The Indo-Row Certification Course

The Indo-Row Certification Course (how to become an instructor + my experience/review) I can’t remember if I mentioned it on the blog already or just on social media, but a few months ago, I got Indo-Row certified. The Btone Wellesley studio decided to offer Indo-Row as a cardio compliment to the megaformer classes (which do have cardio benefits as well, but are more strength/stability focused), and the current instructors were all given the opportunity to get certified. Even though I’d actually never done an Indo-Row class before (or even heard of it), I jumped at the opportunity to do the course because I love learning about anything fitness-related.

Whether you’re interested in becoming an Indo-Row instructor or just interested in trying out the workout, I wanted to put together a post explaining what Indo-Row is and sharing my experience with the certification course.

About the Workout and the WaterRower

The Indo-Row Certification Course (how to become an instructor + my experience/review) While outdoor rowing has been around for thousands of years and stationary rowing machines are no spring chicken either, Indo-Row is a relatively new workout, created in 2004. It’s a 45-minute class taught on the WaterRower that’s heavily reflective of outdoor rowing. Unlike a rowing machine most people are used to seeing in a gym, which uses a chain and fan for resistance, the WaterRower uses a tank of actual water for a smoother resistance and fuller stroke. They’re awesome!

The rowers have monitors on the center console that allow you to see distance, strokes per minute, time, miles per hour, split time and even calories burned as you workout. They’re used all throughout class in setting up timed/metered races and letting students know how hard they should be working.

Indo-Row is a total-body workout and a great option for low-impact cardio. You’re going to get a similar calorie burn to a spinning class, and will find that, also like spinning, it’s very music-driven (which is always fun!). The classes have a unique structure in that they’re very group-oriented. You’re on a team with whoever is sitting in your row of machines, or might pair up throughout class or work all together. At the start of class, you warm up by going over form and spending some time at each intensity level (called a pressure test). You then move onto waves (think interval training of some sort), and finish class with racing, which is hands-down the best part.

Indo-Row Certification Logistics

There are two ways to become an Indo-Row certified instructor: the studio you work at can become an Indo-Row facility and offer you the course there or you can attend an open training session on your own. Either way, Indo-Row will send one of their master trainers to run the course. Btone Wellesley is now an official Indo-Row provider, so I did the training there. The open training sessions are $299 and you can find out about upcoming ones in your area by getting on the Indo-Row emailing list (fill out the form on this page).

The certification course is eight hours long. A good chunk of that is spent on the rowers going over form, getting familiar with the console, and doing an actual class led by your trainer. The rest is classroom-style learning going over the manual you receive at the start of class. Bring a pen, some water, workout clothes and lunch.

My Experience

The Indo-Row Certification Course (how to become an instructor + my experience/review) As I mentioned at the start of this post, I had actually never even heard of Indo-Row when the email was sent out to the Btone instructors about getting certified. I wanted some idea of what I was getting myself into, so I looked for classes around Boston I could try. Now to back up for a second, from the same creators as Indo-Row is a workout called ShockWave, which uses the WaterRowers as part of a circuit. For one or two of the stations you’re going all-out on the machines and then the rest are a mix of strength exercises (think goblet squats with a kettlebell, incline push ups on steppers, dumbbell exercises, etc.). Equinox (in Boston anyway—not sure about elsewhere) bought exclusivity rights, so only they can offer the workout and call it ShockWave. You can still find the workout elsewhere, it’s just probably not called ShockWave. Which brings me to my first experience on the WaterRower…

BURN Fitness Studio in the South End offers Indo-Row and Circuit Row (their version of ShockWave), and I signed up for one of their Circuit Row classes before the certification course. I LOVED IT. Seriously, if you’re in the Boston area, it is a must-try. The class broke up into groups of three and we went through a circuit of six stations three times. Two of the stations were the WaterRower and we had to do 300m the first round, 200m the second and 100m the last. No one could move onto the next station until the groups on the rowers had completed the distance, so it created a really fun group environment for the workout with everyone cheering each other on. The instructor would also write down the top times on a dry erase board which, being super competitive, I loved.

I left the class feeling beyond excited to get certified. I couldn’t believe how excellent of a cardio workout going just those couple hundred meters as fast as possible was (the class thoroughly kicked my ass!). Granted, I knew Indo-Row was different from ShockWave, but I still couldn’t wait to learn the ins and outs of the WaterRower.

I would say my overall impression of the Indo-Row certification course was that it’s very similar to the Spinning course, which I blogged about here. Just as the Spinning program is made to mimic outdoor cycling, Indo-Row is made to mimic outdoor rowing on the water. You might recall from my Spinning recap that I had an amazing master trainer who was able to make a non-outdoor cyclist like myself see the value in adhering to those same principles on stationary bikes. Yes, I still love tap backs, isolations and all that other fun—but not Spinning®-approved—stuff you do in popular indoor cycling classes today, but I still gained an appreciation for the program’s approach because my instructor’s passion and enthusiasm for it was so infectious. Plus she was a total sweetheart. Basically I had a crush on my Spinning instructor.

Clearly a good teacher whose personality jives with yours can make or break your impression of a class, subject matter, etc., and let’s just say I did…not have a crush on our Indo-Row trainer. I loved the racing component that all Indo-Row classes end with (so fun!) but I couldn’t get excited about the rest. However, while our trainer may have left me feeling underwhelmed, I still felt fully “whelmed” with my experience using the rowers at the circuit row class I took at BURN and I loved the individual and team racing at the end of Indo-Row workouts. It was quickly becoming clear to me that I’m better suited for ShockWave. If you’re not passionate about a workout, you’re not going to be good at teaching it, and you’d be doing a huge disservice to all those students and clients who are passionate about it. So ultimately, I knew teaching a 45-minute Indo-Row class wasn’t for me.

