Want to walk the walk — or in this case, run the run? Then it’s time to learn how to talk the talk! We’ve translated all of the most common terms that runners use to refer to races, injuries, and more.
Form. This is how you use your body when you run. Try to keep the upper body tall yet relaxed and swing your arms forward and back at low 90-degree angles.
Foot strike. There’s a right way and a wrong way to make every step count. A runner should strike the ground with their mid-foot, not the tippy-toes or heels. Try using light steps that land right under the hip for lower impact (and a lower chance of injury).
Pace. When runners talk about running “an 8-minute pace,” they’re referring to the amount of time it takes to clock 1 mile. They also tend to express pace based on the type of run: “long run pace,” “marathon pace,” “5K pace,” etc.
Runner’s high. Some runners experience a state of euphoria known as “the runner’s high” either during or after a run. It might just be the reason runners run — and you might be able to feel it, too.
Strides. These are simply the forward steps taken while running. Sometimes, folks use “strides” (or “striders”) to refer to a series of short sprints, usually between 50 and 200 meters.
Cadence. Also known as stride turnover, a runner’s cadence is the number of steps taken per minute while running. The fastest and most efficient runners have a cadence of around 180 steps per minute. Listening to up-tempo music can help you hit your cadence goal. But know that your optimal running cadence will vary depending on your height and running mechanics.
Dreadmill. Treadmills get this pet name since they’re an often-loathed piece of gym equipment for runners forced indoors due to weather or time constraints.
Warmup. To increase heart rate and blood flow to the muscles and reduce the risk of injury, runners know to start each workout with a good warmup. Getting loose for an everyday run can include 5 to 10 minutes of walking or jogging or another exercise to raise your heart rate.
Cooldown. Just as a warmup preps the body, a cooldown transitions it back to a resting state. So before heading straight for the showers, slow down with a series of lighter moves and exercises post-workout.
Static stretching. Everyone ready to count? Static stretching, or holding major muscle groups in their most lengthened positions for at least 30 seconds, might bring it back to the middle school soccer days. While many still believe static stretches prior to running help prevent injuries, research now suggests that stretching it out is more beneficial after breaking a sweat.
Dynamic stretching. Add a little more boom, boom, pow to your warmup with dynamic stretching. These are controlled movements that increase flexibility, power, and range of motion. The best dynamic stretches for runners include lunges, squats, leg lifts, and butt-kicks.
Easy run. These light runs are best done at a conversational pace. (That means if you can’t run and recap last night’s episode of “The Bachelor” at the same time, you’re going too fast!)
LSD. No, not that LSD. In this case, the acronym stands for long slow distance. It refers to the week’s longest run. The only kind of trippin’ runners might be doing out on the road is over their own shoelaces.
Recovery run. Also lovingly referred to as “junk miles,” a recovery run is a short, slow run that takes place within a day after a long, harder run. This teaches your body how to work through a fatigued state.
Speedwork. Aimed at improving running speed, these types of workouts can include intervals, hill repeats, and tempo runs. It can help you get faster and improve your endurance. But speedwork usually hurts a lot, too!
Interval training. Here you’ll be alternating specific time periods of specific high and low intensity during a run. Intervals are just one way to get faster, build strength, and burn those calories.
Hill repeats. Make like Jack and Jill. You’ll go up the hill (again and again) in this form of speedwork. Head up at a 5K pace and recover down at an easy jog or walk. The number of hill repeats per workout depends on your experience and fitness level. But the benefits from the pain? Speed, strength, and confidence!
Fartleks. A fartlek is an easier form of speedwork for beginners. It means “speed play” in Swedish. Fartleks are easy runs that are broken up by quick bursts of sprinting. But unlike more rigid intervals, you can decide when you change speed. That makes it super beginner-friendly.
Tempo run. Usually done only once per week, tempo runs are a tougher form of speed training. Runners challenge themselves to hold a “threshold” (or comfortably difficult) pace for a 20-minute period during a run. (Don’t forget a good warmup and cooldown, too).
Pick-ups. Short, gentle increases in speed, or pick-ups, at the end of a run help aid recovery.
Strength training. Runners need muscles too! Strength training, or exercises performed with or without weights (like push-ups, squats, and planks), helps runners become stronger and prevent injuries.
