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Spartan Up!: A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,782 ratings  ·  238 reviews
Since 2006 more than one million people have participated in Spartan Races around the world. In 2014 there will be a race every other day in 15 countries on five continents. What do these Spartans know that you don’t? They know that we all have a fire burning within us to prove ourselves. Joe De Sena has captured that invincible Spartan spirit in his manifesto for bold liv ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  1,782 ratings  ·  238 reviews

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Jul 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: outside
I love Spartan Racing. I’ve done three so far, and I’m registered for two more. So this book is kind of preaching to the choir. I think Spartan Racers might enjoy it. I think those who are interested in running their first Spartan Race might be motivated by it.

But I’m not sure what the purpose of the book is. Is it to motivate people to run Spartan Races? Is it to build the Spartan brand? Is it Joe De Sena’s ego? It’s probably all three, which is why it seems so loosely constructed to me. I admi
Kris Irvin
Aug 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
I'm sure this book could help some people, but I couldn't get past the terrible writing. It's just really, really bad. Terrible sentence structure, non-sequiturs everywhere, fragments, and weird random anecdotes that just make zero sense.

I was excited to get a glimpse into the Spartan lifestyle, but I saw absolutely no "guide" whatsoever in this book. It was just a bunch of stories about this guy and how cool he is.

Not impressed. Read 3/4ths, skimmed the rest, closed the book feeling cheated a
Emma Sea
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
A solid " I liked it"

Part of me thinks Sena could have done himself a favor by more clearly spelling out the analogy between his stories about particular Spartan racers and overcoming challenges in work, life, and relationships, to make the book more accessible and appealing. But this is exactly like the wrestlers arriving at his training camp with no idea of what they about to do, and, even while they were doing it, no idea of how it would help them. Seno doesn't intend to be accessible or appe
Britt Freeman
Jun 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
1. mostly anecdotal without clear pragmatic examples to achieve fitness
2. felt like an ad for races. correction, felt like a pyramid scheme pitch for the races.
3. the whole book is full of the notion of honor, struggle, overcoming challenges, "we might die any moment and that's ok" as if dude-bro never read an actual Spartan history book, instead opting for the movie version(300)
4. the bit about his kids learning Mandarin and studying kung fu for two hours a day stuck with me... as entitled mill
Dec 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
What starts (and ends) as mostly an ad for the author's races, turns out to also be (in the author's opinion) an excellent chance to brag incessantly about how important he is and how everyone is always telling him he's such a hero and changed their lives. There are bright moments in this book, but they're far less common than they would be with just a touch less self-absorption by the author. The net result is that Joe has managed to make me want to try a Spartan Race less than I did before I r ...more
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing

This is a terrific read with an inspiring message. Joe and his team at Spartan Race have taken the extreme/survival/ultra race culture to everyone, and the impact on sporting and the participants is huge. The book is part adventure reading, part personal journey, and all inspiration. What I like best is it's approachable inspiration. Almost any one can run a Spartan Sprint, and so many people have used the race as a way to reset their priorities, their "stress point", their lives and their happi
Chris Hayes
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Great Read about TRULY LIVING. As an Elite athlete and Spartan 300 racer, I can tell you that there is some awesome knowledge in here. Everything in life is an obstacle, and with the "Spartan Up" mindset, you can learn to overcome every one of them. Spartan Up is not just a book, it's more of a Philosophy that many Athletes live by. This is a must read for those who want to be healthy and keep it fun.

2014 Spartan Race Street Team Member

Viv JM
I can't quite decide whether to be inspired by this book, or horrified by it. Joe De Sena certainly doesn't have time for your excuses!! ...more
Travis Ketcham
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing read about the Spartan Lifestyle!
Stefan-Iulian Tesoi
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports
"Who is this wanker who is telling us to Spartan Up?" one might rightfully ask. Joe De Sena is no couch potato, he earned his right to tell other people to spartan up at the school of hard knocks, he completed numerous adventure races, including ones in the middle of the winter in Canada!, completed twelve Ironmans in one year, done tough ultramarathons and who knows, he might even be a Spartan descendant given the fact that he is of Italian heritage and the fact that Sicily and the South of Ita ...more
Aug 19, 2014 rated it did not like it
holy pile of self-promotion, batman. don't read this book unless you're already a spartan competitor. if you're looking for any kind of motivation to get fit? not here. this is one gigantic advertisement for the runs that he hosts. all of the 4-5 star reviews are from spartan team members. i get it, if you do these events you'll feel better. was hoping for more about the process of founding this international event, or perhaps even some anecdotes of competitors. a complete waste of time. not tha ...more
Abigail G
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very inspirational book with much easily understood motivational concepts. This book makes you want to do something more and be healthier than you ever thought you could. The whole thing read like a story even when there were lists involved. Some of the things he said seemed so over the top yet there was such a rational explanation for each thing that I found myself having to think twice about my previous held opinions as I read.
Matt Murphy
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The book kept me turning the page one after another. Couldn't put it down. Great to get into the mind of Joe and see how I could use his principles and incorporate them into my own life.

Any time I'm working late or walking home in the cold, I realize that by changing my frame of reference these minor speed bumps are just that, minor.

Thanks Joe, for an inspirational perspective on life!
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Simply put, remove Spartan Race from my life and there would be an enormous void. It affects the way I eat, sleep, work and even straight-up *LIVE*.

The way I lived my life before I found it *was* Spartan Race. Now I get to have the substance behind the attitude.

