How Bad Do You Want It?

How Bad Do You Want It? Matt Fitzgerald

If you’re an endurance athlete looking for an edge, you’ll want to read “How Bad Do You Want It?” by Matt Fitzgerald. 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.

Racing is hard. What truly makes running feel hard is something that exercise physiologists call perception of effort. This is a phrase used by scientists to describe “how hard it feels” at any given moment during exercise. Muscles can only perform at a level with which the mind is able to cope. The key to pushing the envelope and performing at the highest levels of endurance sport is coping.

What you’re willing to put up with in terms of physical suffering all depends on how bad you want it. What’s your motivation? Why is it important to you? Is it worth it? These are questions that only you can answer. There is no magical formula to coping. But, Fitzgerald explores some of the most common coping strategies used by elite endurance athletes through case study and interviews.

How Bad Do You Want It” features transformative moments in the lives of runners, cyclists, and triathletes. Sammy Wanjiru, Jenny Simpson, Ryan Vail, Steve Prefontaine, John Bingham, Greg Lemond, Cadel Evans, Thomas Voeckler, Ned Overend, Paula Newby-Fraser, Willie Stewart, and Siri Lindley are featured. You’ll learn how these extraordinary athletes minimized their perception of effort using psychobiological principles to unlock their full potential.

I found myself thinking a lot about this book on my training runs lately. My own perception of effort has changed as my perspective has shifted. It’s difficult to feel bad about a few intervals at threshold pace, when you’ve just read an account of Thomas Voeckler’s incredible ascents in the late stages of the 2004 Tour de France, Sammy Wanjiru’s gut-wrenching performance at the 2010 Chicago Marathon, or Paula Newby-Fraser’s dramatic finish at the 1995 Ironman World Championship. 

You can read the first chapter of How Bad Do You Want It? at

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