I listened to Joe De Sena speak on several different podcasts (paleo solution, strong cast, Tim Ferriss, Barbell shrugged) and he seemed really cool, somewhat crazy and intense but how many interesting people aren’t crazy and intense? His particular brand of extreme fitness and mental toughness was intriguing to me so I ordered his book ‘Spartan Up’ to learn more about him and his process
I found the book to be well written and easy to read. I was kept reading by the interesting stories and anecdotes about De Sena’s life, Spatan/Death race and historical people. The book contains many valuable life lessons, the one which interests me the most is the cookie test. The cookie test is about willpower and delayed gratification. We can use it to think about working hard in the present for a better position well into the future. Throughout my undergrad I was able to do little study and pass with mostly B’s. This was fine until I got to postgrad when I would require A’s in order to continue. I had set myself up for a difficult time studying and I wasn’t able to achieve the grades I needed for a PhD scholarship. The lesson from the book and on that I now tell people that hard work early sets us up to work hard later, when it really counts.
Now I don’t want this to sound like a negative review, but other than that point, the book didn’t really speak to me. I believe the book is written for those who are looking to get into fitness, or those just starting off who need a greater push. I am already deep into health and fitness, as well as looking into ways to test myself and become tougher.
One of the central points of the book was about changing your frame of reference (De Sena talks about this in interviews also). The idea being to put yourself in very difficult situations, or do difficult things in order to make the rest of the day, or the rest of your life seem much easier. This could be as simple as a cold shower, or much harder like 300 burpees every morning, or as intense as weeklong adventure races. These stories in the book were interesting and kept me reading, but to me they felt like a repeating rant that people have got to be tougher. It was a bit much for me, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good advice.
So for me the book was entertaining enough, had some interesting points but over all I found it somewhat lacking in power. This is no fault of De Sena or the book; I just don’t think I am the intended audience to get the most benefit for the book.
If you are interested in De Sena, the Spartan/Death races the book will be an interesting read so I suggest checking it out. If you are just starting out in your fitness journey, or need motivation to get off the couch this book is written for you. If you’re a badass fire breather I would look elsewhere for motivation (unless you are looking to get into adventure racing).