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Partnering Up: The Dreaded Crossfit Partner WOD

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“Why, oh why do we have to do partner workouts?!”

I hear this a lot actually, from some of our members, when they see that the workout involves partnering up with another person.

I think we can all agree that no matter how long we have been doing crossfit or how “good” we think we are , the idea of working with a partner, for better or for worse, sort of intimidates us.

For many, the reason behind this feeling of dread is the fear of letting a partner down.  More times than I can count, I will hear someone make the comment mentioned in the opening line of todays blog.  And then, after a WOD, I’ve heard one partner apologize to the other for slowing down the team.  Both of these scenarios make me sad.  When an athlete apologizes for his or her performance during a partner WOD, what they are saying is, “I’m not good enough.”  As a coach, I never want a workout to result in someone feeling they are not good enough in any aspect, partner or individual WOD.  Unfortunately, as soon as a partner is thrown into the mix, people start comparing themselves to others. This leads to self-doubt and worry.

WIth this thought in mind, I’m sure there are many of you out there who just wish that we would stop programming them all together. Um, NO! Not a chance and here’s why…

Like so many other situations in CrossFit, partner WODs give us an opportunity to work on our mental fitness as well as our physical fitness.  If we do find ourselves dreading a partner WOD, it’s a great opportunity to examine the root of these feelings.  Then we can work on having a more positive approach that can benefit us in and out of the gym.

If we only challenge ourselves in a workout and never pay attention to what is going on around us, we can get into a dangerous situation with our fitness. A situation of never wanting or needing to improve because there is no outside circumstance to push us to do so.

Think about it, if we always workout at our own pace, never pushing ourselves to lift a little heavier, to just try it and see how it feels, then we limit ourselves in becoming stronger.’

Remember our motto: “Raise your Upper Limit”.

I cant tell you how many times I have bailed on a squat because it was too heavy but hey, at least I tried it. If I always stay at the same weight, fooling myself into thinking that I need to work on my form until I add weight, then that day will never come!  We will always find something “wrong” with what we’re doing.

Typically, if we don’t see ourselves as a strong athlete, we project this feeling on others.  Just because we don’t think we move well enough or fast enough, we just assume that our partner is going to be thinking that way too.  In almost all situations, this is not the case. The other person is working through their own mental hurdles in a WOD.    Your partner is here to get a great workout and to have fun.  If you give your best, that’s going to happen.  If you are projecting your own negative feelings on your partner, you are setting yourself up to fail.  You are also doing a disservice to another athlete by assuming they feel something they don’t.


So what can we do to get our brains thinking more positive thoughts? First and foremost, we have to recognize when we do this and immediately replace those negative thoughts with positive ones.   It is a matter of a constant, disciplined approach to not letting these thoughts defeat us.

For example, say that today’s partner workout has a few 400 m runs included in it and your a terribly slow runner but then right after that comes your favorite move, power cleans! YES!! That’s where your going to shine and maybe, just maybe, make up some time that you think you may have lost on the runs. Ah ha!  I think we’re on to something here!

A final step is making sure that negative self-talk doesn’t make it out of our mouths. We can do this by working to not put ourselves down to others in the gym.  If we tell our partners that we are slow or not good at CrossFit, we have already set ourselves up for failure.  We may tell ourselves that we are just making sure the partner knows the situation, but what we are doing is projecting negativity on our partner and ourselves.  We can work to cut those negative thoughts off early and not voice them.

The bottom line is this:  Never apologize for doing your best.  Ever.  Whatever it is.  Attack a partner WOD and any negative self-talk the way you would any workout and you will grow in both your physical and mental functional fitness inside and outside the gym!

Now grab your partner and lets do this!