Spartan Race is something every single person on the planet should experience. Simple as that.
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I hovered between a two- and three star review, because this book is very repetitive, and seems more like an advertisement for Spartan Racing than an informative book on athletic pursuits. There is not much actionable information in here, not even tips on how to actually prepare for a Spartan endurance race. The main thesis seems to be for giving thumbs up to burpees and a lot of running.
However, it is entertaining reading (if you’re an athlete), includes lots of inspiring personal achievement s
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good book. Not sure I'll ever do one of their races but I enjoyed the book a lot. ...more
Tim Gray
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For obvious reasons, I’m giving this book 5 stars. For all Spartans (and non-Spartans), this is a great inspirational and motivational book. It encouraged me to continue to work hard, whether it be the gym, or my daily life. I also really like that this book can answer the question I get asked very often, “What’s the big deal with Spartan Races?” - all you have to do is read the book. You’ll know at the finish line. Aroo.
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 stori
Sergio Martinez
Jun 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
So someone on TikTok recommended this book, and me a dumbass, took their advice.

To summarize, this book is about testing your limits, well my limits were really tested cause I could barely finish it. Some good quotes from actually wise people, the rest just felt like a promotion for this Spartan race. Like cool dude, buy a commercial instead.

Constant examples of "So and so who accomplished this would have been a spartan" Bruh. that bitch has been dead for 200 years.

If you looking for actual g
Karen Feeser
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have been participating in Spartan Races for the past 3 years and each year I come across new challenges, much like with everyday life at times. Spartan is a community, a family, and a way of life for a lot of people. I don't think I would be where I am today, driven in work, family and life, without Spartan Race. Spartan Up! is not only a book about Obstacle Course Racing, it's about living life to the fullest, embracing the obstacles that come your way and crushing those obstacles coming out ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, wellness
Skim-read in one sitting. I got this ebook for free from the Spartan website. It's relatively short, so I figured I'd give it a quick read. I would recommend against paying for this book. I also wouldn't really recommend reading it...
The whole thing is a bunch of stories about obese individuals signing up for Spartan races and losing weight and becoming more awesome because of the race. It felt like an overly-long advertisement. I didn't really understand the point of the book.

Spartan races the
Jay Tea
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Spartan Race had changed my life, and I truly believe it will change yours. Read this book, and be motivated to live a healthy life. Challenge yourself, and get outside your comfort zone. Sign up for a race, show up, and never ever quit! AROO!
Sep 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Good for a little motivation. Nothing ground-breaking.
Ramesh Naidu
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An inspirational book
Adam Buchanan
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
As I read this book on a flight, it wasn't lost on me that I popped a chocolate as I read the chapter on nutrition. TL;DR - this is a much too long advertisement/pyramid scheme pitch for Spartan Race, with some good stuff interspersed throughout.

While reading the first half of this book, I alternated between being pumped up and inspired to get healthy, and being annoyed with the way he ragged on modern-day society. From his organic farming, to essentially eschewing technology and modern-day pro
I love Spartan Races. I got my 2X Trifecta in 2017. My concerns with them are that they seem to be getting easier/weaker compared to how they originally were (see the Death Race that isn't offered anymore). As the races get larger and larger they have to accommodate too many people.

An inverse correlation links how miserable you feel in the race, and how great you feel after it.

I like what he said about wrestling being the most fluid of sports. It's not linear like a marathon. You don't know what
Mark PJ
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
I rated this book 2.5 stars.

I'm an obstacle course racer and I've completed several Spartan Races. The books concepts and opinions weren't new to me. While I enjoyed the read (some parts) and there were definitely good moments, the moments where I felt like I was reading an ad in a magazine, or another description of why Joe is awesome, is the reason I rated this book low.

I admire Joe DeSena and what he's accomplished. Some sections in the book talks about his mental state during some of his rac
Brandon Wall
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book tries to inspire the physical drive and ambitions for a healthy lifestyle but roughly over half the book is useless information or advertisements for the Spartan Race.

Each different scenario expressed in the book aims to inspire people to become more active based on other people’s victory stories. The success stories of others are diverse in fueling inspiration because they are reflecting a wide range of people; couch-to-5k people, people with terminal illnesses, highly active ma
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
Now this was more my speed of self-helpery. Written by the guy who founded the Spartan Race (which is an obstacle race, and very challenging one at that). This book not only made me want to get off my ass, stop procrastinating, and push myself harder to reach my goals; but, so far, I have done just that. In the short time since listening to the audio I have done some serious spartan workouts, been nipping procrastination in the butt and have made a consious decision to go all in and commit to re ...more
Chad Manske
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though not everyone’s cup of tea due to some of his extreme—though he would call them perfectly normal—philosophy on life, De Sena’s co-founding of Spartan Race followed a journey of searching for certain meaning in life. His movement has brought millions ‘off the couch’ and doing what we were meant to do. With inspirational stories of achievement and overcoming adversity from Spartan Racers, Joe’s own story of self denial and delayed gratification goes against the general trends of society writ ...more
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Spartan Up 5 18 Mar 06, 2014 07:00AM  

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JOE DE SENA is a cofounder of Spartan Race, which began as an obstacle race based on the extreme spirit of the legendary Death Race, and has become a multi-million dollar global lifestyle company in less than 10 years. It was voted Outside magazine’s Best Obstacle Race. In one year’s time he competed in the Raid International Ukatak in Canada; the IditaSport in Alaska; the Odyssey Adventure Race a ...more

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