The greatest athletic performances spring from the mind, not the body. Elite athletes have known this for decades and now science is learning why it’s true. In his fascinating new book How Bad Do You Want It?, coach Matt Fitzgerald examines more than a dozen pivotal races to discover the surprising ways elite athletes strengthen their mental toughness.
Fitzgerald puts you into the pulse-pounding action of more than a dozen epic races from running, cycling, triathlon, XTERRA, and rowing with thrilling race reports and revealing post-race interviews with the elites. Their own words reinforce what the research has found: strong mental fitness lets us approach our true physical limits, giving us an edge over physically stronger competitors. Each chapter explores the how and why of an elite athlete’s transformative moment, revealing powerful new psychobiological principles you can practice to flex your own mental fitness.
The new psychobiological model of endurance performance shows that the most important question in endurance sports is: how bad do you want it? Fitzgerald’s fascinating book will forever change how you answer this question and show you how to master the psychology of mind over muscle. These lessons will help you push back your limits and uncover your full potential.
How Bad Do You Want It? reveals new psychobiological findings including:
- Mental toughness determines how close you can get to your physical limit.
- Bracing yourself for a tough race or workout can boost performance by 15% or more.
- Champions have learned how to give more of what they have.
- The only way to improve performance is by altering how you perceive effort.
- Choking under pressure is a form of self-consciousness.
- Your attitude in daily life is the same one you bring to sports.
- There’s no such thing as going as fast as you can—only going faster than before.
- The fastest racecourse is the one with the loudest spectators.
- Faith in your training is as important as the training itself.
Athletes featured in How Bad Do You Want It?: Sammy Wanjiru, Jenny Simpson, Greg LeMond, Siri Lindley, Willie Stewart, Cadel Evans, Nathan Cohen and Joe Sullivan, Paula Newby-Fraser, Ryan Vail, Thomas Voeckler, Ned Overend, Steve Prefontaine, and last of all John “The Penguin” Bingham
Watch the races featured in the book! How Bad Do You Want It? YouTube playlist
Read a chapter! See the VeloPress Mental Training Page.
How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle
Foreword by Samuele Marcora, PhD
6″ x 9″, 282 pp., $18.95, 9781937715410
1. A Race Is Like a Firewalk: Sammy Wanjiru, 2010 Chicago Marathon | mental fitness
2. Brace Yourself: Jenny Simpson, 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships | setting expectations
3. Time Is on Your Side: Greg LeMond, 1989 Tour de France | time-based goals
4. The Art of Letting Go: Siri Lindley, 1999-2001 | self-consciousness, obsession, and finding flow
5. The Workaround Effect: Willie Stewart, 2002 Ironman World Championship | finding new ability
6. The Gift of Failure: Cadel Evans, 2010-2011 Tours de France | angry resolve
7. Today’s Weakness, Tomorrow’s Strength: Nathan Cohen and Joe Sullivan, 2012 Summer Olympics Men’s Double Scull | ego and insult
8. The Answer Is Inside You: Paula Newby-Fraser, 1995-1996 Ironman World Championships | greed and need
9. The Group Effect: Team USA, 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships | teams and performance
10. What Do You Expect? Thomas Voeckler, 2004 Tour de France | confidence
11. Passion Knows No Age: Ned Overend, 1998 XTERRA World Championship | positive attitude
12. Is it Worth it? Steve Prefontaine, 1972 Summer Olympics 5000 meters and John “The Penguin” Bingham at the Sunburst 10K | motivation and meaning
“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
“Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It? may be the only book that goes beyond the standard mindfulness training, which focuses primarily on visualization, and gets at the heart of how champion endurance athletes achieve greatness. ” — Outside 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