Running Glossary

I’m aware that I’m starting to throw some words around that would have made me squint with incomprehension a few years ago when I was starting out. Rather than explain them in each blog entry, I figured I’d put them on a separate page. (If you’re looking for anythings that’s not here, just let me know and I’ll add it)

My starting point was the Runner’s Glossary, I then added any terms I’ve used which aren’t explained.

Aerobic pace: running at a speed that your lungs can comfortably supply your muscles with oxygen, i.e. you can hold a conversation as you run.

Anaerobic pace: running at a speed at which your lungs cannot provide enough oxygen to your muscles, so cannot be sustained for long.

All-comers record: the factest time run in a country by someone of any nationality, see also National Record.

Anaerobic threshold (AT): See Lactate Threshold.

Base Building: Building aerobic fitness, usually with high training volume at low intensity. This is an essential building block before doing specific training such as hills or speedwork.

Breakdown Workout: An Interval session starting with longer reps and getting shorter and faster. I.e. 1 Mile-1200m-800m-400m. See also Pyramid.

Carb Load: In the last three or four days before a marathon, runner’s generally eat a higher proportion of carbohydrates, to fill up their glycogenreserves before the race.

Chip time: a race time based on a timing chip attached to the shoe. This does not count the time it takes you to get to the start line after the gun has gone off, so this is your realrace time. See also Gun time.

Cool-down: slow running or jogging done after a workout or competition to loosen muscles and rid the body of lactic acid.

Core muscles: The hip, ab, butt and back muscles that are essential for running. They often don’t get worked as much as the legs, so many runners do core excerises to strengthen them.

CR: Course record.

Cross country: Off-road running or racing, usually in open country. Terrain can vary from pristine golf courses to muddy and hilly (when I refer to Cross country in my blog, I mean the latter.)

Cross training: Non-running excercise with benefits for running or recovery, such as swimming, cycling, yoga or weights.

DNF: Did not finish.

DNS: Did not start.

DOMS: Delayed onset muscle soreness- This type of muscle soreness normally peaks about 48 hours after a particularly intense or long run.

Drills: Non-running exercises to improve form or strength, such as plyometrics.

Easy Run: a short run (up to five miles or an hour) done at aerobic pace. This traditionally makes up around 80% of total volume. See also recovery run.

Economy: The ease with which you run, in terms of oxygen uptake and biomechanical efficiency. The more economical your running, the less energy it will take you to run and therefore you can run faster and/or longer.

Efficiency: What you get out of your body compared to what you put in; using as little energy as possible to run, often referring to form.

Endurance: A runner’s ability to keep going for a long time or distance, sometimes also known as strength.

Fartlek: Swedish word meaning “speed play” – variable pace running; a mixture of slow running, running at a moderate pace and short, fast bursts. Fartlek training is a creative way to increase speed and endurance.

Fatigue Intervals: Extra intervals run at the end of a workout, to replicate the feeling at the end of a race. Examples are 8 miles steady run then a few hard miles, or fast 200′s at the end of a tempo run or long interval session.

Form/Gait: How your body moves as you run. The way you swing your arms and drive your legs has an impact on speedendurance and efficiency.

Glycogen: The way sugars are stored inside the body, the primary fuel running uses (fat being the secondary). See also The Wall, Carb Loading.

Glycogen manipulation run: A long training run designed to develop the runner’s glycogen management, by running at a steady pace for 1-2 hours then faster for the last 30 min- 1hr. See also Progressive run.

Gun time: A race time measured from the firing of the start gun, so this includes the time it takes you to get to the startline after the start. Although longer than the time it took you to cover the course, this is often used for official purposes. See also Chip time.

Hills/hill repetitions: Running up hills to strengthen the legs, usually done during base building, as a precursor to flat speedwork.

Intervals: Training in which short, fast repeats or repetitions often of 200 metres to one mile, alternated with slow Intervals of jogging for recovery; usually based on a format such as: six times 400 meters fast [these are the repeats] with 200-meter recovery jogs [the intervals] interval training builds speed and endurance.

Junk miles: Excessive mileage that offers no real training benefit, but increases the risk of illness or injury. See also Overtraining.

Kick: Speeding up at the very end of a race or run- in order to beat an opponent or record the fastest time possible.

Lactic acid: A substance which forms in the muscles as a result of the incomplete breakdown of glucose. Lactic acid is associated with muscle fatigue and sore muscles.

Lactate threshold: The point at which your body switches between working aerobically and anaerobically. Regular training at this pace is believed to raise the speed you can run aerobically. Also known as anaerobic threshold.

