Can you speak the language of runners? Have you ever wondered what V02 Max or Fartleks are? In this episode we walk you through the top running words and phrases that many runner’s use when talking to other runners. Having a basic understanding of running terminology will help you speak confidently to other runners, as well as open your vocabulary up to additional terms and phrases that you may come across in blog posts, podcasts, videos, or books. Oh, and we may have sneaked in a few running tips along the way. All this and more coming up on today’s show.
63 Running Terms Every Runner Should Know:
- Fartlek – Swedish word meaning “speed play”; an informal speed workout; In a Fartlek session, you change up things like speed or intensity at random points within the workout. It may also include changing up the intervals or cycles you run in terms of distance… So run hard for 2 minutes, easy for 1, hard for 30 seconds, easy for 3 minutes and so on. It could also be run hard to the next milestone which could be a tree you see ahead on the trail, or a bridge, or whatever and having each of your running partners, change the landmark and pace expectantly.
- Intervals/Interval Training – Intervals are where you alternate between run and walk portions of your run. Interval training is a great way to ease into running and even experienced runners sometimes choose to do interval training. For example, the Jeff Galloway method is well known because it is based on the concept of interval training. Intervals themselves are the run or walk portion.
- Repeats – a type of training, typically conducted on a track where you repeat certain aspects of a workout in measured distances. For example, 400 meters, 800 meters, 1600 meters, mile, etc. Repeats are often done at faster paces as they are a common/popular type of speed workout. In between the targeted run portion of the repeat the runner may rest, or run slowly to facilitate recovery. Repeats come in various forms of workouts so you may come across unique and creative ways to do them.
- Ladders – a type of speed workout that uses intervals/repeats to “ladder up” or step up, then down, the running portions as well as laddering up and down the recovery portions. For example, you do one minute at 5k pace, then recover, then do two minutes at 5k pace, then recover, then 3, then 4, then 5 and so on until you reach the top of the ladder, at which point you go back down the ladder, to 4, to 3, to 2, to 1, etc…. And there are lots of variations but that is the basic idea, and can help build speed as well as speed on tired legs depending on the workout.
- Tempo Run – A tempo run is a faster-paced workout also known as a lactate-threshold, LT, or threshold run. Tempo pace is often described as “comfortably hard.” It focuses on making changes to your metabolic fitness so that you can improve speed and stamina.
- Brick Workout – Brick workouts are common among triathletes. Generally, a brick workout consists of stacking a bike/run workout but a brick workout could also be a swim/bike or a run/bike workout.
- VO2 Max – This is a complex term that has a lot of confusion around it, and an over simplification, but at it’s simplest definition, it is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can uptake and use during intense exercise. It is typically measured in a lab (or estimated), and your VO2 max score is generally considered by exercise physiologists as one of the best indicators of an athletes cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. The idea being that the more oxygen you can use, the more energy your body can produce to fuel movement.
- Lactate Threshold (or anaerobioc threshold) is another complex term and this is an over simplification, but lactate threshold is the point during intensive, exhaustive, all out exercise where lactate builds up in the muscles during exercise. Lactate is a byproduct of using the bodies energy and is generally seen as a limiter to our performance (although a little is reabsorbed and used as energy). When this lactate accumulates faster than it can be used, it forces us to slow down. Lactate threshold can be raised with proper training allowing athletes to exercise longer and at higher intensities.
- BQ – Boston Qualifying time – The Boston marathon requires a qualification time based on age and race time in order to qualify for race registration.
- PR or PB – Personal record or personal best.
- Bib – The bib is your race number that your attach to your short during a race. It often contains a timing chip that will help the race organizers capture your time as well as in some cases key intervals throughout the race, like the 5k, mark, 10k mark, and finish. Look for runner mats along the course that capture your time as you pass over them. Some races use the shoe tags, although the bib tags are the most common, at least around here.
- Swag – This is the goodies you receive as part of a race. Sometimes it includes things like shirts, clothing, food, samples, cups, mugs, or really anything that the race or its sponsors are giving away.
- Bling – This is what you get as a prize for finishing the race. Usually it is a medal, but in some cases it can be a belt buckle, or some other thing they use for a price.
- Aid Station – Stops along the race course that contain water, sometimes sport drinks, sometimes food, or anything really to help the runners. I have seen cold sponges, vaseline, Gu’s/Gels, band aids, in some races.
