Athens-based fitness coach Aggeliki Koutelekou’s love of sports began at the young age of four and since then the talented athlete has competed in local and international championships where she has represented Greece on numerous occasions.
Today, the stunning 28-year-old is a physical education teacher, a personal trainer, a running coach, and an ambassador for adidas GR. Born and raised in the Greek capital, with her family hailing from Panagia, a remote village in Trikalon, Aggeliki recently spoke with IN+SIGHTS GREECE about her passion for inspiring people to keep fit; shares her tips on working out at home, and reveals her love of travelling around her homeland.
When did your passion for fitness begin?
I started playing sports at the age of four, beginning with swimming. Then I was involved in athletics for about 10 years. The stadium became my second home, as I spent much of my daily life there. Very quickly my training became an addiction leading me to local and international championships. As the years went by, my passion continued and I decided to get involved professionally.
When did you start competing?
From a young age, I remember myself running non-stop! I started at the age of eight in the track and field academies. Sprinting won me over from the first moment I set foot on the track. So, inevitably, it became my race! I participated in many pan-Hellenic track and field championships and in international meetings with distinctions in the 100m race.
Tell us about your work as a coach and fitness trainer?
I graduated from the Department of Science and Physical Education and Sports at Trikala with a major in classical sports. I mainly focus on training ́groups and individuals. Since 2016 I have also been a PE teacher at a private elementary school.
You have also become an ambassador for adidas?
Yes, for the last three years I’ve been an ambassador of adidas GR and I work with adidas runners Athens as a coach. It’s the largest global running community that brings together people with common goals and a passion for running. We gather every week in the centre of Athens, doing different types of training each time.
How passionate are you about inspiring people to keep fit?
The benefits of sports are endless, both in terms of our health and our psychology. What I love most about my job is the opportunity to encourage and inspire my young athletes to recognise the importance of sports and to love it. As for the fitness part, I feel joy and satisfaction when my clients, who had no contact with exercise beforehand, have now made it a way of life. I get excited when I see them feeling better at the end of training.
How do you motivate your clients?
My motto is: “wherever you are, you can exercise”. No special equipment and space are required. With the will and the right guidance, you can do a complete workout anywhere! The first lesson and meeting with my client are to get an understanding of their lifestyle. To work out what they need and to see what they are physically capable of, and of course to take into account any injuries that they may have. Each of us is different and that’s how I treat my clients. With the right ‘individual’ approach, I encourage them, motivate them, and try to gain their trust.
Do you think social media has influenced the fitness industry?
Social media in general, and, mostly Instagram in recent years is a medium where you can source anything you want. The immediacy offered by a nice image or a video with a nice background I think can definitely gain attention. I put a lot of emphasis on my posts with both the images and the videos I choose to publish. I believe that aesthetics, colour, and quality are elements with which one can stand out in the hundreds of thousands of profiles that circulate. Both through the photos and the creation of videos, which I have my own personal touch, I try to attract and inspire more and more people to engage in fitness!
How often do you train a week?
I run three times a week with the adidas runners Athens and I do full-body training two to three times a week depending on the free time I have.
Do you follow a Mediterranean diet?
Yes, I mainly follow the Mediterranean diet. During the week and training days, I mainly eat protein, legumes, carbohydrates, fruit, and vegetables. Of course, to be honest, I have a weakness for traditional homemade Greek dishes such as Mosxari Kokkinisto me Kritharaki (beef with orzo) and meatballs with mashed potato.
What Greek sweets do you crave most?
I have so many favourites I can’t resist! A warm Galaktoboureko, one or two Melomakarona, and also homemade Koulourakia with a Greek coffee.
How can we stay positive and fit throughout the cooler months, when it’s sometimes harder to find motivation?
Home confinement definitely throws us off psychologically and can affect us negatively. One way that helps us stay optimistic, physically, and mentally is exercise. This increases endorphin levels and secretes hormones that make us feel happy and positive. However, sometimes we have no choice, and staying at home does not mean that we can not stay in shape. By following easy and short fitness programs, we can exercise our whole body and feel better.
What are some simple exercises for home?
It is always best to consult a professional who can guide you and create personalised exercise programs, as each of us is different. Some very basic tips for a good general workout is a warm-up to start off with- this is a prerequisite for starting any workout. Begin with some aerobic exercises (jumping jacks, high knees, scissors, running on the spot) in order to prepare for the main part. Then choose easy exercises (not complicated to start off with) that will work your whole body such as squats, push-ups, sit-ups, and our favourite planks. At the end of each workout do not skip the stretching. Always choose to do exercises that are not particularly difficult for you. One piece of advice I always give to my clients is to listen to your body and don’t overdo it.
On another, you also have a passion for photography, can you please tell us about that?
I love the arts and I’m fascinated by everything related to it. Many times I look at something and I have already created the frame in my mind. Through photography, I express and capture what I see with my own eyes. I have a passion for symmetry, simplicity, old buildings, and objects. I recently bought a camera to capture the moments and I now share them.
What are some of your favourite holiday destinations in Greece?
I’m lucky to live in Greece, a place that combines unique landscapes with natural beauty. I love summers on the Cycladic islands with whitewashed houses, the endless blue sky, and the countless beaches. But I also enjoy the winter destinations, where I can get closer to nature, walk on trails, and dance at traditional festivals. The places that first come to mind are Kythnos, Zagorochoria, and, of course, my home village of Panagia in Trikala.
A few of your favourite summer activities- where you can combine fitness with the Greek sun and sea?
I love swimming in the sea, running along the beach during sunset, paddleboarding, and playing raketes.
Your all-time favourite beaches in Greece?
That’s a hard one as there are so many beautiful ones in Greece. Some of my most loved are Simos in Elafoniso, Lagousi in Kithnos, Plaka in Naxos and Falasarna in Crete.
What do you love most about Trikala and what do you recommend for anyone planning to visit?
My grandmother lives in the village and every time I go, she greets me with a traditional local pie. If you are in the wider area, do not forget to walk on the river of Trikala, to explore the city by bike, to organise short hiking or climbing trips to Meteora and, of course, to visit traditional taverns and grocery stores or in the surrounding villages where you can try local delicacies.
Finally, do you offer online training and how can people get in touch with you?
I have clients who now live abroad so I started online training, in order to stay close to my existing clients and also to offer training to people who do not live in Athens. I offer personalised online training tailored to personal needs. To contact me and learn more, you can visit my page on Instagram @aggeliki_koutelekou or Facebook.