An Introvert’s Guide to Escaping the Dreaded Partner Workout

The coach rasped out the evening’s workout: “We’ve got 6 x 400s tonight. Find a partner your pace….” The rest faded into oblivion as those three terrifying words ricocheted around my brain, building into a roaring crescendo.


Oh, hell no. Not tonight. Not on an evening when I was lucky to have made it to the track at all. Not when I knew none of the other runners. Not at the end of a particularly depressing Valentine’s Day. Not after being explicitly reminded of how slow, overweight, and out of shape I am (and that was just during drills).


Candy hearts showing phrases

5 Steps to Successfully Hiding in Sight

A true introvert—or even an extroverted introvert like me—knows how to disappear into the crowd. People, after all, cannot engage with what they don’t see. But to successfully hide, you have to act quickly and decisively.

The fact is, 99.5 percent of all people are somewhat to truly terrified at the prospect of partnering up in a workout. Why? Well, there’s the possibility of tapping an inappropriate partner. In a running group, that means someone who is either faster or slower, which can be a particularly painful error depending on the workout. Another worry: inadvertently breaching an established friend group. Of course this sounds completely junior high-ish but most of life is forever frozen in about 8th grade and runners can often be terribly cliquish.

Ah, the possibilities for humiliation abound.

A conscious introvert recognizes she has about 10 seconds to spring into avoidance mode while the rest of the group immediately and desperately begins searching for an appropriate workout partner. Any hesitation may result in the pity partner, that cheerful extrovert who is bound and determined to make the sad and lonely feel welcome. (Even if they don’t want to.)

Here’s how to execute the introvert fade:

Candy hearts showing phrases Recognize you’re a loner. It sounds like a no-brainer but in order to move quickly, you have to already know you’re not up for human interaction. As I’d walked to the track this evening, I realized my head was in a particularly unsociable place; I’d come that close to not showing up at all. While I hadn’t consciously thought, “No way in hell can I bear partnering up tonight,” there’d been enough introspection that, when the announcement came, I knew without hesitation my best option for workout happiness was to go dark.

Candy hearts showing phrases Immediately avoid eye contact. It’s always good to adjust an article of clothing or equipment, such as a watch. My move tonight: zipping my jacket. This dropped my head, lowered my eyes, and involved purposeful focus on something other than everyone scanning for a partner.

Candy hearts showing phrases Use body position to separate from the group. As I adjusted my zipper, I subtlety faded behind the last row of people gathered in the circle while simultaneously executing a quarter turn. Suddenly, it was slightly questionable as to whether I had ever been part of the class listening to workout instructions; perhaps I was merely an interested bystander.

Candy hearts showing phrases Move with purpose. This tricky bit involves thinking on your feet. Pausing to ponder options attracts attention, signaling to others that help is required. If you’re going to dither, you might as well yell, “I need a partner!”—bringing Cheerful Extrovert to the rescue. I strode purposefully, as though making my way to an alternative workout. Which, of course, I was.

Candy hearts showing phrases Employ cheerful execution. Key to having no one pay one iota of attention to your obvious lack of partner is to appear blissfully content at not participating. When whatever you are doing is obviously satisfying, you virtually fade into the sunset. I walked briskly, counterclockwise to the group, while serenely soaking up the scenery surrounding the track.

It worked. I dodged the dreaded partner bullet, spent an hour moving, and enjoyed the company of others. From a distance.

Which is just how this introvert liked it.

(Visited 64 times, 1 visits today)

Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

0 thoughts on “An Introvert’s Guide to Escaping the Dreaded Partner Workout

  1. You have hit the nail on the head with this step by step guide of avoiding the partner workout. I absolutely HATE it and it takes all of my self-control and self-talk in my head to get me to do it, all of the while hating it. Crossfit is possibly worse, because you\’re bound to get the overachiever who wants to lift heavier, can actually do the pull-ups and toes to bar, and moves at the light of speed through it all, so I feel like a total slacker-loser. It\’s ugly. In the future, I will be looking intently at my zipper and slowly walking away to read the rower directions – thanks for the tip 😉

    1. You\’re welcome! In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that I can also be the Cheery Extrovert who wants to welcome everyone. But more often, I\’m checking out the rower with you. Good luck!

  2. Oh, how I soooooooo relate to this! I had a moment last week -at Project Austin boot camp – when there was a partner workout segment, and I didn\’t want a partner. I DID get a partner and it worked out fine, but sometimes it doesn\’t.

    Have a great day, Leah, and I hope to see you soon.


    Kathryn L. Turpin 512.441.1411 (O) 512.423.2575 (M) Sent from my iPad so please excuse misspellings


    1. Perhaps we will all know each other now when we fiddle with our zippers. We can be each other\’s partners! \”Hi, I see you\’re an introvert too…do you want to pretend to be partners with me?\”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.