Running Terminology

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Anytime you read something or chat to someone about running you’ll come across some terminology, some of which is pretty unique to running. In this article I am going to explain what some of the more common terms used around running.

Interval training
Interval training is used to describe a method of training where you work harder for a predetermined time or distance and then this is followed by a rest period once again for a predetermined period of time or distance.

Intervals are used to increased your speed, to improve your endurance and your overall cardiovascular fitness.

Just as an example you may choose to run 6 x 400m hard efforts followed by a 200m slow jog in between each effort to recover and get ready for the next 400m effort.

Fartlek is a Swedish term that means ‘speed play’ and it involves altering your speed and intensity during a run. It differs from interval training because it is much less structured than interval training. The varying of your intensity and pace helps to improve your overall running speed as well as your cardiovascular fitness. It’s a fun way to train and its amazing how quick time goes by when you add in some random efforts on your run.

Its very easy method of training, all you need to do is to randomly pick a landmark on your run, e.g. a tree, a parked car, a lamp post or the top of a hill, and simply increase your pace or effort until you reach that landmark, then just settle back into your normal run pace. The land mark can be 200m, 400m or 500m away its totally up to you because fartlek is all about random efforts.

Aerobic and Anaerobic Training
These terms are certainly not exclusive to running but are useful to know what they mean. Simply put Aerobic means with air (oxygen) and Anaerobic means without air (oxygen).

Training at an aerobic level means that your body is taking in and distributing enough oxygen around your body to supply your muscles at your current level of intensity. This level of effort and with the presence of oxygen also metabolises stored carbohydrates and fats as energy sources to fuel your muscles during the exercise.

During anaerobic exercise your body has to use stored sugars as an energy source and this along with the lack of oxygen produces lactic acid at a faster rate than your body can metabolise. This overproduction of lactic acid is the soreness you can feel in your body after a high intensity workout.

The fitter you are the greater the intensity and the longer you can work before you kick into anaerobic training.

During your interval and fartlek training depending on the intensity of your efforts and your recovery you may switch between your anaerobic and aerobic training.

Due to the high intensity of anaerobic training efforts tend to be short in duration while aerobic training is able to be sustained for longer periods of time.

Tempo Run
A good way to describe a tempo run is to run “comfortably hard”. The idea of a tempo run is for you to run at the same pace for a whole training run. The intensity should be higher than your normal running pace but the distance is shorter than you long run as well as shorter than the run that you are training for.

Lets have a look at an of example to help explain a tempo run

Lets say that you are training to achieve a faster time for a 10k run –

  • Lets say that you can currently run 10ks in 57mins which is 5m42s per klm
  • You want to work towards reducing your 10k time to 50 mins which would be 5mins per klm.
  • Because of the shorter distance you can however run 5klm in 25mins (5mins/klm) working “comfortably hard”
  • Your tempo run would therefore be to run 7klms in 35min (5min/klm) You will find that sustaining this pace for the extra 2klm more difficult than the 5klms but this is the essence of tempo running
  • In the lead up to achieving your 10k in 50mins you may complete a 2-3 7klm tempo runs and probably would also complete a couple of tempo runs for 8klms as well.


Completing these tempo runs will help to improve you’re your overall running speed and your fitness.

Tempo runs require a great deal of effort and shouldn’t really be used by those that are brand new to running.

Tempo runs can be incorporated into your training no more than once per week.

The 10% Rule
This term may not be as common as other terms but it is one of the most important. This rule will help prevent injuries especially for those that are newer to running.

The rule is simple; don’t increase your klms or time more than 10% on the previous week.

Let’s say that last week you ran a total of 10klms. This week you run no more than 11klm. Or if you using time as your guide if you run for a total of 60mins last week you run no more than 66mins this week.

If you are a total beginner to running then you should probably not increase your distance or time by more than 7-8% week on week.

The reason for this rule is that while you may feel like you can do more it will reduce the risk overuse injuries to tendons, ligament and bones. While muscles are faster to adapting to changes tendons ligaments and bones are less so and these structures also take longer to respond to treatment so best that we err on the side of caution when increasing our running from week to week.

If you have any more terms that you would like explained please send them through and we will endeavor to clarify them for you.

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