Saturday, February 13, 2016

How Bad Do You Want It?

Being the distance runner that I am, I've been reading about mental toughness or 'grit' and the like these past few months. I've read three interesting books on the subject which I'll link to in this post. The latest of these is called, How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle by Fitzgerald Matt. It tells the story of multiple endurance athletes and how they approach and struggled and succeed with their particular sports. Some of the money quotes from the book are:
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. Endurance sports are therefore a game of “mind over muscle.”
Developing mental fitness requires exposure to these challenges no less than the development of physical fitness requires exposure to workouts. Nobody can do this work for you, or even guide you through it. Coping is a response to discomfort and stress, after all.
Later in life, Shorter acknowledged that the experience may have made him a better runner. In a 2011 interview he said, “I found out as long as you know the pain is coming . . . and you have an idea of how bad it’s going to be and how long it’s going to [last], you develop an ability to ride it out. And I think in a way it may have transferred a little bit over into my running.”
Key themes or ideas are:

  1. You've got to go through the work, the pain, the effort, to get to the result. You've got to do the work.
  2. Get angry and use that fuel your focus and success
  3. Be confident. Approach the race day as a very hard thing to do, but be confident that you've done the work to be there that day.
  4. Leverage your audience, your tribe, your posse. Use them to raise your expectation.
  5. Don't be anxious, get into the flow the day and enjoy the experience.
  6. Smile. Have fun. Enjoy the experience.
  7. Be a performer, enjoy the experience and get into it.
  8. And manage your perceived pain and discomfort. Cope with it.  
This is a great book on this subject for marathon runners, ironman and triathletes and anyone who is working on extreme sports.

I also read Grit: How to Keep Going When You Want to Give Up and Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet.

The first day of the Seal training the author was told:
The first day SEAL came to move in, he told me I needed to control my mind. I thought it was just a saying or a throwaway comment, but I think there might be more truth to it than I originally thought. Our minds sometimes tell us little lies about ourselves, and we believe them.
which goes along completely with the first book. This training story, 30 days with a Navy Seal directing his training was amazing. At the end, the author did 1000 pushups that one day.

The Grit book addresses diligence, tenacity, optimism, flexibility, discipline, resilience, confidence and purpose.

Did I mention that I ran 18 miles today?


  1. 18, Wow! You are already ready for April! At first when I read this I forgot which blog this was and thought you were my friend who is getting ready to take chemotherapy. Then I realized it was not. But many of your points taken from the book could apply to her mindset as well, about battling cancer. So many of our battles are in the mind!

  2. You are probably right Robin. It takes mental toughness to get through lots of things. I keep seeing more and more written on this subject these days.