Paddling the Thames on the NordicTrack RW900 Rower

Credit: NordicTrack

Credit: NordicTrack

Exercise shorts on? Check. Earbuds with Andy Mineo’s “You Can’t Stop Me” at full volume? Check. A body shaped by a decade of gas station grub and Red Bull? Check. Enter the NordicTrack RW900.

After I completed this extensive pre-workout checklist, I went to try out the NordicTrack RW900 Rowing Machine I’m reviewing. 

As I pulled the machine away from the wall to unfold it, I nearly pinched my fingers on the sliding seat. With that crisis averted, I plugged it in and ran through the initial setup. 

Like many high-end exercise machines, the NordicTrack RW900 sports a massive, 22-inch high-def screen. With this you can pick between some of their free video classes, or take the plunge and join an iFit training class for $15 per month (individual) or $33 per month (a family up to five). 

After continuing my workout and on to the next LaCrae track, I started testing the machine. 

I started off by jumping into their beginner video which featured a trainer rowing on the Thames (a river in England for those who are wondering). This was a pretty neat introduction to the exercise, though I struggled to keep my stroke rate the same as the instructor on the video. 

After about 30 minutes and two gallons of sweat I was done exercising. I felt fantastic and thoroughly enjoyed my workout. Tighter-feeling abs, leg muscles and arms all thrown into one basic motion? Sign me up as a perpetual rower. 

While you’re working out, you’ll see indicators for your heart rate (if you own a chest-strap monitor), strokes per minute, the distance rowed, and the resistance level. 

Overall, you can get a good workout on this machine — rowing is a different exercise than most of us will do at home, even if we have had access to a home treadmill. 

I did have a few gripes, though.

First, the only way to create and save custom workouts is if you use the subscription plan. Frankly, it’s the only feature that had me thinking about purchasing an iFit membership. I didn’t really care to have a webcam pointed at me while I was exercising. I know NoridTrack is not using the webcam and might activate it later for a future upgrade.

The most baffling thing about the machine was that there’s no Bluetooth connection. If I were using their video classes and I wanted to tune out the world (e.g., my cat was begging for attention), I would have to use an old-school set of wired headphones. Unfortunately, these have a tendency to get ripped out of my ears, again and again, every time I stroke. 

Overall, I loved my workout. The NordicTrack RW900 makes an excellent product that feels stable while exercising. 

Initially, I had my doubts about the big screen and doing video workouts, and I worried that the best features would all be left for iFit members. Without a membership, I missed out on lots of great looking classes, individualized training, calendar tracking, and custom workouts, but who knows? As we “shelter in place” due to the pandemic, I might just sign up.