Father’s Day Gift Idea: Spartan UP! Book Review and Author Interview

While I love to work out, eat healthy and challenge myself, the idea of ever signing up for a Spartan Race is one that has never crossed my mind…until now.  What is a Spartan Race, you ask?  Founder, Joe De Sena describes it as an intense course that is meant to “wow our racers, push their minds and bodies to the limit, and help make them healthier through superior, extreme, and challenging obstacle races.”  When I was asked to review  Joe’s new book, Spartan Up!, I wasn’t sure how a book about a race would resonate with my Mommy Masters fans.  After reading this book, I am so glad I can share it with all of you because Spartan Up! is not just about a race.  It’s about a way of life…the Spartan way of life!

Spartan Race is for anyone and everyone looking to make a difference in their own life and in the lives of those around them”, says De Sena.  I always envisioned super athletes signing up but as Joe puts it, “super moms….and others with fierce determination can be Spartan racers.” Joe De Sena certainly has a HUGE passion for life and feels he owes it to the world to share it with us all.  Reading his book, learning about his life, his willpower and how he has changed others’ lives, truly inspired me, changed my way of thinking and has helped me push through adversity in my own life.

When you hear about an intensive race, triathlon or challenge, you tend to think of fitness.  I was surprised to read how the Spartan way of life can prepare you for just about anything, including parenting.  Joe writes, “when you accomplish more than you know you can…it helps show you what you are capable of.  It creates a new frame of reference, one you can draw upon in the face of other things that are perceived as being tough in your life”.  This is so true and seems like such a simple concept.  Think about women and giving birth!  If we can endure such pain, struggle, strength and determination in the delivery room, everything else should seem like peanuts, right?

In the book, De Sena writes quite a bit about the way we raise our children and the effect it can have on them.  He argues that “treating our kids as if they need to be covered in bubble wrap throughout childhood has a downside.  They grow up divorced from the natural world around them and fearful of anything even mildly threatening.”  I do agree with him that “part of growing up is taking some risks and learning their consequences.”  No parent wants their child to suffer or hurt, but I try to let my kids know I am here when they need me but that they have to learn to solve issues and obstacles on their own as well.

We often hear that our generation of parenting is not only over-protective but too rewarding.  Joe makes a good point about the fact we take positive reinforcement to a whole new level.  “Our kids get trophies and plaques for no other reason than showing up.”  I actually laughed when reading this because my two boys just finished baseball season and everyone got an award and a trophy, regardless of how they played.  They are five and seven though, so at that age, I think it’s appropriate.  The book says “it’s hard for parents to swallow the reality that their child simply isn’t the best”.  That couldn’t be more true.  I think my kids are the cutest, smartest and most talented little guys around but guess what, my friend down the block will say the same thing about her kids, and I’m sure the lady behind me on line at the supermarket today feels the same way about her kids.  How can all our kids be the best?  They can’t, but for me as a parent, I want to provide my kids with the confidence, motivation and support so they know they can accomplish anything.  I also teach them that they won’t succeed at everything and that’s okay.  I always tell them as long as they have tried, they have succeeded.  If they never try, they have already failed themselves.

Joe talks a lot about failure in Spartan Up!, which is something I often mention when moms ask me what it means to master motherhood.  He says failure makes him work harder.  As a mom, it’s so easy to feel defeated, worn out and ready to throw in the towel.  Some days we are Mommy Masters, and other days, pure disasters.  I say pick yourself up, figure out what you could have done better and try again tomorrow!  Joe writes that “failure creates a positive kind of pain…it’s what drives us to improve.”  I couldn’t agree more!

It’s so easy to complain and be negative when parenting gets tough.  Spartan Up! talks about gratitude practice and finding the good in what we may consider the bad, which will help us face and overcome challenges.  This does not just hold truth for races but for parenting as well.  When all my kids are pulling me in a million different directions, discover my son painted his wall with poop, or I can’t bear to pick up one more toy in the playroom AGAIN, I actually smile and think how blessed I am to be able to stay at home with my kids, watch them grow, and experience all the fun milestones with them.  I could be working at a job I hate for a boss I hate, missing out on everything I now get to be a part of.  Suddenly, scrubbing “home made paint” and washing my son in the bathtub as he splashes and sings, seems pretty great to me.

I found this book to be extremely educational as De Sena often turns to history to prove his point that no matter what life is throwing at us, it could always be worse.  He often mentions Lewis and Clark and Sir Ernest Shackleton and writes about their troubles and triumphs.  He uses the example of a mom who is having a bad day (kid are screaming…bag of groceries broke…) and shows the reader that we actually have no idea what a bad day really is, and what struggling really means.  I could definitely relate to this concept because that is how I live my life.  Sure I am human and complain about stupid things but I know my worst day as a mom may just be someone else’s best day.

As a parent, you will get a ton out of this book!  It will make you think about your parenting style, the way you view parenting and the concept that  bad days aren’t really that bad.  The title, “Spartan up!” has a simple meaning, according to Joe.  “Stop complaining and get it done!”.  With three little boys, a husband that travels, a business I am building, and no family in town to help, I have a lot on my plate and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed.  The way Joe lives his life is the perfect fit for moms and dads, whether you are planning on signing up for a Spartan Race or not.  Joe writes, “…that’s how I always tackle life: put one foot in front of the other, focus on the little goal right in front of you, and almost anything is possible.”  I have learned that complaining about what I need to do on my to-do list doesn’t help to get it done.  If I just dive in, work hard and get it done one at a time, I can move on to the next thing.  I always tell my kids that in the time they wasted complaining about cleaning up their room, they could have been finished.  While some moms are still complaining about the five loads of laundry they have to do, I am actually folding my five loads of laundry and getting ready to move on to my next task.

