Running Lingo For Beginners

When you first start running you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only things you’d learn is the physical stuff, you know like how to run without falling over, how to breathe without sounding like an asthmatic donkey and how to shoot death stares at your run leader when they tell you to use your arms to get up that hill (just me then!), but I bet you didn’t know you’d also come away having learnt a new language too!

Ranguage (yeah you know me and made up words!) is the secret code used by runners to talk to one another when they’re discussing the finer art of their sport. It took me a while to get to grips with it and even now I’ll hear the occasional term that I think wtf before politely nodding my head and discretely running ahead. So I figured I’d do you all a favour and help those of you who are new to this running lark so that you can at least stay ahead of the pack in one way or another.

Here’s a few terms you’re bound to hear thrown around, and trust me there’s way more than this, but it should be enough to keep you going for the time being:

Strava

You’re gonna hear this one pretty early on so you might as well get with the programme and join in. Strava is a run app that allows you to record your run so that you can check things like your time, distance, routes etc, and it not only tracks your stats but also those of anyone you befriend on there. Which means, if you happen to be a of a particularly competitive disposition you’ll suddenly find yourself checking your Strava a bit more than you may first have intended. Personally, and I know I’m not alone here, if I haven’t recorded my run on Strava then it might as well not count. I like it as proof to myself and proof to others that I’ve actually been out there and done it and best of all I like that it gives you little virtual pats on the back in the form of medals and trophies when you beat past runs. There’s a free version and a paid for premium version, but in all honesty you get pretty much all you need from the freebie one so I’d go for that.

Dynamic Stretching

I’d like to think this was all about donning a superhero cape and doing a couple of lunges before running riot round the park, but unfortunately not…although you’re welcome to give it a go if you fancy it! Dynamic stretching is all about warming up and activating the muscles, whilst helping to open up the joints and it’s basically stretching whilst moving. Things like lunges, squats, bum kicks and high knees are all fantastic stretches for runners as it helps increase flexibility, power, and ultimately makes you run better whilst also reducing the risk of injury.

Out and Back

This one pretty much does what it says on the tin – you run out to somewhere and then…you turn around and come back. Great for when you need to run a but further, because you don’t have the option of backing out and cutting it short (you gotta get home somehow), not so great if you need a bit more visual stimulation and your head can’t take the fact you’ve still got ‘all that way’ to go.

LSD

Sometimes when you’ve run far enough and perhaps a bit too fast, yes it can feel a bit trippy and you might get a bit light headed, but don’t worry you’re not going to be force fed acid in some strange and sadistic running ritual, ‘cos LSD actually stands for Long Slow Distance runs in running lingo. Usually this type of run is incorporated into a programme specifically designed to help you train for longer distant events such as a half or full marathon. As the name would suggest these are longer runs, run at a slower pace than you may be used to, with the aim of building up endurance and helping to train the body into using different fuel sources, such as stored fat and muscle glycogen.

Splits

Limber up because it’s time for some splits! Haha sorry just messin’ with ya, of course you don’t need to be able to do the splits to run, although having said that flexibility does help somewhat. No, splits is the term used for the time it takes to complete a set distance. So for instance if you were running laps on a track, you would check the time it took for you to run the first lap and if you were going for an even pace you’d be aiming for the same time on the second lap. Negative splits would be if you ran the second lap faster than the first and positive splits would be the other way around. Hmmmm and there was me hoping it would have something to do with bananas and ice cream.

Fartlek

Once you’ve got all those silly giggles out of the way, because let’s be honest it’s totally impossible to say ‘fartlek’ without cracking up, let’s take a look at what the word means when you’re running. Deriving from the Swedish concept of ‘speed play’, fartleks are runs that include bursts of sprints. Now you’d be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t sound any different to interval training, and I guess in a sense you’d be right, the thing is whereas traditional intervals are a bit more rigid and structured (planned out over a certain distance and for a specific time) fartleks are more intuitive and you can certainly have more fun playing around with them (I use the word fun here in the very loosest sense of the word obvs.!). They’re great for beginners who are looking to build up their strength and stamina, although they’re deffo gonna end up being something you love to hate! It can easily be fit into any run, just remember to take it steady and go at a pace you’re comfortable with and then when you see, for example, a tree in the distance make it your mission to get there as fast (and as safely!) as you can. You can quite literally play around with it, so that you fit these short bursts in willynilly (pahaha another great word!) on your run. Plus if nothing else, you are guaranteed some lovely shiny medals on Strava, and we are ALL about that!

