Archive for March, 2014

I posted a recent article about Spartan Race and some of the important lessons that can be learned from an obstacle course race. I also mentioned the new book, Spartan Up! that was written by the founder of Spartan Race, Joe DeSena. I reviewed the synopsis, but also asked Joe some of the questions I had after reading it. And, of course, ESF followers can find that interview right here! Enjoy!

1. You say in your Spartan Up! synopsis that “we believe that there are things we can do and things that we can’t, and we become conditioned to that distinction”. What moments in your life prompted you to write that? Was there ever something that you became “comfortable” not being able to do? If so, what did you do to break out of that comfort zone?

My dad had a construction business I worked for when I was in my very early teens or might have even been 10-11. I was working with the men every day of the summer on a large landscaping job. This will sound like an old fable but my dad asked me to move a boulder. I worked for about 3 hours trying to move that boulder. I finally became comfortable that it was immovable.

I approached my dad and said..”It’s stuck, it won’t move, we might need to keep it where it is” He responded with. No problem let me get someone who will move it.

That changed my life that moment. I realized you can do anything..and if you don’t someone else will.

2. You co-authored Spartan Up! with Jeff O’Connell, who has previously worked with and Men’s Health. These two spheres of fitness seem to be at odds with the total-body total-mind challenge that Spartan Race touts. How did the two of you meet and collaborate?

Agreed. I believe there are iterations of healthy thinking and messaging. I am at the far end of what is lets call the “far right of the spectrum” in that I believe in hardcore healthy eating and training at an extreme level.

The other end of the spectrum would be on the couch with cigarettes and doughnuts. Along that spectrum from left to right sits bodybuilding, random supplements, men’s health etc. What was great about Jeff was that he wrote Sugar Nation..and really “got it” when it came to understanding what we were doing here.

He took my crazy language (I go a million miles per hour) and helped me turn it into digestible bite sized messages for the reader..we really collaborated well here.

3. You mention that lack of self-control and organization are two major obstacles to our success. What do you say to someone with these problems who might make the excuse that they don’t have time to train for your race or eat properly? How do you rip those people off the couch?

Everyone has more time that they believe. All anyone needs to do is write down what they do in a day or week. They will be SHOCKED at how much time they waste or how much time they actually have. Eating healthy and training can ALWAYS be fit into everyone’s life. You don’t get to put another quarter in the machine when your life is over to start over….you better make this game last.

4. What’s your most motivational story you’ve heard associated with the Spartan Race?

Todd Love…missing and arm and two legs…happy as can be..served our country and shows up and completes most Spartan tell me you don’t have time to eat healthy and train.

5. You said in your synopsis that “you don’t parent differently or rethink your work process” as a result of completing endurance races like 10K’s or Ironmans. I understand that you may not have the same problem solving challenges to face as you would during an obstacle course race, but don’t you think that mental toughness is still developed? Don’t you think that the dedication to training and perseverance throughout the race still changes your thinking process in day-to-day life?

Yes I would say that is somewhat true..but what develops mental toughness and grit and the ability to understand and then apply the benefits of delayed gratification are the moments that nearly break us. So as long as the training you are asking about and those events are getting you to “breaking” points…moments where you cannot take another step and are so far out of your comfort zone you are seeing stars..then yes they will change your day to day thinking through a frame of reference shift.

6. You include a few quotes in your book synopsis, what quote has really stuck with you and why?

“When you’re going through hell keep going”- Winston Churchill. Because it says it all. It is our current problem in first world countries…it is too easy to quit at everything. Its never as bad as we think it is, there is always someone that has it tougher, and all we have to do is put one foot in front of the other.

7. You talk a lot about your successes, overcoming a rough childhood, working on Wall Street, starting Spartan Race, and running your own organic farm. However, you mention that failures as well as successes contribute to our mental resilience. What failures have you experienced and how did you learn and bounce back from them?

Failed relationships, failed businesses, failed endurance events. We will all fail that is guaranteed. It is what you do with that failure that makes the difference and weaves our character.

You learn most importantly that failure lasts forever..and that in many cases you didn’t have to paying more attention, by having more patience, and by just moving forward no matter how hard it was failure was not the only outcome!

8. It’s difficult for many people to differentiate between pushing the limits that they have in their own minds, and pushing their body’s actual limits. How would you explain the difference to them?

The body has at least 8 more days from when your mind says you cannot take another step. I know because I have been there many times. The only obstacle that will stop you is the one in your head. The human body has swam to cuba, run across america, climbed everest, been to the moon, the human body is capable of almost anything…the human mind however needs to believe it. This is why when a record is broken in sports it is immediately followed by the record being broken over and over.



