Tried and Tested: I tried an indoor group gym class for the first time in ten months. Here's what it was like

Would a group workout after near 300 days of sweating in my living room be scary? Marie Claire health ed Ally Head reviews.

Rowbots London review: I tried an indoor workout class for the first time in 10 months. Here's what I thought
(Image credit: Marie Claire UK)

Would a group workout after near 300 days of sweating in my living room be scary? Marie Claire health ed Ally Head reviews.

As lockdown restrictions eased even further last week - and with gyms reopening once more - I headed to the brand new ROWBOTS City location to test out the studio.

Why? Well, to mark the launch of my new feature franchise, Tried and Tested, mainly, but also to support the fitness industry at a time when they need us most.

Join me as I test all the latest health and fitness must-tries - think Rebel Wilson's workouts, Louise Thompson's new protein powder range, collagen supplements and more - to cut through the noise and decipher what's really worth your time and money.

First up? The London fitness studio co-founded by Welsh footballing icon Gareth Bale. ROWBOTS is a strength and - yep, you guessed it - rowing hybrid class, and to coincide with the relaxing of lockdown regulations in England, they've opened their new studio just next to Broadgate Circle.

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Their original studio in Fitzrovia opened in 2019 and the home workouts they offered during lockdown were backed by the British Rowing Association. So, yep - they're pretty serious about making sure you get a good workout in.

On their site, ROWBOTS is described as 'the complete workout for both body and mind', focusing their sessions on physical and mental fitness. But, disclaimer: I haven't done a group exercise class indoors for a whole ten months now. Like pretty much the rest of the UK, I've upped my running and been doing strength training in my living room, but gym workouts have been off the cards because of lockdown. So yep. The gym anxiety is very real.

Would the return to indoor group exercise really be as scary as I'd built it up to be in my head - and would my strength be out the window after ten months of maintenance? Keep scrolling to find out.

I tried my first indoor gym class in ten months: ROWBOTS review

What is ROWBOTS?

As above, Broadgate's newest fitness studio. They've got a stellar line up of personal trainers on the roster for their cardio-slash-strength hybrid classes and loads of different formats of classes on offer, too. Head on a Monday or Wednesday for a cardio focused class, Tuesday or Thursday for a more strength-heavy session, and Friday for a surprise - or what the team like to call 'freestyle'.

Need-to-knows: each session lasts for 45 minutes, and there are showers, towels and Grown Alchemist toiletries on site for you (think shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, and moisturiser). Bike docks are just around the corner, and there are lockers with padlocks provided for all your belongings.

I book in to the 7am 'Action' class, which promises to 'instill a growth mindset, lift your mood, enhance your motivation and empower you to tackle the task at hand.'

It's upper body focused and basically a mix of progressively spicy sprints on the rower and upper body strength moves, like bicep curls, push ups, and shoulder presses.

Rowbots review: health editor Ally Head trying out the new City location

How much does it cost?

If you make the most of their intro offer, you can buy a three class pack for £25 - that's £8.33 a class - or opt for a membership for £78 a month.

Rowbots review: The front of the studio

What did I think of ROWBOTS?

You forget how friendly everyone is in the real world when you've been locked down for so long, don't you.

Spoiler alert: no, my strength hasn't gone out of the window, and no, the class wasn't in the least bit scary. Everyone still maintains the social distancing shebang and keeps themselves to themselves. It was super fun, and I definitely left kind of giddy from the endorphin high.

There was sanitiser throughout the studio and naturally everyone who enters the studio is checked in, anyway.

Was ROWBOTS worth it?

In short: if you love treating yourself to workouts at some of London's boutique gym classes, then yes. The studio is kitted out to the nines with fancy kit: the water powering the rowers lights up as you workout, and the studio sound system is so loud you almost forget that your glutes are on fire. (Almost).

The class promises to offer 'mental conditioning' as well as physical, and while I can't say it offers a better mental health boost than other workout, the endorphins do make you feel great. Plus, after so long away, the trainers are really pumped to have clients back in class, so the atmosphere is high, too.

As with most gyms of this calibre, there's a shake bar with nutritionally-tailored smoothies for after your workouts, should you wish, and a whole load of products to lather yourself in while you're in the changing rooms, as well.

It's a slightly more advanced class - beginners, beware - and it's not cheap, but the price is pretty standard for this level of workout in London. It's essentially a Barry's, but sans the treadmill pounding, so if you're someone who prefers low impact workouts (or just wants to look after the old joints a little bit), this one's for you.

Final thoughts?

Was my gym anxiety unfounded? A little - I loved the buzz of the studio and working out with other like-minded people again. Will I skip home workouts for studio sessions altogether? No, but I'm looking forward to having the option of doing both.

If you are feeling apprehensive about heading back to group exercise classes right now, know you're not alone. Stats are showing time and time again that many are just preferring living room sweat sessions now - so do let our guide to how to workout at home from PT Krissy Cela help, if that's you. It's packed full of useful tips and tricks, and rest assured - it's better to do the right workout for you than force yourself to go back to a studio you're not comfortable with.

That being said, the perks of working out with a room full of like-minded people aren't to be overlooked. It's a really special feeling.

Top tip?

As head trainer Tess Jones tells us in class, make sure your arms are held before your knees as you pull away from the rowing machine, and push with power through your toes, too. Got it?

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.