Glossary of Running Terms

Photo by Marques Jackson.

Here's the lowdown on useful running terms to know for your training:

  • 5K – A 3.1-mile race.
  • 10K – A 6.2-mile race.
  • Base runs– Slow, steady runs done at an easy, relaxed pace. Beginning runners should do about one month of base runs to build up endurance and get accustomed to running before beginning speed workouts or long runs.
  • Cardio – An exercise that elevates the heart rate for a continuous period and strengthens the cardiovascular system. Cardio exercise requires oxygen for a sustained length of time.
  • Circuits – Alternating high-intensity cardio exercise with resistance training exercises to burn calories and fat and increase strength. A sample circuit workout includes three minutes of fast running alternating with two minutes of pushups, crunches, squats, lunges and back extensions.
  • Cool-down – A slow, relaxed-pace jog done after a workout to loosen muscles and prevent lactic acid buildup. Cool-downs are usually about 10 minutes long.
  • Fartleks – Swedish for “speed play,” a form of speed training involving short bursts of speed during a regular, relaxed pace run. The bursts of speed can vary in distance; you can set your sights on a pole, tree or street sign to sprint to and then return to your regular running pace.
  • Foot Pod Accelerometer – Electronic device that measures running distance and speed by gathering data from your running or walking movements.
  • GPS – Global positioning system. Running watches with GPS can tell the distance, speed and location of your runs.
  • Half marathon – A 13.1-mile race that is half the distance of a marathon.
  • Heart rate monitor  A device that measures your heart rate by reading electrical signals from your heart and transmitting them to a display monitor.
  • Hill workout – A workout that involves repeatedly running up hills or on a treadmill with an incline equivalent to a hill. Hill workouts strengthen the legs and can improve your running speed.
  • Intervals – High-intensity running alternating with periods of active recovery – jogging or walking. Intervals are usually done at a consistent pace on a track and interval distances can vary from 100 meters to one-mile repeats, depending on the event you are training for. Each recovery jog should be about twice as long as your interval time.
  • Lactic acid – A buildup of acids in the body that occurs in the muscles when glucose is not broken down completely. Lactic acid often happens after a hard workout and can cause muscle fatigue and soreness.
  • Long run – A training run done at a slow pace that is one-and-a-half to twice as long as your regular training runs. Long runs increase endurance and running efficiency.
  • Marathon – A 26.2-mile race.
  • Maximum heart rate – The highest number of times your heart can contract in one minute. You should never go above your maximum heart rate as you will be in danger of having a heart attack.
  • Motion control – A feature in running shoes that helps limit pronation problems, or excess rolling of the foot inwards or outwards.
  • Negative splits – Completing the second half of a race faster than the first half
  • Plyometrics – Explosive, high-intensity movements that are designed to improve athletic quickness, power and performance.
  • Pronation – The inward roll of the foot during walking or running that occurs as the heel strikes the ground and the foot rolls inward and flattens out
  • PR/PB – Personal record or personal best running time. This is your fastest time for a specific race distance. 
  • Resistance Training – Exercises that increase muscle strength by using free weights, weight machines or your own body weight for resistance.
  • Speed Workout – A running workout that involves running at faster than normal speeds in order to improve your running efficiency and pace. Some speed workouts include intervals, fartleks and tempo runs.
  • Splits – Your total running time measured in segments. Runners often track their mile times during races, for instance, and refer to them as mile splits.
  • Stability – A running shoe feature that helps eliminate some excess motion of the foot while running. Stability shoes are not as rigid as motion control shoes but not as light and flexible as cushioned or minimalist shoes.
  • Strides – Short, fast runs of a set distance, usually 100 to 150 meters. Strides can be done to help warm up before a race or after workouts to increase running efficiency and speed.
  • Tempo Run – Training runs done at a faster than average pace, usually around 10K race pace. Tempo runs build speed, endurance and running efficiency.
  • VO2 Max – Your body’s maximum capacity to transport and use oxygen while exercising. The higher your fitness level, the higher your VO2 Max.
  • Warm-up – A slow-paced run done before a race or workout to loosen up the muscles before exerting them. Warm-ups are usually about 10 minutes long.