It’s so much fun when you meet a *true* badass. A Boss. There, I said it. Because they make us better people. They get it– what it takes to achieve your goals, how you can make things better for the world around you, that you can have a good, solid, full body laugh at yourself in the process. They are completely unapologetic for who they are and how they got there. And they bring the rest of us along for the ride.
That’s Azadeh Boroumand in a nutshell. She’s a mom, a wife, a role model, a Personal Trainer, a CrossFit Games competitor, a tireless advocate for true wellness. Yup, a Boss.
Spend any time in her presence and you cannot help but feel inspired. We had a chance to chat with Azadeh (who brought along her delicious daughter Zenaidah) at Impact Kitchen recently so that we could learn more about her journey, why she’s so passionate about true wellness and how she’s making sure that her daughter is a next-gen leader.
Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up?
I was born in Iran, and my family came to Canada in 1988 as political refugees. I was 3. The Islamic Revolution had taken place in 1979, and Iran became a far more restrictive society overnight, to women in particular. We were expected to be submissive, fully covered up, and not be a ‘threat’ to men. My parents saw what was happening, and they decided that they didn’t want their children raised in that environment. They were both so unbelievably brave, and we escaped. We moved to Red Deer, Alberta, which is where I grew up. Let’s just say, being a Persian family in central Alberta, we stood out a little.
I was really into sports, and realized early on that I had a talent. I left home at 17 to play Division 1 volleyball at University of Pittsburgh and got my degree in Marketing Communications & Languages.
What impact did those early years have on how you live your life today?
My parents risked everything by escaping to Canada, and they did it so that we could have a better life and have opportunities that especially my sisters & I would just simply not have had had we stayed. I never forget just how lucky I am that my parents were so brave, and that it’s because of them that I had the chance to be educated and have a career and life that I love. It’s a huge reason that I am the way I am today.
My father cheered me on to pursue sports, even though that’s not in any way a traditional activity (never mind a job) for a Persian woman. He and my mother pushed my siblings and me to be educated. Education was power. Education made sure that we’d never need to rely on anyone to take care of us. With an education we could do anything.
I’m 32 now and I have a daughter, and I can hold my head high and be a strong woman because of my experiences growing up. And I can make sure that I’m teaching my daughter to do the same.
Your bio talks about ‘overall wellness’. What does that mean to you?
Health and fitness used to just mean the physical side of it to me for the longest time. I was basically a meathead- put more weight on the bar, go faster, push harder… that’s all I focused on. The more ridiculously intense the workout, the better.
I’ve come to understand that true wellness is more about movement that is relative to the person that’s doing the moving. Whatever works for your individual needs to reach your individual goals is your recipe for wellness. To me, wellness is actually more about the composite- the total- of someone’s mental, emotional, physical and social approach to life. It’s about paying attention to each of these facets. Above all though it’s about putting yourself first and taking care of yourself first- in whatever way that works for you. Sometimes that’ll be working out, and sometimes it’ll be a pedi.
It’s a health & longevity approach.
Why personal training? What inspired you to get you started down that road?
It kind of just happened, but I say that lightly because I actually feel like things don’t just happen per se. The direction we go in our lives is because we were supposed to.
I was always into sports. I realized early that not only did I love it but I had a talent there. It paid for my education and opened doors for me.
After my volleyball career at University of Pittsburgh, I went on to coach University of Texas El Paso. It was an interesting time for me because I knew that I had the technical skills to coach, but I still had a lot of maturing to do and wasn’t quite ready with the soft skills. You know, the game changers. I didn’t yet understand how to channel my knowledge & passion as an athlete into being able to help others perform their best.
I discovered CrossFit after being at U of Texas, and I thought wow- I can actually be a CrossFit competitive athlete. It was as though a whole new world had opened up for me. I qualified for the 2012 CrossFit Games as an individual, won my division, and broke 5 world records that year. [Editor’s note- yup… you read that right. Like we said, a badass]. As I continued to compete, I also started doing more work within the CrossFit community. I did some work with CrossFit HQ commentating, and eventually pursued my Level 1 and Level 2 coaching credentials.
Yes I’m a coach, but more than that, I’m a people person. That’s my true skill and it’s a powerful combo. I help people elevate themselves through their fitness by leveraging how they learn, and understanding what makes them tick. I read the person, explore their learning style, who they are and adapt how I coach them accordingly.
