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Mar. 9 2010 - 1:38 pm | 551 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

A runner’s glossary


Image by greeblie via Flickr

Whether you’re new to the sport or not, running jargon can seem like a foreign language. If you’re training for a race, workouts that call for “800m repeats” or “negative split” long runs can seem intimidating. And what the heck is a fartlek? Lucky for you, we here at Running Shorts have decoded some of the sport’s most common terms. Read on to bone up on your running vocabulary and maybe even impress your fellow road racers.

Interval – refers to speed work that alternates between a specific distance of fast running followed by a period of rest.

Repeat - usually refers to the “work” part of a workout, often used interchangeably with interval.  Repetition training can also describe shorter, faster bursts of work than interval training.

Rest – the amount of time between repeats. Active rest is usually measured by distance (i.e. 400m easy jog) while other workouts call for a timed recovery (like 30 seconds of no running).

Tempo – According to Jack Daniels’ Running Formula (Human Kinetics): “A tempo run is nothing more than 20 minutes of steady running at threshold pace.”  Tempo runs are often described as “comfortably difficult.”

Fartlek – a Swedish word that means “speed play.”  You alternate between running fast and running slowly to recover. Runners often use informal landmarks (i.e. mailboxes, lamp posts) to measure the fast portion of their fartlek workouts.

Strides – a series of brisk, short (100 meters or so) periods of running one does as part of a warm-up or cooldown.

Negative Split – to finish the second half of a run or race faster than the first half.

Recovery Run – a very easy run usually done the day after a race or hard workout. The goal of a recovery run is to loosen up your muscles and should be done at least 2 minutes slower than race pace.

Lactic Acid Threshold – amount of effort it takes before the body switches from aerobic exercise to anaerobic.  A rule of thumb is that if you can carry on a normal conversation while running, you’re below your lactic acid threshold.

Vo2 Max – your body’s maximum capacity to transport and use oxygen during exercise.

Racing Flats – lightweight shoes with minimal support worn during a race.

Singlet – sleeveless jersey that is worn during a race. If you belong to a team or running club, the singlet will identify you as a member.

Bonk – the unpleasant and often dangerous experience of having your muscles shut down when you run out of carbohydrate stores during a long(ish) run.  Usually occurs within an hour and a half of race-pace running if you don’t replenish.

Ultra – short for “ultramarathon,” which describes any race longer than 26.2 miles.  The shortest ultras are generally 50K’s, but some  are as long as several hundred miles.

Fat Ass – a no-frills, minimally organized, usually free ultramarathon or trail race.

Taper – the process of reducing mileage and intensity of training in the weeks leading up to a race.  In marathon training, the taper lasts between two and three weeks.

Turnover – the rate of one’s steps while running, measured in steps per minute.  Many coaches consider a turnover rate of 180 steps/minute to be ideal.  To measure yours, simply count how many times your feet ( count both of them!) strike the ground during a minute of running.


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Running Shorts is a part of the True/Slant network specializing in Running News, Trends, Insights and Perspectives. This blog is maintained by Megan Kretz (megan [dot] kretz [at] gmail [dot] com) and Geoff Decker (geoffreydecker [at] gmail [dot] com). Email either us with tips, suggestions or feedback. And thanks for reading!

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