Breaking Down the Running Lingo


If you have ever opened a running magazine or an online training schedule – the next thing you know your heart rate increases as you read over words like “fartlek” and “tempo”. I am here to tell you though that it’s all going to be okay because here I have broken down what each type of run means and why you should incorporate them into your running schedule.

A common mistake that runners make is performing all of their training runs at the same intensity. They either choose a pace that is too comfortable or they feel like every time they hit the pavement it is an attempt at a personal record. Both of these training practices increases your risk of injury and minimizes any improvements in performance. Variety is key when programming your workouts in order to appropriately load the cardiovascular and muscular system.

8 Common Training Runs You Should Include

  1. Easy Runs- These runs make up the base mileage of your training program and help build your endurance. Easy runs are a great opportunity to work on your form and breathing. An easy intensity trains your aerobic system which means you should be able to hold a conversation easily. Many times runners overlook easy runs or push too hard so pay attention throughout the run.
  2. Long Runs- Long runs are the bread & butter to an endurance program and will help build the raw endurance and strength that you will need to perform. Long runs are performed at an easy pace and sometimes can include progressions or fast finishes. Long runs not only prepare you physiologically but also psychologically for the endurance event. Nothing prepares your mind and body for running a certain distance than hitting the pavement.
  3. Recovery Runs- Recovery runs are short and performed at a very easy pace while adding a little mileage to your program. You should be able to easily have a conversation and they are typically used to move your legs and get the blood flowing after a long run.
  4. Progression Runs- A personal favorite, progression runs help you get used to pushing the limits when the fatigue starts to set in. Progression runs typically start at a natural easy pace and then build throughout the miles to finish the run at a fast pace. This workout is more challenging than others but the benefits contribute towards making you a faster and stronger runner.
  5. Fartlek Training- Fartlek is a Swedish word for speed play and I love to use it just for that – play! I like to use these less structured runs to help break up the intensity and monotony of a long training program. Fartlek involves pickups of a faster pace throughout a run and can vary in duration and intensity. These runs help build your fatigue resistance and running efficiency.
  6. Hill Repeats- The best way to build speed and strength as a runner is by running hills! Hill repeats are short bouts of uphill running followed by a downhill run. Hill repeats can vary in intensity and duration but it is important to focus on form with both the uphill and downhill portions. The uphill portion helps develop the power and knee drive while the downhill portion develops the quadriceps and eccentric control.
  7. Tempo Runs- Tempo runs are just outside of our comfort zone and helps increase our lactate threshold. Tempo runs begin with a warm up at an easy pace but then a set number of miles of a sustained effort at our threshold. These tempo miles typically mimic a 10k pace and should leave you unable to hold conversations but not fighting for air. Be sure to follow the tempo miles with 1-2 miles of a cool down pace.
  8. Interval Training- Interval training is a structured workout with short intense bouts of running followed by equal or longer bouts of jogging or walking. Interval workouts will typically be the hardest workouts in a training program and will help build your speed, fatigue resistance, and running economy. There are both shorter interval (100m-400m) and longer interval (800-1600m) runs which will vary in intensity and pace.

A training program is a balance of a training stimulus with appropriate rest and recovery. Make sure you provide a variety of training stimuli and the proper amount of rest to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Any questions – I’m here to help 🙂

Xo, Pam

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