Chris is a remarkable person, an elite athlete, and a true trailblazer in the world of sports. He was the first trans man to make a U.S. national team, a feat he accomplished in 2015 when he earned a spot on Team USAâs sprint duathlon team. But before he could compete, Chris had to challenge the International Olympic Committeeâs policy on trans athletes. He served as the catalyst for the eventual change in IOC rules.
The first trans athlete to ever compete at the Olympic Trials in any sport, Chris is now a 6-time member of Team USA. He was also the first trans athlete to be featured in his own Nike commercial and to appear in the ESPN Body Issue.
Chris discusses the many challenges he faced, and overcame, throughout his life. He and Kristen also touch on a number of difficult issues, including substance abuse and the prevalence of suicide in the trans youth community.
I think youâll take a lot away from this episode and we appreciate Chrisâ willingness to share his story.
4:10 – Advocating for Trans Athletes.Â âIt was a very clear, distinct choice that I made [to become an advocate for trans athletes]. I knew in 2009 when I was still participating with women that when I transitioned I would be the first. I didnât see anyone who looked like me who was participating in sports. I didnât see any trans men competing with men, which is what I wanted to do. And not just compete, I wanted to compete at a high level. I didnât want to lose my competitiveness to be my authentic self.â
7:01 – Transitioning.Â âI was terrified to come out and to start my transition because I didnât want to lose sport. It was that important to me. âŠ [But I realized] regardless of what would happen in sport, even if I couldnât play anymore, I had to transition because I quite literally would not be here on this earth if I didnât. It was truly a matter of life and death for me. Sport took a second place to my survival at that point.â
10:50 – The Breaking Point.Â Chris details some of his emotional struggles before his transition. âIt just came to a point where I said, âI canât do this anymore. I actually canât picture myself being here for my next birthday if something doesnât change.ââ
11:44 – The Difficult Path to Finding Yourself.Â âYou donât know who you are if you donât see a reflection of yourself. If thereâs no example and you donât have access to the terminology and the language to describe how youâre feeling, then how do you process that?â
14:47 – Supporting Trans Youth.Â âA lot of times we have two options: Itâs you either have a trans kid or you have a dead kid. I donât say that for shock value, I say that because the suicide statistics for the trans community are outrageous. For many of us, the thought crosses our minds that this world is not set up for us.â
21:32 – Sports and Life Lessons.Â âFor me, sport was where I found so many positive values and lessons. I think all people should have access to that. Particularly, when weâre talking about youth sports, what is the goal? Itâs to create better people. Itâs to provide young people an opportunity to move their bodies, to have enriching experiences, to connect to their peers. âŠ Instead of thinking about how we can exclude a certain group of people, how can we think about including all people?â
24:31 – Overcoming Health Challenges.Â Chris explains how he recovered from two mini-strokes in college as part of his journey to becoming an elite athlete. âI didnât think that I would reach my 25th birthday. I didnât see myself getting married. I didnât see myself having a relationship. I certainly didnât see myself here sharing my story today. There was no future for me.â
26:14 – Finding Running.Â âAfter I had these two mini strokes, I really got reset. I couldnât run a mile. I really struggled to make a recovery. I saw a Chicago marathon banner and said, âIâm going to do that.â My friends said, âYou canât run a mile! Good luck with that.â And that was really the start of this athletic journey. âŠ It was reconnecting with myself and my body.â
28:35 – Testing Your Limits.Â âWe are capable of so much more than we believe.â
31:08 – Painkiller Abuse.Â âAfter my stroke, I had a really hard time with painkillers. It wasnât consistent use, but it was definitely abuse when I was taking them. âŠ I was really, really troubled by the way that I was using painkillers when I did have them. I wasnât numbing my pain, I was numbing myÂ pain. My life pain.â
32:31 – Motivation.Â Chris explains what motivates him as an athlete, detailing aÂ New York TimesÂ article that painted him as a âmiddle of the packâ competitor. âI remain deeply offended! Every single day I woke up and thought about that. I am not going to be out-worked.â
33:50 – Using WHOOP.Â âThe best part [of WHOOP] has been my sleep. Iâm really trying to hit sleep numbers. Itâs a challenge to myself to get improved recovery. âŠ Trying to have that benchmark for sleep has been the best part of the WHOOP for me.â
36:07 – Getting Into Racewalking.Â âItâs so hard. Itâs so much harder than running. âŠ Thereâs so much that I have to think about in terms of technique and also itâs just a movement that my body is just not used to. Iâve found it to be an incredible challenge, especially as an adult beginner.â Despite picking up racewalking only a year and a half ago, Chris qualified for the Olympic trials.
37:52 – Absurd Strain Data.Â âMy average [day] strain is 20.2. âŠ I have very heavy days.â
39:03 – Tracking CBD Use.Â Chris shares what heâs learned by using theÂ WHOOP Journal, including the profound impact heâs found while using CBD. âOn the days that I take CBD, I have, on average, 1 hour and 14 more minutes of sleep than if I donât. That is probably the most mind-blowing statistic of everything that Iâve learned about myself in my training and my recovery through using WHOOP.â
41:49 – Go-To Book.Â . âItâs the book that I listen to before every single race that I do. I play this book on repeat on my way to the race. Itâs just so grounding. I recommend it to all of my athletes.â
43:05 – A Motto to Live By.Â âEvery day, you have a shot at making history.â Chris goes on to say that people should ânever limit [their] own greatness to make other people more comfortable.â
Connect with Chris onÂ Â and onÂ .