Mental Toughness – 80/20 Endurance

Mental Toughness

Meatballs

It Just Doesn’t Matter

By Matt Fitzgerald / October 12, 2020 / 0 Comments

I belong to a generation whose every member has seen the movie Meatballs. Among its most famous scenes is the one where Camp North Star head counselor Tripper Harrison (played by Bill Murray) delivers a fiery motivational speech to his young charges on the eve of North Star’s annual beatdown at the hands of rival Camp […]

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Runners Flirting

How Sex Can Make You a Better Runner

By Matt Fitzgerald / October 5, 2020 / 0 Comments

Let me start with an apology. This post is not about sex. It’s actually about hermeneutics, or the discipline of textual interpretation, as it applies to endurance training. I knew that if I promoted a post about hermeneutics on social media, no one would read it, so I deliberately mislead you. Dastardly, I know, and […]

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Tommy Hughes

Fifty Is the New Whatever

By Matt Fitzgerald / September 19, 2020 / 0 Comments

The 2020 Antrim Coast Half Marathon was exceptional simply by virtue of happening. It was one of the first sizeable road running events to take place after the COVID-19 pandemic swept the planet. But the race became even more exceptional when 60-year-old Irishman Tommy Hughes crossed the finish line in 1:11:09, smashing the age-group world […]

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Jamie Whitmore

Repeat After Me: “I’m Injured and I Couldn’t Care Less”

By Matt Fitzgerald / August 17, 2020 / 0 Comments

Currently I’m reviewing the copyedited manuscript of my forthcoming book The Comeback Quotient: A Get-Real Guide to Building Mental Fitness in Sport and Life, which is available for preorder. (Subtle, eh?) Chapter 6 tells the remarkable story of Jamie Whitmore, a dominant professional off-road triathlete in the 2000’s who later overcame a Jobian cancer ordeal […]

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Kyle Merber

Got a Comfortable Training Routine? Good—Change It!

By Matt Fitzgerald / August 10, 2020 / 0 Comments

Leon Fleisher died recently. Man, what a life! Born in San Francisco in 1928 to Jewish immigrants, he started playing the piano at age four, and by nine he was proficient enough to become a student of renowned teacher Artur Schnabel. At 16, Fleisher made his Carnegie Hall debut, and by his mid-20s he was […]

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Tommy Rivers Puzey

As an Athlete, Should You Care What Others Think? (Hint: All One-Word Answers to This Question Are Wrong)

By Matt Fitzgerald / August 3, 2020 / 0 Comments

In March 2017, I gave a talk at Run Flagstaff, a running specialty store located in the city whose name it carries. During the talk, I mentioned an occasion when I got to hang out with 2:19 marathoner Yoko Shibui and her teammates on the Mitsui-Sumitomo women’s professional running team in boulder, Colorado. “Are there […]

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John Calvin

Are You a Chosen One?

By Matt Fitzgerald / July 27, 2020 / 0 Comments

This article is about endurance sports, I promise. It’s just going to take a minute to get there. Are you familiar with Calvinist doctrine? At its heart is the concept of predestination. Calvinists believe that, at the beginning of time, God selected a limited number of souls to grant salvation and there’s nothing any individual […]

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Caroline Rotich, Me, Ryan Bolton, Patrick Smyth

Creative Goal Setting

By Matt Fitzgerald / July 19, 2020 / 0 Comments

Recently I received a text message from Matt Chittim, host of the Rambling Runner podcast. In it, he informed me that he is several months away from turning 40 years old and he wants to mark the occasion by pursuing the goal of breaking 40 minutes for 10K. His purpose in texting me was to […]

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Shelby Houlihan

Rediscovering a Process Focus

By Matt Fitzgerald / July 13, 2020 / 0 Comments

There’s a runner I coach, we’ll call him Jeremy, who’s concerned about his weight. It’s not that he’s overweight and worried about developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease. Rather, Jeremy is light and lean but just not quite as light and lean as the elite trail runners whose ranks he aspires to join—and it […]

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Mat Fitzgerald Running in High School

Pressure Is a Double-Edge Sword

By Matt Fitzgerald / July 5, 2020 / 0 Comments

In 2015, economists Daniel Hickman and Neil Metz conducted an interesting study on the effect of pressure on performance in professional golfers. Data from the final hole of PGA tournaments taking place between 2004 and 2012 was analyzed to determine the effect of financial stakes—specifically how much money was riding on draining a putt—on performance. […]

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If One Bad Workout Lowers Your Confidence Level, You Weren’t Confident in the First Place

