Beginner Guide to Running

A Beginner’s Guide to Running: A Complete Glossary of Terms

Are you interested in taking up running but unsure where to begin? Millions of Americans pick up running each year, but being a beginner can be overwhelming. Besides adjusting to a new lifestyle, beginners must also learn to speak a new language, complete with jargon, acronyms, and foreign words. In this beginner guide to running we have included a glossary of terms a beginning runner may encounter, along with definitions.

Achilles : Not to be confused with the Greek God, the Achilles tendon is a ligament located behind the ankle. An area prone to stubborn injury, new runners should pay attention to stretching and listening to their bodies in order to avoid tendonitis. See Tendonitis.

Aqua Jog:   A dreaded activity done in the deep end of a pool to maintain cardiovascular fitness when a runner becomes injured. See Cross Training.

Bonk: When an athlete is under-fueled during a race or workout and reaches a state of mental and physical fatigue that feels insurmountable. Often the runner will be forced to slow down, walk, or drop out of the race or workout. See The Wall.

Carbo-loading: The act of consuming mainly carbohydrates for a 2-3 day period in order to load the body with glycogen for quick energy during an upcoming race or hard workout.

Cardio: Exercise that works the cardiovascular system. Running is one of the best forms of cardio exercise. In order to get the full cardio benefit, runs should be 20 minutes or longer.

Compression: Gear that is designed to prevent muscle cramping and also aid in recovery by drawing blood flow to certain areas of the body. Common compression gear includes calf sleeves and socks.

Core: An overlooked and underworked area in a runner’s body that includes hips, abdominal muscles, back muscles, and shoulders. Core strength is important for keeping injuries at bay and for optimal performance.

Cross Training: Any activity that is done in order to supplement a runner’s workout or in place of it, due to injury. Common cross training activities include spinning, cycling, aqua jogging, yoga, weight lifting, and hiking.

Cycling: A form of cross training that is a great supplement to running. High cadence cycling is one of the best mimics for intense running and is a great low impact workout when overcoming a number of injuries.

Drills: Many runners can be seen doing form drills either before or after runs as a way to warm up and also work on running efficiency. Drills may include high knees, butt kicks, A-skip, B-skip, C-skip, or other variations of strange looking skipping and movements.

Electrolytes: When you sweat your body loses essential salts such as sodium and potassium, which regulate muscle contractions and the central nervous system. Replacing electrolytes during and after exercise is essential.

Fartlek: A word that sounds as funny as it looks (pronounced fart-lick), this term is the Swedish word for “speed play.” It describes a popular speed workout where runners alternate periods of running fast with short periods of recovery.

Gels: These tiny packets of engineered sugar are used during long runs and races that total more than 75 minutes. They provide easily digestible energy, as well as caffeine, to help runners avoid “The Wall.”

GPS: Not just for your car, many runners wear GPS enabled watches to track pace, distance, calories burned, heart rate, running routes, elevation change, and other types of data.

Hal Higdon: One of the most well-known running coaches in the United States, Hal Higdon has developed multiple training plans for beginning runners seeking to complete races of all distances.

Handheld: A water bottle with a convenient hand strap for when you run on trails or in areas where water fountains are scarce.

Heel Drop: A number, typically measured in millimeters, used to describe the offset between the toe and heel in a pair of running shoes.

Hills: The ultimate workout.

Ice Bath: A tub filled with ice or cold water that runners voluntarily dip themselves into after a hard run in order to rejuvenate their tired muscles and brag about how tough they are.

Intervals: A form of speedwork, intervals are like a fartlek except that hard portions are run for distance, instead of time. For instance, intervals may range from 200 m to 3 miles, and the goal is to hit a specified pace.

Iron: A necessary mineral that high mileage runners are often lacking. Insufficient iron levels result in anemia, fatigue, loss of motivation, “dead” legs, and general malaise. A healthy diet with lean proteins and dark leafy greens is recommended, as well as iron supplementation if iron levels dip too low.

Jogger: A swear word among runners, the use of “jogger” evokes images of matching sweat-suit clad runners moving slowly on the side walk. The media’s use of the term is polarizing.

Lightweight: Not to be confused with anyone’s actual weight, lightweight is often used to describe running shoes. Some runners believe minimal shoes are best for injury prevention. See Minimal.

Long Run: A weekend ritual where runners wake up early and complete 10 – 30 mile runs in preparation for upcoming events, or so that they can consume as many pancakes at brunch as possible.

Macros: Short for macronutrients. Endurance athletes often track the sources of their calories in terms of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. A common ratio is 55% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 20% healthy fat.

Marathon: A race that is exactly 26.2 miles. Beginners should not confuse other distances as also being a marathon. For instance, the term “5k marathon” is incorrect.

Maximal: A current shoe trend where running shoes have additional cushioning and support as an answer to the recent minimalism movement. Also see Minimal.

Mileage: An often exaggerated number that runners use to size one another up. A runner may ask, “What is your weekly mileage,” to which the typical answer given is the highest number of miles a person has ever completed in a week, rounded up to the nearest number that ends in 0.

