Remembering Dr. Aki Hintsa

Remembering Dr. Aki Hintsa

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Dr. Aki Hintsa 1958-2016

It is with deep sadness and sorrow that we announce the passing away of Dr. Aki Hintsa, the founder of Hintsa Performance. Aki passed away very peacefully surrounded by his whole family after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

Aki will be deeply missed by his family, friends, colleagues, clients and the numerous people around the world whose lives he has touched during the years.

We have now lost a very dear friend and colleague, a truly great man, whose impact in this world will be bigger than we even know today. Aki's life-long mission to help people reach better life will now continue by his beloved colleagues.

We kindly ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.

16.11.2016, Jussi Räisänen.

For further details, please contact:  
Jussi Räisänen, Co-Founder, CEO
jussi.raisanen@h2hperformance.com

I am very proud of you, and I have all the trust in you to take our mission forward exponentially - people need Better Life. I place my trust in God.
I know that I am in good hands, and the mission continues.
— From Aki's letter to his colleagues, 12th November 2016

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio this summer, we witnessed some incredible achievements by the world's best athletes. These performances are of course not down to luck, but years of training and competing to get to that one point where you need to deliver the optimal performance.

One of the sayings that I have heard a number of times in professional sporting environments is "Plan the work, work the plan". This might, of course, be a simple point to make, however having the right plan - and working that plan - is key to success at both the professional and non-professional athlete level.
 

How to find the right plan?

As Stephen Covey says, "start with the end in mind".  In other words, start with the performance and work your way back. In professional sports, this is called a “needs analysis” whereby we find out what is required from the athlete, both physically and mentally. Physically we are looking for key components that will lead to the athletes having the opportunity to express themselves on the pitch, or during a race.

So, for non-professionals, it is vitally important to understand the event, or competition, that you are entering. A starting point for a needs analysis might be to find out the following:

  • Duration of the event: average times for age and fitness levels.
  • Start time of the event: is it a day time or evening event?
  • Course or surface of the competition: find out about normal weather conditions and elevations (especially if you are traveling to a marathon).
  • Think about those who have previously completed the race, their experience and results: visit a marathon review website to get feedback from other participants. 
     

Start to plan the training

Once this needs process is completed, we can start to plan the training for the event. The first point to make is that non-professional athletes must leave enough time to complete the training. One of the biggest problems we see is people leaving it too late to get the physiological changes to allow for a successful performance. This can lead to overtraining as we try to force and fit all the training into a condensed period of time.

The second point is that the event must be realistic. For example, if someone has knee problems, then training for a marathon would not be a great idea as it would/could exacerbate the problem. This would mean an even longer period of training and preparation, as we would need to address this problem before starting to train for the marathon. It would not, of course, mean that the person could not train to improve their fitness levels by other means. However, this issue would need to be resolved by improving their strength and biomechanics.
 

What is Periodisation and what are the benefits?

When we look to plan the training, we split the training down into blocks or cycles of training. This is more commonly known in sports science as Periodisation. The first, and biggest, cycle is the macrocycle. This cycle can last between 1 year to 4 years. From a professional standpoint, this is dependent on the sport that you are planning for. In team sports, such as rugby and football, the macrocycle will last 1 year (length of a season), whereas in an Olympic event the macrocycle will last 4 years - from one games to another.

The next cycle is the mesocycle. This cycle can last between 4 to 8 weeks. This is the period of training that the athlete will try to develop certain objectives and adaptations. The last cycle is the microcycle, which can last from 7 to 10 days. This cycle refers to the number of training sessions which occur during this period of time. In team sports, it normally denotes the week between games. 

There are a number of benefits that have been considered in the scientific research surrounding the use of periodisation:

  • Aids in reducing the risk of injury and overtraining (Plisk & Stone, 2003).
  • Allows for adaption from training (Fry, Morton, & Keast,1992).
  • Allows for monitoring of training and tracking of improvements.
  • Develops structure around the training and allows focus on small clear goals. 
     

How can non-professional athletes use Periodisation?

Once we have a better understanding of the idea of splitting or formalising the training down into cycles, we can start to create a plan for successful performance. So, for example, the process for completing a marathon for a notice non athlete might look like the following:

1. Aerobic Endurance: The main energy source used during a marathon is the aerobic energy system (Sjodin & Svedenhag, 1985) and the level of aerobic capacity is a strong determining factor of marathon performance (Hagen et al, 1980). Development of this system will improve performance and aid in the recovery from both speed/tempo runs and strength sessions.

