Book Review: Spartan Up! by Joe De Sena

Billed as a self-help book, Spartan Up! written by Spartan Race founder, Joe De Sena, can be seen as a motivational book or a shameless plug for the Spartan Race.  Either way, this often strongly worded book is not for the faint of heart.  Spartan Up! challenges those who have settled into society's "everyone gets a trophy" mentality.

Spartan Up! states, “We’ve been conditioned to think that we as a society should spend tremendous resources eliminating obstacles from our lives rather than teaching people how to surmount them. . . Unfortunately, the effect these so-called solutions have on obstacles is the opposite of their intent.”  Joe De Sena believes that the easier we make our lives, the harder it is for us to deal with any type of challenge.  Enter the Spartan Race; an event designed to give people something to work toward, a way to challenge and improve physically and mentally.  De Sena believes that the Spartan Race is a metaphor for life and that if you can train for and participate in a Spartan Race, everything else in your life will seem less challenging in comparison.

While I found this book motivational in some regards, I must admit it did not convince me to enter a Spartan Race, despite my love of obstacle course races (OCRs.)  I appreciate De Sena’s drive and desire to improve himself and those around him.  He is not a “desk jockey” coming up with challenges for other people.  He continually challenges himself, as well.  Spartan Up! encourages the reader to take on the challenge of a balanced life; train hard, work hard, eat healthfully, and take care of family and friends.

Spartan Up! did challenge me in a variety of ways.  One day, when I was about halfway through the book, I had gone out for a hill run.  It was hot and I came back tired and ready to call it, despite the fact that I had planned to do a short OCR preparation workout afterwards.  I set my water down on the coffee table next to my Spartan Up! book and when I bent over, a drop of sweat fell from my face and landed on the front cover of the book.  How fortuitous.  That was all the motivation I needed that day.  I continued my workout as originally planned.

Regardless of what you take from this book, I believe it will be beneficial.  Find whatever grains of motivation you need and take them to heart. What I took from this book is that we can do more than we think we can and that every challenge we face better prepares us for life.  As De Sena writes, “When adversity does arrive . . . someone who has never encountered it before will have no clue what to do in response.”  Don’t spend your life trying to make everything easier.  Embrace challenge.  Seek it out.  Keep improving.

About Annette Vaughan (491 Articles)
Annette Vaughan is a runner and personal trainer in Canby, Oregon. She began running at the age of 30 and became hooked after her first race (even though she is a self-proclaimed slow runner.) She enjoys small local races from 5Ks to half-marathons, with a 30K on the books as her longest run ever. She has also become a huge fan of obstacle course races and just can't get enough of them. Annette is a certified personal trainer, who believes in promoting movement since our bodies were designed to move. The more we move, the better we move and function in everyday life.
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