By Matt Fitzgerald / June 1, 2020 / 0 Comments

Confidence, which dictionary.com defines as “belief in oneself and one’s powers and abilities,” is critical to athletic success. We all know this. Yet we seldom pause to reflect on the nature of confidence or to think about how best to manage it. This leads to some bad assumptions about confidence—such as the notion that more […]

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2019 Boston Marathon

Do It Because You Suck at It: Training and Racing with a Mastery Mindset

By Matt Fitzgerald / May 25, 2020 / 0 Comments

I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2009. Although I came into the race super fit, having just lowered my half-marathon PB, I knew within 12 miles that I was in for yet another long and disappointing day at the 26-mile, 385-yard distance. At 16 miles, I saw my family, who, at great inconvenience to […]

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How Champions Return from Setbacks (Like, Say, Missing a Month of Training Due to Coronavirus)

By Matt Fitzgerald / April 13, 2020 / 0 Comments

Currently I’m working on a book called The Comeback Quotient, in which I attempt to answer a very simple question: What is it that enables some athletes to overcome major setbacks and make the very best of the very worst situations? The answer I offer will surprise many. Comebacks come in infinite varieties, but the one […]

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Four Ways Endurance Athletes Can Turn the Negative of Social Distancing into a Positive

By Matt Fitzgerald / April 6, 2020 / 0 Comments

There’s a moment in the film It Might Get Loud, a 2008 documentary centered on guitar heroes Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White, that has stuck with me over the years. It’s the part where Jack is discussing the rationale behind his minimalist musical style, and in so many words he explains that making things […]

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Now Is the Time for All Runners to Channel Their Inner Kenyan

By Matt Fitzgerald / March 30, 2020 / 0 Comments

Runners are goal-oriented by nature. It goes without saying that the pursuit of goals requires planning and a certain degree of control. It’s difficult to pursue the goal of, say, lowering your half-marathon PB if you don’t have a specific half-marathon event on your calendar and if it’s beyond your power to put one there. […]

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The Joy of Running Angry

By Matt Fitzgerald / March 2, 2020 / 0 Comments

I’ve finally gotten around to reading Graem Sims’s excellent biography of Percy Cerutty, Why Die? One of the things I like about it is how liberally it quotes from Cerutty’s writings, which are of mixed, yet surprisingly high, quality. I’ve highlighted a number of passages, including this gem: “To race superlatively I hold that one has to […]

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On the Importance of Starting Endurance Races with a Full Emotional Fuel Tank: My Black Canyon 100K Postmortem

By Matt Fitzgerald / February 17, 2020 / 0 Comments

During my flight from Oakland to Phoenix last Friday, a mantra for the following day’s Black Canyon 100K trail run came to me: Stay positive. I realized instantly that it was the perfect choice for the occasion because it made me feel more relaxed about the looming challenge.  I don’t really get anxious before big races […]

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The Power of Low Expectations

By Matt Fitzgerald / February 10, 2020 / 0 Comments

As I write this, I’m just over a week out from the Black Canyon 100K, the longest running race I’ve ever attempted. My previous longest was a 50-miler that just about killed me. It’s fair to say that ultramarathons in general are not my strength. I think it’s because I land heavy. When I run […]

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How to Deal with Race Day Cold Feet

By Matt Fitzgerald / January 20, 2020 / 0 Comments

We’re all familiar with the phenomenon of cold feet. You want something very badly until you’re on the brink of getting it, then suddenly you’re not so sure you want it anymore. Usually associated with nuptials, cold feet strike not only brides and grooms on their wedding day but also endurance athletes on race days. […]

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Endurance Racing as a Spiritual Experience

By Matt Fitzgerald / January 6, 2020 / 0 Comments

Eliud Kipchoge is known chiefly for two things: winning and breaking records. He has won eleven of the twelve marathons he’s raced (finishing second in the only one he didn’t win). In 2017, he made the first formal attempt to cover the marathon distance in less than two hours, shocking the running world by coming […]

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Overcoming Stadephobia (Fear of Distance)

By Matt Fitzgerald / November 11, 2019 / 0 Comments

Stadephobia is not a real word. I just made it up. It combines the ancient Greek words stade, which was a unit of measure used in footraces (1 stade = 180 meters), and phobia, meaning fear, and it’s my name for the phenomenon of fear of distance. In general, phobias are irrational fears of things like spiders […]

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Book Review: Rebound: Train your mind to bounce back stronger from sports injuries

By Matt Fitzgerald / October 14, 2019 / 0 Comments

Overuse injuries such as Achilles tendinosis and runner’s knee are very different from other “health problems” such as migraine and flu. Whereas the latter cause all-day physical discomfort, most overuse injuries hurt only when you try to do the specific activity that caused them. And yet they bother you just as much, don’t they? The […]

