Spartan Up! Book Review

Disclaimer: Spartan Race provided me a free copy of the book Spartan Up! to review.

Spartan Up!: A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in LifeSpartan Up!: A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life by Joe De Sena

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spartan Up! is a good read that left me feeling motivated to make less excuses and accomplish more things.

The book is a smart marketing move for Spartan Race, but it’s also a good read for anyone who’s looking for motivation. De Sena’s perspectives are extreme, but almost everyone I know would benefit from applying even a small dose of what he writes in his book to their lives.

The book uses race stories (his own adventure endurance event tales as well as those of Spartan competitors) and stories of exploration and adventure to drive home his approach in life, which he aptly calls “Spartan”.

The Spartan life boils down to a handful of great principals:

1) Avoid Immediate Gratification
De Sena calls this the “Cookie Test”. The bottom line is that if you reach for the cookie (the cookie represents any immediate-gratification reward) you’re almost always cutting yourself short of some larger long-term reward. Life is better lived, according to De Sena, when you say “no” to the cookie and say “yes” to working hard to achieve bigger things.

2) Changing Your Frame of Reference
“The use of our body is a privilege, one that millions of people forget, neglect, and forfeit. Too many forget what enjoying life really means. And before they know it, carpe diem, Latin for “seize the day,” turns into mea culpa. Latin for “by bad”.

Racing — especially Spartan racing — pushes you to new levels of pain and discomfort. That kind of pain resets your point of reference so that smaller, ordinary discomforts seem less substantial. The harder the race, the more your frame of reference is reset. In short, by racing hard, you make daily challenges seem easier.

3) Fueling Your Body with Real Food
This chapter will be challenging for readers who are used to taking short cuts in diet and nutrition (eating pre-packaged foods or fast food, taking weight loss or muscle building supplements, etc.). De Sena supports his theories on nutrition with sobering facts on nutrition-related diseases that plague millions of Americans.
“You can’t wish for a fit body. You have to go get it. You have to be willing to eat and exercise your way there.”

4) Blasting Past Your Perceived Limitations (Resiliency)
“When you start an ultra-endurance event, the fact that it’s going to get ugly at some point is a given. It will reach a dark place where I will think, I can’t believe I am putting myself back in this position. But at some level, that’s also the point. Each time I race, I’m testing myself all over again.”

Spartan Up! will stay on my bookshelf as a go-to for times when I’m feeling under-motivated. De Sena’s perspectives might be a little intense for the average reader, but that’s the point: who wants to be average?

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