  For those of you who don’t know, I really enjoy doing obstacle course races. Not just any obstacle course race, mind you, but Spartan Race. These races are tough, challenging, and push you hard, but the best part is the amazing support system that Spartan offers. They post Workouts of the Day, Foods of the Day, motivational quotes, and offer practice sessions to “rip you off your couch”, as they tout in their slogan. They offer multiple races to target whatever level you may be at, with the Spartan Sprint (3-5 miles), Super (7-9 miles), and Beast (12+ miles). For the more adventurous, there’s the Ultra Beast (double the Beast course) and the Death Race. For the last two years, I’ve done the Texas Beast and plan on making it a yearly tradition, recruiting more friends each year to hit the course with me!


  So are you ready to Spartan Up? Are you ready to get “ripped off the couch”? If you’re ready to challenge yourself to do things you never thought possible, whether that doing 30 burpees in a row or winning your age group, then you need to check out Spartan Up! Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena has collaborated with Jeff O’Connell on this brand new book. The book isn’t available until May 13, but you can check out the synopsis now and pre-order the book on Amazon. I read over the synopsis myself, and generated some questions for Joe in an interview that is coming soon! But I also wanted to share a few thoughts after reading the synopsis, so here are some of the main points I’ve identified as thought-provoking, interesting, and important:

Spartan Up! embraces three main concepts: Question your Assumptions, Less is More, Discipline is Everything.

Self Control

“Our self-control pales next to the Spartans. I’m convinced they would have looked at us with disgust and disbelief.”

People think they can’t attain lofty fitness goals, but anyone can IF they keep in mind that it is truly a “way of life”. So many people want results NOW. So many companies advertise the shortest amount of time to see results. Some companies advertise that you won’t even have to put work in. But a real athlete and competitor knows that it takes a LONG TIME of working REALLY HARD to reach your ultimate goals. That’s why I believe it’s important to set “stepping stone” goals along the way to keep you hungry and satisfied at the same time.

Learning from Failure

You won’t always have successes. Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, you will experience failures. How will you cope? Will you make it a learning experience or will you let it bring you down?

Importance of Obstacles

“As Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher king portrayed in The Gladiator, noted: ‘Fire feeds on obstacles…and inversely dies without them.'”

What can an obstacle course teach you? It can help you recognize your limits, learn when to hold on and when to let go, when to ask for help, how to be a good teammate, how to analyze a situation, and how to move on after failures.

Battle of the Mind

Spartan Races aren’t just for your body. You strengthen and quicken your mind as well. Decisions made in the mud, with barbed wire pressing into your back, in cold weather and cold water help you make decisions efficiently in other areas of your life.

“History’s elite warriors have known that to win on the real battlefield, you must first win on the battlefield of your mind.”

The Spartan Race is aptly named, and reminds us of the Spartan philosophy that to “win on the real battlefield, you must first win on the battlefield of your mind.” The Spartan Race makes you think. Makes you analyze your situation. Makes you doubt yourself at times. But ultimately, it helps you win, whether that’s your age group, your battle with weight, in the classroom, or on the job.


“If you find the prospect of navigating mud swamps, hill climbs and walls to be daunting, imagine tackling them from the confines a wheelchair. Yet Michael became the first paralyzed individual to ever finish a Spartan race.”

This shows us that everyone has a story. Everyone has their own personal obstacles. But seeing people like Michael help us put our problems, challenges, and setbacks into perspective.


“If freedom is what you are after, it comes not from discipline, but through discipline.”

“Most people waste much of their days simply by not being organized and planning ahead.”

People often say they just don’t have time to workout every day, yet I’ve never seen a schedue that absolutely doesn’t allow it. If you are organized and driven enough, you wil make time.


“Can attitude be taught? I believe it can. The way to create great attitudes is to push through adversity. Once you have seen the dark side, everything looks brighter.”

Is it your body that needs to be changed? Or is it your attitude? You may have to start with the latter first.

Fit not Fancy

“Our philosophy is that all you need to be fit is intestinal fortitude and a will, and that equipment shouldn’t be the difference maker.”

Many people think you can’t be fit without a gym, but that’s simply not true! The Spartan Race is an extremely challenging test of your physical fitness, and you can train for it anywhere. The necessary equipment for most of the Spartan workouts include your body and maybe a rock or branch to use for weights or pull up bars. Spartan workouts literally leave you with no excuses not to do them.


“Why do a competitive race? Because you might be just dogging it through life.”

Finally, one of my favorite quotes from the article is the following, that “life was not worth living unless you were going to live it fully.”

So view the synopsis, grab the book, and sign up for a race. It’s time to get moving. Spartan Up!