Cross-training. Runners should also squeeze in time for cross-training. That includes sports and exercises other than running that improve your overall fitness and strength. Great examples of cross-training for runners include cycling, swimming, yoga, water running, and weight training.
Rest day. Choosing the couch over the road at least 1 day a week will allow your body to recover and repair muscles. Instead, try a different type of marathon — a Harry Potter marathon, perhaps?
Trail running. This is a run that takes place off-road on a trail. As opposed to a road or track, trail running offers a more natural setting, breaks up monotony, and can even work a whole different set of running muscles.
Barefoot running. Many modern runners are ditching their sneaks and discovering proper running form thanks to the barefoot movement. Made especially trendy by the book Born to Run, it emphasizes running like our cavemen ancestors may help to prevent injuries and improve performance.
400 meters = 1 lap around the track (about 1/4 of a mile)
Mile = 5,280 feet or about 1,609 meters (4 laps around the track)
5K = 3.1 miles
10K = 6.2 miles
Half-marathon = 13.1 miles
Marathon = 26.2 (grueling) miles
Road race. These public races (held on a road, not on a trail) have a clearly marked course and runners who register to participate — which will usually get them a free T-shirt, too.
Taper. A few weeks before a big race, a runner will decrease their total running mileage to store energy. Because the tapering process involves less running and more rest, runners tend to get very antsy during their taper!
Carbo-loading. During a taper, runners eat lots of high carb food, like pasta and bread.
Bib. Runners pick up this piece of paper with a designated number before the race and attach it to their shirts to wear during the run. Tip: Bring extra safety pins to smaller races. They sometimes run out!
Corral. Because of so many participants, big races often divide runners into groups (named for the similarity to a corral of livestock) based on their expected finishing times. The speedsters at the front; the slowpokes in the back.
Rabbit. No, not the cute and cuddly kind! Rabbits are runners who serve as pacemakers or pace-setters during a race, with the rest of the field chasing them down. And just like the Energizer Bunny, they keep going, and going, and going — all on pace.
Bandit. These peeps make their way into a race without registering or paying an entrance fee. FYI: This is not cool.
Kick. This is the final push runners give at the end of a race to increase their speed to the finish line. This is when you give it all you’ve got. Leave it all on the road.
Chip time. Often measured by an electronic chip in the sneaker or bib, this is the precise time it takes a runner to get from the start line to the finish line.
Splits. A race’s total time divided into smaller parts (usually miles), is known as the splits. If a runner has an even split, it means they ran the same pace through the entire race. If it’s a negative split, they ran the second half faster than the first. And that’s a good thing!
DNS/DNF. DNS (did not start) or DNF (did not finish) is what will appear in the race results if a runner does not start or finish a race. What happened?! Did you fall into the Porta-Potty? Or get lost along the course?
PR/PB. These coveted letters stand for personal record and personal best. Good news: Run in just one race and it’s an automatic PR!
BQ. If someone is trying to get a “BQ” or a Boston qualifier, they want to achieve a finish time that gets them entry into the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon and the only one to require a strict qualifying time. These qualifying times vary by age and gender.
Hardware. Wear your race medals with pride, then hang them in a place of honor.
Newbie. A newbie, or beginner, often learns the basics of the sport by training for a short race, like a 5K. The “Couch-to-5K” training plan is a great place to start!
Streaker. Keeping their clothes on (usually!), a streaker is a runner who runs consecutively every day for an extended period of time. Streaking events (like this one) are fun ways to stay motivated while clocking those miles.
Ultramarathoner. These totally badass runners, like Dean Karnazes, take on any distance longer than 26.2 miles. Ultramarathons are typically 50K, 100K, 50 miles, or 100 miles, but the most well-known ultra is the 56-mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa.
Elite. Yup, we’re talking about the pros. No matter the distance, elite runners are fast. Really, really fast.
Triathlete. These overachievers not only run, they swim and bike, too!
Moisture-wicking clothing. Noncotton running attire or technical apparel keeps sweat away from the body to prevent chafing.
Garmin. Many runners rely on this brand or other GPS-enabled sports watches to track distance, pace, heart rate, and more.
