6 top tips on preparing for a 5K from top iFit trainer John Peel

Whether it’s a 5K, 10K or even an ultra marathon, these simple steps from iFit’s John Peel will have you well on your way to victory

John Peel, iFit trainer
(Image credit: iFit)

If your New Year’s resolutions include building up your fitness or running any kind of distance you need a plan in place to make it stick. They say the first step is the hardest but with so many resolutions breaking within the first few weeks, how do you make sure yours lasts the distance?

iFit is the training software that runs on NordicTrack and Pro-Form machines, from running and cycling to rowers and fitness mirrors. John Peel is one of iFit’s most popular trainers and presents training sessions from a wide array of locations across the world. Rather than the inside of a studio, you can follow him across Antarctica, the mountains of Bhutan or through the busy streets of Vietnam. 

As a trainer, John knows a thing or two about building up to a distance, so I asked him for some of his top tips to reach your goal properly. Here are his top 5 suggestions. 

John Peel iFit trainer

NordicTrack X32i treadmills provide incredible incline and decline to match the terrain on the video

(Image credit: iFit)

1. Find a workout that you enjoy

January is peak time for gyms and personal trainers, but how do you avoid breaking those resolutions before February comes around? John suggests finding something that’s going to entertain you. “Find something that isn't gonna torture you, but also, don't dive in too quickly or too deep because that's not sustainable. You need something that is gonna be easy enough to do every day, but also keeps you distracted every day.”

John Peel iFit trainer

(Image credit: iFit)

2. In order to run fast, run slow

Even if you’re preparing for a race, it shouldn’t be a race to get in shape. John tells us the importance of never going full speed into your training. “In order to run fast, you need to run slow,” says Peel. “I know it sounds crazy but anyone that's trained for anything in the sense of endurance racing, endurance running, it's about a slow pace. It's about a slow mindset. Start slow and understand that every step that you're taking, every day that you're training is another step in the right direction.” 

Trying to run too fast, too quickly or training too hard can result in injury, and that can mean game over for your training. “The last thing you wanna do is overtrain, so start slow and understand that your body will eventually catch up.”

John Peel, iFit trainer

(Image credit: iFit)

3. Have a strong mindset

They say the mind is the biggest muscle in the body and that’s certainly the case when it comes to exercise and training. So, being in the right mindset for your workout is first and foremost. “In a race, if you're not mentally patient, you're gonna tap out quickly. Your legs aren't gonna be able to move. Your mind's gonna shut your body down,” says Peel. 

“The second we break mentally, everything else is gone, so keep your mindset strong. It doesn't matter physically what you look like, if you don't have it right here, you're never gonna achieve anything.” John talks about mindset a lot in his workouts as, if you can train with the right mindset, you’ll achieve much more. 

John Peel iFit trainer

(Image credit: iFit)

4. Focus on sleep and diet

Your training isn’t the only thing that prepares you for a race. If you really want to get in shape or prepare for a race, you need two more things: a good diet and plenty of sleep. 

“It's an even balance of nutrition, training and sleep,” says Peel. “If you're not getting enough sleep, everything else is just gonna start to fall apart. If you're not eating right, it's gonna take you a lot longer to get to that end result. So you have to find a good balance between all those things.”

When it comes to diet, John Peel has a few recipes up his rather muscular sleeves that are his go-to's. His favourite shake for post-workout is more of a meal. “It's a dense shake, made with coconut milk,” says Peel. “I use a scoop of chocolate whey protein and a scoop of chocolate plant-based protein. The plant-based protein always helps with the thickness. But then I'll throw in cinnamon and ice, blend that up, and then when it's all done and thick – I'm talking thick enough where you’ve got to eat with a spoon – then I'll add coconut flakes and granola on top of that.”

John’s favourite meal though is something that he and his wife Kristina have cooked for years. “We do a southwest jacket potato where we bake a sweet potato, put cheese in it, close it back up, let it melt. While that's going on, we cook ground turkey with black beans, which goes inside the sweet potato with the melted cheese, and then top it off with Greek yoghurt. It's kind of replacement for sour cream salsa and then a little bit of sriracha on top of that.”

John Peel iFit trainer

(Image credit: iFit)

5. Don’t worry if you go off course

Everyone has their bad days, where they don’t train or opt for a guilty treat, but John Peel says that’s completely normal and not something to worry about. It’s how you get back into your training that counts. 

“If you have a moment of breaking, which we all do, I tell people to go enjoy those good cheat meals and fuel your soul,” says Peel. “If your soul is happy, I think everything else is going to come into play. So when it comes to that, it really is about keeping yourself balanced, making sure that the sleep, your nutrition and your training are just well balanced. 

6. Recovery is essential

Warm-up and cool-downs are about more than just stretching out that workout. They help prepare your muscles and joints for the work that’s coming, while the cooldown allows you to flush your system of that lactic acid, and be better prepared for the next session. However, it’s something even pros can forget to do. 

“It's a bigger thing than just that 10 or 15 minutes, taken at the end of a workout,” says Peel. “It's really gonna set you up for success the next day, the next week, the next month, the next workout. So I really stress about that. But I am a victim to it as well. I'll admit right here that there's plenty of times where it's like, all right, I got 45 minutes, I bang out a workout and don’t do anything to warm up or to cool down. But taking that time, that 10 minutes, 15 minutes to do it is just as important as the workout.” 

No one likes to wake up feeling stiff and sore after a workout the previous day, and if you properly stretch and cool down after your training session, you shouldn’t have to. Instead, you can be fresh and ready for another session. 

You can find John Peel’s workouts on iFit-compatible devices, the iFit app and iFit.com (opens in new tab)

John Peel iFit trainer

(Image credit: iFit)

As T3's Editor-in-Chief, Mat has his finger on the pulse for the latest advances in technology. He has written about technology since 2003 and after stints in Beijing, Hong Kong and Chicago is now based in the UK. He’s a true lover of gadgets, but especially anything that involves cameras, Apple, electric cars, musical instruments or travel.