2. Speed/Tempo Run: Another performance indicator for marathon performance is the anaerobic capacity of an individual. Therefore, the use of sustained efforts at a harder pace than normal is used in training to improve performance (Laursen & Jenkins 2002).

3. Strength: Development and research into the understanding of strength training for endurance sports has significantly increased over the last 10 years. Strength training has been shown to increase running economy (Barnes et al., 2013), reduce and delay fatigue (Ronnestad & Mujika, 2014), and reduce the risk of injury (Hrysomallis, 2009).
 

Work the plan

In the end, it’s time to work the plan. Plan your training so that its main focus is to help you improve or succeed in your specific event.  Break these down into small clear goals that can be achieved from week to week. Clear goals are the key to achieving incredible results. Simple things done consistently will lead to extraordinary results.

An example of a year macrocycle in the preparation for a marathon run (Please note that percentages of training refers to the duration or time spent on that area of training)

An example of a year macrocycle in the preparation for a marathon run (Please note that percentages of training refers to the duration or time spent on that area of training)

An example of week 17 in the preparation cycle might look like this

An example of week 17 in the preparation cycle might look like this

Far reaching effects on productivity

Conversely, the use of periodisation can have far reaching effects on productivity in the business world - as it could be very useful to align your goals in a periodised structure. For instance, breaking the goals or focus down into macro goals (1 year goals), which should allow enhanced planning for meso goals (4-8 week goals) and then to micro goals (day to day goals).

As Gary Keller has stated, “Live with purpose, live by priority and live for productivity”.
 


Lee Eldridge, Performance Coach
Lee is an accredited strength and conditioning coach from the UK. He has worked with a number of individual and team athletes, including world ranked tennis players, top golfers as well as Premierships Football and Rugby Clubs.



References:

1. Barnes, K. R., Hopkins, W. G., Mcguigan, M. R., Northuis, M. E., & Kilding, A. E. (2013). Effects of resistance training on running economy and cross-country performance.

2. Baechle, R.T., & Earle, W.R., (2008)  Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 3rd Edition

3. Covey, S. R. (1991). The 7 habits of highly effective people. New York, NY.: Simon & Schuster.

4. Fry, R. W., Morton, A. R., & Keast, D. (1992). Periodisation and the prevention of overtraining. Canadian journal of sport sciences= Journal canadien des sciences du sport, 17(3), 241-248.

5. Hagan, R. D., Smith, M. G., & Gettman, L. R. (1980). Marathon performance in relation to maximal aerobic power and training indices. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 13(3), 185-189.

6. Hrysomallis, C. (2009). Hip adductors' strength, flexibility, and injury risk. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(5), 1514-1517.

7. Keller, G. (2013). The one thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results. Hachette UK.

8. Laursen, P. B., & Jenkins, D. G. (2002). The scientific basis for high-intensity interval training. Sports Medicine, 32(1), 53-73.

9. Plisk, S. S., & Stone, M. H. (2003). Periodization Strategies. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 25(6), 19-37.

10. Rønnestad, B. R., & Mujika, I. (2014). Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 24(4), 603-612.

11. Sjodin, B., & Svedenhag, J. (1985). Applied physiology of marathon running.Sports Medicine, 2(2), 83-99.

What Really Affects Your Health – Genes or Routines?

What Really Affects Your Health – Genes or Routines?

Health takes different colours at various stages of human life. A child laughing and playing in the yard with his dungarees on, a person in his working age performing his long road cycling route and a senior citizen climbing the stairs to his apartment without any aids are all examples of health.
 

Health as an ever-changing state

Health is a continuously changing state, that is affected by factors such as genes, disease, our physical and social habitat and, above all, our experiences, values and attitudes. Contrary to popular belief our heritage or genes are not that significant. Genetic factors usually only cause tendency, while other factors determine whether the disease is evolved or not.
 

Our lifestyle greatly affects our health

Our lifestyle plays an important role in determining how our state of health evolves. Our experiences, values, attitudes, but also knowledge about our current state of health affect the everyday choices we make which ultimately affects our wellbeing.

A recent study showed that about 20% - 40% of cancer cases and half of cancer deaths can potentially be prevented through lifestyle changes. Lifestyle factors that were taken into account in the study were smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption and physical activity and the results reinforced the enormous potential of primary prevention or in other words adopting a healthy lifestyle (Song & Giovannucci, 2016).
 

