A-Z of Running Terminology

When I first started running I was a little bamboozled by all of the terminology that come with running, it can be so overwhelming and basically it just makes you feel really thick when you are talking about running to other runners. So I have pulled together an A-Z of the most useful terms for a plus sized runner, there are loads more that are missing I’m sure but you can join in the fun in the comments section and point out any I have left out.

A – Aerobic & Anerobic Exercise. One uses oxygen and one doesn’t basically. So its the difference between running long distance and sprinting. You may not be able to feel the difference now, but you wait until the last 50 meters of your next race when everyone is cheering you in and you forget to breath all together. Then you will know.

B – Sorry to gross you out so early in my list but Black Toenails, Big Fat Welts, Bad Chaffing and Bloody Nipples are ailments that plus sized runners need to become familiar with. All are avoidable with a bit of preparation and practice but secretly I think we enjoy our battle scars somehow.

C – Carb Loading, now technically this is the nutritional trick used to support a long run (so anything from a half marathon upwards), and it should be a gradual increase of good carbs in the days leading up to a race so that they can be deployed when needed on race day. This is not however the green light to eat a 27 inch pizza, or a never ending bowl of pasta the night before the race. Seriously though be careful not to over indulge in carbs as I have found this is one of the main barriers to overweight runners continued weight loss as they hit the bigger distances.

D – Now for some acronyms DOMS (The delayed onset of muscle soreness) the pain which comes a few days later than expected… you will know about it when it arrives though, DNF (Did not Finish) the symbols you don’t want next to your name on race reports and DNS (Did not start) unlikely to be on the score sheet unless you are a big name and likely to be missed.

E – An Electrolyte is a “medical/scientific” term for salts, specifically ions in your blood. Electrolytes are usually talked about in relation to energy drinks, as they can replace lost electrolytes. Don’t be blinded by all the scientific waffle though. For runs shorter than 2 hours you shouldn’t really need specialist drinks. For anything over 2 hours then you should seek some proper advice.

F – Fartlek…excuse me!!! No I did not pass wind, this is a Swedish word meaning speed play used to describe a form of interval training which sees the runner increase speed at irregular intervals. You can do it against a partner like cat and mouse, or if running alone up to the next lamppost etc. If you watch children playing tag they are all doing Fartlek, they just don’t know it.

G – Your Gait is basically how you run… the patterns your limbs make whilst you run. A running store can asses your gait to make sure you have the right shoe for running. You can test your foot strike (which is one aspect of your gait) on wet sand to see the patterns left behind so see if you over or under pronate or if you are a neutral runner. Once you have an understanding of how you run, you can work to make small adjustment which could improve your technique.

H – Hill Repeats… come on you can guess what this is. Yep you got it…its running up and down a hill. This is great for building strength and also for changing up your training. Find a reasonably steep hill and run up it as fast as you can before jogging back down, and repeat… got it???

I – Interval Training is the number one way to improve your speed and your fitness. There are lots of different ways to do intervals but it is basically about chopping and changing the pace, so having periods of real intensity and then slower recovery, you should be able to distinguish between the two speeds though. Its probably a good idea to be able to run for 20 minutes or so before you attempt intervals and treadmills are a great place to try out intervals as you can control the speed.

J – Perhaps the only term on this list we are all familiar with Jogging is described as a form of trotting or running but at a more leisurely pace. I much prefer the term slogger, because there is nothing leisurely about the way I run and I think slogger is a more accurate description of how it feels carting my carcass around a 13.1 mile course.

K – Now if you have had children or have any kind of bladder problems you will understand why Kegal Exercises are so useful to runners.

L – Lactic Acid is the chemical in your muscles that cause cramp, it is when your muscles fail to get enough oxygen. After a hard run many people have a massage or use a foam runner to get rid of their lactic acid.

M – Maximum Heart Rate is the highest heart rate an individual can achieve without keeling over basically. It is useful to understand your own personal heart rate levels as this can really help with weight loss and also in pacing yourself correctly in races and training. A good way of estimating your heart rate is running 4 times around a track each time getting faster, check your HRM as you are almost finished the last one…that is likely to be your MHR. Once you know this figure you can then train using appropriate percentages i.e. 80% of your MHR.

N – Negative Splits are when you run the second half of a race (or training session) faster than the first. I can not EVER imagine doing this myself, but I am told it is quite possible. I would imagine it takes a whole heap of restraint not to go out fast, and also you have to be really fit to be able to push yourself towards the end.

