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Ellie Nelson

The Single Most Important Thing Joe DiStefano Does to Optimize His Health and Why Mental Clarity is Crucial When it Comes to Nutrition: Joovvin' with the Founder of RUNGA

Joe DiStefano, or "Joe D.I." as he is known, is a lifestyle and fitness expert who has gained a reputation for using a lifestyle-based approach to drastically improve performance, solve chronic health problems, and reduce pain and injury in clients and athletes across their entire lifespan. Over the past five years, he has instructed education courses to 1,000+ personal trainers and coaches from 30 different countries, and has lectured to groups across the globe. He is an executive at Spartan Race, where he has worked since 2011. Joe also founded RUNGA in 2015.

Joe's simple methods, which he first used during his own recovery from a traumatic brain injury, revolve around the optimization of breathing, emotions, movement, and sleep. His work has been featured at TED and other well-known publications including Men's Health, Men's Journal, and Outside Magazine.  Joe has a B.S. in Exercise and Sports Science from Fitchburg State University, is certified through the NASM as a Performance Enhancement and Corrective Exercise Specialist, 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. 

It was an absolute pleasure Joovvin' with Joe.  So without further ado, here are his answers to your questions…

Starting over at 18, knowing everything you know now, what 1-2 things would you do differently?

Nothing. I spent my late teens and 20's making one mistake after another - but I don't believe in looking back, wishing things were different. There's only one direction. Now is the now, and back then is history. The decisions we make in the now, whether we're 18 or 32, shape who we are in the future. Every minute is a clean slate.

What do you think is the #1 reason why Spartan Race has exploded?

Because intrinsically, everybody wants to feel like a kid again. Spartan Race not only provides the ideal environment, but one of the very few left on the planet for mass participation that allows people to do that.

There are all kinds of nutritional advice experts.  What have you found to be the single most important thing to remember when it comes to what you eat on a daily basis?

What you put in your mouth does not matter nearly as much as what's happening in your mind.  Belief, intent, and presence are critical for food to benefit the body like you want it to. If you're stressed, not present, or preoccupied, you're better off fasting until you can respect your food - no matter what micros or macros you're opting for.  

Most of us know that we could benefit from taking the time to unplug, but we simply don’t make it a priority.  With RUNGA, you’re providing the reset that people truly need.  What was your inspiration for launching this event?

Years ago, a growing suspicion emerged in my own life experience that my primary source of stress, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and even depression might have been linked to my cell phone. Email and social media were the biggest aspects of my life that required constant vigilance.  It seemed like I could never keep up, or satisfy the thoughts that were constantly running around in the background of my consciousness. When I first went down to Costa Rica to "detox”, I left both my laptops at home and charged my phone (before I left), but left the charger at home. That way, it was truly going to be only a life-line. After 8 days with no email or phone, or rather 8 days of yoga and what I am calling "dynamic meditation”, I felt like a new person. My sleep was 100% better, my stress levels were way down and my focus was turbocharged. I simply said to myself, "The world needs this."

Harkening back to your early 20’s, what was the main reason you decided to enter the field of fitness and sports science?

Well, truth is, I always despised running and endurance sports growing up. I was, however, hyper-competitive in everything I did. I skateboarded and played some baseball. I then quickly discovered I loved the business of making other people's lives better. (At 10 years old, I picked up an 8-house paper route in my neighborhood that exploded to 80+ houses by going above and beyond what my "competitors" were doing.)

With that sort of stuff in the background, when I got to college as a business major, I met a guy named Dr. Jeff Godin who was a professor in the EXSS Dept.  He told me he was preparing for a 100-mile running race. I was completely dumbfounded, but immediately respected the hell out of him for the aspiration. I fully believed a marathon was the farthest a human being could run without dying.

What's funny is, my competitive side started to shine through and I decided if Dr. J can run 100 miles, I sure as heck can run 26.2 and the rest is history. I changed my major, picked up competitive running, and took all but two classes in my entire degree with Dr. J. We are still great friends.

What did you expect to experience the first time you tried full-body light therapy?

Well, I was most excited to triple my testosterone like Ben Greenfield...

Ha-ha, no!   In all seriousness, I had no idea what to expect, however, I'd done enough research to believe in the potential of it. It actually wasn't for a few weeks (of daily use) that I began to retrospectively say, "Hold on. Why do I...???  I'm sure that based on X,Y,Z reasons, I should not feel as good as I do right now...could it be the Joovv?!" Then that trend just continued onward and upwards, again and again.  Light therapy has played a huge role in my recovery and morning rituals.

I’ve seen first-hand the drive you have for life.  Have you always had this? Or, was there a moment in time that inspired this sort of zeal?

Ha, thank you so much! Truth is, I think I just picked my parents well. But if I had to think of something, there's really one tendency and one experience I could point to.

1. Even as a kid, if we meet, and we're not jiving, I don't try and force it. I have a strict “positive vibes” only policy. I have always, from age 4 to age 32, literally and figuratively, run from negative people, situations, and businesses at any cost. This has always been completely subconscious - until recently-  and was actually a problem growing up. You asked about when I was 18, well, I would get detentions all the time and even got suspended a few times for skipping classes. But looking back, year over year, it was always the same teachers. Negative energy is incredibly toxic to me and even before I could put my finger on it, my body gets overtaken by this complete aversion to those energies. It's really out of my control....it's like getting mad at someone for not eating a food they’re allergic to. I'm allergic to negativity.

2. Brace yourself. I had an accident that fractured the left side of my skull a bunch of years ago.  And at 24 years old, was told I was going to be "Michael J. Fox by 30".  After the initial shock, my competitive side kicked in and that gave me a new lease on life. Now I am fitter and more functional at 32 than I was at 24.

Becoming an entrepreneur is something that appeals to me, but I’ve never been able to take the plunge.  With practicality in mind, what are the first 1-2 steps that are the most critical?

"Let go" and have faith. If you're super passionate, and I mean really passionate, don't even think about your work as a business, or about trying to make money from it. Aim to share your passion organically, from an open heart. Don't sell. The rest will take care of itself.

What was the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?

Ha! My paper route. It was such a painful nuisance sometimes as a kid. After school, all I wanted to do is go play with my friends.  But every single day, I had to do my entire paper route.  When it grew to 80 houses, daylight hours were numbered. However, I learned some valuable lessons: 1) All anyone really ever gets paid to do is make other people's lives easier or better.  If we do those things - we get paid.  And if we do those things a little bit better, we can get paid a lot more; 2) Take the good with the bad.  Don't waste time complaining or victimizing yourself.  You chose this path, so just do what you have to do.

What is the number one thing you do on a daily basis to optimize your overall health?

Because I am only home, at most, 50% of the time, my one thing is 3-11 minutes of breathing.  Either breath of fire or alternate nostril breathing with no distractions, gaze on the third eye, sometimes my headphones in with a mantra playing. Hugely important practice to slow the spinning and to step towards the ideal of "becoming the witness" (of your thinking).

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Thanks again to Joe DiStefano for being a part of the Joovv family!  Also, don't forget to check out RUNGA when you get a chance.  If the slots don't sell out in days (seriously), we're planning on taking the entire Joovv team to a "RUNGA reset" next year!

If you missed Joovvin' with us, stay tuned for the next one.  We'll let you know in advance on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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