Friday, April 15, 2016

Book Club Book Review: How Bad Do You Want it?

"It turns out the essential challenge of endurance sports really is psychological"- Matt Fitzgerald, How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind Over Muscle
If you are looking for a book that tells you how to reach your goals, this might not be the book for you. But if you are looking for inspiration, for that push past your perceived limits, or for stories about athletes overcoming challenges, this book provides that and more. In How Bad Do You Want It?, Fitzgerald shares stories of athletes, both well known and obscure who ignored the voices in their head that told them to stop, to turn around, to quit. Throughout the book is advice and information to help the runner build their mental muscles to help them race their best.


It was no coincidence that I chose this book for my April book club selection. With my bucket list race, the Big Sur Marathon, on the horizon, I wanted to read something that would drive me up those hills and across that finish line. Who knew that I would develop severe plantar fasciitis and have to bag my training plan, instead cross-training via bike and pool running? I needed all the motivation I could get, and I found plenty in this book.
"Endurance sports are therefore a game of 'mind over muscle'"-Matt Fitzgerald.
The book starts off with a discussion of the "psychobiological model" of endurance. Fitzgerald does a nice job discussing how the athlete perceives his effort versus what is actually going on in the brain. He says that the brain itself becomes fatigued during exercise, and this fatigue leads to an increased perception of effort. So the goal for the athlete is to change his thought process. He uses the term "the wall" to describe that limit, but states that an athlete can overcome that wall by working on mental fitness.
"The one thing an athlete can control is how she deals with what life gives her" -Matt Fitzgerald.
This quote kind of reminds me of one of my favorite mantras, given to me before my first Chicago Marathon by my friend Sandy, who has completed an Ironman along with many other endurance events. She told me to "go with what the day gives you". I've taken that advice to every starting line since then.  In the book, Fitzgerald says success is all attitude about the way an athlete feels. An athlete with a good attitude will perceive a lower level of discomfort and be able to push harder. Fitzgerald calls it "bracing yourself". He says you should always expect your next race to be your hardest race and prepare yourself for the worst to race your best.

Besides giving the reader a mental pep talk, Fitzgerald shares real life stories of athletes who pushed themselves beyond their limits to achieve a goal. My favorite story was about cyclist Thomas Voeckler and the 2004 Tour de France where he pushed ahead and wore the yellow jersey way longer than anyone would have expected. He was dying out there, but he hung on until stage 15 before he succumbed to the inevitable. But even though he didn't win he was a hero in his home country of France. As riders say, "the yellow jersey gives you wings" to describe the phenomenon of riding better once they have the yellow jersey. The jersey made Voeckler push way beyond his abilities because he believed he could. The crowds cheered him on, and that too pushed him. Fitzgerald describes that as "the audience effect", where the presence of other people has a positive effect on performance. You've probably felt that at a big race, when a spectator calls out to you and tells you you're looking strong. I know I have!

Book Club Book Review: How Bad Do You Want It?

There are plenty of amazing stories, but no book on endurance athletes would be complete without a chapter on Pre. Steve Prefontaine was a legendary runner. There's a great story about Pre running in the 1971 NCAA XC championships. He was challenged immediately by another runner who wouldn't give up. Pre was pushed to the limit but just wouldn't quit. Winning the race, he made it look easy but readily admitted that it wasn't. That's how he approached every race. He is best known for this quote which he stated before a race:
"The only good pace is a suicide pace and today looks like a good day to die".- Steve Prefontaine.
He often asked himself "is it worth it?" referring to pushing himself to the limits of his endurance. Yet he always rose to the challenge. He was tough. No doubt it was worth it to him.
"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."-Steve Prefontaine
But the book isn't just about high performers. This book is for ALL runners. Fitzgerald talks about John Bingham as well. Bingham, who gave himself the nickname "the Penguin" is known for his slow, steady, back of the pack pace. He became the voice for a whole new group of runners. But in spite of admitting that he would never win a race, he still pushed himself to his limits.
"In spite of all my talk about the joy of the journey, at some level I'm a closet competitor." -John Bingham
He encourages runners of all abilities to chase their goals of getting faster for that transformative experience that comes with trying as hard as you can.

After reading this book, hopefully, we'll all be tougher runners. Just ask yourself: How bad do you want it?  Give it your best, no matter what your best is.

What did you think of the book? Did you draw motivation from the stories? How do you get your head in the game during a tough event?


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Here's the link up badge! You can find the link up at the end of the post. The link up stays live for 2 weeks--it will close April 1, but the comments stay live forever! Don't forget to link back to this post, and please read and comment on the other reviews. If you want to review a different fitness-related book, please feel free to link up with us as well! Remember, sharing is caring! I'm so grateful to all of you who participate in the book club!