Here I am now almost 10 years later and I don’t feel like I’ve mastered it (I actually don’t think you ever get to fully mastering it) but I do know that it’s my passion. I love showing up to work every day and it’s so wonderful seeing at the end of the hour just how through movement I’m able to make better more confident, better spoken humans. People realize that wow- I am powerful, wow I am capable. It’s so empowering to me to know that that’s what I do for a living.
My mission is to elevate and empower people through who I am as a person, and through fitness.
Has becoming a mom changed how you approach your training philosophy- either for your own personal training, or how you work with clients?
I think that one thing we can all agree with is that with age, we become wiser. Part of that journey for me was learning to manage my emotions.
I’ve always been a passionate personality. When I was younger, though, I really struggled with knowing how to express my emotions to others in a productive way. I really take on the emotions of others and I would get upset and not know how to deal with that- I would internalize too much. And if I had an athlete or client who was struggling, I’d see that first as a personal failure which would sometimes manifest – unintentionally – as me looking upset or disappointed, which frankly didn’t help them get over their hurdle.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to feel and own my emotions without getting too attached to them. I can learn from them, but they don’t cripple me the way that they used to. I don’t take home other people’s emotions any more. It’s been a pretty profound change that’s only made me better as a person.
One thing I wanted to make sure when bringing another person into this world is that I’m raising a human that’s genuinely going to make an impact. I want my daughter to be a woman who stands for something, is unapologetically herself, who’s confident and knows how to draw boundaries to ensure that she’s always putting herself first while also giving to others. Walk with confidence.
Being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding. It’s made me much more in tune with this life around us. I used to be more black & white in how I viewed people, and especially how they were treating me. I look at people differently now, with far more compassion, empathy and patience. My first thought now when I look at those around me is that they too at one point were a child, and who knows what their upbringing was, and how it shaped them?
What’s the moment that you’re the most proud of as a Personal Trainer?
So hard to point to just one. I used to think that I was happy when somebody hit a specific number in the gym- like a specific number on the barbell, or got a faster time. Now I think that the simple fact that people trust me enough to spend an hour with me – sometimes 3, 4 or even more a week- and that I become their person that makes them feel better about their day, that’s the most rewarding thing for me. I’m honoured.
Look, I’m flawed. I definitely have things that I can do better. But I think what makes people great is not the absence of fears or problems. It’s how we deal with those things. I feel like I’ve arrived at a place in my life where those problems don’t hinder me like they used to when I was younger. I’ve gotten much better at moving myself through them and the fact that people come to me and trust me to help them reach their goals and be better is so important to me.
Finish this sentence – people who know me best would describe me as …?
Very silly. I’m very goofy, and I feel like I’m unapologetically goofy. I’m fun, happy go lucky, crazy person.
I really care, almost too much sometimes. I take my clients’ goals so seriously, and it becomes part of my personal mission to help them reach those goals. I want them to succeed as much as they want to.
I think it shows in how I communicate with my clients too. I’m always in contact with them even outside class or our sessions- calling, texting- to see how they are doing, and making sure that they’re on track. I take that relationship really seriously. I’m invested.
My clients know that I’ve got their back.
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
I will speak my mind when I need to, which means that it’s not always rainbows & butterflies when it comes out of my mouth. Few people see this side of me (though certainly my husband does from time to time!). Most of my clients & day to day acquaintances see me as very happy, very friendly, very easygoing. But, when I need to draw that line and say it’s not gonna happen- and become that strong Persian woman- I do. I can be sassy if I need to be, and I’m not afraid to say no when I need to.
You’re on a desert island – what five things would you want with you?
Tweezers [laughing]! I’m Persian! Gotta have the tweezers. Chapstick, my family, dental floss and water. Yup, that should do it.
Five people dead or alive you would want at your dinner party?
Shira [Editor’s note- I didn’t even have to bribe her! Lol], my husband, my daughter, my closest friend Maria (who’s also Zenaidah’s Godmother), and my sister. It would be a nice, authentic, personal dinner.
What advice would you give your 18 year old self?
Stop being so stubborn! Not everyone that’s trying to help you is trying to control you. That’s the biggest thing for me. Being strong does have an element of being stubborn but you need to find the balance, and not be stubborn to the point of self-sabotaging. By the time I realized what I was doing, I stopped allowing myself to self-sabotage and started allowing myself to get help. And by doing that, it let me be happy.