Give Rest a Chance

Give Rest a Chance

Although you probably don't like to admit it, deep down you know your body is crying out for a rest. But as usual, you push through. Mind over matter, only the weak need rest, no pain no gain, I'll sleep when I die, and besides, busyness is importance and I like being important. Yet once again you hear the quiet call from within... “stop, rest... please!” What do you do? Do you listen to your body?

What is rest to you?

It is becoming increasingly evident that rest is important for living well and performing well, but what is equally important is choosing the right rest for you (1). Your unique preferences for rest is what counts. Have you ever stopped to reflect on what makes you rest? Probably not. Right now, yes, right now, take a moment to think, imagine, dream. What brings you rest? What do you find relaxing? What gives you a sense of comfort and peace? What helps you switch off? What makes you stop and simply feel how you feel?

You need to choose the rest that your mind and body respond to. Being warm, being massaged, sitting in a Jacuzzi or on the beach, reading, walking, stretching, laughing, simply doing nothing, sitting in front of the fire and allowing yourself to be mesmerized by the flames. Run, surf, BASE jump, ski, be at the top of a mountain; the possibilities are endless but not necessarily equally effective. When choosing your rest “activity”, bear in mind that recent research has found that many of the highest scoring restful activities have one thing in common regardless of a person’s personality type. The most effective give time for the individual to be alone without the fear of interruption (2). Time to be free from other's thoughts, demands, and expectations, seems to be key to truly bringing rest. Find out what works for you.

When do you rest?

Once you discover what kind of rest works for you, we have to look at when.  Proactively schedule it in. Think beyond simply scheduling an annual holiday and one full day off work per week (which are valuable and recommend). I would like to challenge you to also plan daily rhythms of rest. Choose relaxing evening activities, schedule moments of relaxation during your working day, and even making time for short naps! By taking control of rest and sticking to your plan, your life may begin to change! You may begin to feel more energized, positive and focused. Your willingness and ability to work may rocket. You may notice a sense of control and experience successes that previously you never thought possible.

It may be in these very moments of rest that you actually gain the revelation that you had been waiting for, find the answer to the problem, understand another's perspective or design the plan for your next big victory. Resting may be the most productive moment of your week! I hardly even need to mention Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath or Newton’s apple moment as he sat under a tree, history is full of stories of inspiration arriving within rest.

Better you, better world

Evidently, resting is not a sign of weakness but of wisdom. Recent research shows that when we are at rest, supposedly doing nothing, our brains are in fact busier when we’re not concentrating on a task, than when we are. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang of the University of Southern California argues that when we are resting, the brain is anything but idle, and that far from being purposeless or unproductive, downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics (3). It is when we rest that we replay the day’s situations and conversations. We make sense of our experiences and wonder what we could and maybe should have done better. We work out ways to communicate more effectively and stand up for what we believe. We begin to imagine what our future could be, which then begins to form our destiny!

Choosing to listen to your body, and choosing rest, not only allows the brain to function on another level, but it also gives the body chance to recover. Your over stimulated sympathetic adrenal system (the one that kicks in during a stressful situation or maybe simply in response to the demands and challenges of everyday life), can take the foot off the pedal and allow the parasympathetic system (the one that is activated through relaxing activities) to take over. This brings a much needed balance to our body. A kind of resetting and retuning happens, enabling our various systems and functions to continue to work optimally, moving towards a state of equilibrium.

Balancing the stress and demands in your life with rest and recovery will expand your capacity, improve your performance and increases your resilience. The mind and body is wonderful, and through a process of supercompensation it moves beyond its former state to higher levels!

Top tips for rest!

  • Take control of your rest
  • Discover what works for you
  • Schedule it in, and stick to the plan
  • Work within daily, weekly, and annual rhythms of rest
  • Try 10-20 minute naps
  • Listen to your body
  • Laugh more
  • Take time to be alone

So go on, listen to your body, give rest a chance! It may change your world!

Miriam McKnight, Performance Coach 
Miriam has a broad experience of working with young athletes, corporate individuals and post pregnancy women returning to sport and fitness. She leads the sleep and recovery science team for Hintsa Performance. She is also the author of Amazon best-selling book, The Happy, Healthy, Mom.


