Fitness / Running

Your Complete Guide to Running Vocabulary

Running is straightforward, the vocab sometimes isn’t.

Starting a running journey can be daunting. As with most things, there are a ton of new experiences and skills to learn, test out, and adjust to. Add in tricky running vocabulary on top of that and how do you even begin?

If you think a 5K means five miles and cadence means…well, what the heck does cadence actually mean?…you’re in good company. There are dozens of words and phrases tossed around the running community that leave us completely confused sometimes. It can be disheartening, especially for beginners.

So, to help you keep up with the best of them…in lingo, at least…we created this guide full of common terms you’ll hear along your running journey. From endurance to hypoxic, consider this your complete manual in running vocabulary.

The Basics

Form: The way you position and hold your body while running. This is essential to avoiding injuries and getting faster. Try keeping your gaze forward, shoulders relaxed, elbows at a 90-degree angle, and torso upright. Many coaches call the latter “running tall.”

Pace: This refers to the amount of time it takes to cover a mile (or kilometer). You’ll also likely hear this term linked with specific types of runs (“5K pace”, “marathon pace”, etc.).

Cadence: The number of steps a runner takes per minute while running. Several things can influence this, such as height, weight, stride, and experience. Frequent runners typically take around 160-170 steps a minute, while elite runners take it up to 180.

Stride: The steps you take forward mid-run. Alternatively, some runners will refer to strides as a series of short sprints.

Foot Strike: How your foot hits the ground. Aim to strike the ground with the middle of your foot, using light steps that fall directly under your hips. More comfort, less injuries.

Once you’ve expanded your running vocabulary, check out the running classes, suitable for every level, on Aaptiv.


Warm-Up: This is literally warming up the body pre-run. Warm-ups help prevent injuries and  runners should begin each workout with a good warm-up (try “Pre-Run Vibes”). Popular methods include 10 to 15 minutes of walking, jogging, and stretching.

Cool-Down: Just like warm-ups prep your body for a run, cool-downs aid in taking it back to its original state. Doing a post-run routine prompts a gradual recovery to your pre-run blood pressure and heart rate.

Static Stretching: This popular style of stretching involves holding major muscle groups in their most lengthened position. Hold each for 10 to 30 seconds before switching. The most common form of stretching, it can improve flexibility and act as the perfect cool-down.

Dynamic Stretching: These stretching routines add more movement and power to your typical warm-up while increasing range of motion. Think lunges, butt-kickers, and leg lifts.

Aaptiv has lots of dynamic stretching classes. Check them out today.

Types of Training

Cross-Training: Runners will usually include other types of workouts in their routines to improve overall fitness (and prevent boredom). This is called cross-training. Try yoga, strength training, and cycling.

Strength Training: This literally means training for strength and usually involves dumbbells or body weight exercises. Strength training is insanely helpful for a runner. When done a couple times a week it can help prevent injury and improve performance, without adding bulk. More muscle = more force.

Rest Days: Otherwise known as days off, these days are key to a healthy and consistent workout schedule. Use rest days for active recovery, corrective exercises, stretching, walking, and leisure activities to keep your muscles active and moving.

Overtraining: What happens when you skip out on rest days. There is such a thing as running too much. Better to sit one out and avoid potential injuries and painful muscle strain.

Types of Runners

Streaker: Don’t worry, these runners do wear clothing. A streaker will run consistently every day for a certain amount of time. This type of running is usually only maintained for a certain length of time, such as a week. Think of them as running challenges.

Barefoot Runners: Is it still a run if you’re not lacing up beforehand? Said to improve form, the choice to ditch your sneaks and go barefoot is inspired by our ancestors. The theory is it will help avoid injury and improve performance.

Elite: These runners don’t just talk the talk, they run the run. No matter the distance, they’ll run it—and fast.

Triathlete: Not only do these runners run, they also swim and bike. All in one race.

Ultramarathoner: These extremely skilled runners take on races clocking in at 50 miles, 100 miles, 50K, or even 100K. The most popular ultramarathon ix the 56-mile Comrades Marathon.

Race Lengths

400 Meters: One lap around a track.

5K: 3.1 miles.

10K: 6.2 miles.

Half-Marathon: 13.1 miles.

Marathon: 26.2 (badass) miles.

Types of Runs

Trail Runs: A run done on a trail, rather than a treadmill or track. Particularly enjoyable in fall, these runs boast great weather and even greater scenery. Just remember to layer up if it’s cold where you are.

Road Race: Just as it sounds, these races are held in the road. Don’t worry about too much traffic. The courses are clearly marked on blocked off roads.

Easy Run: If you can’t hold a conversation while doing one of these, you’re going too fast.

Recovery Run: These are shorter and slower runs completed within the 24 hours after a big race. This is meant to get your body used to running in a fatigued state—something you’ll be thankful for towards the end of your next marathon.

