The Real Way to Get Mentally Tough: Matt Fitzgerald - 2020-11-25
The Real Way to Get Mentally Tough: Matt Fitzgerald
The biggest difference between elites and the rest of us is not simply talent; it’s mental resilience.
Matt Fitzgerald has been studying elites his entire career and has learned what techniques the best of the best use to get there. In his new book, The Comeback Quotient, Matt talks about a philosophy called ultrarealism and how we can all apply it to add some extra oomph to our training and push to the next level.
Matt is a well-known endurance sports author, coach, and nutritionist. His many books include How Bad Do You Want It?, 80/20 Running, and The Endurance Diet. Matt’s writing has also appeared in numerous magazines, including Outside and Runner’s World, and on popular websites such as podiumrunner.com and nbcnews.com. He is a cofounder and co-head coach of 80/20 Endurance and the creator of the Diet Quality Score smartphone app. A lifelong endurance athlete, he speaks frequently at events throughout the United States and internationally.
Matt’s work has given him access to some great athletes who have shared their secrets about what it takes to truly become the best in the world, and it’s not just about raw talent or genetics; it’s about the mind. It’s about leveraging science and psychology and philosophy into mental toughness. In The Comeback Quotient, Matt combines those elements that he’s compiled from the best in sport to deliver actionable advice and techniques that any athlete can use to improve.
If you haven’t heard of David Goggins, look him up. He overcame an abusive upbringing to transform himself into a Navy Seal, Air Force Ranger, and competitive ultramarathoner, and he is undeniably one of the toughest minds out there. He’s just one example from Matt’s book that he and Coach Claire discuss as they talk about the qualities that athletes like David have that we can all develop in ourselves.
Matt’s new book The Comeback Quotient comes out in December 2020, and if you are as interested in training your mind to be as fit as your body, make sure you get a copy!
Questions Matt is asked:
6:15 You've written several books on endurance fitness that also seem to have a healthy dose of psychology woven in. What is it about the mental side of the sport that interests you so much?
7:49 I have two little kids, and when they run, they run as fast as they can and then completely poop out. They have no sense of pacing or anything like that, so obviously that’s something that we have to learn.
8:30 Your new book that’s coming out is called The Comeback Quotient. Can you give us a summary of what it's about and why you wanted to write it?
9:56 One thing that you talked a lot about in your book was a philosophy called ultra-realism. Can you explain what that is and why it's important not just for athletes, but for life?
12:24 It sounds so simple when you say, “Just make the best out of it.” How simple is that? But why is it so hard?
14:16 If our brain is so good at predicting, then what do we do when we haven’t thought out a way to get around the obstacle?
16:50 How do you override everything your brain is telling you when you’re in pain?
18:51 You did have a few examples in your book of people who like David Goggins and the Slovenian skier who won Olympic bronze after she had punctured a lung and broken a bunch of ribs. I don't want to be that mentally tough!!! That just sounds pretty stupid some of these things though. Where’s that line?
20:39 Besides just reading your book, how can athletes actively practice mental fitness? It's pretty simple to learn how to physically run your best, but how do you mentally train? Any advice with that?
23:59 You definitely have some stories in the book about people freaking out and things not going so well.
26:37 You basically said to some of the athletes that you’ve coached to stop BSing themselves, and sometimes that’s some realism that’s hard to hear too.
28:13 One thing I definitely have done in a race myself is BSed myself in a positive way and told myself, “It doesn’t hurt. It’s fine. Nothing is wrong here. You can keep going,” when that’s not really the way I feel at all. So I don’t know how that falls into it. I feel like I’m lying to myself in a positive way, if that makes sense.
31:02 Another thing that struck me is a lot of sort of… I don’t know if we call this a self-help book, but a lot of books that are trying to get into the psychology of performance, they only talk about the really positive things. This is called The Comeback Quotient. We’re expecting to read a whole bunch of comeback stories and have everybody get the gold medal at the end, but you included several people who didn’t come back “successfully,” and I’d love to hear about why you chose to do that?
34:02 I think there’s a lot of people, especially new runners, seem to struggle with accepting things that don’t go as expected. Would you say that?
36:37 Another part of the book was your personal journey to train for a triathlon using the mental training techniques that you learned from the ultra-realists. Without giving too much away, what were some of the lessons that you applied for yourself?
39:54 One thing I thought about when reading your race report is it’s very common for people to set goals. So you’ve got your A goal, shoot-the-moon goal, B goal, C goal, but most people aren’t really happy with that C goal. I think that maybe being actually happy with your C goal is like a mental trick that you can do because you didn’t get your A goal in your triathlon, right? And you’re still super, super happy. And how is that possible? How are you not upset that you didn’t get your A goal?
41:44 When does the book come out and what's next for you?
Questions I ask everyone:
43:22 If you could go back and talk to yourself when you started running, what advice would you give?
44:09 What is the greatest gift running has given you?
45:12 Where can listeners and charities connect with you?
Quotes by Matt:
“I’m still running at 49 and I just believe that the most obtrusive barriers in endurance sports are the mental barriers.”
“The people who are able to make the very best of the very worst situations in endurance sports, they do so through a process of just facing reality.”
“Whether or not you’re already the most resilient person in the world, if you simply just copy what the ultra-realists are doing, you will start to develop those qualities.”
“You’re not dependent on reality, kind of the stars aligning. It just doesn’t matter. You can succeed in any situation simply by making the best of it even if the end result is not what you originally wanted.”
“It is about the process. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, like you have one race day for every 100 training days or whatever, so those training days you should be enjoying.”
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