For those of you who know me, you know I love to exercise for many reasons.  This book was not only attractive to me for the messages and life lessons, but because I am always interested in learning how I can challenge myself both physically and mentally.  Whenever I am struggling to finish my 100th sit up, I often think of Joe De Sena telling me I can do it, to stop complaining and that my pain could be so much worse.  I love when he says, “what’s easier, exercising for one hour in the morning or being unhappy with your body twenty-four hours a day?”  That makes so much sense to me although I actually love working out so it’s not something I have to force myself to do.  I always prefer to work out in the morning and was not surprised when Joe writes that researchers found that morning exercise offers specific benefits.  It definitely prepares me for the day and like Joe says, gives me a sense of “I can do anything”.  I feel pumped up, confident and good about myself, which in my opinion always leads to better and more patient parenting!  If you are always using the excuse of not having enough time to take better care of yourself, Joe addresses that in Spartan Up!.  If you want something badly enough, you will find the time!  It’s there, but you just have to find it and commit, which in the Spartan world, is the key to success.

While I have a long way to go to be considered a Spartan, I do try to work towards a Spartan lifestyle by eating healthy foods, having a healthy attitude, surrounding myself with healthy relationships, and making changes in my life to have a healthy mind and healthy body.  This is a way of living I want to show my children.  Joe hopes Spartan parents teach their children to “live in a way that will keep them out of the emergency room later in life…give them the knowledge of health and fitness and physical activity to enjoy a healthy, long and happy life.”  I could not agree more.  Too many children are indoors hunched over their tablets, cell phones and laptops playing video games instead of outside enjoying the fresh air.  Parents also need to put down their devices, fire the “electronic” babysitter and head outside as well.  Joe is a father to four children and says becoming a parent has changed him.  Like any parent, it’s hard to juggle it all but says to “spend time with your kids.  It goes really fast”.  It’s definitely hard not to want some alone time or to check your e-mails but at the end of the day, there is no better reward for you and your child than spending quality time together.

Spartan Up! is about changing your attitude and taking control of your life and your health.   I think at this point, you know I am a fan of Joe De Sena’s book!  If you are looking for a last minute Father’s Day gift for your husband, father, brother, friend or even yourself, Spartan Up! will keep on giving. It makes the perfect present for any occasion.

Scroll down to read my interview with Jo De Sena!

Click here to learn more about Spartan Up!

Watch this inspiring video all about the Spartan Lifestyle:

 Interview with Joe De Sena, founder of the SPARTAN RACE and author of SPARTAN UP!

QUESTION: Joe, there are so many obstacles in the world of parenting.  How can your book, SPARTAN UP! help moms master motherhood?

JOE:   It’s very hard as a parent to not give your kids anything and everything…but once we learn as parents that we are actually doing our children a disservice…it becomes easier.

QUESTION:  What life lessons can SPARTAN UP! provide to mothers who are frustrated, overworked, negative and feeling under appreciated?

JOE:  The book will help change their frame of reference.  A new frame of reference will make life not get in the way as much.

QUESTION:  You mention in your book that super moms are some of the many different types of people who sign up for your race.  What do you think moms will get out of participating in your events?

JOE:  I think they just want to get a break…and getting outside with friends is a very welcome break and feels really good especially to someone who had and takes care of children.

QUESTION:  As the father of four children, how has creating the Spartan lifestyle helped you become a better parent?

JOE:  It has woken me up to the fact that children need discipline and Spartan race not only opened that window but showed me what kids are capable of.  Seeing 10s of thousands of kids really helped us understand how resilient any child and how much they thrive in an environment like this.

QUESTION:  Do your kids want to follow in your footsteps? How has your lifestyle effected them in a positive way?

JOE:  They have become Spartans so working.  Kids watching.

QUESTION:  What has been a challenge in your life you have had to overcome?

JOE:  Being in a terrible car accident was a tough one I had to overcome as well as losing my mom and dad.  But you put one foot in front of the other and somehow get it done.

QUESTION:  What advice would you give to mompreneurs who have a dream, goal and business idea they want to pursue?  What mistakes have you made along the way and learned from?

JOE:  I have made many mistakes…you have to have a strong stomach for this…everything that can go wrong will go wrong..its just like raising a baby..it is 24/7 so you are well equipped.  Just be prepared for everything to go wrong…and to keep your head on straight and remember the customer is always right.

QUESTION:  If you weren’t out there changing lives and teaching people how to overcome obstacles, what would you be doing?

JOE:  I dream of traveling with the family and living in places where we can learn fighting arts…Japan for Aikido, Brazil for Jujitsu, etc.

QUESTION:  Who should purchase your book?

JOE:  Anyone with a glimmer of hope toward lighting a fire in their belly.

QUESTION:  What is next for you?  What can we expect to see from the world of Spartan in the near future?

JOE:  The Olympics

Thank you Joe De Sena for taking the time to answer these questions and for sharing your experiences with Mommy Masters!

*I was provided with a copy of SPARTAN UP for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.