As a sports coach, psychologist, and endurance athlete, I am always interested in the mental dimensions of sports. Matt Fitzgerald’s book How Bad Do You Want It: Mastering the Psychology of Mind Over Muscle addresses the mental aspects of endurance sports.
Using a mixture of personal interviews, sports reporting, and brain science, Fitzgerald discusses how athletes can understand how their brains and perceptions operate in the realm of physical endurance. While he writes specifically for an athletic audience, I think this book can be read and understood by anyone who is hoping to achieve more in life.
Written in easy chapters that combine a jargon-free discussion of neuropsychological concepts and riveting sports reporting (I found myself rooting for runners as if I was on the sidelines, for races that happened more than 20 years ago), Fitzgerald tells us how we can understand our brains and harness our power to overcome perceived barriers to achieving our goals.
A few of my favorite highlights:
Letting Go – Fitzgerald highlights some famous examples of “choking” in high-profile events, where athletes seem to collapse in the face of hype and anticipation. He discusses how people can deal with their own inner critic and focus on their love of the physical activity instead of the pressure to win and achieve. In my psychotherapy practice, and in my own life, I know how a loud inner critic can undercut confidence.
Failure – Time and again, we learn how failure is an important ingredient in success. Without failure, we don’t know what doesn’t work. We don’t gain life experience by succeeding without failure.
The Group Effect – Fitzgerald discusses research and real-world examples of how working together (in team training, or even within a community with a strong running culture) motivates and enhances athletes’ abilities. This is why group therapy, or even having an accountability partner or coach, can help a person stay on track to achieving their goals.
Adaptability – The book gives examples of athletes who were told they had the “wrong body” to compete in their chosen sport. Yet upon closer examination, many athletes adopt personal styles that play to their strengths and compensate for their perceived weaknesses. In the same way, life is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. As a coach and a psychologist, I know how important it is to develop a personalized plan for physical and mental health to support clients in achieving their goals.
For athletes, or for anyone looking to understand how to overcome perceived barriers, this is an approachable, easy-to-understand book.
Dr. Cory Nyamora
Dr. Cory Nyamora is an endurance sports coach with certifications from USAT and USATF, a licensed clinical psychologist, and the founder of Endurance – A Sports & Psychology Center, Inc. He provides endurance coaching for beginner and experienced athletes, as well as psychotherapy services to children, adults, and families. To schedule a consultation email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 510-981-1471.