The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Feb. 17, 2022

MTV's The Challenge Host TJ Lavin On How To Create Your Own Luck

MTV's The Challenge Host TJ Lavin On How To Create Your Own Luck

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TJ Lavin (@tjlavin) is a professional BMX rider and the host of "The Challenge" and "Real World/Road Rules Challenge" on MTV. He joins Chris Van Vliet at the Blue Wire Studios at Wynn Las Vegas to talk about how he went from X Games athlete to TV host, his serious BMX crash that left him in a coma, how he feels he would do as a competitor on The Challenge, why he feels he's the luckiest guy on earth and much more!


When do you feel like you made the identity shift from BMX rider to TV host?

“Probably this year. I swear to God I was a BMX rider until I got hurt really badly in 2010. After that, I was still trying to be a BMX rider, but there is no way, you just can’t compete with those dudes. If you have a year and a half off from a head injury, it’s impossible to catch up, especially at my age. I was 33 when I got the injury, so you have to be really good to even come close.”

Were you nervous to step back on a bike after the injury?

“Oh yeah absolutely. I still am, I don’t ride BMX anymore, I just don’t want the injuries anymore. At some point you are like dude, it’s not worth it, I don’t want the bones to be outside of my body anymore. I once broke the bones so bad that I was like this is ridiculous, that was really dumb.”

But in the profession you are in, there is a risk of breaking bones.

“Oh sure and I have broken a lot of bones. I have a lot of metal in my body too and I am cool with that. But I am more physically fit than I have ever been and I am 45 years old. I feel great and more healthy, it’s a good place to be. Also I snowboard a little bit here and there, but afterwards I’m like dang that was scary.”

I feel like everyone reaches that age where they realize that they are not invincible.

“Yeah mine was 43. I bashed my head open at 41 and had multiple stitches and staples though. One handlebar went into the ground and the other went through my helmet and into it. It was gnarly like a fillet fish, that’s not a good look!”

How many bones have you broken?

“I have no idea. I have broken my wrist 6 times, 3 each. But I remember thinking that wrists are crap, I don’t know who built them but they are just terrible.”

What was the most painful one?

“Oh the leg injury for sure. The brain injury was nothing compared to the leg. It was a compound fracture of the fibula and tibia, and they went into the dirt, that is the bad part. When the bone hits the air, it’s a different level of pain. Broken wrist? I just go to the hospital with a frozen bean burrito, it was nothing. There are some amazing doctors here in Vegas, all the screws and plates. I am lucky that it wasn’t worse. With all the scars, I’m lucky that they want me on TV.”

Well now you are on TV and you can’t think about The Challenge without thinking about you.

“Thank you. So I was in Trinidad and Tobago, I remember sitting on the plane and thinking this is very scary. There is a dude with a cowboy hat on and he must be cast or something, he was actually in the crew actually. But I was like well who is on the show and who is not? We get there, load into a bus and we get to the hotel, I get a sick room. The next day, and I am never late, I take pride in punctuality. It’s raining in Trinidad, I get given a 3 page script and am told to learn it. I study the script and there is no way I can memorize it. So I read it and explained it in my terms, how to play the game, who is who, what is what… Those bullet points were memorized and spat out, no live read, straight to tape. I don’t think I have ever watched it, but I remember it all like it was yesterday.”

So how long does a season take?

“For a season of the flagship Challenge show, it takes about 10 weeks. I get these experiences and it’s crazy. I have been in over 50 countries, and to live in 20.”

You’ve said that you are the luckiest person alive, why do you feel that way?

“My life is just crazy. I have so many stories of luck that it is not even funny. Despite being in vegas, the luckiest city in the world, nobody can say where they are born, I was a lucky kid right out of the gate. My luck is insane right away from that, I am so thankful for that.”

You can’t control where you are born, but some of the other things that have happened you can control.

“Well preparation meets opportunity, that is luck. Well that is normally luck. I had to practice my bike for hours a day and then went on to win the contests, which was a deal maker. I ride bicycles for a living, that is insane!”

There is also the luck of the timing of the X Games.

“If it was 5 years earlier, I wouldn’t be here. My buddy was born 5 years earlier than me, so he was at the tail end when the X Games came around. But having won it a few times, there is no way I would be winning it if I wasn’t in the right place, right time at the right age.”

In another aspect of luck, you are lucky to be here with all the injuries.

“Just from the head injuries alone I am the luckiest person in the world.”

You were in a coma for 2 weeks?

“Yeah, 2 weeks. When you are in that and come out, it is a different level of luck. But when you try and get out of bed and you crash on the floor, everyone freaks out but I am better.”

What do you remember from the crash?

“I remember the day of thinking that I am going down. For a fact I was like dude, someone is coming for me and I was so scared. I knew that I should not ride, but I did. But I have done it so many times before and slammed, but it was cool. In my first double flip I did on my BMX, I was getting ready to ride down and felt like it might be the last time I could feel my feet. But I dropped in and just pedalled. Looking back it was stupid to try this, it took a lot of balls. But if you’re gonna be dumb you’ve got to be tough.”

So the next thing you remember is waking up in the hospital?

“Yeah. I remember squeezing my girlfriend’s hand because I couldn’t feel much after the crash. That I do remember. If you squeeze the hand 3 times it’s like ‘I love you.’ She then squeezed my hand 4 times like ‘I love you too.’ But it didn’t feel like 2 weeks, it just felt like I went to sleep and woke up. One of my first thoughts was man this is going to be expensive.”

Do you think you can create your own luck?

“I don’t think you can 100%. I think you need help. If you don’t believe you deserve it, then it’s never going to happen. You have to try, luck will not find you. But at the same time, you can’t be cocky or think there is no such thing as right place, right time.” 

What do you think makes a great Challenge competitor?

“If you are grounded, then that’s the key. But you have to have great athletics and agility. I think that agile dudes are better than the buff meatheads. If you don’t have agility, a lot of things will get you smoked.”

How do you think you would do in the Challenge?

“I think I would be great until we get to the eating portion. I would try but I would just throw up and it would suck. If we got to do a final challenge with no eating, I could kill it. I am competitive and run 5k every day, sometimes in flip flops and jeans.”   

I end every interview talking about gratitude. What are 3 things in your life that you are grateful for?

"My beautiful wife, my daughter and my dog, that's all one. Also all the free time and music."

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