Coaching Philosophy : Finding Balance by Shaun Kober

Excerpt from Shaun Kober's podcast Live Train Perform : Episode with Shaun Kober and Will Foden

Shaun Kober:

Things might not necessarily be high-level stressors on their own, but together, they can add up to a lot of stress, if it's not dealt with.

Let's say on a scale of one to 10, your relationship is a little bit rocky and it's causing you a three out of 10 stress. And then you've got some financial issues where maybe your company's being bought out or something like that, and that's causing you a five out of 10 stress. Maybe the kids are playing up at school or you're home-schooling them or whatever. They're being little shits. That's causing you a two out of 10 stress. And then you've got a mortgage and dah, dah, dah ... all these things add up, even though they're not massive stressors on their own.

Now, if your partner's just died or you found out your partner's having an affair or something like that ... those are going to be obviously massive level stressors. Right? So those might be like a nine or a 10 out of 10. But these low level stresses, they add up, man.

The more those things add up and they're not dealt with, the more you swing into a sympathetic state, which is our fight or flight response. And when you push too far into a sympathetic state for too long, then this is where your body will try to make you sick or injured or rundown or something similar, because it needs to swing back into a parasympathetic state, which is our rest and digest, recovery state of being. This is literally homeostasis, and your organism is constantly looking for that balance.

You either give the organism as a whole, that balance, or it will do it itself.

I see this all the time coaching at Tiger Muay Thai, where people go from their home environment where they've got all these low level stressors, and they come to Tiger and they're like,

"Right, I'm going to train, because it's expensive, and because training's good for me, so more must mean better."

And yes, training is good for you. Okay. Within reason. But it's also dependent. It's dose dependent. Training is also a stress. We drive the sympathetic nervous system. We provide stimulus. Then what should happen is that we come back into a parasympathetic, rest and digest state. The body goes right. I only just dealt with that stress, or I didn't deal with that stress very well. Now when I eat food, I'm going to, break that down, digest, absorb, assimilate, and start pushing those raw materials to those systems that I've just put under stress so that I can deal with that stress better next time.

Right. This is stimulus, recovery, adaptation.

That's the important thing to remember: You drive the sympathetic nervous system, and put your body under stress. Then you allow your body to come back the other way. Drive the parasympathetic state of rest and digest, tell the brain that you're no longer in danger, and provide the raw materials, in the right amounts, at the right time, in the right ratios, to then allow your body to start repairing and up-regulating those systems that you've just caused damage to.

So as I mentioned earlier, I see this happen all the time when people go from this constant low level stress at home, and they come to Tiger to train. And they're training four or five times a day.

"Dude, you're literally just replacing one stress with another stress."

Physiologically speaking, your body does not understand the difference between a real threat and a perceived threat. Evolutionary speaking again, the sympathetic nervous system is essential for short term survival. You're walking along and a fucking lion comes out of the jungle, right. You get this physiological cascade occur: Pupils dilate so you can see better. Muscle tone increases, blood flow increases, respiratory rate, heart rate etc, etc. Okay. Fight or flight, boom.

You bail out and you get to a safe place.

Now everything's jacked up right now. Now when your brain goes, all right, you're in a safe space, let's go back the other way. Okay. You only just out-ran that lion, we need to make you bigger, stronger, faster etc. so you can deal with that better next time we encounter that situation. Next time food comes in, let's start, reinforcing these systems that helped me in these circumstances, that are going to allow me to deal with that stress better next time.

Right, so that's an evolutionary response. It's absolutely essential for short-term survival. But the rest and digest, parasympathetic state is fucking critical for long-term survival. The problem is that in this day and age that we live in, we've got perceived threats everywhere. You wake up in the morning, you've slept through your alarm, you get an email from some arsehole that doesn't like what you've done with a project. Then you catch every red light on the way to work, and get stuck behind someone going slow in the fast lane. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You know, so we've got all these low level stressors that add up over time.

Acute stress ...Lion in the jungle.

Chronic stress ... life.

There's a difference. Acute stress - essential for survival. Chronic stress is just low level acute stress that has built up over time because it hasn't been dealt with adequately. So this is where it comes to, you know, balancing everything out. Sorry dude, I did go off on tangent then.

Will Foden:

No, no, no. It's cool, man. It is funny how, like you said, it is because you deal with such a broad spectrum of people. It's really interesting to hear your philosophies on actually what you're considering, because a lot of people would associate you as a Strength and Conditioning coach, everyone thinks smash, grab, hammer, hammer, hammer, hammer. Whereas this has so much variability on the shit that you need to be getting done in the parasympathetic side of things, your life, rather than just pushing harder, training harder.

I put some requests for questions to my Instagram followers, and most of them are training specific stuff, like: How many strength and conditioning sessions should an amateur fighter be doing, and what exercises should they be working on?

And just listening to you speak makes me think they are asking the wrong questions and looking in the wrong areas.

But the bigger picture of it is this: What are your protocols to get away from being in a heightened state all the time?

So I deal with two young BJJ fighters, but at 20 years old, they don't have jobs and they can train twice a day. They act and live like an athlete, but they've also got the extra boost of being young, high testosterone, eat whatever they want. But then the normal dude, who's 40, who competes in masters BJJ, and is a CEO of a big company hitting long hours at work and also has a family he has to spend time with ... he's got so much more shit to get right before he worries about his training.

I love how you put this.


Veteran | Mindset and Performance Coach



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