My Love/Hate Relationship with Partner WODs


No, that's not me
No, that's not me

No, that’s not me

I started at CrossFit NYC in my early 40s, determined to not only maintain, but also improve my level of fitness. A desk jockey my entire life, and never much of an athlete growing up, I approached this mysterious new culture with caution.

Fast forward three years, and I am now in my mid-40s, and in the best shape of my life.  I am a CrossFit convert, have competed in (and completed) several races, and I look forward to each day’s WOD as an opportunity for improvement.

But as much as I’ve improved physically over those three years, the biggest challenge and the real growth has been mentally.

Whenever I saw my box had posted a partner WOD, I used to emit a groan to myself. Why is that? I am usually the oldest participant in my WOD, and I was always afraid I would slow someone else down. My fellow athletes tend to work a lot faster than me, and they can throw around some serious weight.  So I would skulk towards the back of the box, trying to remain invisible: Avoiding eye contact with anyone, sometimes pretending I don’t speak English (okay not really, since we all know each other). If my coach tried to partner me up, I would hem and haw, and say “I’ll do half the reps…I’m working light today…this is my goat WOD…” Anything to discourage a partner.

But once I started to choke up the confidence to participate in those partner WODs, an amazing thing happened: I got fitter, faster, and stronger. Instead of slowing the other guy down, his speed would motivate me to work harder. And I found myself keeping pace with guys half my age. To me, that is the exceptional thing about CrossFit: as competitive as we are, we always root for and motivate each other.

I sometimes still groan when I see a partner WOD. “Oh crap, I’ll never do that Rx.” But I dig in, and seek out a partner, tending to gravitate towards guys closer to my age and fitness level. And now, instead of shying away from partner WODs, I look forward to them as an exceptional opportunity for growth. Never once have I had a workout partner who was disappointed in me.

And you know what? Sometimes this mid-40s desk jockey can kick the ass of a college athlete half my age. Doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it sure makes me feel good.