Long run: The longest run of the week, usually done at a relatively slow pace. For most runners this is 10-22 miles or 1:30-3:00 hours.

Marathon: 26 miles, 385 yards or 42.195 km.

Maximum heart rate: The highest heart-rate reached during a specified period of time.

Mileage: See Volume.

Min/mile: Minutes-per-mile, if you run 6 miles in 60 minutes, thats a 10 min/mile. See alsoPace

National Best: A race time that is faster than any other from the given country but cannot be ratified as a world record due to factors such as wind, downhill course etc.

National Record: The fastest time run by anyone of a given nationality. See also All comers record.

Negative split: Running the second half of a run or race faster than the first half.

NR: National record.

Overtraining: Training so much (or so hard) that it is detrimental to health and fitness, causing fatigue, illness or injury. See also Junk miles.

Pace: Speed, usually defined in minutes-per-mile. When it’s prefixed with a race distance in training plans (i.e. 10K pace, Marathon pace etc.) this refers to the speed you have or intend to run a race of that distance. If you have run 10k (6.21 miles) in 45 minutes, your 10K pace is 7:15 min/mile.

PB: Personal Best (GB) the fastest time an individual has run a given distance. See also PR.

Plyometrics: Bounding exercises; any jumping exercise in which landing followed by a jump occurs.

Positive Split: Running the second half of a race slower than the first. Usually not fun.

PR: Personal Record (US) the fastest time an individual has run a given distance. See also PB.

Progressive Run: A run which gets faster towards the end, this can be informal or follow a structure such as a Glycogen manipulation run.

Pyramid Workout: A workout starting with short intervals, then increasing, then decreasing length and increasing speed again. i.e. 400m-800m-1200m-1 mile-1200m-800m-400m. See also Breakdown.

Recovery Run: A slow run done after a harder session, to loosen up the muscles and increase blood flow. See also Easy run.

Reps: Repetitions-see Intervals.

Runner’s high: A feeling, usually unexpected, of exhilaration and well-being directly associated with vigorous running; apparently related to the secretion of endorphins (the results can be comparable to injecting heroin!)

Speedwork: Training to make you run faster, such as intervals or fartlek.

Splits: A run or race broken down into sections, such as Miles, kilometres or laps. Knowing your split times helps you to be consistent in your pace.

Stamina: The body’s ability to maintain a difficult physical effort. Also known as speed-endurance. This is limited by your VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold.

Steady Run: A run done at a pace that is neither easy nor hard.

Strength: This term has two meanings for runners: muscular strength in the traditional sense, and endurance strength. This can be confusing as distance runners can be refereed to as strength runners, but sprinters are typically much stronger.

Stride: When you walk you take steps, when you run you take strides. There is much debate (not least between my Dad and myself) as to whether longer strides make for more efficient running. See also turnover.

Strides: Short, fast, but controlled runs of 50 to 150 meters. Strides, which are used both in training and to warm up before a race, build speed and efficiency.

Taper: Runners usually cut back mileage and ‘taper’ one day to three weeks (depending on race distance) before a big race. Tapering helps muscles rest so that they are ready for peak performance on race day.

Target heart rate: A range of heart rate reached during aerobic training, which enables an athlete to gain maximum benefit.

Tempo run: Sustained effort training runs, usually 20 to 40 minutes in length, at a predefined hard pace (i.e. 10k or Half Marathon pace.) This trains the body to work at a consistent fast pace, sometimes at Lactate threshold.The term Threshold run is also used (however definitions and usage of both terms vary greatly)

Turnover: The number of times you stride for a distance or time  (also known as stride rate) can be expressed as paces-per-minute.

VO2Max (maximal oxygen consumption): The maximal amount of oxygen that a person can extract from the air and then transport to use in the body’s tissues.

Volume: Total training distance over a given time, i.e. 50 miles a week.

The Wall: The exhausted feeling runners get, usually about two hours into a race or run due to depleted Glycogen levels. With the right training, nutrition and pacing, the effects can be limited.

Warm-up: Five to twenty minutes of easy jogging/walking before a race or a workout. The point of a warm-up is to raise one’s heart rate so the body (and its muscles) are looser before a tough workout begins, reducing injury risk.

Workout: A broad term meaning a run or session to develop speed or endurance, includes speedwork, tempo runs and hills.

World Best: A race time that is faster than any other but cannot be ratified as a world record due to factors such as wind, downhill course etc.

WR: World Record.

XC: see Cross country.

X-Training: See Cross training.


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