5 things we learnt from Joe De Sena

The former endurance sport enthusiast launched Spartan Race in 2010. This year the company will run more than 150 obstacle course races in 25 countries, with over 1 million participants.


A veteran of more than 50 ultra-distance and 14 Ironman events in one year alone, Joe De Sena is the mastermind behind Reebok Spartan Race, one of the largest obstacle course racing (OCR) companies in the world. He’s convinced that OCR events can change lives for the good, promoting healthier, more active lifestyles and building personal confidence to overcome barriers in life just as competitors overcome obstacles in races.

1. The perfect obstacle – It has got to take people to the brink of destruction mentally and physically so they are just about broken, but can then come out the other side. The human being is a very competitive creature and there is a clock inside us that really wants to beat our personal best or beat the people near us. If Spartan Race had just a fun, hand holding message, people would not push themselves to the limits. In life, all the great things you have to work for.

2. Sitting is the new smoking – I love burpees! I’m a big believer in functional movement. My fitness is very bodyweight-centric and focused on mobility. It’s great if you can do curls in a gym, but we want to see a full range of movement and to feel comfortable doing it in repetitions. The body needs to be mobile and strong. Any time you get out in nature it feels a lot better than your office or hotel. I was up at 5am today to do sprints and 50 reps of five bodyweight exercises – I try not to sit – it’s the new smoking.

3. The perfect OCR athlete – OCR demands total body strength, athleticism and mental attitude. You have to be a fast runner but we have had the fastest runners in the world participate and they could not compete with Spartans. It’s about having a wide range of skills.

4. OCR should be an Olympic sport – If curling and ping-pong are in the Olympics then Spartan Race can have its place too. OCRs test the human being the way it’s supposed to be tested. The obstacles would have to remain the same (nets of a particular size, for example) but the courses would have to change and the competitors would not know what’s coming, because that’s the way life is. Most of us get very structured about our days and we do not deal very well with bumps in the road.

5. Face up to challenges that scare you – I tend to take on challenges that I do not want to do. At some point I want to row across the Atlantic, but my kids need to be a bit older, because I might not make it.

In the UK, Reebok Spartan Race will be holding events in Wales, Manchester, Glasgow, Cambridge and London this year, spartanraceuk.uk

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