For CrossFit Athletes Stacie Tovar and Julie Foucher, Retirement Is Just the Beginning
All good things must come to an end.
Stacie Tovar , eight-time CrossFit Games veteran, was aware of this as she counted down her final seconds of the Games last year. With sweat dripping on account of the two 35-pound kettlebells she held high above her head, Tovar lunged a total of 89 feet to finish her career.
Julie Foucher , four-time Games veteran, also felt the pang of good things ending when she decided in 2015 to retire from elite competition in pursuit of finishing medical school. Rupturing her Achilles tendon during the Central Regional that year certainly wasn’t part of her plan, but boy was handstand walking the floor in a boot a memorable way to close that chapter of her life.
If CrossFit taught either of these athletes anything, it was commitment. Their vigorous training and grit had sharpened their fortitude, so both knew that whatever challenge came next, they’d be ready to meet it head on.
As the sport progresses, we will continue to see fan favorites step away from the competitive spotlight as they transition into the next chapters of their lives. With 2018 Regionals on the horizon, we caught up with Tovar and Foucher to find out what it takes to emotionally commit to that decision and walk away from elite competition.
Making the Tough Decision
When you’ve climbed to the top of a mountain, people inevitably want to see how you get back down.
For Foucher, having the goal of completing med school helped ease her transition from professional athlete to fitness lover. She says that the timing around starting school was a blessing in disguise.
“I don't think I fully realized how much energy, time and stress I was putting on myself until I was done. I remember thinking, Wow, I haven't felt like this in years.”
I don't think I fully realized how much energy, time and stress I was putting on myself until I was done.
When she looks back on her final season of competitive training, and the injury that ended it abruptly, she doesn’t see the opportunity that was stripped from her. She remembers what it was like to have a community rally around her, support her, and recognize her.
“That was actually a great way to end. It’s one of those things that you look back on and say this is what it was all for.”
She admits that during her first year of retirement – only training one hour a day – she had a secret goal to still qualify for Regionals. “It helped me stay motivated just to make sure I was training regularly. I wasn’t looking at Regionals as a means to the Games anymore. I was looking at a Regionals qualification as the goal. It was a mindset shift.”
Foucher still competes for fun, but is more than happy to also participate as a fan and spectator. She draws inspiration to work harder from today’s athletes whom, more than likely, she inspired during her heyday.
As for Tovar, part of her decision to retire came after a decade of pushing herself to the point of bone spurs, inflammation and sheer exhaustion.
“I never thought I was going to be training this hard for 10 years,” she says. “That's a third of my life.”
When putting it that way, Tovar has other goals in mind. Taking on new opportunities for her business, CrossFit Omaha, played a huge role in her decision to retire. So did the prospect of eventually starting a family.
“I've always told myself that at the end of the day, when I'm a mom, I want to be a mom. I want my whole heart and soul to be with that child.”
The sacrifices female athletes make to start a family are often undiscussed. Unlike their male counterparts, women are much more likely to have shorter careers, or breaks in those careers. In Tovar’s case, she knew that by 35 she wanted to have a family.
At 33, she says, “It’s so far away, yet so close.”
“I'm still going to be that mom that hauls my kid to the gym.”
I'm still going to be that mom that hauls my kid to the gym.
If the thought of retirement conjures up images of dusty grips and forgotten trainers, think again.
“You’re still just as busy,” says Foucher, who has now matched her residency at Fairview Hospital of the Cleveland Clinic. “I think it's a byproduct of the type of people we are. We're always going to be working hard and finding something we care about. There’s always something to keep working on.”
We're always going to be working hard and finding something we care about. There’s always something to keep working on.
Tovar shared the sentiment. Though she qualified for Regionals this year, she passed on the opportunity, noting a new athlete will now get the chance to experience the competition. “As much as I'd love to compete, I will be passing up my individual qualifying spot at the Central Regional. We have other talented athletes who will take the floor instead in Nashville.”
These days, Tovar sticks to a one hour daily workout routine, taking group classes at her gym alongside her members. “There's nothing more motivating and more fun than working out with a group of people... and for only one hour!"
Tovar admits that she still gets choked up when she thinks about her decision to leave the competitive arena.
“I have the clearest picture of the lights dimming, of the crowd, of the noise, walking over to the stage – I did everything I could to soak up that moment.”
Looking back, however, Tovar appreciates just how much of an impact she had on the community, and vice versa. Her reflection is honest – a sentiment that anyone starting a new chapter in their life can find solace in.
“Wherever the sport goes, no matter how many years go by, no one can take back those eight visits to the CrossFit Games. No one can take back the memories that I have.”
Wherever the sport goes, no matter how many years go by, no one can take back those eight visits to the CrossFit Games.