Book review: How Bad Do You Want It

I received a copy of the book, How Bad Do You Want It, back in January. I was so excited to dive into this book, written by Matt Fitzgerald, because my 10k training was to start the end of January. It’s about mastering the psychology of mind over matter, or in this case mind over muscle. Though it focuses on endurance athletes, which I’m not anymore, I thought it would be an eye opening read and I figured I could learn something from it and apply it to my races.

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I really enjoyed the stories in the book about professional athletes in races. I thought I’d take some time to pull some of the information I found interesting or informative and showcase some of those excerpts here.

In the beginning of the book, the author discussed a particular divisional state cross country meet he was part of. He said, “I will never know if I could have matched his quickening and perhaps raised him a notch of my own, because I didn’t even try. The reason was simple. It hurt too much. A part of me seemed to ask, How bad do you really want this?, and another part answered, Not as much as that guy.” <—- I have been there! I clearly remember during one of my past Mackinac Island 8 mile races there being a girl I kept catching up with and then she’d speed ahead. I eventually just let her go…I didn’t want it that bad!

That story really set the tone for the book. When you set a goal, it has to really mean something to you or chances are you won’t meet it. Do you have the desire to meet your goal? Can you push past the pain or other obstacles in order to get there? That’s a question many athletes have to answer!

“Psychologists use the term coping to refer to a person’s behavioral, emotional, and cognitive responses to discomfort and stress. Endurance sports are largely about discomfort and stress; hence they are largely about coping. In a race, the job of the muscles is to perform. The job of the mind is to cope. But here’s the hitch: The muscles can only perform to the degree that the mind is able to cope. Endurances sports are therefore a game of ‘mind over muscle.’”

Something I’ve done in the past before races is to visualize the race and really see myself going through the motions and crossing the finish line. I learned though that if you’re visualization is too perfect, like maybe you’re not visualizing yourself getting a cramp early on in the race or feeling fatigued just half way through the race, then the visualization is not functioning as a beneficial tool. It’s fantasy and would be considered maladaptive coping. So, just another possible helpful tool is to imagine working through those possible struggles.

After reading the book I wanted to hire my own cheerleading squads to be at my races to yell motivating phrases throughout the race haha!

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It was really interesting reading about the audience effect on athletes performance. As you might imagine, athletes are more likely to perform better when there are spectators around — especially if they are saying the athletes name. All the more reason to get your name on your bib, right?! I know it’s true, because I’ve run through areas that have a large amount of spectators or cheer teams and I never want to slow down through that area. Thus, choosing a race with more spectators you’re more likely to do better than if you were to run a race with sparse areas of spectators. I wish I knew of some races in the area that looked like the downtown section of Gazelle Girl or River Bank, like the photo below. Spectators definitely make for a better race!

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There was a very interesting section on perception of effort, being the body’s resistance to the mind’s will. When you really want to meet your goal, you’re able to withstand higher perceived effort than when you’re not motivated or don’t care.

“The most important discovery of the brain revolution in endurance sports, and the most important truth you can know as an endurance athlete is this: One cannot improve as an endurance athlete except by changing one’s relationship with perception of effort.”

Overall, it was a really fun read. There were a couple of the cycling stories (not all of them) I just couldn’t get into, but overall it was pretty intriguing. I did pick up a few things I’ll be applying to my spring races. I just hope my motivation and passion are there on race day. I’ve been experiencing highs and lows over the past few months of training. Race day is generally pretty exciting though, so I think that part will be ok.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Are you working on your mental strength for an upcoming race day?

 

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