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099: Overcoming Obstacles and Finding a Tribe with Joe DiStefano

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If there are two things our guest does exceptionally well it is overcoming obstacles and finding a tribe. Joe Distefano has overcome a traumatic brain injury and tapped into a back-to-nature approach to nutrition and health to regain control of his well-being, his happiness and his life.

Joe is a lifelong health and wellness enthusiast, conquerer of obstacles, and founder of the rapidly expanding wellness community, RUNGA. His work today includes a very active role in the RUNGA Community as well as private coaching for high performing executives and professional athletes.

Prior to joining Spartan Race, he oversaw the development of more than 100 women-only personal training studios across the U.S. He has a B.S. in Exercise and Sports Science from Fitchburg State University, and he is pursuing a master’s degree in Sports Psychology. Certified through the NASM as a Performance Enhancement Specialist and Corrective Exercise Specialist, he is also a Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, is RKC certified and has been trained at the C.H.E.K Institute as a Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach.

We begin our episode of Awesome Health podcast with a trip back in time to when Joe suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and we explore how that impacted him for decades.

When Joe was a teenager a basketball hoop fell and landed on top of him. It cracked open his skull and nearly killed him. He was rushed to the nearest hospital where he was operated on. He was patched up and did recover, but the experience had a lasting effect on his personality, his relationship with his parents and his home life overall.

From then on, he kept a lot in and didn’t express much emotion. In fact, it took about a decade for things to come to the surface. Joe describes this as being when “the wheels came off”. He visited a lot of doctors, including a neurologist who told him if he continued down this road he would have Parkinson-like traits by the time he was 30. He explains more about how he responded after this diagnosis and why it’s so critical for him to have all the areas of his health dialed in now.

We also talk about his involvement with Spartan races: he had been an endurance athlete prior to his TBI. When he was recovering, he couldn’t do any kind of really rigorous exercise so he took up walking and walking meditations. During that time he realized he never liked endurance activities!

But with time, effort and perseverance, he became strong enough and well enough to participate in a race that one of his college professors told him about: a 5K race in Vermont. It sounded fun to Joe so he showed up expecting a 5K run and got an all together different event!

But he loved every minute of it: it had all the benefits of endurance competitions without all unnecessary aspects. Joe felt alive and enthralled: he had caught the Spartan Race bug.

Joe also tells us how he came to be involved in the Spartan Race organization and what he has been doing in the past year since he left.

We also dig into Joe’s RUNGA community and how the idea took shape from his own annual vacations. Joe and I explore those topics plus the need for finding your tribe and so much more – join us and hear it all on episode 99 of Awesome Health podcast.

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