Review: “Spartan Up!”


A few months ago I received an email from Dan at Spartan Race asking if I’d like a copy of this book that Joe (founder of Spartan Race) had written. Dan explained “This is not a book about racing, but uses the race as a metaphor for life – life is the ultimate obstacle course.” Hell yeah! Sounded right up my alley. I ran a Spartan Race outside of Phoenix last winter with a bunch of friends from CrossFit Full Strength so I know just how hard the races can be.

I finally got around to reading the book on my way to Barcelona last month and easily finished it before the plane was very far over the Atlantic Ocean. I thoroughly enjoyed the book because I share a lot of Joe’s thoughts about being successful in life. During the read, I took a couple of pictures of some quotes I wanted to share.

In life, the biggest obstacle, the tallest wall, can be imaginary. It can exist only in your mind. Some people stay stuck to one spot for years because they are paralyzed by the fear of change. They may be stuck on the couch. They may be stuck in a dead-end relationship. They may be stuck in a lousy career. They are stuck in a prison of their own design.

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. “Easy” is the greatest marketing hook of all time. Six-pack abs? Easy, buy this gizmo. Great physique? Easy, take this pill. Want people to notice you? Easy, plastic surgery.

Not only are people afraid of change, they are afraid of hard work. Achieving a 6-pack is a great example. I can’t tell you how many times I get asked for the secret. I’ll let you in on the secret…there is no secret. You have to work hard through diet and exercise to get down to 14-16% body fat (for men) and then if you go on a strict Paleo diet for an entire month, I’m confident anyone can get washboard abs. I have one friend in particular who asks me for tips and advice at least once a month. I tell him the same thing every damn time, but he can’t make it longer than a couple of days of strict eating before he comes up with some excuse.

It reminds me of the quote that goes something like, “If you want to achieve results you’ve never had, you must be willing to work harder than you even have.” I guess I’m lucky to have been brought up with my Dad teaching me to work hard.

I’m concerned with the havoc that repeatedly failing the cookie test can wreak on your life. All we have each day is that day, and we’re not even guaranteed all twenty-four hours. The first cookie test you encounter each day comes when you wake up. If you decide to stay in bed for a while, you’ve already taken the cookie. But if you jump out of bed and embark upon a productive day, you postpone gratification until you’ve gained a head start. I’m convinced that the best way to start the day is with vigorous exercise. Grab a workout first thing, and it improves everything that follows. Do it every day, habitually, and you will change your life profoundly for the better.

The “cookie test” Joe refers to was an experiment from the 1960s. Very interesting stuff. Here’s a short video that explains the basics idea of it.

When I read this part of the book, I couldn’t stop thinking about how people wake up in the morning. It can tell you a lot about a person. If you use an alarm, do you hit the snooze button? How many times? Do you turn off the alarm and end up falling back asleep? In my opinion, people who repeatedly hit snooze are lazy. You don’t get any meaningful sleep in that extra 9 minutes, especially if you keep repeating the process. My brain can’t comprehend why someone wouldn’t get in the habit of setting their alarm to the latest possible time they can afford to wake up, in order to get some extra quality sleep instead of 9 minute chunks of interrupted “sleep”.

There are many other great sections of the book, but those were two that instantly spoke to me. “Spartan Up!” is a great book with many valuable lessons. I really like how Joe started Spartan Race as a way to get people started on a new path in life and I know it can work. I was a bit stuck myself at one point and then I found CrossFit. If you’re feeling stuck, get with some friends and sign up for a 5k, a mud run, or something that puts a little fear into you. Spartan the fuck up!

Also check out this episode of the Barbell Shrugged podcast with Joe De Sena.

2 Replies to “Review: “Spartan Up!””

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