Every once in a while a studio comes along that creates an anticipated buzz before opening its doors – such was the case with NYC hot spot CityRow. The unique workout has participants rowing their way to fit with combinations of exercises that utilize rowing machines and signature yoga and Pilates movements. Row & Flow starts with rowing followed by 30 minutes of yoga, while Row & Core pairs rowing with Pilates-based core work. Intruiged? So were we, which was exactly why we were thrilled to sit down with City Row Founder and CEO, Helaine Knapp, to learn more about the studio and the workout set to take over the New York City.

BT: How did the idea of CityRow come about?

HK: I was just another person trying to fit a good workout into a busy day.  I was a group fitness junkie and also working out with a trainer, who actually turned me onto indoor rowing.  He started talking about the benefits – full body cardio, high intensity, low impact – and it dawned on me that the rower was a hidden gem.  After incorporating rowing into my workout, I was addicted, and I saw this huge opportunity create something new and different.

BT: What did your workouts consist of before opening CityRow?

HK: I was taking a lot of group fitness classes – spinning, barre, kickboxing, bootcamps, yoga, pilates… and I was working out with a trainer. Once I got hooked on group classes, there was no going back. I loved doing it with friends (an alternative to traditional happy hours) and being held accountable for working out. If I paid for it, I was that much more likely to go!

BT: What advice would you give to somebody who has never been on a rowing machine before?

HK: Literally, anyone can do it! Most people walk in our doors never having been on the machine before and by the second interval, they’ve got their groove.

BT: Before launching your own boutique fitness studio did you frequent any others that inspired you to take the leap of faith?

HK: I took tons of classes and became really passionate about the group fitness format, but it was probably my background in working at tech start ups that inspired me to pursue this.  I’ve been fortunate enough to work at amazing companies where I felt like I was part of bringing a vision to market from concept to reality.  This time it’s my vision, and it’s been amazing to see it come to life.


BT: Where do you anticipate CityRow being in 5 years?

HK: Well, we’ve only been open for 5 days, and have already gotten in-bound requests to open in LA, Nashville, Chicago and London. It would be great to make that happen…and maybe we add Maui to the list?

BT: What has been the most exciting moment since opening your doors?

HK: Your email? #kidding. Really though, after an exhausting and extremely rewarding opening day – the toast with my amazing team and support system was a real highlight.

BT: What are three things you never leave home without?

HK: Fully charged iPhone, at least one layer of Lululemon, and a green juice. Our Director of Programming, Annie Mulgrew, is trying to make green juice a staple in my life.  I’m still not 100% on board (more of a coffee person, truth be told), but I’ll put it in here for her.

BT: How does owning a fitness studio compare to your previous job?

HK: It’s completely different and also really similar. I managed the client services team at a tech startup, and while tech and fitness are obviously very different, I’m really comfortable working with people and am used to being in an entrepreneurial environment.

BT: What has been your biggest challenge with opening the studio?

HK: Real estate, hands down.  If you think finding an apartment in NYC is hard, try finding a location for a fitness studio!

Photographs by Braden Istas

Chatting With CityRow Founder & CEO, Helaine Knapp