Small everyday choices reinforce each other in a positive way

We can truly say that we are active participants in managing our own health, and our wellbeing depends greatly on the everyday choices we make. Sleep, alongside a balanced diet, training and recovery, is one of the foundational pillars for the wellbeing of an individual. Small everyday changes in these areas start to reinforce each other and as a result makes it easier for us to continuously make better choices regarding our health.
 

A healthy sleep pattern maintains decision making skills

Sleep and, in particular, sleeping during the night, is an effective way of recovering physically and ensuring that the decision-making skills are maintained. The need for sleep is individual, but less so than many presume. It is rare for an adult to cope with less than six hours of sleep per night on a regular basis. According to a study only 2-3% of the population are able to manage life well with less than six hours of sleep per night.

Several studies have shown that in order to protect the physical and cognitive recovery, everyone should get a good-quality sleep of at least seven hours per night. Highly active individuals need more. Sleeping is not a sign of being lazy, but a basic need of a healthy person.
 

Nutrition, a powerful tool to prevent disease

When we sleep enough and when we are well rested we make better decisions regarding our nutrition and the right nutrition improves our wellbeing and health. On the other hand, unhealthy eating can be detrimental to our performance. This is why at Hintsa we encourage our clients to steer away from pre-made, pre-packaged food. We recommend plenty of natural food i.e. that which comes from natural sources. Food that either comes from the ground or trees, swims in the sea, or grazers on the land. The importance of fresh fruit and vegetables cannot be emphasized enough.

Many of us forget to hydrate ourselves adequately during the day. Adequate hydration supports mental and physical performance, which is easy to believe if you think that 75% of the human brain is water. Even a slight lack of fluid in the body causes problems such as muscle cramps, headaches, irritation, fatigue and swelling of fingers and feet. An adult should consume two litres of water per day.
 

Movement is medicine

When we sleep and eat well we have the energy to be physically active and exercise. Movement is medicine. Regular exercise is one of the most important ways to avoid diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These problems that are so common in our society can largely be explained by a diminution of activity during the last decade. Studies from the last few years have also shown that excessive sitting is detrimental. The risk of sitting is comparable to the dangers of using tobacco.

However, on the flipside, it is also shown that even a few extra steps and a little less sitting each day significantly reduces the risk of these health problems. Daily activity in addition to focused training can greatly help us increase our well-being and quality of life. We at Hintsa encourage our clients to walk at least 10 000 steps per day which is already enough to help reduce weight and high blood pressure.
 

Change works best with small changes

In our busy lives it takes commitment and active decision making to achieve even the smallest change. Managing habits works best with small changes. Gradual steps and taking bite-sized doses, helps create better habits. These new habits transform into routines and it is the culmination of daily routines that impacts health. Transforming a habit into a routine takes repetition for several weeks. Healthy living habits support well-being and ultimately our quality of life.

It is never easy to change habits and one might maybe think what the point is of only walking a few extra steps everyday. But if we do small changes everyday like jumping off the bus one stop before our stop, or walk up the stairs to our office in the morning we already add quite a few steps to our daily routine, not to mention the amount of steps that are accumulated over a whole year. Our small everyday changes have the potential to accumulate over time and change the trajectory of our lives.

At Hintsa Performance we do our best to support our clients in creating an environment where they can form new healthier habits and eventually form new healthier routines and lives.
 


Dr Pippa Laukka, Chief Medical Officer, Finland
Pippa Laukka is one of the leading sports doctors in Finland. Her approach is holistic, proactive and scientific. Pippa is also known as a keen athlete herself, always up for any kind of sweating on the tennis field and marathon track. 



References:

1. WHO: Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020

2. Jousilahti P, Laatikainen T, Peltonen M, Borodulin K, Männistö S, Jula A, Salomaa V, Harald K, Puska P, Vartiainen E. Primary prevention and risk factor reduction in coronary heart disease mortality among working aged men and women in eastern Finland over 40 years: population based observational study. British Medical Journal, March 2016. 

3. Duodecim 2.3.2015 Article in Finnish: Tietoa potilaalle: Geenitestaus MD Helena Kääriäinen

4. Song, M & Giovanucci, E. (2016). Preventable Incidence and Mortality od Carcinoma Associated With Lifestyle factors Among White Adults in the United States. JAMA Oncology. Retrieved from: Doi: 10.1001/

Can You Learn to Love Stress?