Next month we are reading Running: A Love Story 10 Years, 5 Marathons, and 1 Life Changing Sport by Jen Miller. This sounds like a book any us of could have written! Jen is a writer for Runner's World as well as the New York Times. I'm really looking forward to this one.




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57 comments :

  1. sounds like a great book! i will check it out. thanks for sharing!

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  2. You know I LOVED this book and think about often when I'm out there trying to train my way though the pain cave!!! It was absolutely filled with so much great information and I was left with just being amazed (once again) at the mind/body connection and what the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve!!! Great stuff.

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    1. I hope people don't skip it because they think it's filled with technical info. It's probably one of the best books I've read on mental fitness in a long time.

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  3. I am about halfway through this book and I love it! I love all the psychology behind it and some of his stories are so riveting! I know most of what holds me back is in my head now how to change that? Great suggestion and bummed I did not finish the book in time to link up

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    1. You still have time! The link up is open for 2 weeks. Thanks for reading the selection!

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  4. Definitely something that I need to check out. The mental game is something that i focus on with my clients!

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    1. This would be a must read if I was coaching.

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  5. What a great book! I need to hear that message this week!

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  6. 'mind over muscle'- absolutely true! Sounds like a great book!

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  7. I'm going to pick this up. Because you know what? On Tuesday I had a bad run. I stopped like 80 times because of the voices in my head. It's so mental!!

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    1. I'm not a stranger to those naysayers in my head!

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  8. This book looks and sounds great. The publisher was supposed to be sending it to me, now this reminds me to go check on where it is.

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  9. I always love reading motivational stories. After reading them, I always seem to have an extra pep in my step.

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  10. Just added this book to my list of things to read! I need some motivation :)

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  11. This has been in my "to read" pile for AGES. I really need to move it to the top because I know I'll love it - Matt Fitzgerald is such a great author.

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    1. I wasn't expecting it to be so motivating! But it was the perfect read for me.

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  12. I need to read this! Thanks for the review.

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  13. Sounds like a great read. Huge Thomas Voeckler fan!

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  14. Awesome, sounds like a cool book...I love reading your reviews.

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    1. Thanks! I wish I could get more people to link up...some months are better than others.

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  15. I keep meaning to read the books you suggest, but somehow I always forget. This one looks really good though. It goes along with my favorite saying "she believed she could, so she did." Your mind can hold you back or it can make you fly.

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  16. This looks like a great book! I'm still fairly new to running, but as I train for my second marathon, I can already feel the thirst for another.

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    1. I liked the focus on mental toughness because as a runner, that's my weakness.

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  17. thank for your suggesting new books..im always looking for new options!

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    1. Do you have any suggestions for future books?

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  18. I heard many great things about this book Wendy. I haven't read this one yet, but I read Matt Fitzgerald's Marathon book before my NYC Marathon and it was an awesome inspiring read. I like the way he writes about running on a deeper level. Now I want to get it! I bet it's another great read!

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    1. This was a really good read--I'm going to pick up some of his other books too.

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  19. Glad this gave you inspiration! I hope that carried you through the BSIM this month!

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    1. That should say "carries". Of course I know you didn't run it yet..lol

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  20. If I ever train seriously again and try for a goal time, I need this book!

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    1. I"m heading over to your blog to see what's new! I didn't realize you weren't training for anything...

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  21. Just the title itself makes me want to read this!

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  22. Sounds like the perfect book for some inspiration! I always admire athletes for their ability to push past their limitations!

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  23. I love the quote that endurance sports are mind over matter . . . .I have used that to be proud of myself when I've not met a goal in a marathon . . . yet had the mental grit to finish out with 6 to 8 miles of hell. Good luck at Big Sur

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    1. The scientist in me loved the science behind that--the brain is so powerful!

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  24. So glad you finally got to read it! Review was great! I have several of his books and find them all to be very informative without all the technical stuff. Easy to read. Take care Wendy!

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    1. Thanks Liz! Yep, based on your recommendation--I loved it!

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  25. I've been wanting to read this!! Cant wait for it!

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  26. Wow I need to read this book. Mental strength is my main weakness. Thanks for the recommendation! Also that first Pre quote is my all-time favorite.

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    1. Mental strength is my main weakness too! I'm drawn to these kinds of books. I hope you pick it up.

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  27. I am not really drawn to sports books, but this sounds like one I would really enjoy. Thanks for the review.

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    1. This was such an interesting book! I hope you read it!

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  28. I finally finished the book! So many good takeaways to apply to my training and racing strategies. Thanks for suggesting the book. I plan to link up soon (and thanks for keeping the link open for 2 weeks for slow readers like me :))

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    1. Hey, that's why it's open! I don't want anyone (besides me) to feel the pressure of the deadline. Glad you enjoyed it.

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