- Chafing – Chafing is when skin on skin rubbing occurs, or skin on fabric rubbing occurs and rubs the skin raw. This can be painful during and after the run. Feels similar to a rug burn feeling if you ever had one of those. Using lubricating agents like BodyGlide or Vaseline helps with chafing.
- Pacer – Someone who is running with you to help keep you on pace during a race. In larger races, pacers are often provider by the race and can be identified by the signs they carry. If using your own private pacer, they must be a registered race participant.
- Corral – areas of the starting area that are sectioned off to help line up runners and walkers based on anticipated pace or run finish time. This helps keep the slower runners behind the faster runners and when done well (and people listen) helps get the race off to a smooth, fast start for everyone. Some races strictly enforce it, others not so much.
- Wave start – This is where a race has a staggered start. Your time does not begin until you cross the timing mat, so waved starts help ease crowding at the beginning of a race. First corral goes, a few seconds or minute later, the next corral goes and so on.
- Clock time – Clock time starts when the first runner crosses the starting line. Often ignored if you have an electronic timing system. In some big races it can take you 30 minutes to ‘get’ to the starting line, which is why I like races that uses timing chips.
- Chip timing – Refers to an electronic timing system in which a tag placed on your bib or shoe tracks your unique race time as well as sometimes checkpoints along the course.
- Splits – As you run, your run is divided into even increments or ‘splits’ which are easily measurable run over run to look for progression or de-gression of pace. Often a split is a mile or kilometer depending on how you track it.
- Even Split – running a race at an even pace throughout the race
- Positive Split – running the second half of the race at a slower pace, or having a declining pace as the race goes on.
- Negative split – running the second half of a race faster than the first, or having a progressively faster pace as the race goes one.
- Gear Check – This is a dedicated area at a race where you can drop off a bag that contains anything you might need after the race, or a place where you can store stuff you don’t want to carry with you out on the course.
- Bandit – Someone who runs a race who is not officially registered. This is a bad thing. Larger races have volunteers who specifically look for bandit runners.
- Elite runner – These are the men and women who are the professional or amateur runners trying to win races or get an Olympic qualification. Depends on the race as far as who qualifies as an elite athlete.
- Streaker – A runner who runs at least one mile a day, every day, for a certain period of time. (Usually a year to register as an official streaker).
- Rungry – A made up term that describes the feeling after a run where you are super hungry and eventually angry or short tempered if you don’t get food.
- Ghost runner – someone real or imagined who is on your heels during a race or run. Can be annoying.
- Runcation – planning a vacation around a race….
- Snot Rocket – Blowing air through your nose (while running or during a rest stop) to get a booger out of your nose. Usually pretty gross to watch. Ever grosser when someone accidentally blows one on your leg while running.
- Runner’s Trots – I don’t even think that needs explanation, does it? GI problems while running, that is all I will say about that one.
- GUs / Gels – Engineered foods used for fueling (often for endurance races). Contains carbohydrates in terms of sugars that are quickly accessed and digestible. Many contain electrolytes like sodium/potassium, as well as some contain caffeine
- Carb Loading – This concept that your should eat more carbohydrates leading up to a race or long run. Sometimes people will have big pasta dinners or eat lots of pizza the night before a race to “carb up” (since carbohydrates are used and stored as stored energy in the form of muscle and liver glycogen. This is pretty much outdated and usually just leads to bloating or GI issues. This is a much deeper topic than what we can get into here, but most runners (even endurance athletes do not need to carb load. You can shift a little extra carbs in your diet in the days leading up to competition, but you certainly do not need to ‘load carbs”.
- Taper – a phase in a runners training where they cut back on training volume in order to rest or recover before a race. The longer the race distance, the longer the taper period. Failure to taper often leads to poor race performance (or results that could have been better).
- Running Base – This is your running foundation on what you can run comfortably. So basically you take an average of your runs and whatever that distance is, is your effective base. It can also refer to a period of time in between training cycles that you maintain, or it can also refer to a phase of training where you are upping your miles each week as you build endurance, often referred here to base training. The goal of base training is to build that running foundation up.
- Dropback week – The concept that you will drop back in distance for a particular week of your training cycle to allow for more recovery and time for your body to catch up to the rigors of training. Often a drop back week will be assigned every few weeks during a training cycle or if your coach feels you have been training too hard and could benefit from some added recovery time.
- DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Soreness in a muscle that comes on in the 24-72 hours following exercise that went above and beyond what a muscle is used to. This is caused by tiny microscopic tears in the muscles, but then is followed by a healthy build up and strengthening of the muscle with proper rest and recovery.
