Running Lingo 101: 30 Terms Every Runner Should Know

Abbie Mood
by Abbie Mood
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Running Lingo 101: 30 Terms Every Runner Should Know

There’s always a learning curve when you try something new, and running is no different. Whether you are prepping for your first run ever or you’ve been running for a while but never understood the difference between a fartlek and a LSD, we’ve got you covered. This guide will help you sound like a seasoned veteran in no time.


When the book “Born to Run” about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico came out in 2009, it started a barefoot running frenzy. While true barefoot runners literally run barefoot, this term can also apply to the minimalist movement, in which you wear a shoe ranging from a thin piece of rubber to a more traditional running shoe with no drop.


The point in a race or run when you feel like you can’t go any farther. This isn’t because you are injured or physically exhausted; it’s usually mental — when you begin to wonder if you are crazy and if you should just quit. Pro tip: If you can push through the wall, you will usually get a second wind.


How many steps you are taking per minute while running. Many coaches and running gurus believe that the most efficient cadence is about 180 steps per minute.


The very painful experience when parts of your body (like your inner thighs) rub together while running (or if a shirt rubs you the wrong way on your armpit or nipples), causing redness and soreness.


Lots of runners swear by these for increasing blood flow and reducing lactic acid buildup. Some people put them on after hard workouts or long runs, and you’ll see others wearing them on runs or during a race.


Something that every runner should do! Cross-training is typically lower-impact than running, so it gives your body a break but still gives you a good workout. Think: cycling, swimming or yoga.


The difference between the toe of the shoe and the heel of the shoe. Almost all running shoes today elevate the heel to give you a little padding for your heel strike. Thanks to the barefoot running/minimalist movement, you can now find shoes with very little (1–3 mm) to no difference between the toe and the heel. Typical running shoes have somewhere between 8–12 mm drop.


Exactly what it sounds like — a run where you should be able to have a conversation with your running buddy without getting out of breath.


The Swedish word for “speed play,” it’s a type of run that incorporates periods of running fast with easy running in between to help you recover.


> 6 Fartlek and Hill Workouts for the Treadmill
> The Many Benefits of Strength Training for Runners
> Cross-Training Workouts Every Runner Should Try
> 5 Recovery Tips For After a Long Run


How your foot hits the ground. Many of us heel strike, which means our heel hits the ground first, our foot rolls forward and then we push off our toes. The ideal strike is to land with the middle of your foot. It’s the most efficient way to run and will prevent some injuries.


How you run, or your mechanics. The ideal form is a short, quick stride with shoulders back, arms at a 90-degree angle, eyes a few feet in front of you, all while staying relaxed. Don’t worry, very few people out there (ever) get it perfect.


What you consume while you run. This could be gels or other energy products, or even pretzels. It shouldn’t upset your stomach, as fuel will give your muscles more energy on harder/longer runs.


Running up and down hills, repeatedly. This is to build overall strength but is also important to practice if you are training for a race that includes hills.


Anything from water to sports drinks. Hydration is what you drink while you run to avoid dehydration.


Similar to a fartlek, an interval run includes periods of harder running and periods of easier running. There is also a run/walk method of training that involves alternating intervals of running and walking.


A compound in your body that doesn’t actually cause muscle soreness (despite popular belief) but causes the burn you feel when you challenge yourself.


Long slow distance, or long slow day. This run is usually on a Saturday or Sunday, and it’s the longest run of the week. It’s usually at an even slower pace than your easy run and is basically to get some extra mileage in.


How fast you are running per mile. For example, someone who runs three miles in 30 minutes is running a 10-minute mile pace.


Mini accelerations during a run. These might just be a few strides in the middle of an easy run.


Our feet are supposed to roll in a little bit when they hit the ground, and this is called pronation. Depending on your arch, you may roll in too much (overpronate) or roll out instead, which is underpronation or supination. This can usually be corrected by wearing an insole or stability shoe.


5K (3.1 miles), 10K (6.2 miles), half-marathon (13.1 miles), marathon (26.2 miles)


These types of slow, short runs are usually the day after a race or hard workout, and they are designed to just get your body moving — nothing serious or strenuous.


Days off from running. You should always give your body a break and include at least one rest day per week, usually after a long run day or race.


Your mile times in a multimile race or run. You may also do a workout with a goal of negative splits, which is running each mile at least a little faster than the previous.


Short bursts of speed, usually at the end of a workout or race. They are great for stretching out your legs a bit after a long run and for incorporating mini speed workouts.


A run at a moderate pace. You aren’t going all-out, but you are going faster than your easy run.

10% RULE

A general rule of thumb to avoid injury is to never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% from the previous week’s mileage.


You may have heard of time trials as a way to qualify for the Olympics, but for the average runner, it’s a way to see how you are improving. Pick a distance (even a mile or two) and run as fast as you can. Keep track of your time, and compare it to another time trial (for the same distance) in a few weeks. 


The maximum amount of oxygen that your body can use during exercise. As you exercise more, this number will increase, and you will be able to run faster.


A way to get your body ready to run. This usually includes an easy jog for at least a few minutes and some stretching.


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About the Author

Abbie Mood
Abbie Mood

Abbie is a freelance writer and editor based out of Colorado. She loves writing about a variety of topics from running to soccer to social/environmental issues, and when she isn’t writing, Abbie tries to be outside as much as possible. You can find her online at her website or on Twitter/Instagram @abbiemood.


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