Spartan Up To Peak Performance with Joe De Sena – Episode 38


Today’s guest, Joe De Sena, is an entrepreneur, ultra-endurance athlete, and founder of the Spartan Race. Joe also has a new book, called Spartan Up!: A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life. Joe has a simple approach to racing and to life. He challenges you to commit, train, and get it done. Joe is passionate about getting out of your comfort zone, both in life and in a race. His approach to obstacles will have you prepared to push yourself and engage in whatever battle you face. Between business endeavors and ultra-races, Joe knows first hand what stretching yourself past your comfort zone produces. Listen in to Joe, who has been In the Arena for a long time.

A gym membership doesn’t give you motivation ~ Joe De SenaClick To Tweet

Selling Fireworks

Prior to the birth of the Spartan Race, Joe De Sena knew a lot about organized crime. He grew up focused on people who were breaking the law and making a lot of money doing so.  His first entrepreneurial adventure came when his dad got in trouble and Joe found himself selling fireworks across the border. He was learning supply and demand first-hand, as an eight year old. Joe also started cleaning pools, which grew into a business with over 750 customers. His pool job got him into construction, where he thought he was on the right road. After being encouraged to get out of construction and into Wall Street, Joe took the plunge. His business experiences, although not related to Wall Street in any obvious way, provided the courage to start his own firm in the late 90’s. Joe’s vision, from an early age, was to make money and then start a family, not the other way around. He wanted to avoid the pressure that had been on his dad.

Is your survival ever threatened?

One question Joe De Sena has received from the success of the Spartan Race is why people feel the need to test themselves. Joe began adventure racing and discovered the core of who he is. People find themselves caught up in the day to day, stressed out about things that do not matter. These adventure and endurance races move people to a place where all that matters and all they desire is food and water. There is something powerful when people get back to their roots and struggle for the things that really matter. When was the last time your own survival was threatened? Joe believes we have created a world of increased comfort, but comfort stunts growth. As humans, we were built to be tested and to grow, which does not happen watching TV and eating popcorn. An ultra endurance race provides a platform to return to our roots and the motivation to train for it. Your gym membership will not give you motivation, you have to have your neck on the line. Are you ready?

Founder of the Spartan Race, Joe De SenaClick To Tweet

The Spartan Race

What should you expect from participating in this beast of a race Joe De Sena founded? He says you should prepare to be uncomfortable and fight like an animal. You are going to war. Comfort is more dangerous than a Spartan Race, because comfortability inhibits growth. Joe speaks about the chemicals released when you sweat, when you fight to survive and when you understand the grit it takes. Joe is interrupting the cultural mission of seeking comfort. He created a race that will push you. He created a business that addresses an animal instinct we are slowing allowing to die in our culture. His story might be the motivation you need to run towards discomfort, instead of away from it.

Three hundred burpees

It all starts with starting. Joe De Sena speaks to the couch potato who signs up for a race, and to an athlete training to win it. Joe says that signing up for a race is a public commitment that provides accountability. He publicly commits to doing 300 burpees every morning. 300. And sometimes his kids join him. Yes, it is hard. No, it is not fun. But Joe knows that starting the day off engaging in an uncomfortable task, sets him up to tackle task after task. Tackling these tasks have birthed a race, now sponsored by Reebok, as well as a book. But you can’t cram success, you have to train for success. Joe’s anti-fragile approach encourages you to embrace the scary part of taking the first step Into the Arena.

Join Joe De Sena for 300 burpees every morningClick To Tweet

Outline of this great episode

  • Introduction of Joe De Sena.
  • Wanting kids to see people push through adversity.
  • Joe’s backstory, leading up to the start of Spartan.
  • The journey of Joe’s numerous entrepreneur adventures.
  • Why do we test ourselves?
  • How comfort stunts growth.
  • The Spartan Race.
  • What can someone expect from participating in a Spartan Race?
  • Exercising inside versus outside.
  • Why is comfort so dangerous for human beings, and discomfort so beneficial?
  • Commitment to the Spartan Race.
  • How do people begin to prepare themselves for an event like this?
  • Lessons learned, from a participant and a business owner.
  • 300 burpees?
  • Joe’s book, Spartan Up.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode


The theme song “Into the Arena” is written and produced by Chris Sernel. You can find it on Soundcloud

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Comfort stunts growth ~ Joe De SenaClick To Tweet
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