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How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle Paperback – October 15, 2015

4.6 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"To be a great athlete, you need more than natural ability; you need mental strength to keep going when your body wants to quit. In his new book, writer Matt Fitzgerald dives into the research behind these coping skills and highlights the top athletes who use them. Anyone, whether pro or everyday exercisers, can use these tactics to push further." – Men's Journal

"Fitzgerald has been writing about the psychology of endurance performance for more than a decade now and is really one of the pioneers in terms of trying to take this body of research out of the laboratory and into the field for everyone to try. His latest book examines a series of notable races through the lens of Samuele Marcora’s “psychobiological” theory of endurance. The races make it a fun read, and the psychology is thought-provoking." – Runner's World magazine

"At the highest level of sport, it's often not physiology but psychology that separates the best from the rest. Matt goes well beyond just telling stories of great athletes (though he's really good at doing that, too) and delves deep into cutting-edge brain science to show us all how we can strengthen our own mental muscle." -- Huffington Post, Best Health and Fitness Books in 2015

“The mind is the next frontier for significant performance gains…Mental fitness, says Fitzgerald, means becoming your own sports psychologist and developing coping mechanisms to help you suffer better. Which, while not entierly satisfying, is a good start.” ― Outside magazine

"A book every that every endurance athlete should own…A page-turning read both for the narrative content and hard information…For all athletes drawn to pushing up against the red line to see what they've got." -- LAVA magazine

"Fitzgerald has done an exemplary job in making physiology and psychology understandable with contemporary research framing a creative and entertaining book that makes the subject come alive through charismatic writing." – Canadian Running magazine

"How Bad Do You Want It? really brings to life how important psychology is for endurance performance." -- Samuele Marcora, PhD

"Harnessing the power of the setback is a powerful motivation. How Bad Do You Want It? recognizes the fact that we all have the power to adapt and be better than before." – Willie Stewart

"Think of it as the mind-over-matter guide to racing. Fitzgerald’s book dissects pivotal races and features top endurance athletes…illustrating how elite athletes rally their mental strength ― and amateur athletes can, too." – Austin-American Statesman

"Imagine you could get into the mind of an elite athlete and use their skills to improve your sporting potential. That's the premise of Matt Fitzgerald's How Bad Do You Want It?" – Triathlon Magazine Canada

“Fitzgerald’s presentation digs into the very soul of his athletes to uncover innate traits and learned behaviors in ways that draw the reader right into the competition being described. This is a fantastic group of stories being told with literary skill far beyond most sports books… All the profiled athletes and all the masterful storytelling and all the research presented to back up the concepts he is illustrating become a cohesive effort by Fitzgerald to document the connections between the showcased sporting accomplishments and the mental fitness skills that propel those successes. Fitzgerald forms the foundation for constructing your own arsenal.” ― Oregon Distance Runner

How Bad Do You Want It perfectly introduces the exciting new understanding emerging in the world of sports psychology and exercise physiology. Fitzgerald uses key examples from some of the world’s most famous and celebrated athletes…to distill down highly scientific concepts and cutting edge theories into real world examples and situations that anyone can grasp. A superb book…If you want to succeed at your next race, to break through to a new PR, or reach a new level in your running, then I highly suggest this book. It will give you many of the latest tools and theories for doing just that, written in a way that allows you to apply them to your running, from the first to the last page.” ― Colorado Runner

“Fitzgerald is a skilled writer and the drama and excitement of the various races really jump off the pages. If you are feeling a bit unmotivated about running, this would be a great book to pick up, as you are likely to be inspired by all of the thrilling stories.” ― Run Oregon

"This fascinating book explains why perception of effort is so crucial to maximizing athletic performance. The mental toughness behind a dozen breakthrough endurance performances in cycling, running, triathlon, and rowing is analyzed through spectacular storytelling, first-person interviews, and powerful new psychobiological theory. Fitzgerald has a gift for making exercise science come alive with pulse-pounding stories of elite athletes engaged in the most pivotal races of their lives." – Saltmarsh Running

