I’m a guy in my late 40’s that has been juggling a small family, a social life and an office job with trying to stay fit for years.
I consider myself to be relatively in shape, but far from a “fitness junkie.”
Weight management has never really been a problem for me. As such, that isn’t my primary motivation behind exercise.
Instead, it’s more about eliminating back pain, managing cholesterol and building (as well as maintaining) muscle mass, among other things.
Back in grade school, my form of exercise was organized sports. As such, it didn’t really feel like “exercise” in the same way we think of it as adults now. Running around a field while chasing and kicking a ball is a lot more fun than jogging on a treadmill in a dimly lit gym.
However, participating in team sports with all the demands that come with “adulting” is difficult, if not impossible for most.
So, what became my solution?
My Adult Workout Journey
When I decided to make fitness part of my weekly routine, I started out by thinking back to my College sports injury.
I ended up injuring my shoulder trying to bench press too much weight, without a spotter. Yikes.
This injury has come back to haunt me later in life with multiple dislocated shoulders.
Eventually, in my early 40’s, I undertook months of physical therapy to avoid shoulder surgery. Even so, it’s still a lingering injury to this day.
As such, I had to think about all of the possible exercises I could do through the lens of my shoulder injury.
Back To Running
This led me to pursue running.
I resurrected my days running track from high school by training for and running organized races (5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons).
However, the unpredictable weather led me to purchase a Bowflex treadmill to run indoors.
What at first seemed like the answer to my life long exercise journey eventually led to nagging knee, hip and lower back pain.
I always knew running was high impact, but unfortunately ignored the signs of how it was negatively affecting my body until it was too late.
As such, I knew I had to find something else.
Why I Chose Rowing
Post-treadmill days, I took another hiatus from exercise as I sorted out these new aches and pains.
After about a year of coming up with excuses for not exercising, I knew I had to pick it back up for the obvious health benefits.
The question was, what type of exercise program should I follow?
Following a lot of procrastination and heavy research (during the early days of the pandemic) I narrowed down to stationary cycling and rowing.
Hydrow vs Peloton
My sister-in-law had recently purchased a Peloton and loved it.
Truth be told, apart from my fond childhood memories of cruising the neighborhood streets and trails on my Mongoose BMX bike, I really wasn’t excited about the prospect of cycling in place.
I had also learned that rowing is a “full body” workout, where you engage 86% of your muscles! Cycling is heavily leg focused.
This ultimately led me to purchase a rowing machine in June of 2021.
My Hydrow Rower Review
I looked at a bunch of machines (NordicTrack, Concept2, Ergatta etc.) but ultimately chose to go with the Hydrow Rower.
I purchased my machine directly from the Hydrow website. I ended up buying the larger and more expensive unit, which was about $2,500.
Since then, Hydrow introduced a more compact Wave Rower, which I know very little about.
Over the last 18 months of using the machine, here is what I have come to like the most about it!
Hydrow Is Beginner Friendly
Hydrow has a great introductory training program for beginners to ease you into rowing.
The program focuses on technique, and it is designed to slowly build you up to longer and more challenging workouts.
It also recommends a five minute cool down row after each workout.
I highly recommend taking advantage of to minimize lactic acid buildup for optimal recovery and further hone your technique.
From a technology standpoint, Hydrow stands out from the pack.
For $38 per month (which my wife and I share), you get full access to hundreds of professionally curated workouts. This comes with knowledgeable (and often entertaining) instructors to keep you motivated.
These workouts can be accessed as live rows or as part of a growing library of on-demand scenic rows from Alaska to Switzerland and beyond.
You can choose from your favorite athlete, workout duration, type (Breath, Sweat, Drive etc.), style (Beginner, HIIT, Cross-training etc.) or location.
Motivational Reward System Built-In
Another great feature to keep members focused and committed to rowing is the built in milestone and rewards program.
As you progress through your workouts and rack up meters (I’m currently nipping at the heels of one million!) you win some Hydrow gear.
This has included a water bottle, socks, henley shirt and hat so far.
Hydrow partnered up with Water.org such that for every 25 days you exercise, the company donates to the non-profit.
Just one more reason to keep racking up the meters each day!
Something that is hugely motivational for many rowers is the sense of community Hydrow has built.
You are able to give others encouragement by liking or commenting on their profiles from the leaderboard.
You can also follow your friends or those who you are motivated by to track their workouts and progress. And of course, they can follow you back.
Solid Durable Machine
I’m approaching one million meters, and the machine still feels like it did the first day I set it up. It’s made of quality parts that are built to last.
The rowing mechanism is smooth and extremely quiet, not to mention it reminds me of a piece of moving art.
What I Don’t Like About Hydrow
As with all things we buy, there are inevitably going to be a few things we don’t like.
Here’s the pain points I have come across using the Hydrow.
Bluetooth Connectivity Issues
If you want to avoid disturbing others in your house, you can play the sound from any Bluetooth enabled ear pods instead of the built-in speakers.
Although a great feature, I have noticed recently that the connection to my Apple Airpods has been spotty mid-way through a workout. This leads me to scramble to switch to the speakers so that I can hear the instructor more clearly.
Thinking it might have something to do with the Airpods, I swapped them out for a pair of Jaybird Tarah Pro earbuds that came with the rower. Unfortunately, I experienced the same connectivity issues.
So much for quiet rowing!
Strong Wireless Connection Needed
Since Hydrow is heavily dependent on connectivity to work properly, you’ll need to make sure you have a strong wireless connection where the machine is located.
I now live in South Florida, and during a recent storm, I lost my internet connection for a couple of hours.
When I sat on the rower and tried to access the workouts, I received a message that I was unable to do so given that the rower could not connect to Wi-Fi.
I searched the internet from my phone to see if there was a way to access some offline exercises, but there wasn’t.
Perhaps there’s an opportunity here for Hydrow to introduce a limited offline library for members in times like this.
- The machine itself has a high quality build and a sleek ergonomic design
- Large 22″ touchscreen allows you to access a growing library of workouts
- Electromagnetic drag system is fully adjustable
- High quality front facing speakers
- Library of workouts includes non-rowing exercises such as Yoga and Stretching
- Built-in milestones and rewards for motivation
- Strong Hydrow community
- All important metrics are tracked
- Leaderboards allow you to compete and measure progress against other rowers
- The machine itself is expensive, at a cost of about $2,500 (the smaller Wave unit is about $1,700)
- You also have to pay $38 per month as a subscription to access workouts
- The unit itself takes up about 7 feet of space
- Strong Wi-Fi is a must
- Bluetooth connection to earbuds is spotty
- Heart-rate monitor requires additional purchase of accessory
Aside from my running days, I can honestly say that rowing has been the most consistent, enjoyable and effective form of exercise I’ve done to date.
As with anything in life, I’ve had my ups and downs with rowing. I am even battling some nagging injuries that I believe are the result of poor rowing technique, but will save that for a future discussion.
Overall, I’m confident this will be my core exercise regimen for as long as I’m able to comfortably sit on a rowing machine.
Be sure to check out our beginner’s guide to rowing here to learn more!