1. Sands, W.A. Thinking sensibly about recovery, Strength and Conditioning for Sports Performance 2016; 451-483.
2. The Rest Test, Hubbub at the wellcome collection, 2016
3. Immordino-Yang, M.H. et al. Rest is not idleness, implications of the brain’s default mode for human development and education. Perspectives on psychological science 2012, vol. 7 no. 4, 352-364.

Davos Roundup: Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Davos Roundup: Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution

According to the World Economic Forum, the arrival of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is marked by the exponential rate of change in the economy, business and society, by the unprecedented scale, scope and complexity of these shifts and by the transformation of entire systems across countries, companies, industries and societies as a whole.

The 2016 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos gathered its 2500 attendees around the theme of ‘Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, but given the enormity of the challenge, it’s perhaps not surprising that we returned to similar topics in 2017.

This time the meeting gathered participants, from nearly 100 countries, to explore a new theme: ‘Responsive and Responsible Leadership’. For the second year running Hintsa Performance was invited to contribute two sessions, both of which were oversubscribed. In total, over 100 participants took the cable car ride to our venue, to consider if their current level of wellbeing and performance was just a fraction of what they are capable of, explore whether they could achieve the same level of performance, but increase the margin in their lives, but more importantly, to take some time to step back and consider how they live, work and manage their attention and cognitive efforts in today’s world of hyper-stimulus.

Leaders from the world of business, politics and the arts joined us on the Rinerhorn mountain. I was struck by how eager they were to learn from our guests; Mika Häkkinen, Two-Time Formula One World Champion, Luke Bennett, Medical and Sports Performance Director of Hintsa Performance, Allan McNish, three-time Le Mans winner and BBC’s F1 commentator, Linda A. Hill, the Harvard Business School Professor who facilitated our sessions, and Nico Rosberg, the current Formula 1 World Champion.

Over the course of our conversations, both in our sessions, in our meetings in the Davos Congress Centre, but also in the many serendipitous interactions that took place throughout the week, three ideas were repeated:

1. We don’t really know what the Fourth Industrial Revolution is, yet, but we have a few ideas.

It’s clear that we are witnessing rapid and complex changes in our economy, business and society, but it’s likely that we will only be in a position to define exactly what the Fourth Industrial Revolution is, once it’s over. However, we have a few ideas. Throughout the week, conversations returned to the skills and capacities that will be required to survive and thrive in this shifting landscape:

  • Complex problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • People management
  • Co-ordinating with others

We believe that these skills will be necessary to navigate and create value in the midst of this revolution, that they are less likely to be threatened by automation and that they offer the opportunity to bring more meaning and purpose to our work. However, it seems that our current ways of working and living, distracted, fragmented and still heavily influence by Tayloristic models of efficiency need to be broken down or re-imagined if we are going to prepare ourselves and the next generation of workers for this new world.

2. New challenges may not be addressed with old solutions.

Global life expectancy has doubled since 1900. The global balance of power and wealth is shifting. We will live and work for longer than ever, but in ways that we likely never imagined.

  • How do we learn and unlearn skills as we reinvent ourselves multiple times during our careers – a challenge that most of us have not faced before?
  • How do we proactively maintain and improve our body and mind for a ‘100-year life’?
  • How can we cultivate the long-term perspective and cognitive capabilities to project ourselves into this new future, and craft a meaningful place for ourselves, and the people we lead?

I found that people were asking many of the same questions this year as they were in 2016. Many people had a better sense of what we needed to do – cultivate cognitive flexibility, look after our bodies in a ‘knowledge-dominated world, be more conscious about how we interact with information technology and how we use it to interact with each other and make decisions - but few people had any more clarity about how to do it.

However, one theme that was emphasised was the continuing need for leaders to model the behaviours they want to see manifested in their teams.

3. Responsive & responsible leadership is human

Linda A. Hill shared a quote during the week that has stayed with me:

“People don’t want to follow a leader to the future: they want to co-create it.”

Paradoxically, while the Fourth Industrial Revolution will feature a significant and growing automated and roboticized component, this may emphasise the human characteristics and capabilities that set us apart from machines.

