The Benefits of Partner Workouts

Every Saturday at Catalyst, we put people on teams.

This isn’t an elementary-school “I pick Ricky!” draw. The coach makes up the teams, assigns the weights and chooses the distances to make the game as close as possible.

We do these partner workouts primarily because they’re a LOT of fun. But they also have a lot of value in improving your fitness:

  1. Enhanced Motivation:
    • Each person is accountable not just to themselves, but to their partner as well. As Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, wrote: “When you ride alone, your wheel is always in front.” He was talking about cycling, but the analogy works for any sport. You go faster when you’re with someone else.
  2. Increased Effort and Performance:
    • The presence of a workout partner can lead to a healthy level of competition, where each person is inspired to work harder to keep up with or outperform the other. This competitive edge often results in both partners exerting more effort and achieving better performance during the workout than they might solo. Dr. John Ratey, the author of Spark, called this “competitive collaboration”: I want you to finish well; you want me to finish well; and we both do better.
  3. More Fun and Enjoyment:
    • Laughter, encouragement, and a lighter, more playful atmosphere makes the challenging workouts more fun. People often say “I can’t believe I did that!” after the workout is over. As the old saying goes, “If you want to go further, go together.”
  4. Diverse Workout Routines:
    • More time in Zone 5. If you really want to improve your Vo2Max, you want to build a big base of aerobic exercise AND a high peak of short outputs. These are what will help you survive a heart attack or short-term trauma. But it’s hard to push yourself that hard alone. The “I work while you rest” nature of many Partner WODs forces both hard work intervals and full-on rest: perfect for developing a higher max heart rate.
  5. Shared Experience and Social Bonding:
    • The partner workouts also help everyone see where they fit in the Catalyst picture. You’re probably better at something than I am (actually, many things.) I might be better at one thing than you are. When we pair up, we can divide the work according to our strengths, and then spend the rest of the week working on our weaknesses. As my grandfather taught me, “Many hands make light work.”

Why It’s Not Always the Default Option:

  • While partner WODs offer numerous benefits and can be more fun, we don’t do them every day.
    As I said above, we want to address your weaknesses throughout the week. Those require individual attention and coaching.
    We also don’t want you crushing yourself every day. While doing Zone 5 work is beneficial once or twice per week, it can be counterproductive (the old CrossFit ethos of high-intensity-all-the-time is a thing of the past at Catalyst. Now we choose BEST intensity at the BEST time. 🙂
    While partner WODs are a fantastic catalyst, they complement rather than replace individual training sessions and regular programming.