Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Runners Say What?! Guide to Deciphering the Running Jargon

Yo dawg, I gotcha flipsyde fo'shizzle brotha from anotha motha don't get all up in my grill yo

Does talking to a bunch of runners ever sound like a bunch of crazy jargon and you are lost after you hear PR? Well here's a list of the most common running terms and what they mean. No need to feel left out anymore! Now you'll fit right in with those running nerds

PR: Personal record, also PB, personal best. This is a runner's best time ever at any given distance
Pronation: an inward roll of your foot during a running stride
Over-pronate: your foot rolls over to the inside too far during a stride. This can lead to injuries such as ITBS (defined later). You can tell if you over-pronate by excessive wear on the inside part of the forefoot on the bottom of your shoes
Under-pronate: lack of sufficient inward motion of the foot
Gait: your running form, how your legs move; includes stride length, pronation, and form

Easy/Recovery run: a run done at a slow enough pace that you can easily carry on a conversation, used to get in mileage but let your body recover; note: this is not a walking super easy pace, you still need to increase your heart rate
Distance run: a run to get in miles, this is the in-between an easy run and a tempo run pace
Tempo: a run that is at a "comfortably hard" pace; a challenging, but manageable pace; generally around 20-40 minutes, but length can vary. Most tempo runs consist of a 10-15min warm-up, the tempo, and a 10-15min cool down. Tempo runs build speed and teach your body to run at a certain pace
Fartlek: a Swedish word meaning "speed play"; bursts of speed during a distance run; i.e. run hard to the next telephone pole, jog to the big tree, then hard again to the mailbox, etc.; fartleks can be any speed and distance, they are great for beginning runners who want to do some speed work and for experienced runners alike
Intervals/Repeats: training in which fast repeats of a certain distance (anywhere from 100m-1600m/1 mile) are done a set amount of times; written as 4x800 (four 800m repeats)
Ladder: an interval workout of increasing interval lengths; for example 200m-400m-600m-800m. (Note, running intervals are most generally measure in meters or kilometers so when someone says "I ran a 400" they mean they ran 400 meters. I will from here on out refer to interval lengths in this way)
Step-downs: doing a certain interval length, getting progressively faster. for example, say you are doing 10-200s, you start out at 42, next one at 40, next at 39, etc.
Negative splits: similar to step-downs, but usually longer distances, or referring to a race, it means that your splits got faster (mile 1 at 7:05, mile 2 at 6:50, etc.)
Strides: Short, fast but controlled runs (usually between 50m-200m); designed to improve turnover and work on form

Warm-up: a period before your run designed to increase your heart rate slowly and "warm-up" your muscles for activity; prevents injuries; includes slow jogging and dynamic stretches
Cool-down: a period after your run designed to slowly decrease your heart rate and keep your muscles from tensing up; includes walking and static stretching
Cross-training: activities such as swimming or cycling that are used to increase conditioning and injury prevention for running or as a means of adding variety to workout schedule; any exercise activity other than running 
Static stretching: stretching that is done to gradually lengthen a muscle to an elongated position; the kind of stretching most commonly done; to be done AFTER your workout (contrary to popular belief, but I will do that rant another day)
Dynamic stretching: stretches that are done with movement; consists of controlled leg and arm swings that gently take you to the limits of your range of motion; i.e. butt-kickers, high knees, carioca, etc.

Max Heart Rate: the highest number of contractions your heart can make in one minute; the simplest way to determine your heart rate max is 220-your age=HR max
VO2 Max: the maximal amount of oxygen that a person can extract from the atmosphere, send to the body's tissues, and use to produce energy (estimate your VO2 max here)

XC: stands for cross-country
Cross-country: distance running, races are not held on the track or the road, common places include parks and golf-courses

Runner's trots: when you've gotta go.....or more technically, gastrointestinal problems encountered while on a run
Stress fracture: a hairline crack in the bone that causes a lot of pain and can lead to more serious injury if not treated (usually treated with rest)
Bummies: you know you've seen these, best way to describe them is they are like a swimsuit bottom or underwear that women race in
Rabbit: someone who goes out with the intention of setting a fast pace in a race, but usually drops out after a pre-determined distance
10% rule: a general rule that you increase your mileage by a maximum of about 10% per week
Road Kill: the people you pass during a run or race. Its run to count them and brag to people at the end how many "road kill" you had

Common race distances:
    5k= 3.1 miles
    10k= 6.2 miles
    Half-marathon= approximately 21k= 13.1 miles
    Marathon= approximately 42k=26.2 miles
    Ultra-marathon= any distance longer than a marathon

Next time you are with a bunch of runners, whip out a few of these terms and you will be able to fit right in! Let me know if I missed any that you would like to see!

I must give due credit to the resources I used beside my own brain:


  1. What a great article Kalina!!! I needed this haha

  2. I love this article. I even learned some new terms.

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