The day after the close of the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, Azadeh Boroumand took many by surprise with an announcement on her Facebook page stating that she was withdrawing from the Games competition.
“The two years of taking no rest days that got me to the Games, and the 13 years prior to CrossFit as a competitive athlete has taken its toll on me physically, mentally and emotionally,” she wrote.
Though the announcement set the CrossFit community abuzz with shock, this had been a long time coming for Boroumand, she says.
Boroumand first started competing in the Games season in 2011, where she placed seventh at the South Central Regional. By the end of the 2012 Regional, she was No. 1 in the South Central and headed to the Games.
It was then that Boroumand’s passion for CrossFit and competing began to wane.
“Going into the 2012 Games, I was exhausted and wanted the season to be over because I over trained myself to where, after the Regionals, I had nothing left — no energy, desire or passion,” she said in an interview earlier this year.
“After the Games, I ended up taking off a few weeks,” she says. “I had absolutely no desire to do a single workout, but after a couple of weeks I began to beat myself up mentally for even feeling burnt out and within two weeks, I was already back training again.”
Boroumand says as she got back into training, she began to notice injuries that worsened as she continued to train. Her hip, knees, back and shoulder sustained injuries she would work through, but it became apparent during the Open she could not and should not continue.
“When it really hit me was when my left shoulder started to hurt. It had never bothered me before. It was always the right, and now suddenly it felt even worse than my right shoulder,” she says. “I literally felt like my body was just falling apart. I wanted to cry. I really felt like I had gone from being healthy, to this.”
Her injuries became so cumbersome that she would go days in between the Open workouts without training at all, which ultimately affected not only her performance, but her outlook on CrossFit, working out and competing altogether.
“Because of these injuries, I started to not want to work out,” she says. “I mentally and emotionally just didn’t even like to work out anymore.”
After Open Workout 13.4, she seriously considered withdrawing, but didn’t want to make a rash decision. It was after 13.5 that she knew with complete certainty she had to withdraw.
“It was a hard decision. I felt like I was letting people down,” she admits.
Boroumand discussed her decision at length with her friends, other CrossFit competitors and her coach. At the end of the day, she had to ask herself why it was so important for her to continue competing when her heart was no longer in it.
“I had to ask myself why I hadn’t stopped yet, and I think a lot of the reason is because people would say to me, ‘You better make it to the Games because we’re going to come watch you,’ or ‘You better not quit,’” she recalls. “It was like I suddenly had all of these expectations on me and it became about my ego. It went from the last couple of years being about my heart wanting to do it to more of, well, this is what I’m known for and if I stop, what’s going to happen to me? It was almost as if I had defined myself as only a CrossFit competitor.”
With Boroumand’s difficult decision came peace for the 27-year-old CrossFit coach and nutrition specialist.
“When I saw all the feedback and support on my Facebook page about my decision, I started to cry,” she says. “I knew I had made the right decision, but seeing the love and outpouring of support really solidified my decision and made me think that maybe having the courage to walk away for a little bit will help someone else who may be in the same position but under too much pressure to give themself the time off they need.”
Boroumand plans to take the next year to let her body heal and then see what comes next. She is still very involved with CrossFit as a coach at CrossFit Las Cruces and giving nutrition seminars. For now, her plan is to be ready to compete in 2014.
“I just want to relax and enjoy life again. I want to rest my body and my mind so that I can go back to enjoying workouts like I used to and have that passion to compete again,” she says. “When I come back, it will be like how everybody saw me at Regionals last year. When I come back, it will be with a vengeance and with the mindset to dominate. That’s my goal.”