A titan in his field

“Doc Thor” recounts his time on The Titan Games, journey to sports medicine

Kaleb Redden, DO, a sports medicine specialist in Idaho, spent three weeks in January taking part in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s competitive strength show on NBC.

When Kaleb Redden, DO, created a public Instagram account two years ago, he had no dreams of it eventually playing a role in catapulting him to a successful run on a strength competition show on NBC. All he wanted to do was post genuine, evidence-based content and help potential patients get to know him.

Almost 10,000 followers later, Dr. Redden, a sports medicine specialist based in Boise, Idaho, now has a run on The Titan Games, a show designed to give “remarkable everyday men and women the opportunity to push themselves in extreme tests of strength, endurance and mental fortitude” under his belt.

“I wasn’t trying to build up a following or get famous,” he said. “But as my name and reputation became more well-known, the headhunters from NBC came across me because they were looking for people with interesting backgrounds or interests. A lot of other doctors are active, but not many are crazy meathead bodybuilders like me.”

Physical activity has been a lifelong passion of Dr. Redden’s—it’s also what led him to pursue osteopathic medicine. He entered college at Utah State University on a football scholarship with aspirations of playing professionally. Injuries and surgeries derailed that dream, but ultimately helped him discover a new path.

“In sports medicine, most of us have been involved in athletics at some point, and a lot of times we were injured ourselves,” he said. “After spending so much time in the clinic with my team physician, he became a mentor for me and helped me unlock the potential I had to become a physician.”

After making it through an initial application process with The Titan Games, Dr. Redden asked his family if they’d be supportive of him going on the show.

“My kids said: ‘if you have a chance to meet Dwayne Johnson, you’ve got to do it,'” he said.

He was then selected from an eight-hour NFL Combine-style audition in Los Angeles with other hopeful contestants. So in January 2020, he whisked his family off to the largest recording studio in the country, which is just outside of Atlanta.

From that point on, Dr. Redden was to stay on set as long as he won a sufficient number of competitions. He ended up staying through the end of production, which meant three weeks of at times intense 12-15 hour days of competitions and auxiliary filming. On the show, he was often referred to as “Doc Thor,” in part because he bears a resemblance to Chris Hemsworth.

In the final competition, aptly named Mount Olympus, he matched up against longtime NFL offensive lineman Joe Thomas, who stands 6’7″ tall and weighed well over 300 pounds in his playing days. Dr. Redden said this challenge, which you can watch at the top of the page, was by far the hardest, partially due to the difficulty of doing heavy lifting in an enclosed space filled with smoke.

“The course is full tilt, and it’s aerobic and anaerobic at the same time,” he said. “By the time I made it into the rat cage [at the 1:30 mark above], my lungs and legs were burning. Then they were just jello coming down that waterfall ledge [2:08]. … I blacked out halfway through it. You can’t see it on camera, but it’s one reason I lost.

“Carrying a 200-pound log [0:50], you think ‘okay it’s not that heavy,’ but carrying it up that steep grade and not having a handle on it is hard. Then you have those 120-pound chains [1:05], which you have to lift pretty high. I don’t remember ever doing anything that hard in my life. I was really in a lot of pain when that was over.”

Though Dr. Redden fell just short against Thomas, he said shortly afterward [4:40] that losing to an NFL great was nothing to be ashamed of. Several clips of Dr. Redden competing on the show are currently available on YouTube.

Since finishing up his work for The Titan Games, Dr. Redden said COVID-19 has forced him to find simple, yet effective ways to stay active and fit, like filling up office-style water jugs and using them as weights.

“The two main things I’ve been telling people is that you can still focus on nutrition, and you can still schedule time every week to work out,” he said. “Your access to some physical activities may be limited, but you can control what you can control. You can do blood-flow restriction lunges in a parking lot with a backpack full of books and I guarantee your legs will be smoked.”

Related reading:

DOs featured on Netflix’s Lenox Hill and NBC’s The Titan Games

Primary care sports medicine: The osteopathic approach

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