it a try. You will not be disappointed.

  2. I was surprised they close much earlier than other locations I’ve been to, which is not ideal for commuters.