This rowing machine's video game-style races are a fun and motivating way for you to get a cardio workout

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This rowing machine's video game-style races are a fun and motivating way for you to get a cardio workout
© Rick Stella/Business Insider I competed in a few digital races using the rower, and was immediately drawn into the experience. Rick Stella/Business Insider

  • The Ergatta Connected Rower is a high-quality at-home rowing machine that uses video game-style races as a motivator.
  • I tried the rower and was immediately drawn into its gamified workouts and how hard it pushed me to want to keep competing.
  • The Ergatta rower also features an eye-catching, cherry wood design, water-powered resistance, and folds up when not in use.

This rowing machine's video game-style races are a fun and motivating way for you to get a cardio workout
© Provided by INSIDER Ergatta Connected Rower$2199.00 FROM ERGATTA

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Editor’s note: Ergatta is currently offering a $200 discount for anyone who orders one of its rowers by 1/31 and inputs the code SELFASSEMBLE. It’s important to note that this means buyers will have to assemble the machine themselves. 

Thanks to brands like NordicTrack and Peloton, highly interactive at-home workout equipment is ubiquitous. Bikes and treadmills offering libraries of on-demand workouts are now the norm, and the fitness industry as a whole continues to embrace that growing trend.

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But as a slew of startups tinker with bike and treadmill concepts, a Brooklyn, NY-based company called Ergatta took a different approach by innovating on something a bit more old-fashioned: The at-home row machine. Its idea was to bring row workouts into the 21st Century and to forge its own interactive path separate from what already exists. 

Born from that vision is the Connected Rower, a $2,000 smart row machine that promises a full-body workout via a video game-like experience. There are no high-energy instructors teaching a class from a dimly lit studio; just the machine, the person rowing, and an ecosystem of uniquely designed workouts combining the stimulus of “Mario Kart” with the benefits of cardio exercise.

That imaginative approach works. At a press event in New York City, I took the Connected Rower on a few digital races to see how capable it is of elbowing into an increasingly crowded market that already includes stiff competition from the likes of NordicTrack and Hydrow

On your mark, get set, GO

What seemed simple enough on paper turned out to be a thrill in practice. It took just a few minutes to strap myself into the machine before I was fluidly syncing my row technique to the rhythm displayed on-screen. As I rowed, the monitor displayed my real-time output stats of calories burned, distance traveled, and row wattage. 

After getting a feel for the proper cadence, I loaded up one of the machine’s designated races, effectively pitting myself against the rest of the Ergatta community. Though it was a short, 45-second race, it was easy to feel the kind of intense workout the rower is capable of delivering. 

When the timer ticked down from three to one, I didn’t exactly fly out of the gates. That learned rhythm I thought I’d nailed just seconds prior disappeared completely; be it the adrenaline of a real event or a different interface, my tempo was offbeat and lacked any real oomph. I quickly realized how much the machine favors correct technique over frenzied, uncoordinated rowing.

A few seconds of erratic form turned into a stronger, more measured pace. Finally putting it all together felt like getting the timing right in Double Dutch, and I started gaining ground on the digital competition as a result. As each row felt slightly more comfortable, I inched closer to hitting my true stride. 

I was only a few paces behind the leaders with the end of the race in sight. Understanding the circumstances (there were no silver medals being awarded, I presumed), the last two strokes were my most powerful; the first brought me about neck-and-neck with the competition while the second propelled me across the finish line, a mere hair in front of the now second-place finisher — but I was victorious.

Ergatta’s endgame 

This rowing machine's video game-style races are a fun and motivating way for you to get a cardio workout
© Provided by INSIDER The monitor shows real-time stats of calories burned, distance traveled, and row wattage. Rick Stella/Insider

Spelling out the race like this isn’t to sensationalize the Connected Rower experience but to spotlight its intended purpose. In that room, I was just an ordinary person rowing away on my own, looking like anyone else who’s strapped themselves into a row machine. And while an analog rower may deliver a similar full-body workout, that’s not the only outcome Ergatta’s after.

What the company wants is to gamify the workout experience to motivate people to want to do better, to set personal records, and to feel the rush of competition. It intends to create excitement around working out and breaking a sweat — something that’s sometimes seen as mundane. 

This isn’t unlike the way a simple fitness tracker urges people to excitedly track their daily steps or calories burned. It pushes them to do better tomorrow by building on what they accomplished today, using the perceived stimulation of playing a game as underlying, and sometimes subconscious, motivation.

That end goal is apparent the moment you strap into the rower. Ergatta captures the competitive spirit of video game racing while delivering a full-body workout at the same time. No matter how grueling a race might be, if you feel like you could do better the next time around, that next time around becomes right then. 