O – Over-hydration is also known as water intoxication and can be very dangerous, people can die from this and although it is very rare over consumption of water is easily done. I think for overweight runners our water bottles are almost a safety net and we think that gulping water is going to help us cool down and carry on. The problem with drinking too much water is actually to do with the dilution of electrolytes. Little and often is the best option and obviously pay attention to the conditions.

P – You will hear a lot of runners talking about their PB (Personal Best over a distance) and the moment you do a race you will have your very own PB too. Of course you can have a PB from a training run, but I don’t think they count. I WANT PROOF!!!!! It is a great motivator to try and improve your PB but every race is different and sometimes you will sacrifice a PB for wanting to enjoy the run, or wanting to run the whole way, or running with a friend or whatever. So it is not the be all and end all, and whatever you do don’t compare yourself to other runners.

Q – Your Quads or Quadriceps are the 4 main muscles in your thighs, they are a crucial muscle group for running as they connect the hip to the knee and they also stabalise the knee joint too. If you strengthen your quads with exercises such as squats and lunges you are likely to see an improvement in your running and perhaps rid yourself of the term thunder thighs… or maybe not!!

R – Recovery Runs are runs which take place the day after a hard run, this is a conditioning technique to get your body used to running whilst already stresses or sore. But note that recovery runs are supposed to be very slow and very short so don’t over do it. Planning a recovery run in the days following a race is a great way of getting back into training before losing all your fitness

S – I was going to talk about shin splints, but no the SWEEPER VAN is definitely the more painful of the two terms. The sweeper van or the pickup truck or the aid bus is basically a vehicle that drives behind the slowest runner at races, sometimes there is a cut off point (like 3 hours for a half marathon) by which you are offered a lift to the finish line. In all my years of running I have only seen the sweeper van once and that was when a course looped back on itself and I reckon there was at least a 20 minute buffer. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE SWEEPER VAN. It is their for safety reasons and not to make you feel crap about yourself.

T – In the days or weeks leading up to a big race you are encouraged to Taper. This is a process whereby you cut back on your mileage and your time on your feet, in effect saving your legs for the race. It is good to keep mobile though but just don’t go crazy. Some people really struggle to limit their running, whilst others use this as an excuse to sit on the couch and do nothing.

U – One day I may venture into the world of Ultra Running but not anytime soon. Ultra Marathons are distances in excess of 50K, they sometimes involve other aspects too, like night running, relay teams and/or orienteering your route but either way you have to be a hardcore runner to consider one of these and you must be able to dedicate a lot of time to the training required… so maybe I won’t become one after all.

V – VO2 Max is the amount of oxygen you can use in one minute per kilo of body weight, by training you should be hoping to improve this which will in turn mean your muscles and organs get a better supply of oxygen and blood supply. Its still a bit technical for me so you may want to google this for a more accurate answer.

W – You may feel that walking is just one step away from quitting, but actually employing a Walk/Run Strategy makes a lot of sense. If you are not quite up to covering a distance yet, or you are just having a real shitty race then this makes perfect sense. You set yourself goals like a 9/1 or a 3/1 and basically you run for a certain length of time and then walk to recover. Some people find they can even improve their times this way because they are more able to run at a faster pace during the run bits

X- Ok a slight cheat here but X Training (Cross Training). This is where you use other forms of exercise alongside your running, either to limit injury, lose weight, build strength or just to avoid injury. Many runners like to do yoga as a way of stretching muscles, whilst others cycle or swim. You can do anything though Zumba, Ballet, Football, Body Conditioning, Kettlebells, but what I would say is be mindful of injuries related to that activity, the last thing you want is to break your ankle skateboarding a week before a big race.

Y – High Yield Exercises – a bit like cross training these are simple exercises that only take a few minutes each day but that can really affect your running capabilities, so high benefit with limited effort. Squats, Press Ups, Burpees all fit this category.

Z – Zig Zag Bounding is an exercise to build leg strength, you basically just jump from one leg to the other across an imaginary vertical line in a zig zag motion. Make sure nobody is watching you doing this one cos you will look a little strange

Knowing these terms are not going to make you a better runner, but they might help encourage you to run with other runners, join a running club…or at least be able to decifer a running plan. But be warned you can also sound like a complete wally if you reel of technical terms every other word when describing your last 3 miler to your mum. So please use in moderation.

So come on what other terms should my readers know about?

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