During our sessions, we shared Hintsa’s vision for better life, better performance, and putting the human back into ‘the system’. This idea clearly resonated with our audience. Also, while narratives of fear and uncertainty were prevalent, there was an undeniable sense of hope and excitement among many people I spoke to. A sense that we have an opportunity to create a better future together, to use these changes and the fantastic technologies we have available to make a difference in the world.

Mixed reality

In addition to the scheduled sessions, a number of exhibits were scattered around the Congress Centre. One in particular stood out to me: the ‘Immersive Learning’ demonstration, where we were given the opportunity to experience the Microsoft HoloLens.

This is the first time I’ve experienced the device for myself. I put on the headset and had a rare technologically mediated ‘goose bump’ moment as high-definition holograms ranging from galaxies and molecules to anatomical models appeared in the ‘real-world’, in front of me. The holograms were very impressive. With my keen interest in physiology, a personal highlight was walking close up to the anatomical model and putting my head ‘inside-it’ to take a close look at the structure of the human heart.

However, what struck me more was the collaborative experience of exploring these holograms together. I was part of a random group of attendees who had queued for the Immersive Learning exhibition. There was a mix of ages, genders and nationalities, but the holograms brought us together. Unlike virtual reality, which encapsulates the individual in their own digital world, mixed-reality, and the contextual and location awareness of the headset, meant that we were all looking at and interacting with the same model. In the seriousness and formality of the Congress Centre, the smiles and laughs that erupted as we investigated this new technology were refreshing and inspiring.

A positive vision of the future

It’s easy to criticise a vision of humans working in blissful harmony with technology and each other as naive, but we need to balance the tension between recognising the realities and challenges of our changing world, with the need to imagine a positive vision of the future.

As I’ve written about before, human brains seem to work best in a hopeful state. We will be better prepared to consider all possibilities if we reflect on what may come, using hope as the starting point. Some of the systems we have created and that have emerged may seem threatening, but perhaps that’s because we don’t understand them fully, yet, and we don’t have all the skills we need. 

While we shouldn’t ignore the potential pitfalls, I contend that, if our starting point for thinking and decision-making is fearful, we will increase the likelihood that we will engineer the outcomes of which we are so afraid. 

We don’t have all the answers, but it’s clear that we need to work proactively to enhance life and performance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution by developing and applying our human capabilities and qualities; creativity, complex problem solving, critical thinking and collaborative skills, today.

You can read more about focussing your attention and energy to release your potential, and achieve your biggest impact, in my latest book: Exponential. Better Life, Better Performance: From Formula 1 to Fortune 500.


James Hewitt, Head of Science & Innovation
James is passionate about investigating the potential of our high performance bodies and brains. He is an author, speaker and his work includes consulting with Formula 1 drivers, teams, in elite sport and with global corporations.

The Hintsa Team conclude their first session at the 2017 WEF Annual Meeting

The Hintsa Team conclude their first session at the 2017 WEF Annual Meeting

Formula 1 World Champions Nico Rosberg and Mika Häkkinen as well as three-time Le Mans winner and BBC’s F1 commentator Allan McNish share their thoughts on reaching the top.

Formula 1 World Champions Nico Rosberg and Mika Häkkinen as well as three-time Le Mans winner and BBC’s F1 commentator Allan McNish share their thoughts on reaching the top.

Just a few hours ago, the Hintsa team and over 50 session participants concluded the first of two Hintsa sessions at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.

In the spectacular ‘Base Camp’ venue situated on the Rhinerhorn mountain, Luke Bennett, Medical and Sports Performance Director of Hintsa Performance, and James Hewitt, Hintsa Performance Head of Science & Innovation, opened the session before Nico Rosberg, current Formula 1 World Champion, offered his perspective on how mental preparation in sports can be applied to the business world.

Nico was joined by Mika Häkkinen, Two-Time Formula One World Champion and Allan McNish, three-time Le Mans winner and BBC’s F1 commentator in a panel discussion facilitated by Harvard Business School Professor Linda A. Hill. 

