How Jeff Berg Convinced 30 Walmart Coworkers to Race a Spartan

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Just how long does it take to build a team of your coworkers and see them compete in a Spartan race? For Walmart employee Jeff Berg, it took less than a week to gather 30 willing competitors to sign up for their first race—but he’s still looking for more.

Berg is a trainer, motivational speaker, and Spartan veteran based in Tulsa, OK. He’s also spent the past four years as a facilitator for Walmart who travels the country training managers and supervisors for the retail giant, which employs 1.5 million people in the United States.

In early May, he optimistically sent an email to coworkers at the Walmart in Tulsa, trying to gauge interest in potentially competing in the Spartan Stadion race at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on June 22. Though he was an experienced Spartan competitor—he and his wife Courtney tried their first event years ago, and she willed her way to the finish line despite suffering a wrist injury during the race—he wasn’t sure what kind of response he would get.

But for weeks, he had been quietly speaking with his co-workers about Spartan training and what it had done for his life, helping build physical and mental stamina as well as giving him the opportunity to take on new and unfamiliar challenges with every obstacle.

The word of mouth worked. Within a week of sending the email, he had dozens of associates interested in taking on a 30-day training regimen and competing in the race in Texas. He also started receiving emails from associates and executives from offices outside Oklahoma asking for more information about Spartan and future plans for a corporate team.

walmart team pictures

“Our society doesn’t always like to do the difficult thing, so it was interesting that people responded to this,” Berg says. “People are aching for the difficult, because they know in the difficult, real life-change happens. And they’re ready for the life-change.”

Berg says that while he was somewhat surprised at how quickly his associates took to the idea of competing in a Spartan race, he knew that his own experience with the races was the best advertising he could do. He knew what the Spartan lifestyle had done for him over the years, and he wanted to share his experience with others.

“Any time a life transformation happens, we want to tell people, we want to bring them on the journey,” Berg says. “It was already something I enjoyed and that had changed certain aspects of my life, and I wanted to make sure that the people who were asking me about it could jump on board as well.”

The team Berg built is a mix of athletes, including a number of long-distance runners who have never competed in an obstacle race but are curious about the experience. Other co-workers had competed in obstacle course races in the past but had never tried their hand at Spartan.

“Spartan is different,” Berg told those co-workers. “And you’ll know why at the finish line.”

walmart team pictures spartan

The only challenge for Berg and his team has been the relatively quick turnaround ahead of their first race in June. Berg says he received a wealth of questions from his teammates about how to train for the race in such a short window, but he quickly sent the group Spartan’s collection of training plans, and they were off and running.

Now he’s aiming to gather as many as 50 Walmart employees for the race in Dallas, with no intentions on stopping or slowing down.

“We’re going to go through some hard stuff, but we’re going to get through it together,” Berg says. “And it’s going to be exciting.”

3 Tips to Start a Corporate Spartan OCR Team from Walmart

1. Make it Easy

Once you set up a team with Spartan you’ll get a unique link for your team’s roster that you send around to your coworkers. Each person can use the link to register themselves and pay the entry fees on their own when they’re ready. That means no more sign-up sheets posted in the employee lunchroom, and no more hassling people for money like it’s a rec softball league. The plug-and-play approach makes it so much easier for the team captain and all the participants to get signed up and start training!

2. Make the Ask

Send all the group emails you want, but you’ll never generate as much as enthusiasm as when you share your Spartan experience with a coworker and then make a personal ask to join the team. You’ll find that more people than you expected want to he asked or want to know more about competing in Spartan. Most people are looking for a change in their life or a challenge, and you asking them personally makes them believe they’re capable of doing it.

3. Make a Movement

Jeff Berg and the Walmart team started with a hashtag - #SparkeeChallenge. Then they called on each other to complete one physical task a today for a month - even if it was just 10 burpees - and use the hashtag when they posted their challenge on social media. Once people could rally around a common calling, Walmart employees from around the country embraced the hashtag— and the physical activity—to show they were part of the movement.

Want to amp up your fitness routine and get inspired by the OCR mentality? Sign up for a Spartan Race today!