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A Chat with Spartan Race's Joe DI, Director of Fitness & Training (VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT)

By Erin Sharoni, November 20, 2015

If you haven't heard of Joe "DI" DiStefano, head guru of fitness and training over at Spartan Race, don't worry — you can get to know him right here in this Skype interview I did with him. 

Joe, fondly known to the Spartan and fitness communities the world over as Joe "DI", is the Director of Fitness & Training over at Spartan HQ. He travels the globe spreading the gospel as passionately as you probably imagine he does (if you know anything about the fiercely loyal Spartan community). Joe is a fan of InsideTracker as both a world-famous coach and an individual athlete himself. "It's just such a cool tool," he says. We agree, Joe!

Read video transcript


Just in case you still, for some unfathomable reason, had any doubts about Joe's qualifications, here's the rundown. Joe's credentials include: BS, CSCS, SGX, PES, CES. As Director of Training and Fitness at Spartan Race, over the past four years, Joe has been the global master instructor for Spartan's training offerings and has has taught thousands of hours of fitness education to coaches from over 30 countries. We'd say he's a pretty solid guy to take advice from...

Check out the video for more great insight from Spartan's Joe DI!

Topics covered in this video:

00:15 - How Joe uses InsideTracker as a Spartan coach and head of training

02:30 - Joe's personal journey with InsideTracker

03:15 - The most important thing that helps him stay on top of his athletes

04:00 - Vitamin D is critical! (again)

05:30 - What surprised Joe most as a user

07:00 - "Find out what's low, and then find out what works!"  

For more about Spartan's SGX coach program run by Joe DI, click here

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Full video transcript:

Erin: So Joe, tell me what does the Director of Fitness and Training at Spartan Race (which is pretty pretty large, I'm sure you can give us some numbers), what does somebody like you use InsideTracker for?

How Joe uses InsideTracker as a Spartan coach and head of training 

Joe: What do we use InsideTracker for? So, essentially, with me, well, personally I use it myself. I've done this quite a few times now just watching my own health performance because of my job. I'm on the road quite a bit between training, racing, traveling. We all know that that's the real cornerstone why we need kind of be so vigilant of what's going on inside our body. But, in my role at Spartan Race, we have a pro team. We have 10 top women, 10 top men, that are competing in anywhere, from 10 or 15 races a year up to 30 races a year. And the other thing with Spartan Race, we've got races 12 months a year. So, a really young go getter type athlete could conceivably race 2 or 3 times a month for 12 straight months. Some of the athletes can get away with that for a little while, but I think the use of InsideTracker is to really, even if an athlete is currently feeling good, give us an ability to really judge how they're doing inside before any potential negative consequences might come out in training or in racing or what have you. So before it's too late, InsideTracker kind of gives us a bird's eye view into what's going on inside, which is invaluable for competitive athletes.

Erin: Absolutely.

Joe: Yeah, the pro team has been a real kind of game changer. Because for me, I'll just keep talking a little bit. Some of these athletes, it's like the most competitive athletes from the most competitive sports from the most competitive teams. It's this group of athletes that's just very type A, very just super into what they're doing. And as a coach trying to get through that type of a person, I'm saying, "Hey, today let's keep that heartrate under a hundred and thirty beats." Something like that, it might as well be a foreign language then. It's like, "No No No No No. I'm not going to run around the track when my race is going to be on a mountain." InsideTracker's given us the ability to say, "No, look at your inflammantion. We need to take a break from the mountains so that you're ready for the mountains."

Erin: For sure.

Joe: Ironically. So, that's it. I guess that kind of sums it up. I hope.

Joe's personal journey with InsideTracker

Erin: Definitely. Now from your personal perspective, because you've used InsideTracker as well, as somebody who's obviously very fit and knows a whole lot about the subject already, what was most interesting to you that maybe you didn't know? Because everyone figures, well, he's an expert. He's a coach. He obviously knows everything already. What else can he possibly learn? But I know you learned quite a bit.