Tempo Runs

The word tempo relates to the speed or pace of something and we usually associate it with music. In running terms it basically means a run that is faster and harder than you are used to, so you are ‘upping the tempo’. Like fartleks they are another great way to help boost your overall fitness and they are hard, but comfortably hard. And that right there is the principle you’re aiming for, you want to be running fast enough that you’re having to really concentrate on what you’re doing to keep yourself going, but not so hard you’re coughing up blood and fainting come the end of it. Ain’t gonna lie, tempo runs are tough, but if you want to up your running game and take it next level then hard work is what’s gonna pay off.

Cadence

I only properly learnt what this means recently, before that this was one of those words that I kept hearing but didn’t want to look as though I didn’t know what people were talking about. I was hoping it had something to do with My Little Pony (my daughter has one of the toys called Princess Cadence) and had visions of dressing up in sparkly leggings, maybe even donning a unicorn horn and galloping through the countryside, but no such luck. I don’t mean to disappoint you, but it’s way more boring than that, cadence (also known as stride turnover) is the number of steps you take within a minute of running. Ideally you want to be looking at achieving 180 steps per minute, but this is when you’re up there with the fastest most efficient runners, so perhaps aim a bit lower to begin with. The easiest way to work out your own personal cadence is to do it on a treadmill. Set it to roughly your usual running pace and count how often your left foot strikes the treadmill in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by 4 to get the number of times that foot steps down within a minute and then multiply this number by 2 to work out the overall number of steps for both feet. I’ve been told I need to increase my cadence at various points, usually when I’m trying to get up a dirty big hill, as this makes it easier and kind of super charges you I guess. I’m pretty sure a unicorn would work better!

Gait

Whilst we’re on the subject of horses (seriously I need to just drop it now), gait describes how we run or walk.ย  Many of us don’t strike our feet evenly on the ground when we run, they may roll ever so slightly to either side, or some may land on their heel first whereas others strike with the ball of the foot first. Having a gait analysis is a good way to determine your pronation (see below) and will help you choose the right running shoes to help support your feet and reduce the risk of injury.

Pronation

Pronation is the inward roll of your foot as you run and knowing your pronation type will help, as I mentioned above, you to select the correct footwear. Underpronators (supination) roll outwards and this places a great deal of strain on the muscles and tendons that support and stabilise the ankle joint, which is why they need plenty of cushioning in their trainers. Overpronators on the other hand, roll inwards which can again lead to injury and muscle imbalance as well as foot, shin and knee pain, they need lots of support and structured cushioning in their running shoes.

Anaerobic Threshold

I’m guessing you all know the word aerobics…you know, leg warmers, lycra, Mr Motivator, yep you got it. And this type of exercise stems from the word aerobic meaning to use oxygen in order to generate oxygen. So as you’re prancing around the room to Eric Prydz’s Call on Me you’re increasing your heart rate, getting your blood pumping and therefore increasing the amount of oxygen in your body thus producing more energy. Anaerobic is the opposite of this, it means without oxygen.

Woah, woah woah hang on a cotton picking second, how the diddlio is that meant to work then!?!

Your anaerobic capacity is how much you can run past the point of your aerobic capacity, right…so what’s that in easy speak?

If you’re running a big race, especially a long one, you want to be running it aerobically, you need oyxgen and you need it to be there to fuel you for the long term so you don’t burn out. If you were to go at it hell for leather, chances are you’re gonna enter your anaerobic zone where you start to run out of oxygen because you’re using it up at such a fast rate. This is bad news for muscles, because when the exercise gets tough and the oxygen depletes, in comes the lactic acid into your blood stream, the energy waste product that is gonna make your run life proper tough. So why do it?

Anaerobic won’t burn calories in the same way that aerobic exercise does and it won’t necessarily help your cardiovascular fitness, but what it will do is build up your overall strength and muscle mass and this will definitely benefit your running in the long term.

Runnerโ€™s High

Nope this ain’t about ending a particularly tough run with a smoke on the old whacky baccy, runners high is that natural feel good endorphin rush from getting out there and doing something that makes you and your body feel good. Simples.

PR or PB

You might not think you’re a particularly competitive person, but I can guarantee that once you’ve downloaded Strava (don’t fight it, it’s gonna happen) you are deffo gonna be aiming for those PBs. PB, standing for ‘Personal Best’, is the glorious achievement of having run your fastest time over any given distance. This means when you first start out, you’re gonna be getting PBs all over the blinkin’ place, but as time ticks on they get harder and harder to beat…unless of course you change your run route. No, not cheating, I like to call it a motivational boost! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Taper

This is the bit every runner loves in their training programme, it’s the bit where you get to slack off and take things easy for a bit, but don’t get too relaxed because there’s something big waiting for you just around the corner. Tapering is the term used for the time prior to a race where mileage and intensity is decreased to ensure peak performance for the big event itself. So no matter how nice it feels at the time after all that ridiculously knackering training, it’s the calm before the storm so hold onto your hats peeps, ‘cos it’s a coming.

