Indoor Rowing And Community: How working out with others improves your workout

Shelby Fanning

There’s something about working out alongside other people that motivates you to go the extra mile… or in our case, extra metres. A community can support you on your journey to whole health and lift you up; at the end of day, we’re better together! 

Here at Hydrow, we’re always looking for ways to encourage community and connection. A few recent (And fun!) initiatives have included:

- #HydrowWinTheDay: A way for members to celebrate and share daily wins at the beginning of a new year - Fitness Builder series: A bridge program designed to help new rowers or rowers returning from a long break get back into shape. - Commit To Fit: A month-long challenge to help rowers find more consistency in their weekly routine. And hello, who doesn’t want a special limited-edition badge to add to their profile?!

And let’s always acknowledge that our user-managed Facebook group has a gumbo-themed just-for-fun time trial each month. Based on your height, are you a shrimp, crab, lobster, or octopus?

It’s pretty nice here in the gumbo pot, and that’s why it’s great to get involved in your community. As an added bonus, science shows that exercising with others results in a more effective and engaging workout overall. In this article we’ll explain why.

The science-backed reason exercising with others makes you workout more

According to the Köhler effect, activities completed in a group setting improve individual performance beyond what one might have accomplished on their own. It’s also known as the motivation gain effect, and team-based sports or exercise are one of the most popular ways to test the Köhler effect in action.

You’ve probably already experienced the Köhler effect at other times in your life without even realising it. If you’ve ever joined a peer group in school or sport that was at a high level and challenged you to raise your game, you suddenly improved in skill level more quickly than if you had remained by yourself. 

There are a few reasons for this:  - Competitiveness: some of us have a more competitive personality than others, and we’re all born with at least a little competitiveness as a survival mechanism. If you’ve ever tried catching up to someone who is ahead of you as a way to motivate yourself, that’s the Köhler effect in action. - Teamwork: most of us don’t want to be the person that lets the team down – that’s also the Köhler effect. When your performance contributes to the group’s overall performance, you feel compelled to deliver, and sometimes the results are beyond what intrinsic motivation alone can achieve. - Attention: if someone paying attention to you makes you sit up straight and pay attention, you’re not alone. Research has found that when you feel like someone is paying attention to you, additional brain cells are activated, which can heighten your focus. This is one of the reasons shoutouts from instructors are a great motivator. Our Hydrow Athletes love giving shoutouts! 

Okay, but does it work in an online setting?

Here’s the cool part: it sure does! 

Research published in the 'Journal Of Sport And Exercise Psychology' found that the Köhler effect’s benefits held up in a buddy workout when the participants were connected virtually via video conference call. The feeling of pushing yourself at the same time as someone else is what makes the biggest difference, especially when that feeling is in a live setting.

The benefits of this live experience are why Hydrow does live rows every week. Post-session recordings are always available in the workouts library, but if you’re free during a time that a live class is taking place, we’d love to have you on!

Even if you catch a recording instead, the leaderboard feature on Hydrow will show the real-time stats and progress of all participants, whether they attended live or rowed the workout themselves at a later date. You can filter the leaderboard feature to row alongside users just in your age group. And if you decide you’d rather have the leaderboard out of the picture on a certain day, a quick tap of the touch screen will show or hide the leaderboard whenever you like.

Ways to get inspired by an online fitness community

Community is one of the best ways to make an online experience feel more real and authentic. Here are a few things to look for in an online fitness community to cultivate a sense of belonging and challenge yourself to the next level.

A Facebook group community

Whether it’s excitement about the day your Hydrow arrives, celebrating your first metre milestone, or just asking for advice from your peers, a community space helps to create excitement and shared experiences in those hours that you’re off the rower. Join Hydrow Training Camp on Facebook to participate.

Specific challenges throughout the year

Short, structured challenges are a nice way to motivate yourself to take things to the next level, and are easier and more digestible than just trying to get better all year long with no end goal in sight. If you’ve signed up for fitness challenges in the past, you know that feeling inspired is fuel for your health and fitness goals!

Hydrow hosts training camps all throughout the year. These camps are pop-up challenges –  complete with their own pop-up Facebook groups – that have a specific start and end date. A sense of camaraderie emerges when you know everyone in the room has started a challenge together and will finish a challenge together.

Hearing about your peers

People just like you from all walks of life are using an online community to help themselves move toward their fitness goals. At Hydrow, we’ve started spotlighting their incredible stories in our member series Behind The Oar. Recent installments have included:

Sara, the business owner using Hydrow to decompress as her company navigates COVID-19 challenges;

Bryan, the chef whose mantra “set impossible goals” helped him fight back from near-paralysis to walk his fiancé down the aisle;

Mazdak, the family man who’s lost 20kgs since starting on Hydrow; and 

Keira, a mom and really, really fast runner who’s using Hydrow to cross-train as she prepares for the Olympic marathon trials.

When you get to know your peers, then see them in a future class, you feel more connected to them and to your “why” for hopping on your Hydrow in the first place.

Showing up live

Okay, we’ve mentioned the live workout component a lot. But here’s another reason you want to find a live option: When you know your workout must take place at a certain time and have structure to your schedule, you’re more likely to follow through and show up. Pick a class from the live schedule and hop on – you’ll be glad you did.

Online fitness community: The big takeaways

Just because you’re working out virtually doesn’t mean you have to feel isolated or alone. In fact, online communities are one of the best ways to find a group of like-minded people who are as excited about exercise and improving themselves as you are. 

Your workouts will improve, too. So the next time you set exercise goals for yourself, think about how you can lean in and reap the benefits of your online community. You might be surprised at what you’re capable of!