img_6773-editsmallCoach Corky’s guide to running terminology, lingo, and reasons behind certain runs

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  • Easy pace – most of your weekly mileage will be done at an “easy pace.” An easy pace should feel comfortable, relaxed, and sustainable. This pace is also sometimes referred to as “conversational,” meaning you could talk during the entire run without huffing and puffing. If you cannot hold a conversation or sing a song, you are going too fast for you easy miles. The purpose of easy miles: active recovery, building weekly mileage, maintaining or building current fitness. Sometimes referred to as “Junk Miles,” these easy runs are only beneficial if they don’t get in the way of your quality runs. Many runners find a balance to be key, which will vary per runner and how their body reacts to high mileage and recovery.
  • Quality Runs – refers to every other kind of run on your schedule – speed and long runs. Speed runs will vary in structure, intensity, distance, etc. The long run is the keystone for runners training for a Half Marathon or Marathon.
  • Cross training – biking, swimming, row machine, stair master, elliptical – these are all forms of cross training. Strength training, circuit training, and cross fit are NOT forms of cross training. Cross training takes the place of an easy run – it builds cardio capacity and can be a form of active recovery, while switching up the demands on your body. Most runners will cross train in leu of an easy run for 30-60 minutes, at an easy to moderate effort.
  • Marathon Goal Pace – the pace or effort you anticipate for your marathon race day. Sometimes referred to as MGP. This pace should be sustainable and aerobic.
  • Half Marathon Pace – the pace or effort you anticipate for your half marathon race day. Sometimes referred to as HMP. This pace should be push, but sustainable for 75-120 minutes.
  • Long Runs – affectionately nicknamed LSD (long slow distance), long runs are all about time on your feet. That’s their purpose. The pace of the long run should be :15-45 seconds SLOWER per mile than your anticipated marathon or half marathon pace. Experienced racers with ambitious goals may run a progressive long run during their training, but these special long runs are strategically planned and not simply tossed in.
  • Progressive Long Run – a long run that gets faster the further into the run you go. The structure can vary for these. An example would be a 20 miler where the first 5 miles are to be run @ MGP +:30 seconds, the second 5 miles @ MGP +:15 seconds, the third 5 miles @ MGP, and the last 5 miles @ MGP – :15 seconds. Progressive long runs force a runner to practice a negative split – running the second half of the run faster than the first half.
  • Fartlek Run – a structureless form of a speed workout. Fartlek means “Speed Play” in Swedish, and that’s exactly what this workout is. You get to decide how fast and how far you run hard and how long you run easy to recover. For example: I’m going to run hard to the next traffic light. I’m going to recover until I pass three mail boxes. I’m going to run hard until a car passes me. That kind of thing. It’s a structure-free interval workout. These are always fun to do when running somewhere new and while traveling. Your speed pace choice is up to you, but your “speed” portion to be hard – HMP to 5K pace, so that your heart rate and legs get to move fast, and your recovery pace slow enough where you can get your heart rate and breath settled and recovered.
  • Tempo Run – A tempo run is a faster-paced workout also known as a lactate-threshold, LT, or threshold run. Tempo pace is often described as “comfortably hard.” This pace is often 10K or HMP. Tempo runs will vary in structure, and may demand you to switch between MGP and HMP at specific points during the run. During tempo runs, lactate and hydrogen ions are released into the muscles. The ions make the muscles acidic, eventually leading to fatigue. The better trained you become, the higher you push your “threshold,” meaning your muscles become better at using these by-products. The result is less-acidic muscles so they keep on contracting, letting you run farther and faster.
  • Track Workouts – Speed intervals done on a track, often at an intense pace for a short time/distance. Most track workouts demand the runner run at an anaerobic pace. Track workouts develop fast twitch muscles, turnover, and often helps improve running form and mental focus. For runners targeting middle to long distance races, most repeats will range from 400 meters (once around the track) to 1600 meters (4X around the track). Runners specifically targeting the mile, 5K, or a track race may run shorter repeats at a higher intensity.
  • Hill Repeats – an intense workout that pretty much is as it sounds: running up and down a hill repeatedly for a designated time and at a specific effort – both of which to be determined for that workout. Hill repeats help runners practice their form while hill running (slightly different than when on flat surfaces), their breathing, and their mental focus. Many races have some hills on the course – perhaps one large one or many rolling hills, and hill repeats prepare you physically and mentally for what you’ll face on race day.
  • Taper or tapering – refers to the reduction of exercise before a competition or race. Tapering is believed to be essential for best performance and can take from as little to a week to two or three weeks. It’s important to understand that while miles are reduced, intensity is more or less maintained up until a few days before your goal race. Tapering does NOT mean you take a few weeks off from running. During your taper, your body will recover and rebuild after weeks of high stress. Any minor injuries have the opportunity to heal, and you will feel rest recovered, and chomping at the bit for race day. If you have a few “mini race goals” in the course of training for one big race, you may only have a modified taper.
  • Active Recovery – easy pace running, cross training, and yoga fit into this category in my book.
  • Strength Training – weight lifting, crossfit, pilates. These tools should aid your training and overall strength. Most people need to consistently strength train 2-3X per week in order to see and feel improvements. When adding these kinds of activities to your schedule, it’s important to plan them in such a way where they will not compromise your quality runs – for example, weight training during the morning of the same day you’ll run your track workout that evening will leave you with tired and spent legs before you even hit the track. We can find ways to make sure these activities make you are stronger, faster, fitter runner – not one who is always wiped out.