It’s exactly what I did after that first race but it wasn’t because I wanted to replicate my bumbling first-place run from before. Instead of eking out a victory, my goal was to win by several boat lengths while logging an even better finish time (each of which I accomplished with relative ease now that I had the experience of just one race under my belt).

The fact I had that mentality about an easy, 45-second race shows how powerful a motivator gamification can be. The satisfaction of exiting a race you feel comfortable with doesn’t just mean you gain a few notches on the leaderboard, you also walk away having completed a challenging cardio workout — and both are vitally important to the overall experience. 

A calibrated challenge

To Ergatta, that balance is key. Creating a level playing field for everyone, regardless of their fitness level, required the implementation of what it calls active intelligence. This means that as you row, the machine adapts to your skill level and capability, recalibrating everything from the level of resistance and row timing to the accuracy threshold of each stroke.

Active intelligence also scales the difficulty of its on-demand workouts. As you improve, races become just that much more challenging, and the goals of each interval workout that much harder to accomplish. Races you’ve done before look familiar from point A to point B but the actual path proves more demanding than you remember.

Sit down, be humble

This rowing machine's video game-style races are a fun and motivating way for you to get a cardio workout
© Rick Stella/Business Insider The rower inspires the same competitive spirit of video game racing while delivering a full-body workout. Rick Stella/Business Insider

After notching yet another first-place finish, I unstrapped from the Connected Rower. With a pep in my step, the Ergatta team broke some hard news to me: The rower’s race calibration was on one of its lowest settings. 

Since there were two full days of scheduled press previews, the company wanted to be sure everyone who gave it a spin could jump over a purposely low hurdle. After all, we weren’t there to actually race. 

Though the news humbled me, it also made me want to jump right back on, crank up the resistance, and go for another gold — there was that gamification in play again. I’d only completed a few races and a short tutorial but I clearly got caught up in the allure of this interactive row machine. From a software perspective, I was hooked. 

The cherry on top

As enticing as its two-pronged approach of game-style racing and full-body workout is, the rower’s physical design deserves heaps of praise, too. Constructed of gorgeous Cherry wood, Ergatta managed to make something as funky and cumbersome as an at-home row machine pleasant to look at. 

But even if you aren’t keen on having it take up permanent residence in your home, the Connected Rower folds into an upright position for easy storage. Instead of having a long horizontal footprint, it’s able to stand just over 7 feet high when folded up and features wheels so you can push it against a wall, slide it into a tall closet, or move it into a garage space.

The actual rowing mechanism itself is just as polished as its finish. Instead of using flywheel, hydraulic, or magnetic resistance technology, Ergatta’s Connected Rower features a water-powered instrument created in partnership with the Rhode Island-based manufacturer, WaterRower. Not only does it better simulate the feeling of a gliding boat but it delivers the calming sound of whooshing water with each stroke. 

Should you buy it?

If you’re in the market for an at-home workout machine and can afford the investment, then yes. Interactive stationary bikes or treadmills don’t offer as dynamic a workout as a row machine and often cost more than the $2,000 Connected Rower.

Between software that motivates you to push harder, a clean design that won’t stick out like a sore thumb, and an effective full-body workout, this rower offers exactly what most people want from at-home workout equipment. 

What are your alternatives?

NordicTrack and Hydrow are the industry bests when it comes to at-home rowers, and for good reason. NordicTrack has designed and manufactured row machines for years and its latest, the RW900, features immersive interactive workouts led by world-class trainers.

Hydrow, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer but immediately succeeded by offering its own version of on-demand, full-body workouts. 

The bottom line

This rowing machine's video game-style races are a fun and motivating way for you to get a cardio workout
© Ergatta Ergatta

Ergatta’s Connected Rower checks many of the boxes of what people look for in an effective and enjoyable at-home workout machine. It features an interactive user experience that creates and maintains constant motivation, a reward system that pats you on the back while still pushing you to be better, and a design that’s as tasteful as it is practical.

Compared to upper echelon peers like Hydrow, NordicTrack, and Peloton, it’s roughly the same in terms of initial investment, too, sporting a price tag of $2,000. Even its monthly subscription cost of $29 for access to the game-centric workout platform is cheaper than what the rest of the field offers — Peloton and NordicTrack are both $39 a month, while Hydrow sits at $38 a month.

Pros: Delivers an effective full-body workout, video game-based workouts keep routines fresh and engaging, calibration via active intelligence adjusts the difficulty as you increase in skill, $29 monthly fee for access to the game platform is cheaper than the competition

Cons: Requires a large footprint for use, $2,000 price tag is a big investment 

$2199.00 FROM ERGATTA

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