The most important thing that helps him stay on top of his athletes

Joe: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. To me, it's just been such a cool tool. Another thing, I talked with the guys at InsideTracker about is HRV, which I feel is like the one-two punch of knowing what's going on inside your body. The big thing for me is being able to really quantify what's going in my own body, which helps me personally stay on top of things. But it also helps me relate. So even if an athlete that I'm trying to help is not being tested let's say, watching my own blood work over the years, watching other athletes, it helps me relate to somebody that I might not have their results in front of me. Because going by their symptoms and what led them to this point, I've seen what happens to inflammation, or what happens to this type of the other component in other people, which can kind of help me assume and make better recommendations to people that might not have been tested yet.

Erin: True.

Vitamin D is critical! (again)

Joe: But, for me, I've learned a lot. Vitamin D is just such a funny nutrient because if there was a nutrient that we could say is probably one of the most critical nutrients that we have, it would probably be Vitamin D. And the funny thing is, myself included, it's not easy to be in the optimal zone. And sometimes when you're not in the optimal zone, it's probably one of the most stubborn nutrients. It's not always, "Oh, my Vitamin D is a little bit low, let me pop a little bit, and then I'll retest in 3 months and everything will be great." It's a nutrient that can be troublesome to get it into the right zone. Sometimes you got to mess with your dosages and so that's one nutrient that I think InsideTracker has really opened my eyes to it. If someone's low, sometimes it takes more work, and more investigation to figure out how we're going to get this into the optimal zone. Because it's not as easy as just a few droppers of Vitamin D. 

Erin: Right, and to that point, you're the third person that I've interviewed on Skype now, who has worked with us from pro athletes, other coaches, that said the exact same thing. It always seems to come back to Vitamin D. I mean obviously there are things like cortisol and cholesterol, and everything, you know the common issues. For the regular Joe, no pun intended, Vitamin D definitely is one of them. For you, just you individually as a user, what was surprising to you? Was there a particular biomarker that you did struggle with? Was there something maybe that you were able to improve on because you were enlightened and saw exactly what was going on? I'm always curious to know.

What surprised Joe most as a user 

Joe: Yeah, given my travel schedule, right. I think in 14, I was on 57 flights and 15 probably close to that many. Cortisol used to be the big problem. As we know, since your cortisol's elevated, you don't feel good because there's a lot of stress in your system. Your sex hormones aren't doing all that great. That one was a big learning experience for me because, honestly, I would incorporate activities that I felt would help my cortisol but it just wasn't enough, with everything else going on in my life, with whatever travel, jet lag, sleep, “bla bla bla”, busy schedules. Really kind of understanding again what works and what doesn't. So in other words, my cortisol's high. And actually the last conversation I had with Carl, he was like, "How do you do this with your cortisol?"

Erin: That's a very good Carl impersonation. I don't know if he'll agree. 

"Find out what's low, and then find out what works!"

Joe: I practiced it in the mirror a couple times a week. The secret there is just a combination of things, but I think again almost similar to the Vitamin D description is that when something is low, you got to keep retesting, incorporating new things, and find out exactly what works, and then, how much of certain things works. Because that's the real curveball to me. And the other thing is, getting something improved for a single test versus consistently, that's the other piece too.

Erin: Well you definitely can't measure what you don't know, and you can't know what you don't measure. Bit of a catch 22 there. But it's sufficing to say it's important to measure everything. We're really glad to be working with Spartan Race with cool, intelligent people like you. I'll have to catch up with you after you get your next blood test on because I know you have one coming up. So we'll see how strong and Spartan you really are inside.

Joe: I can't wait to get this test, the past 7 or 8 weeks, I'm intrigued, what this one's going to tell me.

Erin: I suspect it would be pretty good. Despite all of your travels across the worlds. Thank you so much Joe. I appreciate it.

Joe: Yeah, Sure thing Erin. Take care.


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