For Kayla Blood, it didn't matter if the competition was a boy or a girl. If you were going to compete against them, their attitude was to be the best. This mindset, picked up during youth athletics, continued during her time in the Louisiana National Guard and throughout her MMA career, and now serves as the driver of the Soldier Fortune Monster Jam Truck.
In a traditionally male-dominated sport like Monster Jam, Kayla Blood is one of the women helping the next generation of competitive girls realize there's nothing they can't do. After seven years in the Triple Threat series and running in smaller arenas, she's now competing in the Stadium series.
Muscle & Fitness caught up with Kayla Blood to talk about her freshman year in Stadium Series, the similarities between boarding the Octagon and buckled up in the Monster Jam Truck, and how they combine motherhood, work and helping create a path for the next generation of girls.
Monster Jam Triple Threat
If you're on a bigger floor in bigger venues, you're going to have longer freestyles. We're going from 60-second freestyles in arenas to 2-minute freestyles in stadiums. When you freestyle in stadiums it's no joke at all because you're flying higher and it's just a lot of chaos to control. Two minutes after you finish your run, you can feel it because you're breathing heavily and the adrenaline is pumping. Besides that, it's just the wear and tear on your body after such a long time. You get spun around in these smaller arenas, but in stadiums you get 30 feet of air in these Monster Jam trucks on the stadium floor so you can feel it in your neck muscles by the end of the weekend.
You've got to find what you're more comfortable with - whether that's the neck braces or the helmet. Everything has to fit really well in the Monster Jam Truck and to be honest we've gotten better at that than before. We have so much more safety gear keeping us in our seats. Our seats are designed specifically for us, so it feels like you're in your own car seat. When you get in there, buckle up as tight as you can. I take deep breaths in and out and just push myself down. Even that is sometimes not enough. You will find that you have to try a little harder. I'll try to get in a bit before my freestyle because I know I'll have to push a little harder once my seat settles. Then it's rock 'n' roll time. We can do the craziest things, have the craziest accidents, and walk away with a smile on our face. They can do massage and other things to help, but I'm pretty tough and busy so I don't have the time to do that as often as I'd like. Otherwise, I like to take collagen because it's great for the joints and regeneration.
Kayla Blood studies at the seat of her pants
Every time you get into these Monster Jam Trucks and participate in different competitions, you will learn something new and feel more comfortable. Every year you may get a whole new chassis and it's a whole new ball game for you and your Crew Chief to get together to learn together. You should be on the right track by the second or third event. The rest of the season, you let your truck dial in, and then the fun really begins. I've been driving for seven years now and when I get seat time, I feel a lot better controlling the truck in a stadium. You have no limits or jumbotrons to worry about. I love it and it was fun to drive, drift the truck around and whip it through corners without having to worry about all those things. It takes a bit of skill and a bit of luck.
Courtesy of Feld Entertainment, Inc.
To be the best you have to beat the best
I grew up a tomboy, racer and always trying to be the best no matter what. I grew up on the track and played other sports. My coaches always taught me that if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. I ran track practice against the guys and played basketball against the guys. We learned at a very early age that no matter if there are men out there, we're going to go out there and compete just as hard as they do. To be on this stage now is great. We're able to successfully show all the little girls out there that it's possible, and we're even changing the perspective of non-believers on women in motorsport. Seeing is believing, and seeing our success means more than anything else.
I've been in MMA for quite a while, training with guys. I was in the military with a bunch of guys, and I'm just used to it. I think these experiences shaped me and made me very brave and confident for what I'm doing now. You have to believe in yourself to get out there and drive a Monster Jam Truck. Let's face it, women experience a lot of hate and negativity when we do this sport. Every time we're out on track all eyes are on us and unless we're having the best of luck I feel like it's always a bit harder for us compared to the men. But we're out there, learning every opportunity we get, like everyone else. They will have great moments and bad moments, but we will keep pushing forward.
Pioneering a new way
I had no one to look up to and I had to overcome many things in my youth. I never thought I would be in this position to do what I am today and it literally just happened because I didn't give up. Every time I fell, there was always something inside me that said keep going. I'll have these little girls come to me when we have the pit parties before our events - some of the things they say to me and how much it means to them - you don't realize how many little eyes are on you or how many people inspire you. Sometimes I want to cry because you think you're having a bad day and feel like you can't drive some days and that's when this little girl comes up to you and tells you about this amazing time she's made you has watched drive like you are their favorite driver and those are the things that motivate you to keep going. Again, seeing is believing. Every one of these women in Monster Jam is talented and we're all winners and we beat the boys and prove it. When I win my freestyle runs, I get on my truck and do push-ups and the girls go crazy. I only do it for her.
MMA vs Motorsports
Just before you go in the cage you have to know your opponent and you honestly don't know if you're about to whip your butt or if you're going to whip someone's butt and that's like going into motorsport. When you drive those 12,000 pound trucks, you never know what's going to happen. You don't know if you're going to have an insane accident or if you're going to do something amazing. The nerves are always there and you just have to work your way through them. You might end up a little punch drunk, but it's great. I've been hyper-competitive my entire life and my life would be pretty boring if it weren't.
Courtesy of Feld Entertainment, Inc.
How Kayla Blood got into Monster Jam form
In motorsport, safety comes first. Whenever it comes to your body, that's number one. Some drivers in motorsport don't really believe in training, but it only makes you stronger when it comes to taking knocks and punches. I myself have recently started an individualized diet where I make sure I'm getting my vitamins and supplements. You want to give back to your body what it can no longer produce. If you don't take care of your body, it becomes harder to recover from injuries. Exercising also helps mentally because whenever you are mentally strong you feel confident because you got the job done and you are at the level you need to be.
I like to run because I'm a runner. If I can make it to a track, I'll do some 400s and sprint some 100s. I also like long distance running, so that's what I do. To be honest, I've never worked out so much in the gym that I felt confident enough to go in and know what I needed to do. I have a friend I'm going with who will help me through some workouts. I like to focus more on my lower body and abs because you need your legs to accelerate. If you're strapped into the truck for a while, you can feel it too. I just try to be ready for anything. It's kind of easier to go to the gym when I'm on the road because of all the things I juggle at home. I like coming to the event on Thursday because I can go to the gym and everything I need is right there.
Kayla Blood balances big trucks and babies
Of course, the child comes first. Whenever I'm home I try to give him all the attention he needs. We have a very close family and we do motocross and lots of activities together. It's an everyday thing. If he is at school, I get up in the morning, take him to school and go straight to work. Maybe sometimes I come to practice and after that it's football practice and I come home to do it again the next day. It's something you get used to and it becomes a routine. I would say don't think about it too much and just know what the important things in your life are. When my family is taken care of, everything else falls into place.
Follow Kayla Blood on Instagram @kaylabloodgranger.