Meet Tough Mudder Coach Kyle "T Mud" Railton
Interested in doing a Tough Mudder one day? Curious what the experience is like and how to train your body to survive all the obstacles? There may be no better person to give you a run down on all things “Tough Mudder” than Coach T Mud, a.k.a. Kyle Railton.
The Tough Mudder veteran, DJ, and MC’s unique blend of over-the-top, hyper-encouragement — along with super-tight shorts and a sumptuous ‘stache — has made him one of the most memorable Mudder icons. We talked to Kyle about his Tough Mudder experiences, what makes him tick, and how to get some of his mud madness to rub off on us.
Get training for your own obstacle course race with T-MINUS 30! This 30-day home workout program will help you become Strong, Lean, and Tough in only 30 minutes a day! Sign up for free to get started.
Openfit: You grew up in Tahoe. Were you always active growing up?
Railton: My father had a concession at Alpine Meadows, which is a ski area, so I grew up ski racing, playing sports, and racing dirt bikes. But Tahoe was also a party town. So when I lost my father around age 26, that ramped up my partying, just not dealing with it correctly. It was becoming more of an issue than fun.
Then I met my girlfriend — now my wife — and I quit drinking on my 29th birthday. My last drink was a Long Island iced tea at an Applebee’s in Florida, because I figured that was a good bang for my buck. After that, I rekindled my love for motorcycle racing and completed a 100-mile desert race.
How did you end up working in the fitness field?
After racing, I was always so tired, I knew I needed to figure out how out to get fit again. A friend told me about CrossFit, and in 2010 I got certified as a trainer at my gym. That year, I did the second Tough Mudder ever in Bear Valley.
What led to becoming a Tough Mudder coach?
Tough Mudder reached out to our gym looking for somebody to do warm-ups before the event. The owner of my gym had dressed up like a coach for Halloween, so before my tryout, I said, “Dude, do you still have that costume?” I figured I’d go all out for fun.
But that morning at 7:30 a.m., freezing cold in Tahoe, I was suddenly super self-conscious. I went for it anyway: I took off my sweatpants to reveal my short-shorts and knee-high socks, along with sunglasses and a sweatband. I had Diplo playing, just goofing off and having the best time.
The second half of the day they made it mandatory that you had to go through my area. That’s how I became Coach T Mud, a.k.a. Theodore Mudhoney.
What do you think people need most to prepare for a Tough Mudder?
You don’t need all the fancy stuff — fancy stuff collects dust just like anything else. Just find something you enjoy doing. Racing motorcycles, I realized if you’re too serious and tense, you don’t perform well; if your body is loose and you’re laughing, the faster you’re going. To me, the biggest goal in life is fun. We’re here for 80 or 90 years, right? I’d like to spend as much of it with a smile on my face.
Have you ever had trouble finishing a Tough Mudder yourself?
The first time I did a 24-hour Tough Mudder, I was five hours in, exhausted and freezing, and already thinking about the hot showers at the end. But there were 19 more hours! It seemed impossible.
So I started naming parts of the course positively. Like “Here’s Victory Hill.” And when my buddy and I would get to the top, we’d scream out loud and bring our attitude back up. I learned it’s not about the finish line. Just get to that next obstacle.
You also DJ some Tough Mudder events — how’d that happen?!
When I was, like, 17, I was snowboarding in Tahoe and a bunch of kids from Detroit invited me to their apartment to play techno records. I started goofing around and they’re like, “You’re good. You should move to Detroit with us.”
At the time, I was flipping burgers at a ski area to get a free ski pass, so I moved to Detroit to learn how to become a techno DJ. Then I moved to London, Belgium, and New Zealand. So when Tough Mudder said they wanted to turn the warm-ups into a festival vibe, I was ready.
People say, “Opportunities come once in a lifetime.” No. Opportunities come, like, 35 times a day! You’ve just got to keep your mind open and be willing to say yes.
What are your Mudder music go-tos to get amped up?
Electronic dance music, house music, electro-house. Like Major Lazer and Tiësto.
How do you eat to stay strong?
A lot of vegetables, as much real food as possible, and less meat. When I wake up, the first thing I do is drink a big glass of water before I have coffee and then I have a balanced breakfast. I’ll do a huge pile of cauliflower rice with eggs and make it into a fried rice with salsa. People say, “Oh, I’m not willing to sacrifice alcohol or Doritos to feel better.” And I’m like, “I’m not willing to sacrifice feeling good to drink alcohol or eat Doritos.”
What are your workouts generally like?
My wife and I work out at 6 a.m. We do a lot of lunging, squatting, and laterals. This morning, we ran 500 meters, did 20 weighted step-ups and 20 pull-ups. We did that three times. And then I’ve also got Atlas bags for strong man stuff and I do a ton of kettlebells.
Since we’ve been quarantined, a lot of people are missing the gym. Do you feel you can get the same results from an at-home workout?
Look, it’s going to be different. But I do think we can all stay plenty fit. I’ve squatted my dog. I’ve overhead-squatted my vacuum cleaner. I’ve done inverted push-ups off of the arm of my couch. We’ve done bear crawls in the kitchen. I’ve found myself drenched with sweat and I’m having a blast.
What fitness challenge are you proudest to have accomplished, and what challenge is still ahead of you?
The biggest challenge has been the 24-hour Tough Mudders. And the challenge ahead is actually what we’re dealing with right now [i.e. the coronavirus pandemic]: I’m in my challenge, and I don’t know how long it’s going to last.
So I’m figuring out how to make every day awesome and not think about the end, because this is an endurance event. This is our 24-hour Tough Mudder. People are like, “What’s the first thing you’re going to do when this is over?” But that’s not helping. What are you going to do today that’s going to put a big fat smile on your face?