Doubles

Quite simply, it’s the madness of doing two runs in one day. I mean, who does that!?!?!

Brick Workout

Then, as if you needed even more madness, you’ve got the brick workout which is doing two different workouts back to back. Say what!?! This is mainly used for the likes of those prepping for a triathlon, who actually knows why it’s called a brick workout…. my guess is that it has something to do with the fact that come the end of a back-to-back workout all you’re gonna feel like doing is lobbing a brick at your trainer!

Carb Loading

Oooo we like the sound of this one. Carbs? Loading? Show me that pasta!! OK, sorry to disappoint but just ‘cos you’re running more now, it doesn’t give you free license to scoff every bit of beige food in sight. No, upping your carb intake is purely for those needing to store up extra energy ahead of a big event, such as a half or full marathon, triathlon or an ultra. The extra consumption of carbs a few days before an event, helps store up glycogen in the muscles and liver, which can then be used as fuel reserves when your body starts to flag. So put that bread down, step away from the spuds and go and make yourself a nice big salad.

Lactic Acid

You know when your legs start to feel like they’re full of cement, you know all heavy and like they couldn’t… possibly… run… one… more …step? Well that my friend is the delightful lactic acid telling you you’ve worked damn hard and your body would probably quite like a rest right now thank you very much.ย  Lactic acid is the by product of carb burning, so as your energy stores start to deplete more and more lactic acid is produced and we feel it in the form of… THE BURN!

But it’s not all bad news and in fact trying to increase your lactate threshold, the point at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood faster than it is able to be removed, is actually a great training method to increase your overall performance. If you can set that threshold higher, then it helps to distribute the lactic acid around the body more, thus spreading out the pain and therefore allowing you to run for longer.

But how on earth do you go about upping your threshold? Well, firstly you need to establish what your current lactate threshold is and without a whole set of sports health kit you’re obviously not going to get a completely accurate result, but you can at least gain a rough idea by using a tracking device and the following method:

  1. Select a flat course to run on.
  2. Run for as fast as you possibly can for a period of 30 minutes.
  3. Only start your tracking device at the 10 minute mark (it only needs to record the last 20 minutes of your run).
  4. Work out your average heart rate during the last 20 minutes and this is your lactate threshold point.

It’s going to feel tough and yes it is going to get you out of breath, but knowing your heart rate number in relation to your lactate threshold will help you considerably during training and over time should help improve your endurance for those longer runs.

RICE

Not more carb loading references I’m afraid so you can put the Uncle Ben’s down, RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, the four key things that are recommended if you’ve gone and got yourself an injury. Things like strained hamstrings, twisted ankles and the like, need these components to help reduce swelling, relieve pain and protect damaged tissues and ultimately to speed up the healing process and get you back out there again.

DOMS

If you’ve ever worked out really hard, pushed yourself to your absolute limit or run a few hill reps up some nasty sod off hills, then chances are you’ll have experienced a case of some serious leg DOMS the following day. DOMSย  (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is that painful can’t get out of bed, barely lift your own arms above your head stiffness, soreness and discomfort that is felt a day or two after extreme exercise. It’s not a bad thing, in fact many athletes love a bit of DOMS as it proves they’ve worked hard, but the key to getting through it is to keep on moving. Active recovery, such as walking or dynamic stretching are absolutely perfect for helping keep the muscles ticking over and will prevent them from seizing up.

Plantar Fasciitis

Hopefully you won’t ever experience this one, but Plantar Fasciitis is a common runners complaint and chances are you’re going to at least know someone that suffers from it. The plantar fascia is the thick connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot stretching from the heel bone to the base of your toe bones. Overpronation, running for long periods of time on hard surfaces, wearing the wrong shoes, or if you have tight calves or Achilles tendons means you are much more likely to damage your plantar fascia. Repeated strain will eventually cause tiny tears in the ligament, which will then cause inflammation and heel pain, which unless left to rest will continue to worsen.

Are you feeling a bit more clued up now? I hope so, it’s hard enough getting your head around the fact you’re starting to enjoy this running business let alone knowing all the fancy schmancy words that go along with it.

I’d absolutely love to hear any other running terms you’ve come across, so get in touch!

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