Speedwork: Runs all about improving speed. Think hill sprints, intervals, and tempo runs.

Intervals: Alternating between high and low intensity (speeds) throughout a run.

Hill Sprints: Also known as hill repeats, these drills will have you going at a 5K pace up a hill and a recovery pace down a hill. Then up and down again…and again. These workouts improve strength and speed.

Pick-Ups: Segments of increased speed in an existing run. Same course, same deal, just an increase in speed every once in awhile.

Hitting the Wall: Not a type of run per se, but a term for what happens when a runner feels as if they can’t go on during a race. Usually indicates he or she didn’t see it coming.

Kick: The last push a runner gives at the end of a race, increasing their speed to the finish line.

Splits: When a race’s time is divided into smaller parts (typically miles). If a runner runs an entire race at the same pace, they should have an even split. If they have a negative split, they ran the second half faster than the first.


BPM: Beats per minute, or heart rate. This is the number of times your heart beats within a minute. Runners will often have a target BMP for a workout. Quick tip: To find your heart rate, place your pointer and middle finger along your pulse (neck or wrist). Count the amount of beats in six seconds, then multiply by ten.

BQ: Boston Qualifier. If someone is a BQ they’ve achieved a race time that grants them entry to the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest marathon. Currently, the qualifying standards for men are between 3:05:00 and 4:55:00. For women, the times range from 3:35:00 to 5:25:00 (both depending on age).

CR: Course record, or a runner’s fastest time on a given course.

DNS/DNF: Did not start/did not finish. Either will appear in race results when a runner did not start or finish the race.

DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Also known as the reason you can’t make your way up the stairs the morning after an intense run. This can set in 24-72 hours post-run and is totally normal—just have your Epsom salts and foam rollers ready.

ITBS: Iliotibial Band Syndrome. This painful injury occurs when your connective tissue rubs against your thighbone. Need relief? Try stretching, massaging, foam rolling, and gentle strength training.

LSD: No, not that one. In this case, the acronym stands for long slow distance. Exactly like it sounds, it’s a long run at a steady pace.

MUT: Mountain/ultra/trail runner.

PB: Personal best (or, in some cases, peanut butter).

PR: Personal record, or one’s fastest time for a given distance.


Dreadmill: A nickname for the treadmill, typically used by those forced to run inside due to weather or lack of time. But, there are actually a ton of perks to running on the belt, like less force on your joints and great speedwork training.

Minimalist Shoes: Generally very lightweight, these shoes have very little structure or support. Rather, they’re flexible and have far less cushion than your average sneaker.

Maximalist Shoes: Opposingly, these shoes have much more support and cushion. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re chunky, though.

Compression Sox: Used post-run, these tight knee-high socks help speed up recovery. Some runners also wear them during races in attempt to get oxygen to their leg muscles faster.

Running Tights: Live in a cold climate? Stock up on these. Runners who experience a dip in temperature and still want to run outdoors will wear these spandex leggings under their pants to keep them warm.

Moisture-Wicking Clothing: Non-cotton clothing that helps keep sweet away from the body and bring it to the fabric’s surface where it evaporates.

Foam Roller: A foam cylinder tool used pre- or post-workout to increase flexibility, speed up recovery, and increase circulation.

Fuelbelt: Sort of like a fanny pack, a fuelbelt can hold a runner’s water, snacks, phone, and wallet.


Endurance: The body’s ability to endure stress during an aerobic activity, like running. Endurance training takes place when a runner wants to increase their distance and speed.

Anaerobic Threshold: Also known as the lactate inflection point, this is the point in intensity where lactic acid begins to build up in your muscles and bloodstream. When you run at this speed it should be challenging, but not uncomfortable.

VO2 Max: Also known as aerobic capacity, this is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during intense exercise. As your aerobic capacity increases you will be able to run faster and further.

Hypoxic: This is when you just want to hit the ground running, but can’t breathe after two minutes of sprinting. Hypoxic is a condition in which you’re deprived of oxygen at the tissue level. In short, your lungs haven’t caught up with the rest of you yet. Scale it back a bit and build up your speed.

Chafing: To put it simply, chafing happens when sweat and fabric rub against the skin, causing painful rashes. Most runners suggest covering yourself in Vaseline or Bodyglide before getting dressed to avoid this.

Shin Splints: Pain on or around your shinbones. Treat with ice and rest ASAP, then consider buying some new running shoes.

Runner’s Knee: This is pain isolated on or around the kneecap. Also called Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), this usually feels like the knee is “giving out.”

Runner’s High: The feeling of euphoria a runner might get during or after a run. Added bonus: There’s usually also a decrease in discomfort, too!

Now that you’re well-versed in running lingo, check out an Aaptiv running class!

Fitness Running


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