Joe De Sena’s Spartan Race Transforms Lives

It’s 5 a.m. on a frigid winter’s morning in Central Vermont. A lone, solitary figure dressed in a sweatshirt, low hikers, and warm-ups leaves a farmhouse and heads out into the backyard, which in this case, happens to be the base of a heavily wooded 3,000-ft. hill in the Green Mountains. A wool cap is seated down tight on his head, along with a headlamp, the only illumination around for miles that early in the morning. While the rest of the Eastern Time Zone remains in deep slumber, Joe De Sena, 44, founder of the Spartan Race series, begins his day with an intense vertical workout.


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Joe De Sena

From there, he’ll perform 50 burpees, which he considers the world’s most efficient exercise. The humble burpee, sort of a high intensity jumping jack and push-up, was named in the 1930s for American physiologist Royal H. Burpee. De Sena invokes his name frequently, although he’s not always complimentary.

Joe De Sena, who grew up in Queens, N.Y., has been an entrepreneur since his pre-teens. De Sena has done everything from selling fireworks at age eight, to starting a t-shirt business in high school, building a multimillion-dollar pool business in college, and creating a Wall Street trading firm. This next phase of his illustrious career centers on transforming the lives of an estimated one million obstacle racing enthusiasts who will participate in one or more of the 130 Reebok Spartan Races this year held in 17 countries.

His proudest moments are when he meets people face to face, communicates via Twitter, Facebook or email and they tell him how training for, and racing in, a Spartan Race has changed their entire outlook on life. One man lost 270 lbs. Couples have met their life partners in the mud of a Spartan obstacle race. Still others have overcome disease, physical disabilities, car accidents and the death of loved ones by challenging themselves at one of De Sena’s events.

Spartan Race drives competitors to their very limit to learn what they are capable of and sets a new frame of reference; one th ey can draw upon in the face of life’s harshest challenges. Competitors climb ropes, crawl under barbed wire, and jump over fire, as well as a host of other boot-camp-like maneuvers. Everyday disappointments and setbacks seem small when you’ve been to the other side of hell and made it back as a victor.

De Sena is a game changer, intensely passionate about making a difference when it comes to solving the crisis of childhood obesity and poor nutrition.

Personally, De Sena inspires by facing physical hardships few businessmen have ever endured. He has completed more than 50 ultramarathons (in conditions ranging from minus 30 degrees F. to 120 degrees), and 14 Ironman events, including the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon, the 140.6 mile Lake Placid Ironman, and a 100-mile Vermont trail run – all in a single week.

De Sena resides in Vermont in a hundred-year-old farmhouse with his wife and four children. His goal is to one day see obstacle racing become an official Olympic sport. Our advice? Don’t bet against it.

Joe’s message of inspiration and personal transformation makes him a popular speaker for a variety of business groups, including Pepperidge Farms, the Association of Corporate Growth (twice), Florida Venture Forum, and the independent TedX BeaconStreet.

Come this May, hundreds of thousands around the world will be able to learn the Spartan Way through De Sena’s new book, SPARTAN UP! A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; May 14, 2014; $24).

“The races, the book, the hundreds of emails I receive daily – that keeps us going every day, because it just feels like we're doing something much bigger than ourselves," De Sena says.

Joe Speaks at Workout Tour

Hundreds of companies have used Joe's Spartan Up methods to build even more successful business operations, while thousands upon thousands of individuals have used the same principles to change their lives.

Contact Spartan Up to schedule Joe to come help evolve your organization, and your people, into obstacle conquering machines.

Spartan Up! is co-written by Jeff O'Connell:

As the Editor-in-Chief of, Jeff O'Connell oversees daily content for the most heavily trafficked fitness site in the world. Previously, O'Connell served as the Editor-in-Chief of Muscle & Fitness magazine.

O'Connell is best known for his own health-and-fitness journalism. He spent three years as Executive Writer at Men's Health magazine, where he handled numerous celebrity profiles and cover stories. His feature writing has earned honorable mention in both The Best American Sports Writing and The Best American Science & Nature Writing anthologies.

O'Connell has co-written several fitness books, including the New York Times Bestseller LL Cool J's Platinum Workout and Formula 50, with 50 Cent. His first solo work, Sugar Nation, was released in July 2011 to critical acclaim and excerpted at length in the magazines of Times of London, The Weekend Australian and USA Today.

Photo of co-author Jeff O'Connell