Fuel. When going long, runners have to fill up their tank! Running nutrition comes in all kinds of forms, including energy gels (or GUs), chews, bars, and even jelly beans. Others prefer to chomp on pretzels or sugary candies like Swedish Fish! Just remember, it’s important to eat around 100 calories after an hour of running, followed by another 100 calories every 40 to 45 minutes to replace the glycogen being used.
FuelBelt. These Velcro-ed belts/fanny packs hold a runner’s snacks, phone, cash, water, Gatorade, and any other life-or-death accessories.
Running tights. Especially during cold weather months, runners squeeze into these spandex leggings or capris to keep warm.
Compression socks. Often a post-run tradition, runners don a pair of compression socks. These are very snug, knee-high tube socks that are meant to speed recovery. Some even wear them during the race itself, believing they get oxygen to the leg muscles at a faster rate.
Minimalist shoes. These popular lightweight running “shoes” are for runners who want to try barefoot running without taking it all off.
Singlets. Runners often wear these sleeveless tank tops while racing. Relax! Unlike a wrestling singlet, it’s just a shirt.
Pronation. This refers to the way the foot strikes the ground while running. If someone is an “overpronator,” their foot rolls inward while running. If someone has excessive wear on the outside of their sneakers, they’re likely an “underpronator.” Getting fitted for a proper running shoe can help to correct both.
BPM. The heart rate or beats per minute (BPM) is the number of heartbeats during a minute. Runners often have a target BPM to get the most out of each workout.
Endurance. Runners love to continuously see how much further and faster they can go, which is why they build up endurance, or the body’s ability to withstand stress and pain during an aerobic activity such as running.
Aerobic vs. anaerobic exercise. While both aerobic and anaerobic exercises burn glucose, there are some differences. Aerobic exercise is long in duration but low in intensity (like walking or jogging), while anaerobic exercise is short in duration but high in intensity (like sprinting or heavy lifting).
Glycogen. Your body stores glucose in the form of glycogen to be used for energy. As long as it’s in good supply, you can keep on truckin’. But when the glycogen is gone, you’ll often “hit the wall.”
Lactic acid. Formed when your body can’t generate energy using oxygen, lactic acid is produced anaerobically (especially during hard workouts).
Anaerobic threshold. This is the point of exercise where the going gets tough and lactic acid begins to accumulate in the bloodstream.
VO2 max. Also known as aerobic capacity, VO2 max is your body’s maximum oxygen intake.
Chafing. Yikes. How do we put this gently? Sweat and fabric rub against the skin while distance running and can cause painful irritation and rashes. To prevent chafing, coat up everywhere (and we mean everywhere) with a product like Bodyglide or Vaseline before hitting the road.
Black toenails. A runner’s badge of honor, or just plain gross? You decide. Discolored toenails on runners are a result of impact and pressure on the toe. Sometimes they may fall off completely!
DOMS. Oww. The discomfort of DOMS, or delayed-onset muscle soreness, can occur between 24 and 48 hours after running. It can make walking up and down the stairs especially challenging.
Foam roller. The foam roller can be a sore muscle’s best friend or its worst enemy. This tube may look fun and can replace a deep massage in preventing and relieving muscle knots and pain, but it’s also been known to make even the toughest runners whimper. It can be done before or after runs.
Runner’s knee. One of the most common overuse injuries among runners, runner’s knee is also known as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS). The pain is usually isolated on or around the kneecap and can feel like the knee is “giving out.”
Shin splints. Another common running injury, shin splints refer to pain on or around the shinbones. Most cases can be treated with rest and ice, but could signal that it’s time to whip out some new running sneakers.
Plantar fasciitis. Feel pain and stiffness in the heel? It might be plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the bottom of the foot due to overuse or overstretching). It can usually be treated with rest, ice, and stretching.
ITBS. This painful injury to the IT band in the leg (which runs from the hip, down the thigh, across the knee, and through the shin) can leave many runners sidelined. Massage, stretching, and strength training tend to help.
Ice baths. Fill ‘er up with ice! Some folks think ice baths may reduce inflammation and promote the post-long run recovery process. But research suggests that it’s not any more effective than active recovery.
Overtraining. If the previous injuries didn’t clue you in, there is such a thing as running too much!
Hitting the wall. Also known as “bonking” during a race, runners will feel as if they can’t go one more step once they “hit the wall.” For many marathoners, the wall shows up around mile 20. This can also happen whenever your body runs out of glucose/sugar to burn.