WTF? Basic Running Terms Defined

When I started dedicated training, following plans and all that I ran into terms I didn’t know. Soon after I started googling more and more about running, then reading running blogs and I realized every plan should have the terms used therein defined. Pretty soon I realized a real training plan was a hell of a lot more than just a couple of calendar pages with workouts listed. So I started writing my own. Then friends asked for them and I polished them more and more and now I make them available to all. You can check out my etsy shop here! I take pride in the fact that every one is a complete package with a schedule of course but also a rational and explanation for why you’re doing what on each day. I also firmly believe that every single plan should talk about injury prevention and safety tips. But since I write them they are also REALLY realistic, a bit personal, hopefully a bit funny and have lots of tips for how to save some cash!

Whether you are a newbie thinking about training for your first race next year or a seasoned vet, have a read. You hardened pavement pounders can laugh along or be outraged at what I left out. This is an excerpt from my realistic 1/2 marathon training plan. This plan is designed to take you from running about 8k at a time all the way across the finish line of your first 1/2. In addition to advice specific for first timers there is also always sections (and workouts) specific to those that want to improve on a previous time. But stay tuned in the next month or so I hope to release 2 alternative 1/2 plans, one a bare minimum plan for those that might only want to do one and cross it off the bucket list but still stay injury free. And another that is much longer and drawn out sort of aimed at those that want to significantly improve on their last time, avoid old injuries acting up or keep at it for a longer time with an eye for longer term fitness. This one will include sub-sections for running a 5k and a 10k on your way to 21k!

So here it is all in one place, all the running terms you need to know!

running terms

Active Living Guidelines: Most governments and doctor’s organizations recommend that people get 30 minuets of brisk physical activity 5 times a week. Less than 5% of adults meet this guideline.

Base: This is your fitness or mileage that you are covering before you start a specific training program. Most good programs lay out what base you should have going in to training.

Cross Training: A non-running, or ideally walking activity done during a training program for a variety of good reasons. Number one in my books is injury prevention, cross training is the number one way to prevent injury. Another good reason is to get faster, by strengthening your non-running muscles you support your running muscles. Especially if your cross training is strength training.

C25K or Couch to 5k: A now famous simple, flexible run/walk program designed to get you from sedentary to running a 5k in 9 short weeks. This program was revolutionary for two reasons firstly it included a lot of walking and secondly it is delivered via smartphone app. This easy to follow plan has been the starting point for countless runners.

Dynamic Rest: Essentially still pretty much a rest day but with intentional movement. You might get up every hour and walk around the house. You might plan to walk for 15 min of every 3 hours. I often do this by cleaning the house or running errands. My read on this is move every hour and get 7000 steps in during the day.

Easy Pace: Cover the distance or time required but for running this should mean closed mouth breathing is possible.

Fartlek: A funny word runners wear on their underwear for good luck. No, not really! It’s a fun way to incorporate speed work into training. It essentially means spending parts of one run running at a faster pace than usual and other parts slower than usual. It is supposed to be fun! This can be picking an object up the road and sprinting to it, then jogging to recover before repeating. Training programs usually prescribe certain sprint and recovery distances. I think this is not fun. I usually maintain the ratios and vary my pacing with the tempo of the music I listen to. One fast song then one slow song for example. This program prescribes a number of farlteks as a way to get faster. You can do them however you want. Objects, distances or music is fine!

faom rolling

Hill Repeats: Typically this means running the same hill over and over. Look for one about .5 – .8 km and pretty darn steep. But you could also run a particularly hilly section of road.

Hitting the Wall: Sometimes called bonking this basically means you deplete your energy reserves. It can cause you to feel unnaturally tiered, have a huge perceived effort, go really slow, get dizzy and throw up. Obviously this is to be avoided at all costs. You do this by taking in food as you go.

Injury: In this regard injury refers to ailments that arise from overtraining especially by focusing on one sport. This can include things like runner’s knee, ITBS and planter facetious. Injury in this guide doesn’t refer to things like sprains, breaks and cuts sustained from falling although that can happen too.

Interval Runs: Runs which incorporates short bursts of higher effort followed by recovery periods, a type of speed work.

Jog: A terrible term for slow runners, joking, sort of. Probably a term that needs to die but I use it begrudgingly. Some people, mostly from the past say anything less than 10km/hr is jogging past that your running. Many now say if your not walking your running and I usually agree. In this plan the term jogging means a REALLY REALLY easy run almost as an alternative to walking. If your like me walking is boring and slow but no matter how slow I go running is more fun. I use this term to remind you to take it really, really easy out there.

Long Run: Not really about the length some say it has to be over 10 km for it to be long. Long runs are meant to be a slow plod usually run 60 -90 seconds per km slower than your regular training pace. These are meant to keep you on your feet for a longer amount of time than you might be used to and increase your aerobic fitness.

Negative Split: When you run the second half of a race faster than the 1st. This is hard to do because we all have the tendency to go out too fast and end up too tiered in the second half. Running a negative split has you save your energy for the second half letting you harness that I’m almost done energy. Why does this matter? Well it doesn’t really but professional elite runners all focus on and achieve a substantial negative split. But you’ll still get a medal if you run the second half slower so don’t sweat it!


PR (or PB): Personal record or personal best, best personal time in a given event.

Race Pace: The pace you plan on racing on the day.

Race -: Race pace less a bit. Typically this is 15 seconds to 30 seconds slower per km for running or 3 km/hr slower on the bike.

Recovery Workout: A workout done the day after a long or hard workout. This should be a lot slower than your typical training pace. At least a minute slower than your typical training run Most people don’t do their recovery workouts slow enough. The goal is two fold firstly to move the lactic acid out of your sore muscles gently and efficiently thereby minimizing the time you spend sore and to get used to moving on tiered muscles. Don’t even think about your pace during recovery workouts unless it is to slow down.

Reverse Taper: The weeks following a major race which are designed to rest your body at first while minimizing soreness and later to return you to normal activity without getting injured.

Runger/ Ruchies: An intense sort of hunger that occurs after a long or hard run. You can’t help but stuff your face with whatever isn’t nailed down. This phenomenon leads some to GAIN weight during marathon training. I find it sort of lingers for the rest of the day too. If you want to combat this plan your after run meal and have it prepared. Perhaps consider scheduling your long run later in the day too.

Shake Out Run: Done before a run to loosen up for the next day in this plan. Just do your shake out runs at your normal training pace and enjoy. Others use shake out the way I use recovery workout.

Speed Work: Hard runs usually done once a week designed to make you get faster. This can include fartleks, interval runs, hill repeats and tempo runs.


10% Rule: The concept that you should only increase your weekly mileage by 10% per week to avoid injury. Or the idea more generally that you shouldn’t do too much too fast.

Normally I would ask if I left anything out but these are the terms I use in my realistic 1/2 training plan that not everyone might be familiar with. So instead I’ll ask are you meeting active living guidelines and if your not what are you planning to do about that in 2018? Subscribe for ideas in the coming weeks for making fitness resolutions that stick in the new year!

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