Running jargon-buster: What the words really mean

If you’re new to running you will be entering a world of terms and phrases alien to the non-runner you’ve left behind. It can all sound a little cryptic to begin with, so use our jargon-buster to fathom your tempo from your taper.

Running jargon-buster: What the words really mean

1. Tempo

A tempo run (also called a threshold run) is a session usually done once a week where you’ll work on holding a higher speed for a longer period of time. For example, you might do a 20-minute tempo run at a ‘comfortably’ hard pace. You might go for 40 minutes with more experience and depending on what you’re training for. Judge the pace by understanding how fast you plan to run the race you’re training for, and go faster than that, being able to sustain it!

2. Fartlek

This is a Swedish term that translates as ‘Speed Play’, and it’s exactly that. Rather than a fixed set of intervals run at a higher speed, fartleks can be dropped into a long run as short bursts of speed. For example, during a long slow run, pick a lamppost in the distance and crank into a higher gear until you reach it.

3. Gait analysis

Your gait is, basically, the way your feet hit the floor when you run. Most credible specialist running retailers will have treadmill in-store and they’ll ask you to hop on and run for a minute or two to have a look at your gait on video. From that, they’ll be able to determine the best type of shoe for you, be that neutral, support or, if you’re already Speedy Gonzalez, a stripped down racing shoe.

4. Cadence

You might hear this talked about when watching a road race on TV. It’s the stride rate, or number of steps per minute you take. Efficient runners usually have stride rates of about 180 steps per minute. Increasing stride rate usually means you will shorten your stride so that you keep the same pace.

5. Steady run

In marathon training, your steady runs are about 10 second faster to 20 seconds slower than your marathon race pace. They are a great way of building your endurance by making you run faster than an easy run but not so hard that you can’t get back out there the next day. On this beginner’s half marathon plan, you’ll see steady runs form the bulk of your long Sunday runs.

6. Intervals

Interval sessions are useful both for getting faster and attacking body fat. An interval session will alternate between easy pace and hard, fast running for defined periods of time or distance. The rewards include a more efficient oxygen uptake, better anaerobic performance and (to put it in the most simple of terms) faster feet.

7. Run streaking

No, not an occasion to strip of your gear and run naked as the day you were born. A run streak is any sustained period during which you’ve laced up those shoes and run every day. The famous Ron Hill possesses one of the most impressive streaks in running at 51 years and counting, and in the USA they’ve even got a national association. Of course they have.

8. Dynamic stretching

You will have seen countless examples of essential stretches, but it’s important to know the difference between dynamic and static stretching. The dynamic version is especially important in colder weather to avoid injury. Dynamic stretches will see you move in ways that will activate and mobilise your muscles to get the blood flowing and prepare them to work. Static stretches have their place, too, and will see you hold a stretch for a set number of seconds.

9. Taper

The taper is the period towards the end of a marathon or half marathon training programme in which you’ll reduce your workload and mileage so you’re full of energy and well-rested before race day. There can be some pratfalls to avoid during the taper phase, such as over-eating! 

10. Cross-training

If you’ve just started running, the good news is you don’t have to forsake every other form of exercise. In fact, it will be useful to keep it as part of your regime. Working some strength training into a programme will help avoid injury and boost strength in those key areas of legs and core.

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