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The History of Indoor Rowing with Josh Crosby

Josh Crosby, indoor rowing pioneer.

Josh Crosby.

Historically the rower has been a piece of equipment banished to the back corner of most gyms. However, today, an increasing number of people have embraced the rower and the amazing full-body workout it can provide. Josh Crosby, the co-creator of Indo-Row and Shockwave, helped to spark the resurgence of the rower.

For Crosby the thrill of rowing was ingrained from a young age watching his father and grandfather race down Boston’s Charles River. When they finally gave him his own shot, he found the excitement for himself, eventually leading to his father’s encouragement to join the rowing team.

“I wasn’t even going to do it, but then my dad told me to try it for a couple of weeks to see what I thought,” said Crosby. “After two days of dry land practice — we didn’t even get in the water — I was hooked. The biggest reason was the team camaraderie, taking on a challenge together and working towards a common goal.”

After rowing for the U.S. National Team, Crosby wanted to generate greater exposure for the sport. “I started taking [cycling] classes and I saw how excited people were getting about it,” said Crosby. “I thought to myself, if people love going nowhere on a bike and using just their legs, imagine if I could get them excited about rowing.”

Crosby developed a 45-minute rowing program, Indo-Row, that he started teaching at a local gym in Santa Monica, California. According to Crosby, participants experience all the elements of a season’s worth of rowing within the class. “We have a warm up with skills, then a short drill followed by a break,” explained Crosby. “You have your wave of work where you push for six to 10 minutes and then you take a break, do stretching or core work interspersed with rowing.”

The class started with only five rowers, but as it began to gain popularity, Crosby decided he wanted to reach an ever larger demographic. In order to do so, he teamed up with Jay Blahnik. “Jay has been an icon in the industry,” said Crosby. “He was very well respected and I was told he was the guy who could help me take my program to the fitness community.”

After traveling to fitness conventions and presenting the program, an increasing number of clubs began to offer Indo-Row. Crosby and Blahnik’s desire to bring rowing to the fitness community did not stop there; they developed a second program called ShockWave.

Rowers are expensive, so the duo wanted to provide a way for clubs to get involved with indoor rowing, without having to buy as many pieces of equipment.

Unlike the Indo-Row format, which is one rower per person, ShockWave is one rower per four people. “We knew that boot camps were all the rage, so we wanted to create some type of circuit boot camp experience with rowing involved,” explained Crosby.

Participants of the ShockWave class are divided into teams of four. Each team rotates between leg strength, upper body, core work and rowing stations for 45 minutes, resulting in a high intensity interval-training workout.

“The best part of both Indo-Row and ShockWave is that you are working together with your team,” explained Crosby. “You move along with your team. There is a lot of high-fiving and cheering. One of our sayings is, ‘Support your team, and empty the tank.’”

According to Crosby, what makes both programs even more unique is the equipment — the WaterRower. “They are the most authentic rowing machine in the world because they have a similar feel to being on the water,” said Crosby. “It delivers a more consistent challenge to the body. It does not beat the body up the way some other machines would because the energy output is displaced throughout the whole stroke.”

Crosby explained these programs can work for any club, big or small. “We have small locations like Pilates studios that want a cardio component and then we have the big guys like Equinox and Gold’s Gym,” said Crosby. “We have a set of master trainers that will go out and train up any location in a day or two, depending on whether they want one program or two.”

Over 350 health and fitness clubs offer either the Indo-Row or ShockWave program, but Crosby hopes for even more expansion in the future. “My plan is to get all my trainers working every weekend and develop more master trainers so we can get the program into 3,000 clubs,” said Crosby. “I think it is possible with the way that people are finally embracing rowing.”


By Emily Harbourne

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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