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Good Cop, Bad Cop

By Matt Fitzgerald / August 19, 2019 / 0 Comments

To train with maximal effectiveness, you have to be mean to yourself. And you also have to be kind to yourself. Every week I do two full-body functional strength workouts at a local gym. The specific exercise selection evolves over time, but there is one exercise I never fail to include among the dozen or […]

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How to Cultivate a Growth Mindset in Athletes

By Matt Fitzgerald / July 29, 2019 / 0 Comments

This week, Matt writes for the TrainingPeaks Coach blog and his article can be found here.

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Test or Stimulus? How You View Your Workouts May Say a Lot About Your Overall Mindset

By Matt Fitzgerald / July 22, 2019 / 0 Comments

I’m working on a new book on the psychology of endurance sports. It’s titled The Comeback Quotient and it’s a sort of sequel to How Bad Do You Want It? As part of my research, I’ve just read Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. You may be familiar with Dweck’s work, which has been mainstreamed by a […]

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Would You Go to a Fortune Teller for Retirement Planning Advice? Then Why Do You Not Go to Trained Professionals for Sports Nutrition Guidance?

By Matt Fitzgerald / July 15, 2019 / 0 Comments

If you’re interested in the effects of diet and nutrition on endurance performance, you’ll be interested in a study that was just published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Italian researchers recruited 40 student-athletes from the University of Bergamo and separated them into four groups. Two of the groups were made up of kickboxers, […]

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Don't Panic: My Ironman Santa Rosa Race Report

By Matt Fitzgerald / May 13, 2019 / 0 Comments

At some point during the three-hour drive I undertook with my wife, Nataki, from our home in Oakdale, California, to Santa Rosa last Thursday I came up with a motto for the Ironman I would race two days later: Don’t panic. The phrase arrived out of the blue, as they say, but it did not […]

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Choose Your Own Adventure

By Matt Fitzgerald / March 11, 2019 / 0 Comments

3 Benefits of Narrativizing Your Athletic Journey On March 26, my latest book, Life Is a Marathon: A Memoir of Love and Endurance, will be published. It explores what running does for the people for whom running does the most—those men and women who are able to say, “Running changed me,” or even, “Running saved my […]

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It's Not as Bad as you Think: The Performance-Boosting Power of Gratitude

By Matt Fitzgerald / February 25, 2019 / 0 Comments

One of my all-time favorite short stories is “Fantastic Night,” written by the great Austrian fiction master Stefan Zweig in the early 1920’s and set in late Bell Époque Vienna. It concerns a wealthy 35-year-old baron, an orphaned inheritor of a large fortune and dedicated gentleman of leisure who leads a pleasant but unfulfilling life […]

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Book Review: The Holy Sh!t Moment

By Matt Fitzgerald / February 11, 2019 / 0 Comments

Readers of my work often assume that I mostly read the same kinds of books I write, but this isn’t the case. Of the 40 to 50 books I devour each year, about 90 percent are novels. I can’t help it—my father is a novelist and I was a diehard fiction junkie by the third […]

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Keep Calm and Keep Running

By Matt Fitzgerald / January 28, 2019 / 0 Comments

At the 2016 World Half Marathon Championships, held in Cardiff, Wales, young Geoffrey Kamworor gave the running community an object lesson in keeping calm during a crisis. The Kenyan upstart came into the race having talked a lot of smack about one fellow competitor, Mo Farah, who was almost universally recognized as the best runner […]

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Is Motivation Ever Really the Problem?

By Matt Fitzgerald / January 21, 2019 / 0 Comments

A few weeks ago I was working out in the functional strength room at the gym I go to when one of the facility’s personal trainers entered with a new client, an overweight middle-age male. I did not intentionally eavesdrop on their session, but I couldn’t help overhearing the duo’s interactions during the next half-hour. […]

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Does Every Second Count in a Daylong Race?

