Spartan Race CEO and founder Joe De Sena’s latest book The Spartan Way: Eat Better. Train Better. Live Better. Be Better Better outlines the 10 principles aimed at helping us gain endurance in the marathon of life. During tough times and harried days, “you tend to just get caught up,” De Sena says.
“And then you’re eating poorly. You’re not training. It starts a downward spiral,” he continues. “The message with all our books and certainly this book is to inspire and create a road map and some tools so that doesn’t happen. Because at the end of the day, we should outlive our competition. We should have a health span, not a life span. We should be healthy right up until the time we’re dead.”
We caught up with De Sena and talked about the benefits of stepping out of our comfort zone and how to live like Spartans.
M&P: Why should we practice acts of “manufactured adversity,” such as enduring ice-cold showers and doing 300 burpees in the morning?
JDS: There’s a bunch of physiological benefits, mental and physical benefits, to building your obstacle immunity for this ability to deal with adversity or resistance when it comes — because it’s going to come. It comes for all of us. Nobody gets out alive. There’s science behind taking cold showers, doing burpees or sweating. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to create all these dopamine pathways in your brain. You’re going to be harder to kill. You’re going to be more inspiring to your friends and family. You’re going to find people who are like-minded to be around you. You’re going to have better habits. You’re going to have probably more muscle and less fat. You’re not going to lose [your cool]. You’ll probably be more likely to stay in relationships. The sex is going to be better. The benefits are endless.
M&P: How does getting out of our comfort zone help us find our way to the Spartan virtue of self-awareness?
JDS: By getting out of your comfort zone and trying unique things and challenging yourself and pushing, one of the benefits you’re going to get is an open mind — an ability to try new things, to question things. I bet that aside from the food addictions or just being lazy or not being able to delay gratification, the No. 1 reason people have a poor diet is because that’s what they have. That’s what they do, and they know what they do. They just continue to repeat those habits over and over and over. A lot of people don’t change anything in their life because they do what they know. My mother was very open-minded in the ’70s, and she got into yoga, meditation and health food. She was considered crazy by myself and others — but the gift that she gave my sister and me was an open mind.
M&P: What are some key lifestyle habits that will help us live like Spartans?
JDS: Eat as many plant-based raw fruits and vegetable meals you can have per day. I’ve done raw fruits and vegetables for periods of time in my life — you start to not be interested in those [unhealthy] foods. Your body starts to turn off those switches that have you chasing those foods. And try going for a run without having access to food for three or four hours. I try to fast the last three days of every month. I try to fast anytime I fly anywhere — I try not to eat. Also, can you sweat every single morning, seven days a week? I view sweating as starting the car. You can turn a key in a car and it turns over, but it hasn’t started yet. I feel like my day hasn’t started until I sweat and get that giant gland, the skin, to operate and work. And can you stay away from the alcohol? As far as I’m concerned, there’s a lot of pseudoscience out there that you should drink some alcohol every day, some beer, this and that. Baloney. I will say you probably get some benefits because it relaxes you. We’re all so tense. But maybe you can do that through meditation.