- Clydesdale/Athena runner – I hate this term but refers to a heavier runner.
- Master runner – an athlete over the age of 40.
- Black Toe nails – Black toenails can be prevented through proper shoe sizing, socks, and managing the level of pounding your feet make. They occur when your nail bed becomes bruised, or rubbing/friction creates a blister under under your toenail. The thing about them is that they can be very painful, and if ignored you could lose your toe nail. Black Toe Nails are often joked about as being a right of passage for runners, especially distance runners, but you can prevent them by making sure your shoe is sized appropriately by sizing up (you feet swell) and trying to run softer, especially when running down hills which can increase the friction under your toenail. In the unfortunate case you do get one, if you can go see a doctor and get into one within a day or two, they can lance it and release the pressure for instant relief and may even save the nail. I will say, I tested this using a home remedy I saw on YouTube, which was scary as shit, and probably not the smartest thing I have ever done, but it worked wonderfully. I won’t go into any more detail because I can’t recommend this kind of self treatment to anyone. Let’s just say, you can learn anything on YouTube whether that is good or bad.
- Stress Fracture – Stress fractures are hairline cracks in the bone. Often they are so small that X-Rays may not always be able to pick them up. Sometimes you may not even know you have a stress fracture, but you will usually feel pain.
- Plantar Fasciitis – is a very common running injury where pain or inflammation occurs around the heal or bottom of your foot. The thick band of tissue that connects your toes to your heel bone is known as the Plantar Fascia, and this injury from personal experience SUCKS big time. You can tolerate it, but it is very difficult to get rid of.
- Runners Knee – is a generalization of knee pain. The pain is usually triggered when the knee cap rubs on the front of the femur, but the underlying cause can due to a number of things including IT Band irritation, weak or imbalanced hips, structural issues in the knees from previous injury, or even issues with your foot strike.
- Side Stitch – A side cramp on your side, just under the rib cage that sometimes occurs when running. While no one really knows what causes them, it is believed that the most likely cause is a spasm in the diaphragm, which like any muscle can also fatigue when put under too much stress.
- Gait – gait is the term that is used to describe our running or walking form. It includes both the motion of when our foot touches the ground as well as the follow through the swing portion of our motion where the same foot no longer touches the ground.
- Foot Strike – describes how and where your foot lands when it hits the ground as you run.
- Heel strikers – have a foot strike where the heel hits the ground first
- Mid-foot striker– mid to ball of foot hit the ground first
- Forefoot striker– ball of foot to toes hit the ground first
- Pronation – refers to the inward roll of your foot during part of your running stride
- Over-pronation – foot rolls over to the inside too far during the running stride which can lead to injury and muscle imbalances
- Supination – foot does not have a sufficient inward roll or even may roll to the outside during the running stride
- Kinetic Chain – is an engineering term used to describe human movement. The concept that bones, muscles, joints, ligaments do not work in isolation, but rather as a system of “systems”. Often used with analyzing injuries since trouble spots in one area, can actually be caused by weaknesses or imbalances in other areas up and down the kinetic chain.
- Drop – is the difference in distance (or drop) between the heel of your shoe and the forefoot of your shoe and is measured in distance of millimeters. Shoes often change the distance of the drop in attempts to change the performance of the shoe in relation to form, gait and other factors. Changing drop in a shoe too much, can lead to overuse injuries if the transition period is not sufficient
- Minimalistic Shoe – A type or category of shoe that as minimal or low cushioning between the bottom of your foot and the ground.
- Maximalist Shoe – eg. a type of category of shoe, like Hokas or other shoe brands that offer shoes with maximum cushioning. Hokas are probably the most famous brand when it comes to Maximalist shoes.
- Zero Drop – Zero drop shoes are shoes that have equal height between the heel and your toes. Shoes that are zero drop can still have cushioning but a lot of them came from the minimalist movement initially.
- Moisture Wicking Clothing – Shirts, socks, or any gear that has special fabric that helps pull away or ‘wick’ moisture away from the body. Moisture wicking clothing can help
Thanks for joining us today, and we look forward to having you join us with another episode soon.
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Steve is a RRCA and USA Track and Field certified running coach and running club director. He is the founder of RunBuzz.com and host of the RunBuzz podcast which can be found in iTunes
. Steve is also the founder and creator of PaceBuilders, a complete training program and interactive training system for adult runners who want to become better runners, crush running goals, and take their running to another level.