You can see a video of Nico Rosberg and Mika Häkkinen, as they shared some thoughts ahead of the session, from the cable car which carried the participants to the venue:

Focusing attention on what matters the most

The session themes reflected many of the discussions that are taking place at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting: how we can prepare our body and mind to live and work for longer than ever, the need to take more responsibility for our own health and wellbeing and find ways to focus our time and energy on what is most important in a world that is vying for our attention.

Dr Luke Bennett, the host of Hintsa's WEF session together with three motorsport world champions.

Dr Luke Bennett, the host of Hintsa's WEF session together with three motorsport world champions.

The panel discussion with our three motorsport world champions was followed by interactive workshops. Luke and James discussed the results of a 17-year longitudinal study, describing how grip strength may be ‘bio-marker’ of ageing, and gave the participants an opportunity to test themselves.

Juha Äkräs, Hintsa’s Executive Chairman facilitated a discussion on ‘Core people’ - the people who matter most in our lives, and away of the hyper-stimulation of Davos city centre. Pauliina Valpas, Hintsa’s Business Development Director, took participants through a ‘Default Mode’ exercise, to restore their attention and mental energy with the help of the beautiful mountain scenery surrounding the venue.

The session also marked the official launch of our latest book ‘Exponential - Better Life, Better Performance: From Formula 1 to Fortune 500’, which explores many of the themes and questions raised in the session, in more detail.

Dr Aki Hintsa Posthumously Awarded for his Work in Formula 1 and Beyond

Dr Aki Hintsa Posthumously Awarded for his Work in Formula 1 and Beyond

The annual Finnish Sports Gala celebrates and awards athletes and influential sports people alike. This year the Sports Gala paid respect to the late Dr Aki Hintsa by awarding him for his achievements in one of the most challenging sports in the world, Formula One. The award was granted to Hintsa Performance that carries on Dr Aki Hintsa's important work.

An exceptional honour for a truly exceptional man

The award was granted specifically for being a supporting force behind winning athletes. Normally several candidates are chosen for the award, but this year there was only one clear recipient.

"Awarding Dr. Aki Hintsa was a very clear decision for the board. With the award, we wanted to pay respect to the long and precious work of Dr. Hintsa in both Finnish and international sports. Our appreciation towards his life work is extensive, and it is a great joy to see the work continue by Hintsa Performance", says Riia Martinoja, General Secretary of the Sports Gala.


Following in Dr Hintsa's footsteps

What started as an idea conceived in the mid-1990s in Ethiopia by Dr Aki Hintsa has now grown to a multinational company with offices in Helsinki, Geneva, London and Stockholm. Not only is Dr Hintsa’s work carried on by a wide network of experts, but also by his family members.

Aki’s oldest daughter, Annastiina Hintsa, has witnessed the growth of Hintsa Performance over the past decade. Annastiina currently works as the Head of Services at Hintsa Performance. She joined the company after several years working in top management consulting. Together with her sister Noora, Annastiina accepted the award at the Sports Gala on behalf of the entire Hintsa Performance.

”Throughout my life, I have got to witness first-hand the tremendous impact Aki’s message has on people. Aki wanted to be around, when we continue the mission of 'Better Life for everyone', but he was also clear that we may need to carry on the mission without him – if need be. I am proudly following in my father's footsteps and will ensure that his legacy lives on”, Annastiina stated.

Annastiina Hintsa and Noora Hintsa accepted the award (Urheilugaala: Pasi Salminen)

Annastiina Hintsa and Noora Hintsa accepted the award (Urheilugaala: Pasi Salminen)

The mission for a better life continues

Dr Hintsa will continue to be the inspiration and guiding light of Hintsa Performance going forward. Aki’s work will also carry on through Hintsa’s latest book ‘Exponential’, co-authored by Dr Aki Hintsa and James Hewitt, Head of Science and Innovation at Hintsa Performance. The book is launched at the World Economic Forum's 2017 Annual Meeting in Davos, where only last year Dr Hintsa hosted "one of the most hotly discussed events" of the entire week.

On behalf of all at Hintsa Performance, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the Finnish Sports Gala for the award. As Aki used to say: "Better life belongs to everyone".

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