Far From Fitness

Valley author recounts inspiring stories of mind over muscle

By TERESA HAMMOND

Matt Fitzgerald always knew he’d be a writer.

What it meant beyond that, he did not know right away. His talent for the written word, as well as his passion for endurance sports would eventually lead him to his niche.

His recent publication, an Amazon best seller, “How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle” (released November 2015), is more than a book of endurance sports. It is a well written collection of stories documenting athletes overcoming obstacles which may have seemed logically impossible.

“I wanted to be an author from the third grade,” Fitzgerald said of his career choice. “There was just a romance to it for me because of the association with my dad and I had a passion for writing, too.”

Fitzgerald is the son of longtime author Tom Fitzgerald. The endurance athlete shared he grew up inspired by his father and his passion for writing, juggling between the craft that he loved and providing for his family of five.

“I watched him fighting for time to do what he loved,” the author said of his father, “and I thought okay, that’s not going to be me.”

Fitzgerald attended Haverford College in Pennsylvania where he majored in English. He began his career in journalism, all the while knowing book writing was his passion; it would just take time.

“Technically, I self-published a book of poems when I was fresh out of college,” the accomplished author confessed, stating it is not a fact normally shared, yet demonstrates how hungry he was to see his thoughts in print.

“The whole time I was growing up I wrote poetry,” he continued. “That was my thing, mostly satirical. I went for laughs with poems.”

Post college, as he made his way through varying respected sports publications, his drive to become published did not subside. In 2000 he was laid off from a job writing for Active.com — a misfortune which lead him to think outside of the box a bit and return to the publishers of Triathlon Magazine, where he had once served as editor.

“I basically said I’ll make it turn key,” he said of a Triathlon Training Guide he pitched to the publisher. “I’ll do everything and you get half the money. So that was a no brainer.”

Timing proved to be critical as the sport was growing, as was endurance racing. To date, Fitzgerald has authored or co-authored well over two dozen books, with two more set to publish next year.

“Once the door was open, I knocked it down,” Fitzgerald said of his passion for book writing.

Fitzgerald describes “How Bad Do You Want It?” as a sort of Trojan horse of a book, noting his optimum goal as not being known as a fitness writer, but more for his literary work and ability to translate a story.

“I feel in a way, especially my most recent books, are Trojan horses in a way,” he said. “They present themselves as … here’s something that will help you with your selfish concerns as an athlete trying to get better. And what I really want is to blow you away with great writing and deep ideas.”

This goal is achieved by Fitzgerald in this publication. As he fills 12 chapters and 265 pages not listing how to be great at a given sport, but rather telling stories of athletes overcoming great odds through mind over matter or mental strength over physical strength.

The book takes the reader through countless situations of athletes whom embody the human spirit, struggle with personal demons and some who may seem to have it all together to the outside world, yet fall apart in critical moments. Those are the lessons and insights gained from “How Bad Do You Want It?” Insights and lessons that can be applied to personal life, as well as physical accomplishment which may not seem tangible.

“If there’s a weakness in a book, like the most recent one, it’s just that,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a Trojan horse. Someone might buy it thinking it’s going to be a Five Step program about how to improve and it’s not.”

Fitzgerald shared he is an avid reader, however, he does not read fitness books. His goal as an author is to fill needs for athletes and create a service.

“I’ll cry watching a race,” Fitzgerald said, proclaiming himself a ‘geek’ who will rush home to watch sporting events such as races, which pique his interest.

“I want to make other people cry too,” he continued. “To appreciate the humanity that’s manifested. That’s one of my agendas in that book. To knock people upside the head with that ‘wow’ these people are incredible in a way I have no concept of.

“We’re talking neuroscience here and people’s eyes glaze over,” he added of the physiological component to endurance sport. “I wanted to tell it in a practical way through stories.”

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