20 years of rethinking life
The lessons from Ethiopia
In the early 1990s, Dr Aki Hintsa, a specialist in orthopaedic and trauma surgery, was working as a doctor in a poverty-stricken and war-torn Ethiopia. Having long worked as a physician to the Finnish Olympic team, Dr Hintsa was excited by the chance to observe the training routines of elite Ethiopian distance runners. He became intrigued not only by their dominance of this demanding sport but also by the state of life balance they had achieved. The individual who ultimately opened Dr Hintsa’s eyes was Haile Gebrselassie.
Haile’s life was integrated with all elements in his environment geared towards supporting his goals and running ambitions. Dr Hintsa realised that optimal performance derives from a healthy, balanced life. The fulcrum of that balance lies in knowing your identity and core motivations. Taking care of your wellbeing, allows you to function at your full potential. Inspired, Dr Hintsa drew a circle and on the outer layer, he placed the following six elements: physical activity, nutrition, recovery, biomechanics, mental energy and general health. Then in the middle of the circle, he wrote the word “Core”. It represents identity, goals, and control. This model would come to define the entire Hintsa philosophy.
Test laboratory for the philosophy
Soon thereafter, the Hintsa philosophy made its impact in a most unlikely arena – Formula 1. When Mika Häkkinen invited Dr Hintsa to assist him and his family in their pursuit of the 1998 World Drivers’ Championship, Aki didn’t even believe that Formula 1 was a valid sporting contest, such was the stark divergence with the running culture he had studied so closely. In winning two World Championships with Mika in 1998 and 1999, he transformed this view and proceeded over nearly two decades to create one of the great untold stories in a sport where very few stories remain untold.
Dr Hintsa used to call Formula 1 “the most fascinating laboratory” for the Hintsa philosophy. Following Mika Häkkinen’s success, fellow Finn Kimi Räikkönen followed by young superstars Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel shone as Aki’s quiet influence underpinned their approach to racing. Lewis Hamilton’s recent victory in 2018 turned out to be the 13th World Drivers’ Championship for a Hintsa-affiliated driver.