Can You Learn to Love Stress?

Experiencing stress is a normal part of being human but can we change our ’stress mindset’ and even improve our performance in response to stress.

In one sense, stress is simply our response when we experience some form of challenge or demand. Whether the stress is physical or psychological, heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure increases and mental alertness is enhanced.

Stress is not always a ‘bad thing’. It would actually be counter-productive to remove all stress from our lives. ‘Positive stress’ can motivate us, focus our energy, feel exciting and improve performance, providing we feel that the demands being made of us are within our coping abilities.

The problems arise when we perceive challenges as being beyond our capabilities. This can lead to ‘negative stress’, anxiety or concern, unpleasant feelings and impaired performance. If we don’t manage it, negative stress can persist for extended periods.
 

How can we learn to manage stress?

In many ways, sport is the ultimate testing ground for ‘stress management’. Every training session and competition is a ‘stressor’ and even the most successful athletes will lose many more times than they win, resulting in continuous ‘micro-doses of failure’.

In the immediate aftermath of stress, performance is decreased but, providing sufficient resources are available, the body recovers and performance bounces back. We often talk about this ‘bouncing back’ as the key characteristic of resilient individuals. However, it’s possible for humans to adapt to stress and achieve levels of performance even higher than before. In sport, we call this process ‘super-compensation’, but its principle holds true in many spheres of life.

The evidence in the scientific literature is compelling. Even in the most demanding situations, individuals with a clear sense of purpose, those who feel engaged and present in their daily life, people who enjoy what they do, have meaningful relationships and find a sense of measurable accomplishment in their work, can achieve this ‘super-compensation’ in response to stress (1).

In fact, in a military context, researchers have identified that it’s possible for soldiers who exhibit these characteristics to experience ‘post-traumatic growth’ following even the most stressful experiences (2). Resilience and our capacity to recover, and even grow, in response to stressful situations can be trained and improved.
 

Change your stress mindset

In addition, recent research has demonstrated that people who have a more positive view of stress are more likely respond positively to it.

In a 2013 study, researchers conducted a 3-part study. Part 1 of the study involved the validation of a test designed to help the researchers understand the study subject’s mindset in relation to stress. Specifically, the researchers identified two stress mindsets. The first mindset was characterised by people who believed that stress had a positive effect on their performance. The second mindset was characterised by people who believed that stress has a negative effect.

In the second part of the study, the researchers demonstrated that it was possible to change the subject’s stress mindset simply by watching a series of short educational videos. Some of the videos suggested that stress is performance enhancing, others suggested that stress is debilitating.

In the final part of the study, the researchers described the physiological and behavioural impact of these two stress mindsets.

Subjects who believed that stress is performance enhancing exhibited moderate cortisol reactivity (the ‘stress hormone) and actively sought detailed feedback after their performance (a public speaking exercise). Together, the three parts of the study illustrate that our stress mindset is a useful determinant of our likely response to stress and that perceiving stress as a challenge, rather than a threat, is more likely to result in physiological responses that improve thinking and cause less physical damage.
 

Performance enhancing stress

It can be tempting to invest our energy in searching for ways to reduce stress. In some ways, this approach makes sense. However, it’s impossible to eliminate all stress from our lives, so we should be challenged and encouraged that we can change our view of stress, bounce back stronger when we experience stressful circumstances and even use stress to enhance our performance.

  • Resilience and our capacity to recover, and even grow, in response to stressful situations can be trained and improved.
  • Invest in relationships with people who can support and help you to grow through stressful experiences.
  • Experiment with reframing the stressful experience as a challenge and learning experience.
  • Next time you experience stress, remind yourself that it’s a normal part of being human.
     

James Hewitt, Science & Development Director
James has a passion for helping people use science and technology to experience more of their potential in sport and business. Combining a busy travel schedule, life with two young children and a passion for training and exercise, provide plenty of opportunities for him to try out his theories in practise.


References

1) Srivastava, K. (2011) Positive mental health and its relationship with resilience.  Ind Psychiatry J. 20(2). p. 75–76.

2) Reivich KJ, Seligman ME, McBride S. (2011) Master resilience training in the U.S. Army. Am Psychol. 66. p. 25–34.