By Matt Fitzgerald / January 13, 2019 / 0 Comments

The other day I had an interesting conversation with an athlete I coach who is training for an Ironman 70.3 event that will take place on the same weekend as the Ironman race I’m training for (specifically the weekend of May 10-11, 2019). In explaining to me why he had done the bare minimum of […]

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Here’s an Easy Way to Become a More Successful Athlete: Eliminate the Word “Triggered” from Your Vocabulary

By Matt Fitzgerald / January 7, 2019 / 0 Comments

Suddenly the word “triggered” is everywhere. The Urban Dictionary defines it as “An emotional/psychological reaction caused by something that somehow relates to an unhappy time or happening in someone’s life.” I would add that the term may also refer to stimuli affecting some personal vulnerability that is not strictly related to a past time or […]

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A Case for Treating Your Next Big Race as the Most Important Thing in the World

By Matt Fitzgerald / January 2, 2019 / 0 Comments

Recently my brother Josh sent me a link to an article on the John Templeton Foundation website that I found quite interesting. Titled “Sanctifying Everyday Difficulties: Motivational Consequences of Sanctifying Difficult Experiences,” it concerned the work of Daphna Oyserman, a professor of psychology at USC. Oyserman has spent a number of years studying ways in […]

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What Would Spock Do?

By Matt Fitzgerald / December 10, 2018 / 0 Comments

Lieutenant Commander Spock is one of the most iconic nonhuman (well, technically half-human) characters in television history. When I watched Star Trek as a child, my understanding was that Spock’s lack of emotion made him really smart. I’m not sure if this was Gene Roddenberry’s actual intent in creating the character, but regardless, my impressionable young […]

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Make 2019 Your Year of No Excuses

By Matt Fitzgerald / December 3, 2018 / 0 Comments

Recently in this space I wrote about a study in which French researchers looked for associations between “psychosocial factors” and the likelihood of failing to complete a 140-km ultramarathon. My focus then was the finding that runners who scored high on measures of self-efficacy were more likely to reach the finish line. What I did […]

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Mental Predictors of Physical Performance

By Matt Fitzgerald / November 12, 2018 / 0 Comments

Every endurance athlete is familiar with the idea that certain physiological tests can be used to predict endurance performance. For example, the classic VO2max test is a very reliable way to assess how well an athlete is likely to do in a race or time trial. Other examples are the Wingate test and a simple […]

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What Role Do Incredibly Painful Workouts Have in Endurance Training?

By Matt Fitzgerald / August 20, 2018 / 0 Comments

It is a proven fact that individual pain tolerance predicts endurance performance. Given two athletes with identical physical traits, the one with a higher pain tolerance will likely outperform the other in competition. It is also a proven fact that pain tolerance is trainable. Exposure to pain tends to increase pain tolerance. The practical implication […]

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Why I Encourage Athletes to Be Hard on Themselves

By Matt Fitzgerald / August 13, 2018 / 0 Comments

The conditions for this year’s Boston Marathon were famously brutal, claiming many victims among the race’s 27,000 participants. Among them was professional runner Kellyn Taylor, who dropped out at 20K with symptoms of hypothermia. In a tweet posted later that day, Kellyn wrote, “I wonder if I just wasn’t tough enough to weather the storm.” […]

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The Goal of Becoming a Better Runner is Highly Compatible with the Goal of Becoming a Better Person

By Matt Fitzgerald / June 18, 2018 / 0 Comments

The apprehension runners feel before a race and the suffering they experience during a race constitute a sort of crisis state—a special kind of crisis state that is actively chosen by the runner. Like other crisis states, this one tends to bring one’s personal weaknesses to the fore. If a runner’s mind lets him down […]

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"You Are Not a Watch" (A Lesson in Pacing)

By Matt Fitzgerald / May 21, 2018 / 0 Comments

In the context of endurance racing, pacing can be defined as the skill of distributing one’s effort across a defined distance in such a way that the distance is covered in the least amount of time possible. Although the body does the visible work in any kind of endurance race, the skill of pacing is […]

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How’s Your Metacognition? If You’re an Endurance Athlete, You Should Care!

By Matt Fitzgerald / April 16, 2018 / 0 Comments

The weekend before last I did a 10-mile run. Under normal circumstances, such a workout is no big deal, but I am coming back from an injury and this one did not go terribly well. Having done a succession of eight-mile runs every other day over the preceding week, I was hoping to feel comfortable, […]

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It’s Only Pain

By Matt Fitzgerald / January 29, 2018 / 0 Comments

During the 13 weeks I spent training with the NAZ Elite professional running team in Flagstaff last summer, I did a few workouts with Sarah Crouch, not a member of the team but an accomplished pro with a 2:32 marathon on her resume. During a couple of these sessions, it was apparent to both of […]

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Don't Ever Be Satisfied

By Matt Fitzgerald / November 1, 2017 / 0 Comments

Arguably the greatest runner in history is an Ethiopian man named Haile Gebrselassie. He broke nearly 30 world records in a career that spanned from the early 1990s through 2015. He has won eight World Championships gold medals, two Olympic gold medals, and numerous major marathons. Now at least 38 years old (it is widely […]

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