From boxing champ to locomotive engineer to fitness coach, Crys Samson has led a lot of lives. Add raising her daughter, getting sober and volunteering at a rehab facility and making content to share it all with the world, and you’re looking at one very busy, very impressive human.
TomboyX: How did you get started with boxing?
Crys Samson: I grew up in Quebec City and started boxing when I was 14. I was a very frustrated teenager and boxing really got me out of trouble. I was very disciplined and focused about it.
20 years ago, it was very uncommon to have women in a boxing gym. There was no changing room, no restroom, the guys would change in front of me. I was always the only girl. I always felt welcome though, because I was working as hard as the other boxers out there. They knew how much I loved boxing, so I always felt welcome in the gym.
I had a very good boxing career. I'm a two-time Canadian champion and former amateur World Champion. After the World Championships, I moved to Montreal to follow my dreams and pursue my boxing career. I turned pro (because there were no women in the Olympics back then, so that was my only option) and I got signed by a promoter.
Things didn't end up the way I would have liked when I got signed. I was under a “don't ask, don't tell” policy. It was very weird because I was very out, and I used to work in the lesbian bars, and my friends were all queer people, and that really became a problem. I remember one time I gave an interview to a journalist and the next day my friends were calling me saying, “what did you say? They said that you live with your boyfriend and that he supports you.” I never said that. They made that up. They also told me after my second fight that I wasn't feminine enough (and that's after making lots of efforts, trust me).
TBX: What came next, after your boxing career came to a halt?
CS: After two professional fights, I had the opportunity to start a career on the railroad. Because I’d had that kind of sour experience with the professional boxing world, I jumped on it. I totally disconnected with boxing. I wouldn't even watch fights. I stopped training. I was fed up and I wasn’t comfortable pretending to be someone I am not.
That was when I started drinking and going out and having the social life I’d never had because I had always been in the gym. At first it was just for fun, and there was a part of me that also wanted to be included at work. When you're a woman and you want to be one of the boys, you have to do the work as well as they do– and you know that you belong when they invite you for drinks after your shift. I ended up being able to drink as much, if not more than they would. I used to take pride in it. I did that for about 15 years.
I lived a very sedentary life. I would go to work, get back, and drink. That was my routine. I wouldn't even go out to happy hour because I had my daughter, so I would stay home and do my happy hour at home. It was a never ending happy hour.
I was really fed up with my life, with everything that was going on. I broke up with my ex. We had been together for about seven years and we had a daughter together. It really felt like a big failure to me. That’s when the drinking got really out of control. I was living by myself and being alone all the time, and I would get drunk and then call out sick because I would be hungover the next day and then the next day I would drink because I wasn’t working. I realized that I needed help.
When I went to therapy, we had a workshop about grief. What I realized is that I never grieved my boxing career. When I would get drunk, I would watch my old fights and keep wondering, “what if? What if I would have kept going? What if I would have done things my way? What if I didn't sign that contract?” They told me that a way for me to grieve would be to reconnect with boxing. I felt really unsure, but I thought maybe I could do coaching. So I started doing strength training classes. I would go to the gym once a week, and it was very intense. I worked a lot on myself. I learned to recognize or acknowledge how I feel, how I behave.
My therapy ended on March 13, which was the day of the first lockdown. Honestly, the pandemic has been kind of a blessing for me, because when I got out I spent a month at home with my daughter 24/7. That had never happened before, because she used to go to daycare. After a month, I was so overwhelmed with the whole thing that I decided to start jogging. That's how I started working out again. Going jogging once a week, twice a week, then three times a week. That was a really good tool for me.
I did my own workouts for about a year, and then last year in April I decided to go back to the gym. Getting back in the ring has been my goal since then. What I would really like to do is get closure, that's all I'm asking for.
TBX: What are you passionate about besides boxing and fitness?
CS: I’m very passionate about people’s stories. I did a lot of volunteering at the therapy center I went to, and I actually started working for them about a month ago. I create workouts for them. I'm really passionate about people and I want them to feel inspired by me, and I would like to create a safe space where they can feel comfortable enough to be themselves. They know that I've been through the same things and I'm not going to judge them. I work with teenagers, and even though there's a big age gap, I really connect with them.
If you were to ask me two years ago, I would say I had a lot of regrets. Now I see things from a different perspective. I went through all I had to go through. Now I see this as an opportunity to follow my dreams. That keeps me going and that keeps me disciplined and that's what keeps me excited about my day. I wake up around five in the morning, and that’s my new happy hour. I don't even set an alarm.
TBX: How did you end up being a content creator?
CS: Honestly, I didn't know what I was getting into when I started it. It was really just to promote the coaching. I wasn't on TikTok and I've never been on Instagram. Then I got a gig with Trans Boxing, so I got more followers and I spent more time on it.
I want it to be educational, but I wanted to be kind of funny and inspiring. I talk about boxing and sobriety and all the queer stuff, too, so I get a lot of different audiences. They all find a little bit of themselves in my content.
There's not a big queer community [in Quebec City], and I'm really glad I found a community on Instagram because I feel like I'm not alone. I identify as butch and there is no butch community here. It’s kind of amazing to see that I'm not the only one and there are other people that are like me.
TBX: Tell me about your relationship with clothing.
CS: When I go to work, I wear a uniform, so I can't really express myself other than wearing Doc Martens and my favorite cap. So when I'm not at work, I feel like it's very important for me to express myself and to be aligned with my identity. Two years ago, I went shopping and I saw these overalls. I thought, “are overalls still a thing? I'm too old to wear those.” But then I thought, “why not?” It’s like reconnecting with my inner child. They can be masculine or feminine.
TBX: If you were in charge of the whole world, what would you change?
CS: If I could change anything it would be the 9-to-5, Monday to Friday, five days a week. Who said that was the norm? You ask people, “do you like your job?” And they say, “it pays the bills.” It's rare to find someone who loves what they do. Those who do are very lucky. I find it awful that in order to get a job, you have to go to school and get student debt that you will pay for your whole life.
I'd make exercising accessible to all. I started creating my own workouts during the pandemic and I can do all of my conditioning from my living room. People think it's impossible and I'm crazy, but it's true. The fitness industry made people believe they have to pay hundreds of dollars monthly to reach their goals. That’s not true.
I love what I do. Sometimes it feels like I have four jobs because I have the railroad and the therapy, I have boxing and I have the content creating. Right now, everything that I'm doing makes a lot of sense. I love what I'm doing.
Follow Crys on Instagram and TikTok @Coach.Crys.