José SoaresAuthor, Professor at UP and specialist in Performance
With over 35 years of experience in the field of Physiology, José Soares is a distinguished professor of Physiology at the University of Porto, the author of seven best-selling books and an external consultant at Unilabs Portugal.
José Soares has also a continuous record of research and teaching, with more than 60 scientific articles published in specialized journals. Besides, he has worked with a wide range of prestigious companies, such as Grupo José de Mello, Siemens, Philips, Sonae, Banco Popular, Banco Santander, Ana Aeroportos, Wipro, Galp and Sage. Recently, he worked with Deloitte in their FUEL project.
Expert in human performance, José Soares is one of the special guests at PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS Connecting Stories.
1. With a vast resume, can you tell us a little about your journey and professional experience?
I started my activity as an athlete as a young man. Then I was a handball athlete. After that I took a degree in Physical Education. I got my degree, got my master's and did my PhD between Portugal and Germany in Physiology. I was already a professor at the Sport Faculty when I started to participate in post-graduate courses at the Faculty of Medicine. Today I also collaborate with the Porto Business School. This is my academic activity.
In the meantime, I started working with athletes. In soccer, I worked as a physiologist in different circumstances, including with the National Team. Then I was also a physiologist for the National Handball Team. I also started working with patients – what is called Clinical Exercise. I created an exercise program for women with breast cancer at a foundation called Mama Help, and later I created a Clinical Exercise program for patients at the CUF Porto Institute.
At the same time, I started working in the business world, on improving performance (particularly cognitive performance), mitigating the impact of stress and fatigue and using the analogy of athletes a lot. So I don't do anything related to coaching or leadership or motivation. I intend, solely and exclusively, to transmit what is learned from the athletes to the world of organizations. I do blood tests, saliva tests, urine tests and sleep studies with people with a higher degree of differentiation in organizations. But these functions are basically the intervention of a Physiology professor (or a physiologist) in the world of performance, only in the corporate world.
Meanwhile, more recently, I started working with car pilots. Since July 2020 I have been following the driver Miguel Oliveira.
I have also published seven books so far.
2. You have been connected, for a long time, to high competition sports. What importance did this experience have in the professional you are today?
I was and am. I continue to work with athletes, particularly athletes in the automotive world. I'm also having an initial experience with astronauts.
So, everything I have learned from athletes is completely transferable, from a performance point of view, to the corporate world.
Working with people with high levels of performance in very adverse conditions – because sport is adversity – has an almost linear transfer to the world of organizations.
3. You have been a teacher for more than 35 years. What motivated you to go into teaching?
Honestly, I don't know. I was a bad student. But I liked sports a lot. I managed to get into Physical Education, which at the time was the easiest course to get into. Then I started to be a better student and they invited me to be a teacher.
I really enjoy teaching. It's my favorite thing to do. So, I guess I'm a teacher by passion. I just don't like the bureaucratic tasks.
4. Since you have several functions at the same time, how do you manage all the responsibilities? Is there any secret?
This is a question I am often asked, because people think I do a lot of things and that I am even a workaholic. But it's not quite like that. I have a lot of time for myself, I can't say that I have big hobbies. I enjoy life very well. What I do have is something that, I admit, helps me a lot. I'm extremely organized. I think that's one of the things I learned from my PhD between Portugal and Germany. I learned that we also have to take time to have fun. And if we are disorganized, time will slip away, we will be working late into the night and, many times, we even have to work late at night to make up for what we should have done during the day and didn't do.
I think the secret is a huge enthusiasm for things. I am an enthusiast, often almost exaggerated. In my house, my wife sometimes even gets tired of hearing me talk about the same thing many times (laughs).
In terms of what my performance is, the secret doesn't lie in my mental abilities, because I don't consider myself to be a very intelligent person by any stretch of the imagination, but lies in my work and my organization.
5. What messages do you want to transmit with your books?
I have published books in different areas. I published two books on soccer training and on soccer physiology, because at that time it was still new. Then I published a book that I really liked, but it wasn't very successful, where I compared a living organism to an organization. I also published a book about running, which was a success at the time. Then I published “Reload. Menos stress. Melhor performance.” and more recently I published “Start & Stop”.
These last two books, and because they are aligned, are books that aim to deliver simple, doable, science-based messages. They talk about how we can improve our performance. The “Reload. Menos stress. Melhor performance.” talks about the four main components of performance – recover, refuel, rethink and re-energize. These are techniques that we often take from high performance sports and transfer to the world of organizations. The messages are precisely those: improve performance and mitigate the impact of stress and fatigue on the way we work, in our personal and professional lives. We must always be concerned about being scientifically supported. I have this responsibility as a teacher, so that's what I do.
In “Start & Stop” I emphasize this even more, but from a more health-related perspective, because I think the secret of performance lies in the balance between loading and resting, between starting and stopping. And this balance between knowing how to start, continuing what you have started and knowing how to stop to recover and start again is the secret of athletes, the secret of patients and the secret of people in organizations.
6. You are the author of the book “Reload. Less stress. Better performance.”. How can we do this “reload”?
I would say it's knowing how to recover very well (recover).
Re-energize is feeling physically active because, in fact, exercise has a role in our ability to re-energize (with changes that occur in the brain that make us more focused, more concentrated, with better short-term memory).
The refuel has to do with our nutrition. Food plays a decisive role in performance and particularly in cognitive performance.
The rethink is to think about the way we are working and to think that many of the things we do have a biological basis.
In this latest book, in "Start & Stop," there is a continuation of "Reload. Menos stress. Melhor performance.", but emphasizing the fact that performance is based on the balance between what we do and what we don't do (that is, between what we do and what we recover to do again).
This is true in an athlete, because when we don't respect the principles of recovery, the athlete goes into overtraining, and in the corporate world, because one can go into burnout. Also the patient, when he doesn't respect the treatment cycles, sees the probability of success greatly reduced.
Therefore, the secret of “Start & Stop” is exactly that: knowing how to recover between phases, realizing that there is an impact on our performance and our health.
Connecting Stories is an editorial space led by PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS which consists of conducting exclusive interviews, directed at influential personalities who work in different sectors of activity.
The project, conceived by PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS, includes the publication of success stories, through small interviews with influencers who want to share details about their projects, opinions, plans for the future, among other subjects.
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