Book Description

The greatest athletic performances take place in the mind, not the body. How Bad Do You Want It? explores some of the greatest moments in endurance sports to mine concrete habits and tactics we can use to cultivate our own mental strength.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: VeloPress; 1 edition (October 15, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1937715418
  • ISBN-13: 978-1937715410
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Geoffrey J. Wilhelmy on November 23, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book explains the latest theory of how the brain regulates endurance performance, the psycho biological model. The thesis is that decisions about pacing or quitting are taken by the conscious brain and that these decisions are primarily based on the conscious decisions of how hard, heavy and strenuous exercise is, a feeling called perception of effort, or body's resistance to the mind's will. Endurance performance is a self-regulated behavior on which thoughts and feelings can have profound influences. Perceptions of effort limit endurance performance. The book describes how conscious self-regulation of thoughts, emotions, and behavior can have a dramatic influence on endurance performance. In other words, mind and body are interconnected with the body distinctly subordinate, or as the great Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi opined, "Mind is everything. Muscles-pieces of rubber." Fitzgerald states the thesis of the book, "One cannot improve as an endurance athlete except by changing one's relationship with perception of effort." The author proceeds to devote the remainder of the book to examples of how athletes changed their relationship to perception of effort. As he states, "the best source of knowledge concerning the most effective methods of coping...is the example set by elite endurance athletes". Subsequent chapters describe how these elite athletes learned to cope.Read more ›
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EDIT 2015-10-20: so, I want to make clear that, as a book, it's a pretty good read. Matt can definitely hold his own as a writer. My main qualm is that the advice parts of the book could have been written about in 15-20 pages, at most, the rest of the book is filled with stories and anecdotes but many of them have very little in terms of scientific rigor to stand on, so it becomes a "well, if it worked for Prefontaine, it'll work for me" (just as an example) type of proposition. I fully understand we have a much deeper understanding about anatomy and dynamics and metabolism than we know about the mind + body connection; this makes the little practical advice provided in this primer as "it might work for you or it might not" which isn't particularly useful.

Original Review:
This book, unlike Matt's past works, has very little in the way of material, direct practical advice, which is a bit disappointing. This primer is very exploratory and about a very interesting subject for us into endurance sports: mind + body? Mind over body? Body over mind? The book although based on fairly solid scientific grounds, relies too heavily on anecdotes and stories, IMO. This is a stark contrast from his last few works that were science and application thereof to distance running. Training plans, recipes, nutritional advice, energy efficiency, tips and tricks that could help you PR, and so forth. If that's what you are expecting from this book, you'll be, like myself, a bit let down.
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Format: Paperback
Matt Fitzgerald has done it again. From the moment I first heard about this book, I was intrigued. I picked up running again at age 35 after nearly 20 years away from the sport. Since then, I've lost over 50 pounds and continue to improve my personal bests each year (I'm 42 as I write this review). I've long wondered if my full potential is more limited by the physical or mental side of things. In "How Bad Do You Want It?", Fitzgerald delves into this very topic and other barriers that endurance athletes face. I was captivated by the numerous stories told throughout the book about real athletes who overcame obstacles in order to dive into the depths of their own potential. I highly recommend this read for endurance athletes of all levels (not just elite) who long to explore their own limits and stoke a new fire within.
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Matt Fitzgerald has written a very interesting and enjoyable book on the role of mental training for endurance athletes. I recommend this book to all endurance athletes and those who enjoy interesting narratives about individuals who have overcome challenges to become successful. The book can truly be enjoyed on 2 different levels:
• Stories of Elite Athletes who have achieved their best through development of better mental training skills and mindsets – these are truly inspirational stories of courage, resilience and are very enjoyable to read
• A deeper understanding of the psychobiological model – how the mind and body interact for endurance athletes – that can be used to help each person better coach themselves in a true journey of self-discovery to see what they are truly capable of, regardless of their level of athletic ability (these skills are helpful in other area of life as well).

I learned a lot in each chapter of the book but would like to share a bit from 2 chapters that I found interesting and compelling:
• In the chapter “The Art of Letting Go”, Matt chronicles the story of Siri Lindley (triathlete) and her struggles and triumphs. The chapter has some very interesting information on choking during big performances. Perceived effort is heightened by self-consciousness - which then leads to decreased performance. The solution is to reach a state of flow – complete immersion in a purposeful activity – that allows one to be in the moment. A key passage from the chapter: “Paradoxically, it may seem, Siri had to let go of that dream and find contentment in the moment-to-moment process of chasing it in order to complete the personal transformation that was her deeper ambition.
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