Joe De Sena: The Five Things I Want For Christmas

By Joe De Sena, CEO and Founder, Spartan Race

My family is getting ready for Christmas in Japan this year. In Japan Christmas is less of a religious Holiday than it is a time to spread happiness. Of course, this made me think about the five things—I’ll call it my wish list—that would really make me happy…and some of them would make the world happy in the long term. (Although the world might disagree.) Here they are.

1. Kettlebell pass.

Since June I’ve been carrying around a kettlebell everywhere I go. It’s a great way to stay fit, and you’d be surprised how fast your body adapts to the weight. The only problem is that I travel a lot. So every time I fly internationally, I have to check this thing with my luggage, and the TSA thinks it’s a bomb—to say it’s a hassle is an understatement. So, the first thing on my Christmas list is a free pass with TSA and airports globally to carry my Kettlebell on flights.

2. I want to talk to an insurance company.

This is not a political statement but I really want to “make America fit again.” Sure we have never had a “golden era” of fitness as a country, but over the past 50 years we have done a complete tailspin with obesity, heart disease and other diseases.

Spartan’s mission is and always has been to rip 100 million people off the couch, but it’s not just going to happen because of Spartan. It’s going to take a big change to our system. Why I want to talk with the insurance company is so we can discuss my plans to help fund “Burpee zones” across the country. That, and some other plans I’ve been putting together over the past five years.

Stay tuned.

3. A month off from school for my kids so my family and I can run with the marathon monks in Japan every day.

There’s a group of monks in Japan called the Tendai monks. For more than a thousand years, these monks have been practicing something called the kaihogyo, literally “circling the mountain.” In order to join this group of monks, you have to walk around Mt. Hiei every day for 100 days. And it goes up from there. Next level is walking around every day for 200 days. The greatest challenge, reserved for the highest level of monks, is doing kaihogyo for 1000 days straight. (Only two guys have ever done it.)

Anyway, I’m living in Japan now, and I want my kids to be able to spend time with these monks. You learn things in school, but I think you learn more from experiences. In my perfect world, my family and I would be running with these monks every day.

I wish my family and I could run with the marathon monks every day.

4. For government to either ban or tax the heck out of processed foods and junk foods and use the money to support organic rotational farming.

One of my mentors, a guy called Dr. Fred Bisci—he’s 180 years old (nearly) and he only eats raw fruits and vegetables—taught me that one of the most important things you can do with your diet is to leave certain things out. The best way to live longer and be healthy, he believes, is to leave out the processed and junk food.

The problem with processed and junk food is that most people aren’t going to quit just because “it’s good for their health.” People are creatures of habit, and unfortunately most of us have been doing food wrong for many many years. I think it would help speed up the process to have a financial incentive—specifically, putting a very high tax on processed and junk food. This won’t keep people from eating it, but it will give them another reason to start eating healthy. We can also use the money to subsidize healthier kinds of foods.

The practice I want to subsidize—called rotational farming—has been used since ancient times, and it involves switching out the crops in a given field every year so that the soil stays healthy. Not only that, but it increases crop yield and reduces soil erosion. The problem with the way we do farming in the US is that we plant the same thing in the same field year after year after year. This depletes the soil of nutrients, makes it necessary to use enormous amounts of pesticides, and causes soil erosion. Stopping this practice might take some work, but it’s worth it in the long run.

That’s fourth on my list.

5. To throw a giant party on our farm in Vermont and for the whole Spartan community to attend and enjoy the festivities of exercising.

I understand that my vision of a better world seems crazy to pretty much everyone, but what you have to understand is that if we’re not healthy, we’re on our way to an early death. I’m not trying to depress anyone; this is just a fact about life. There have been times in my life when I didn’t put health first, and I suffered to consequences. My goal is to help people not to make my mistakes.

All that said, I want to throw an enormous party at my farm. Not a crazy wild party, but a healthy party. Anyone would be welcome—Spartans, their families, their friends, or anyone—and we’d just celebrate being healthy. We’d do a million burpees all together and remind ourselves that we’re all very lucky to be here.

That’s my list.

What’s on your list? What do you really want?

— Joe De Sena
Founder and CEO, Spartan Race

By Joe De Sena