How Jose Cordero transformed from a man trapped in an office chair to an athlete who can crush a 25-obstacle Spartan race.
“No matter how heavy or inactive you are, if you take that first step to better yourself, you can achieve anything.” - Jose Cordero*
Jose Cordero didn’t approach his first Spartan Race without fear. He had once weighed 550 pounds, and his journey to the starting line of this Sprint took more than a decade, and involved countless small acts of willpower. Though he had lost more than 330 pounds, he had never thought of himself as an athlete before Spartan.
SEE IT: Jose Cordero Shares His Story With the World on The Today Show
“I was afraid, and that was the point. I don’t know how to swim, yet at that race I pushed myself under the dunk wall. I’m afraid of heights, yet I climbed up and over the cargo net. I wasn't sure I could lift the Atlas, but I not only lifted it, I did five burpees with it,” says Cordero. “The experience was absolutely unbelievable. The obstacles are phenomenal because each one shows you that you can conquer something.” Cordero believes the Spartan experience is helping him keep the weight off because “it shows you your own strength” and “surrounds you with healthy, encouraging people.”
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How Jose Cordero Took the First Steps Toward Health
In 2008, Cordero weighed 550 pounds. He explains he had been raised in a family that expected him to “clean his plate,” which was often large portions of pasta followed by dessert. He had been “totally inactive as a child,” which set him on the road to a sedentary lifestyle.
Though he ran his own IT support company, his weight held him back. “It still disturbs me that I hired employees to go out and do the work, because I felt I could not get out of my office,” he says. Cordero opted to have gastric bypass surgery, though his doctor told him he expected him to lose no more than 100 pounds.
After the surgery, one of his employees at work, a service manager Brian Fitzsimmons, approached him and said, “Why don’t we try to get you to start losing weight?” Cordero set up a treadmill and weight bench in his own office, and the two men began working out there together after business hours. Cordero says, “That man became like a brother to me.”
Slowly, incrementally, Cordero went from walking one mile, to ten, on the treadmill. Cordero’s gastric bypass dictated that he eat soft foods, mostly liquids at first, but eventually he started eating small portions of chicken and fish. Through working out faithfully seven times a week, portion control, and surrounding himself with supportive people, he eventually got down to 167 pounds, exceeding his doctor’s expectations.
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In Weight Loss, the People Around You Matter
Cordero gained some of the weight back (he is currently 220 pounds) but he kept most of it off, despite a medical condition that causes him to retain water. This is because he learned that the social aspects of diet and fitness are important to maintaining a healthy weight. “You have to be aware of your surroundings, so that you won’t be influenced into eating badly," he says. "You want to have healthy people around you.”
One of the people who helped him early on was a friend who invited him to go skiing on New Year’s Eve. Cordero started out intimidated by skiing, but he wound up loving it so much that within two years he became a PSIA certified ski instructor. Through skiing, he found out that he loves taming his fears, so he was open to the next challenge. At a gym, his trainer introduced him to Spartan SGX coaching, and then in April 2019, he joined a Spartan SGX class. He found the Spartans so encouraging that he summoned the courage to run with his instructor in the Boston race only one month after he started the class. Finishing that first Spartan race changed Jose’s self-concept. “Spartan helped me conquer my fears and showed me how strong I am,” says Cordero.
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On Jose Cordero's Horizon: Spartan Races To Come
Cordero has completed three more Spartan races: a Sprint in Tuxedo, a Stadium Race in Philadelphia, and a Super (10K, 25 obstacles) in Boston. Speaking about the Super in Boston (August, 2019) Cordero says, “The last time I raced, I had no fear. I didn’t feel insecure about carrying the Atlas or pulling up on the Box. I just did it. I made a friend, another Spartan named Shaun Holmes, who ran by my side the whole way. My time improved and I failed only five obstacles. Spartan makes me feel strong and happy.”
Cordero is working on his upper body strength so that he can crush the nine upcoming Spartan races on his schedule. “I’m getting better and stronger with every race," he says. "I’m looking forward to my next Super — mentally, physically and emotionally.”
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"Go back through your social media — you seeing the competition, your friends, the obstacles — because you're going to be okay. Remind yourself of the technical Spartan race moves. Get back on the monkey bars, grab a couple of sandbags, do a few spear throws. Tell yourself you can still do this. It's not to be completely alien. It's going to be like riding a bike.”