Eleni Plakitsi is a former city accountant and IFBB and WBFF Figure Pro athlete. She’s also won the Fame and WBFF Fitness Model Awards. She recently launched Esquared, a new on-demand fitness app helping gym owners make the most of the under-utilised assets. In doing so, she connects fitness enthusiasts with two-hour gym sessions and one-off classes in real time.
Now dedicating her life to fitness, Eleni admits that she sometimes still struggles to put her trainers on to go for a run, especially when she’s already had a busy week in the gym. But she’s fully aware of the benefits of running and how nothing beats it.
Running’s now an integral part of her fitness plan, and we’ve managed to get some warm up and cool down tips from Eleni. Some people may dismiss these stages as time-consuming and unimportant, but they are two sides of the same coin. They can improve the quality of your run, as well as help you seamlessly transition into the next activity of your day.
Preparing your body for a run is vital because what you want is your heart rate to build up gradually and your muscle groups to loosen up.
How do I warm up before a run?
Your pre-run warm up shouldn’t take up much of your time or effort. I recommend you follow a routine that consists of a either a brisk walk, light jog, or a few dynamic stretches to activate key muscle groups, such as your glutes and biceps. The aim of a run is to be enjoyed, so the idea is to ease yourself gently into it by gradually and steadily working up your speed.
A simple rule of thumb is to monitor your heart rate. You should be able to hold a conversation on your run without getting out of breath or feeling any discomfort. By steadily warming up your muscles, bones and joints you are safely preparing them for a change in state, as well as the increased blood flow being responsible for send the message to your brain that it’s time to get moving.
All these warm up stages are integral to an enjoyable and injury free run. Not forgetting that this level of steadiness in your pace is key to sustaining your run and reaping its benefits to the maximum.
How do I cool down after a run?
After I’ve completed my run, I like to cool down out of respect to my body and the effort it’s made. I do this by not breaking my run abruptly, ever. I glide into walking and wait for my heart rate to return to its normal state. This can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes.
After a cool down, I feel like my body needs to stretch and release the tension from the run. I like to go through a series of stretches that I hold for about 20 seconds at a time. 20 to 30 seconds is the time needed to re-engage the fascia or connecting tissue that is wrapped around our muscles. I don’t push my stretches beyond the point of comfort as that usually defies the point. I like to use a props to stretch my calf muscles, triceps and hamstrings and but I also like to work from downward facing dog and take it in turn to plant my heels into the ground releasing any left over tension. Pigeon pose is also great for the hamstrings as well as butterfly pose which is great at releasing tension in your lower back.
Yoga poses are very practical for runners and have helped me improve my flexibility, but I also use the breathing techniques to take deep breaths and make sure I am sending oxygen to every part of my body, especially the areas I worked on the most.
To release any puffiness in the legs, but also to improve circulation, I like to raise my legs at ninety degrees, often lying on my bed with my legs propped up against the wall. I stay there for as long as I feel is needed; enjoying the tingling sensation of the change in blood flow until I feel them return to their original state.
Are there are ideal post-run workouts?
For those of you who like to take your workout a little further, you can do some core strengthening work such as planks, side planks and lunges. I would aim for three sets of each, building up the hold time as you feel your body getting stronger. Start with 20 seconds per side and work it up from there. You will see an improvement in your posture as well as comfort when running.
What do I eat and drink before and after a run?
You will hear people talking about nutrition and running and how important it is both for your pre- and post-workout. Hydration is key, but in small consistent doses. Over-hydration can be both uncomfortable and counter-productive. Make sure you set off on your run feeling satisfied but not saturated. I sometimes like to get a couple spoonfuls of Chia seeds a few hours before my run; these offer maximum hydration at a slow release. Just what you need.
Fuel for your run should come be high in carbohydrates and lower in fibre, fat and protein. Bananas, rice, grains, oatmeal and peanut butter are great options as they offer a quick release of energy.
Your post run fuel should really depend on the length and intensity of your run. I recommend a solid protein meal coupled with a salad or boiled vegetables
Bananas have to be my go-to post work out snack. They are easy to digest, high in magnesium and a great source of fast acting carbohydrates your body needs to start repairing and replenishing its resources.
Energy drinks and energy bars are handy for a quick top of electrolytes for hydration as well as a pre-determined mix of protein and carbohydrates. However, these are also high in sugar content so should be used sparingly and be of the highest quality.