How Joe De Sena Found a Kindred Spirit in Radio Host Johnjay Van Es

How Joe De Sena Found a Kindred Spirit in Radio Host Johnjay Van Es
Presented by Spartan Training®

Back in 2007, Johnjay Van Es' father died of a heart attack. Naturally, the sudden death shook him and, frankly, scared the living hell out of him. The father of three, who hosts a popular radio show in Phoenix, decided at that very moment that it was time to get healthy. One-hundred pounds overweight at the time, he dedicated himself to health and wellness. His new mission in life was to live for as long as humanly possible.

In his quest to get healthy and shed weight, he discovered Bikram Yoga and became fanatical about it. He dropped 100 pounds and, in the process, completely turned his life around. 

Fast forward 15 years, to 2022, and Van Es is just as obsessed, if not more so, with health and wellness. He keeps himself in excellent shape, still practices yoga religiously, and is meticulous about what goes into his body. But when his sister encouraged him to do a Spartan race with him in Anaheim, that was a bridge too far. "You're off your rocker," Van Es remembers telling his sister, rejecting the invitation to run with her.

"You're Gonna Do a SPARTAN Race?"

In Van Es' defense, he was a bit banged up at the time. He had just played in a celebrity softball game with some of the most talented athletes on Earth, including Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker, three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., future Hall of Famers Chris Paul and Larry Fitzgerald, and Dallas Mavericks center JaVale McGee. In the seventh inning of the charity game, as he was running from first base to second, Van Es' hamstring gave out. He was in terrible pain.

"I hurt myself playing softball running from first base to second base," the Johnjay & Rich Show co-host told his sister, "and you're gonna do a Spartan race? That's no joke!"

Though he didn't run the race with his sister, he decided that he wanted to document her progress on his social media accounts. In his pursuit of a press pass to grab some footage, he stumbled upon Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena's Instagram page. He was instantly hooked. He felt an instant kinship with Joe: his message, his vision, his philosophies, his routine, his determination to change 100 million lives through health and wellness. Van Es shot him a direct message, requesting press access, and De Sena responded immediately, as he's famously known for doing. The CEO granted him access, of course, and the radio host offered to have him on his radio show and podcast. Immediately intrigued by Van Es' story of how he completely turned his life around, De Sena agreed and flew to Phoenix on August 31st to the interview.

De Sena hardly ever goes out of his way to do podcasts or interviews, especially if he has to cross the country to record them, but he felt compelled to do this one, and he knew within minutes of meeting Van Es that he'd made the right decision. They clicked immediately and had a spirited conversation for over an hour about everything from stem cell injections to cold plunges to intermittent fasting to kung fu. 

Joe Issues Johnjay a Challenge (Because That's What He Does)

Towards the end of the podcast, De Sena challenged Van Es and his morning radio crew to run the upcoming Spartan race at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 19-20. Additionally, he promised to comp 300 tickets to listeners. (If you're interested in running with the Johnjay & Rich Show for free, send a direct message to their Instagram page. Van Es, still recovering from his injury, is undecided if he'll run the course. But Payton Whitmore, who works on the show, has already begun training.)

Following the radio spot and podcast, De Sena was in desperate need of a haircut, so his new pal hooked him up with his personal barber, Israel. Van Es decided to join Joe in the barbershop, to get his hair cut as well. When De Sena realized he didn't have any cash on him — the barbershop was cash-only — Van Es gracefully picked up the tab for him. It was a fitting end to a badass day of bonding. 

To listen to the highly entertaining podcast in its entirety, click the player below.