In How Bad do You Want It, Matt Fitzgerald does a remarkable job at telling the stories of several endurance athletes and communicating the mental coping skills that can potentially take you to the next level. If this book was all stories it would still be worth the read. Fitzgerald really does that good of a job telling the stories of the athletes. In addition to the well spun stories, Fitzgerald connects the narratives to the latest research in sports psychology and gives us the opportunity to be our own sports psychologist. He does a masterful job at putting us in the minds of top competitors during some of their greatest failures and their subsequent successes. The reader will be in Kona and the Pyrenees, struggling and oftentimes triumphing with some of the best endurance athletes in the world. Paula Newby Fraser, Siri Lindley, Jenny Simpson, Greg Lemond, Steve Prefontaine and others are our our guides through the best psychological coping strategies and mental tactics for successful endurance performance. Although this technique is not as straightforward and direct as a top ten list we often see in the popular press or online, it is incredibly effective. As human beings we are hard wired to resonate with stories and Fitzgerald takes full advantage of this. We are more likely to remember that Thomas Voeckler smashed through his limits because he donned the yellow jersey than that the “audience effect” is something that we should strive to replicate.
Fitzgerald frames mental toughness as a collection of specific coping skills, each one dramatically presented through the eyes and experiences of a high performing athlete. As he went back and forth the between the narrative and the research I was anxiously awaiting a return to the narrative, on the edge of my proverbial seat, to see how the race we were following turned out. That said this is one book that is worth further study to determine which issues are mentally holding me back and which skill I need to work on to improve my performance. There is a solid bibliography so you can dive even deeper into the research. Fitzgerald has penned an impressive set of stories and at the same time given us all access to some of the best psychological research for endurance athletes. If you are at all serious about your performance as an endurance athlete, I cannot recommend this book enough.