Success Through the Struggle with Spartan Race Founder Joseph De Sena- EP025

 In Podcast

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Joseph De Sena truly lives by this unique philosophy, having moved his family from Japan to New York because things were getting too easy. His belief that life is more fruitful when you’ve struggled extends to his work as well.




Joe is the CEO and co-founder of Spartan Race, Inc, the world’s largest obstacle race and endurance brand. The Spartan lifestyle spans 35 countries and encompasses a global championship series as well as training and nutrition programs.

Joe had a lucrative career on Wall Street, but he wasn’t inspired by the work. In 2000, he got the idea to change people’s lives through endurance racing, but the events were too difficult for most and Peak was losing money. In 2010, he changed the race format and Spartan was born. Today Joe addresses the difference between Spartan and other obstacle races, how to train for a TRIFECTA, and the healthy addiction associated with Spartan racing. Learn more about Joe’s hope for the future of Spartan racing and how he seeks to help people push themselves in order to grow.

Topics Covered

[1:01] How Joe came to start Spartan racing

  • Grew up in Queens
  • Mom became interested in yoga, meditation
  • Introduced to 3100-mile race (mind stronger than body)
  • Initially did other jobs to chase money
  • In 2000, decided to start race business to change lives
  • com lost money for ten years (300-plus mile races too difficult for most)
  • Changed format, name in 2010
  • Now 1M participants in 35 countries
[4:55] The difference between Spartan race and other obstacle races

  • Authentic, athletic (nothing silly)
  • Spartan seeks to be Olympic sport
  • Consistency, competition
[6:34] The growing interest in Spartan racing

  • Feels good to be healthy, push yourself
  • Human brain changes in positive way
  • Reconnect with friends, the earth
  • Chance to feel alive
  • Triathlon is linear, ‘boring’
  • Spartan has lower bar to enter
[8:30] How to train for a TRIFECTA

  • One hour per day (for respectable time)
  • Do yoga to help prevent injury
  • Burpees, pull-ups and running
[10:17] The ideal facilities to train for Spartan

  • Any gym
  • Coach or trainer can help with motivation
  • 1,000 certified SGX coaches around the world
[12:24] The risk of injury in Spartan racing

  • Injury rates lowest in industry
  • Imagery and narrative is intimidating, so people train
  • Dangerous to go cold
[13:56] Who participates in Spartan racing

  • 71-year-old mother-in-law did Tokyo race
  • 11-year-old son did Fort Knox, 8-year-old daughter did Beast
  • All sizes and shapes of people
  • Go at own pace, do what you can
  • Can’t get through obstacle, do burpees as punishment
[14:43] How long you should train for your first Spartan race

  • At least 60 days
  • Include yoga to prevent injury
  • Run five days a week
  • Give Ali Fitness podcast a 5-star review on iTunes then email for a free copy of Spartan Fit!
[15:45] The prize money associated with Spartan racing

  • $100,000 total
  • Substantial if good, follow circuit
[16:04] The addictive nature of Spartan racing

  • Very unlikely to stop after one race
  • Average is just shy of three events
  • Most want to earn TRIFECTA
  • Healthy addiction
[16:36] Joe’s hope for the future of Spartan racing

  • Change 100M lives
  • Olympic sport
[16:58] The upcoming Spartan event in Iceland

  • Epic, 24-hour race
  • 1,000 entries (short 350 participants)
  • Email for chance at free entry
  • Will be one of hardest races (relay division alternative)
  • Most laps on five-mile course will win
[18:37] Joe’s ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’ philosophy

  • Don’t want life to be too easy
  • Moved family from Japan to New York
  • Life too easy, nothing to strive for
  • No ability to deal with adversity
  • Life more fruitful when you’ve struggled
[20:07] Joe’s unique parenting style

  • Lived on farm in Vermont
  • Hired Kung Fu master for kids who only spoke Mandarin
  • Only allowed kids to watch Mandarin-language TV
  • Moved to Singapore, enrolled in Mandarin-English school
[22:37] Joe’s tattoos

  • Mother’s name (Chinese characters) on arm
  • ‘Love’ on hip (after second date with wife)
  • About to get third, Oscar Mike Foundation
[25:20] Joe’s advice around teamwork

  • If new person doesn’t click, leader must resolve
  • Navigator is key team member

Learn More About Joseph De Sena

Spartan Website


Spartan Fit!: 30 Days. Transform Your Mind. Transform Your Body. Commit to Grit.  by Joe De Sena and John Durant

Resources Mentioned

SGX Certified Coaching

Rise of the Sufferfests Documentary

Oscar Mike Foundation




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