Runner's Lingo

Want to walk the walk—or, in this case run the run?

Then it’s time to learn how to talk the talk! Everyone knows runners are all a little bit crazy so it’s no surprise they have a language all their own. 

Aid station: Also called a water stop. Any point along the race course that offers water and sports drinks, handed out by volunteers. Often, at bigger races, people also hand out gels, energy bars, and other items.

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 if you’re lucky, they fall completely off, too!

BPM: The heart rate or beats per minute (BPM) is the number of heartbeats during a minute. Training by heart rate accounts for many variables that affect how you feel from day to day. This makes it a better way to monitor how hard you’re working than an arbitrary measure such as your pace. The key is to know what your maximum heart rate is; once you know that, you can figure out the range of heart rates that correspond to the effort level you want for a given run.

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.

Cadence: Also known as stride turnover, cadence is the number of steps taken per minute while running. Runners should aim for close to 180 steps per minute to reduce impact on the body.

Carbo-Loading: Runners can eat all the pasta, bread, and bagels they want! Well, not really. There’s a right way and a wrong way to get your carb on! But by increasing your carb intake slightly a day or two before a big race, you will ensure that your glycogen (see below) tank is full and ready for race day.

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 (or worse, bloody nipples), coat up everywhere (and we mean everywhere) with Sports Shield or RunGuard before hitting the road.

Chip Time: Often measured by an electronic chip on the sneaker or bib, this is the actual time it takes a runner to get from the start line to the finish line.

Cooldown (CD): A period of light physical activity, like walking, after a longer or harder run. Done to help bring the heart rate down gradually and prevent the blood from pooling in the legs.

Compression Socks: Often a post-run tradition, runners don a pair of compression socks, or very snug, knee-high tube socks, to speed recovery. Some even wear them during the race itself, to help get oxygen to the leg muscles at a faster rate. 

Corral: Because of so many participants, big races often divide runners into groups, with start times based on their expected finishing times. This is why many races ask for your expected finish time at registration.

DOMS: Oww. The discomfort of DOMS, or delayed-onset muscle soreness, can occur between 24 and 48 hours after a workout and can make walking up and down the stairs especially troublesome. 

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.

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.

Dynamic Stretching: Add a little more boom, boom, pow to a warm-up with dynamic stretching, or controlled movements that increase flexibility, power, and range of motion. Great dynamic stretches for runners include lunges, squats, leg lifts, and butt-kicks.

Fartleks: A fartlek not only makes us giggle, they can be a great introduction to speed work or to shake up a longer run. Meaning “speed play” in Swedish, fartleks are easy runs broken up by quick bursts of faster running.

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. 

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 often “hit the wall” (more on that down below).

Hardware: Wear these race medals with pride, then hang them in a place of honor.

Hill repeats: 
A workout that includes sprinting uphill fast, jogging downhill at an easy pace to recover, and then repeating the sequence; an efficient way to build leg strength, speed, and aerobic capacity.

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”.  

Ice Baths: Fill ‘er up with ice! An ice bath is shocking to the senses, but can also reduce inflammation and aid in the post-long run recovery process. The ice constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once you get out of the cold water, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps flush waste products out of the cells. Don’t stay in too long though! Once the shock goes away, the bath has done its job and it’s time to get out.

Kick: This is the final push given at the end of a race to increase your speed to the finish line.

Long slow distance runs (LSD): Any run that’s longer than a weekly run. These workouts help build endurance and psychological toughness that can help you get through race day.

Out-and-back: A course that entails running out to a turnaround spot, then running back to the starting point. Out-and-backs are a convenient way to get in runs in unfamiliar locales.

Pace: When runners talk about running “a 10-minute pace,” they are referring to the amount of time it takes to clock one mile. They also tend to express pace based on the type of run: “long run pace,” “marathon pace,” “5K pace,” etc.

Pick-Ups: Short, gentle increases in speed, or “pick-ups”, added in the middle of an easy run to shake things up or at the end of a run help aid recovery. Sorry, they unfortunately have nothing to do with those cheesy lines. (also see “strides”)

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!  

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 with correcting both. 

Repeats: The fast segments of running that are repeated during a workout, with recovery in between.

Run/walk: Walk breaks allow a runner to feel strong to the end and recover fast, while providing the same stamina and conditioning as a continuous run. By shifting back and forth between walking and running, you work a variety of different muscle groups, which helps fend off fatigue. To receive the maximum benefit, you must start the walk breaks before you feel any fatigue, during the first mile. If you wait until you feel the need for a walk break, then you’ve already let yourself get fatigued and defeated the purpose of the walk break.

Runner’s High: Most runners experience a state of euphoria and pure bliss known as “the runner’s high” either during or after a run. It might just be the reason runners run—and maybe why they’re so crazy, too.

Singlets: Runners often wear these sleeveless tank tops while racing. Relax! Unlike a wrestling singlet, it’s just a shirt.

Snot Rocket: A projectile of snot shot out of your nose during a run. Achieved by covering one nostril while blowing quickly out of the other. Please, for everyone’s benefit, lookout for other runners before giving this a try!

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! 

Static Stretching: Static stretching, or holding major muscle groups in their most lengthened positions for at least 30 seconds, might bring you back to your middle school PE days. While many still believe static stretches prior to running help prevent injuries, research now suggests stretching it out is more beneficial after breaking a sweat. 

Streaker: Keeping their clothes on (usually!), a streaker is a runner who runs consecutively every day for an extended period of time.

Strides: These are simply the forward steps taken while running. Also a term used to refer to a series of short gradual sprints, usually between 50 and 200 meters, also see “pickups”. 

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 (and hungry) during their taper! 

Tempo: Tempo runs are said to feel “comfortably hard”—you have to concentrate to keep the effort going, but aren’t running with as much effort as a sprint or 5-K race. Tempo runs are usually 3-6 miles in length held at a pace you can sustain for up to one hour (10k pace or 80% of max).

Threshold (T-pace)
:  Training at 10k pace or 80% of max. The two types of threshold training are tempo runs and cruise intervals. Tempo runs—steady, moderately prolonged runs (see above). Cruise intervals are a series of repeated runs with a brief recovery between runs.

Trail Running: On a trail (duh!) 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. 

Ultramarathoner: These totally bada** runners, take on any distance longer than 26.2 miles. Ultramarathons are typically 50K, 100K, 50 miles, or 100 miles.

VO2 Max: Also known as aerobic capacity, VO2 Max is the body’s maximum oxygen intake. Runners can increase their VO2 Max with harder training.

Warmup: A period of walking or easy running or any light activity that is done for 10 to 20 minutes before a workout. It gradually increases heart rate, breathing rate, and blood flow to the muscles, and it prepares the body for more vigorous work. A good warmup allows the body to work more efficiently and helps prevent muscle pulls and strains

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