Instead, I’m teaching a class that combines my favorite part of Indo-Row (going HAM on the rowers) with a workout that, as you’ve probably noticed by now, I am obsessively passionate about: the megaformer. Tone ‘N Row is 20 minutes of core and upper body work on the megaformer followed by 30 minutes on the WaterRowers, for a perfect mix of strength training and cardio. After a warm-up song and some intervals, I pretty much get right to racing. I try to be creative with the races, mixing in some individual races with relay races and partner work. Last week I split the class into pairs and while one partner was racing to finish 300m, the other had to hold a plank. Once the 300m were completed, they’d hop off the machine into a plank while their partner took off on the rower. First pair to complete three rounds won. There were an odd number of students that night so I did the race with them and let me tell you, it was brutal (in a good way).

If you’re in the Wellesley area, I teach Tone ‘N Row Thursday nights at 7:30 (schedule/sign up here). I’m covering another instructor this month and so am also teaching it Tuesday mornings in December. I’d love to see you in class! Also, seriously don’t let my disenchantment with our master trainer stop you from trying a full Indo-Row class yourself–just because I thought the certification course was “meh” doesn’t mean this workout is as well (FAR from it). People LOVE these classes at Btone, and after the certification course I took one and enjoyed it 1,000,000x more than when we did it during instructor training.

I wanted to focus this post on the certification course, but as I continue to teach Tone ‘N Row and get better at rowing, I’d love to do a post with tips for your first class, proper rowing form, and even put together some workouts you can do on your own with your gym’s rowing machine. It’s a KILLER cardio workout!

Have you done Indo-Row or another rowing class before? What’d you think?



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  1. I used to take ShockWave classes at Equinox in NYC. They always had a great mix of competition and team work. I’m sure your students are happy you’re incorporating that in your classes too!

  2. I have never done a rowing class, but I use the rower frequently in my workouts. Most often to warm up and getting the juices flowing.

  3. I have never used a rowing machine but I’ve heard about all the great benefits. Your Tone & Row class sounds like my cup of tea. 20 min of toning and rounding out with cardio is my go-to workout. I’m in Boston and really needed venture out to more group fitness classes. I mostly run outside, go to the Y and/or tone with at-home workouts.

    • I used to just stick with running and at-home workouts too because hey, can’t beat free fitness, right?? And I still do that, but have also fallen in love with sooo many of the fitness studios around Boston. You should look into first-time specials. Most studios will let newbies come for a discounted price (even free at some). Btone offers newbies a 3 for $30 package if you ever want to come check out my class! The Boston studio doesn’t have rowers, but I teach a class called Tone ‘N Torch there that is one part toning on the machine and then one part bootcamp for a killer cardio/strength combo. 🙂

  4. I just took a Info-Row class in Seattle over thanksgiving-I abolutely loved it. Unfortuantely, it hasn’t made it over to my gym in Houston…

    • Fun right?? And talk about effective–the races at the end do me in every time. I just looked online and there’s an Orange Theory in Houston–have you tried it? You use lots of different equipment, not just rowers, but they do have WaterRowers. Could be fun to try while you wait for Indo-Row to make it’s way to you 🙂

  5. At Orange Theory Fitness they use the water rowers and I liked them a lot, but it wasn’t a class focused just on the rowers.

  6. i struggle to enjoy my time on any rower, but i wonder if being in water would make me change my mind…! i used to paddle (outrigger canoes) when i was growing up in hawaii, but it’s been ages.

    also, i wanted to ask–where’s your sports bra from?

    • It’s from Reebok 🙂 You should try an Indo-Row or Shockwave class–the group environment and racing makes the rowers so much fun! (I’m with you–if I’m alone, I can’t stand stationary bikes, rowers, treadmills,etc. NEED that class environment)

  7. Hi Nicole! Awesome that you’ve added to your repertoire. I’ve never done a rowing class on one of those and would love to try.

  8. what brand are the tights in the 2nd picture?

  9. I row on a Concept 2 all too often in CrossFit, but I’ve never seen/used one that operates with water. It looks and sounds pretty fascinating. I think I heard that Orange Theory has rowers that use water.

  10. Potamusroo says:

    Yes please on a post about rowing tips, form and workout!! I use the “old-fashioned” kind at our gym for a 5/min (or 1000m warm-up)…but would like to get the confidence to mix it up.

  11. Hello Nicole-

    I am quite familiar with Indo Row, have had the GX studio for number of years and just sold it to upgrade to the S4, which I am excited about. Anyhow, curious about your path again to becoming certified as an instructor? Were you already working at the gym (?Btone) where you became certified? How did that exactly work out? What was sort of the sequence to certification. Did you end with examination or more of a hands on experience where others would be critquing you? I don’t work at a gym, I’m just interested in becomeing certified in indo row for now and see where that goes.Maybe you will have some advice that others don/t / I’m in RI now and not too many places offering rowing. The studio I actually attend used to offer rowing but not so much anymore unless for PT purposes, but no longer classes. I wasnt sure if that qualifies them and me as a place for me to become indo row certified since several of their instructors are certified, would I likely be paying them,e tc etc. Its a bit confusing. Any insight — thanks. And yes they have the GX model.

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