Guide to Common Running Terminology

Not sure what to make of "fartlek training" or "negative splits"? Check out STACK's glossary of common running terms.


You thought the hardest part of becoming a runner was actually hitting the pavement. That is, until you joined a running club or group and tried to join the conversation, when all you heard was unfamiliar lingo.

Subscribing to a runner's magazine doesn't help, since the pages are littered with weird terms. Becoming familiar with these terms will reduce your anxiety and nervousness so you can focus solely on enjoying your runs. Here's a guide to some common runner's terminology.


This is a lower intensity form of exercise. During aerobic workouts, your respiratory and cardiovascular system is able to supply the oxygen needed by your muscles and meet your body's energy demands. On this kind of run, you can comfortably hold a conversation. Intensity is usually between 60% to 85% of your maximum heart rate. ( See Chris Legh Aerobic Conditioning secrets.)


The exact opposite of aerobic, anaerobic describes a short, high intensity workout. It puts a strain on your respiratory and cardiovascular system to the point where lactic acid starts to build up in your muscles. This type of workout cannot be sustained for too long. (See The Truth About Aerobic and Anaerobic Training.)

Clydesdale (Athena) Triathlete or Runner

Many running events have a category for Clydesdale competitors. A female Clydesdale athlete is referred to as an Athena. These are runners who weigh over 200 pounds (men) or 145 pounds (women). They compete against each other in this category.

Fartlek Training

This is form of training to improve your speed and endurance. It is also referred to as interval training. It involves combining slow running, moderate running and short fast bursts. Most serious competitors perform this type of training.

Hitting the Wall

This literally means your body has shut down and you can't continue another step. Runners usually hit the wall when they run a longer distance than they have properly trained for.

Lactic Acid

A substance that is released into your muscles if your energy stores have been used up. Usually due to an incomplete breakdown of glucose, it results in burning and sore muscles.


A master athlete is someone 40 years or older. Most racing events have a Masters category.


This is when your foot tends to roll inward when you run. It could be the result of a low arch. Overpronation causes many running injuries. Motion control shoes or orthotics can address this.

Motion Control

If a runner has a tendency to overpronate, she is best advised to purchase "motion control" running shoes, because they have more support on the arch side of the foot.

Negative Splits

When running a race or out on a training run, track your time. If you are running the second half faster than the first, it is considered a negative split.

Out and Back

This is when you run a race or a training course to a certain point, then turn around and return on the first half of the course.

Personal Record or Personal Best

Most people keep track of the time they run a race. If you can better your previous result, then you have set a personal best or personal record.

Runner's High

When you run or exercise, your body releases endorphins in the brain. This results in a great sense of well being and exhilaration.


This means cutting back on your mileage, starting at perhaps one to three weeks before a race. It allows your muscles to rest so they will be ready for competition. (Read Learn the Secrets of Tapering.)

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