Minimal: A running shoe movement that sought to promote shoes that mimicked barefoot running as much as possible. Minimalist shoes often have little cushioning and a short heel drop (less than 4 mm).

Pace: Typically recorded in pace per mile, pace refers to how fast you are running. For instance, if asked what pace you plan to run, the person is asking how many minutes per mile you wish to average. Note: like mileage, this number is often exaggerated.

Podium: Runners who place in the top 3 at a race are often considered podium finishers.

PR: Short for personal record; may also be call be called PB (personal best). PR (or PB) can refer to fastest race time, longest run, or highest number of burgers consumed in one sitting.

Prehab: Exercises that keep you from becoming injured, in order to avoid dreaded rehab exercises. Examples include core exercises.

Pronate: The tendency of a runner to land on the inside of his or her foot when running. Prontation is a common reason for injury and may require a motion control shoe or orthotics. Staff at any local running store can tell you whether or not you pronate.

Racing Flats: Shoes that are worn specifically for racing. These are lightweight shoes (not to be confused with minimalist shoes) that are designed to help a runner run fast.

Recovery: The period time between the end of one run and the start of another. Recovery is an overlooked aspect of training and involves hydration, eating right, stretching, massage, prehab, or even taking a day or two off if not feeling 100%.

Relay: A fun type of race where teams of runners cover a long distance together. These events may last multiple days or be held overnight. Every runner should experience a relay at one point during his or her career.

Repeats: See Intervals.

Runcation: Planning a vacation around a race. The most common runcation is during the week of the Boston Marathon. Note: finding a spouse who agrees with planning all vacations around racing may not always be easy.

Runner: Anyone who runs, no matter how slow or how fast.

Shin Splints: Common injury typically caused by running too much, too soon. Runners coming back from unrelated injuries or extended breaks are often at highest risk, as well as beginners.

Speed Workout: Any workout where the goal of the run is to improve running efficiency and speed. See Intervals, Repeats, Hills, Fartlek, Tempo.

Spikes: Shoes that are worn on the track to improve traction. These shoes are extremely lightweight and have metal 4 – 8 metal spikes.

Sprint: Running all out, as fast as you can.

Stress fracture: A hairline fracture in a bone, typically the foot or shin that is caused by overuse. Like shin splints, stress fractures are often caused by running too much, too soon, and are also an indication of needing to better listen to one’s body.

Stretching: An activity that runners are traditionally bad at. A runner that can touch his or her toes is considered as rare as a unicorn.

Strides: A pre or post-run exercise that can improve running efficiency and turnover. Strides are typically 100 m long, and runners are encouraged to run them at 80 – 90% effort while maintaining good form and breathing.

Supinate: A non-neutral foot strike where runners land on the outside of their feet. Like pronation, supination can be corrected with motion control shoes or custom orthotics.

Sweat Rate: The amount of sweat that is lost during an hour of running. To calculate your sweat rate, weigh yourself immediately before your run and immediately after, and also account for any liquids or gels that were consumed. Sweat rate is a helpful tool for recovery as well as for knowing how much hydration is required during a long race.

Tempo: A type of speed workout that improves efficiency and endurance. During a tempo run a runner will run 10 – 30 seconds faster than goal pace for a specified distance. See also Speed Work.

Tendonitis: An overuse injury that affects tendons such as the Achilles Tendon or Patellar Tendon.

The Wall: When a runner depletes his or her glycogen stores during a race and begins to burn fat for fuel. Most commonly “The Wall” is experienced at mile 20 of a marathon.

Trainers: Another word for running shoes.

Training Plan: A written guide given by a coach or other source to follow. Training plans are most commonly used by beginning runners seeking to complete their first 5k, 10k, half marathon, or marathon. Many sources for training plans exist, including running websites, smartphone apps, and through personal coaching.

Turnover: The rate of your stride per minute, also known as cadence. Improving turnover tends to improve efficiency. An ideal turnover is 180 steps per minute (counted using both feet).

Ultramarathon: Any race distance that is greater than 26.2 miles. Common ultramarathon distances include 50k, 50 miles, 100k, and 100 miles.

Waffles: Not to be confused with a post long run breakfast, waffles often refer to the original style of running shoes that were made using a waffle iron.

Yasso 800’s: One of the most commonly used marathon prediction workouts designed by Runner’s World columnist Bart Yasso. For Yasso 800’s runners complete six to eight 800 m repeats in their marathon “goal time” with equal recovery. For instance, if a runner is trying to run a 4:00:00 marathon, he or she will perform Yasso 800’s by running each 800 m repeat in 4:00, with 4:00 of recovery. This challenging workout should be performed 6 – 8 weeks prior to the race.

Yoga: A form of stretching that most runners find acceptable. The various types of yoga have different uses in a runner’s daily life. For instance, recovery yoga can be beneficial after a hard run or race and focuses on holding stretches for a long period of time while reducing stress. Vinyasa, on the other hand, combines stretching with strengthening and is a great all-around core workout.

We hope that our beginner guide to running has been helpful. Leave your comments below or join us on Facebook.



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