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Running Terminology and How to Understand What your Coach is Saying
Updated on July 22, 2012
There are some many new words involved in running, you might feel like you are learning a new language when you first start following a running program. I wanted to clarify how it is that coaches put together workout plans and explain some often used words while I am at it.
So here are the ingredients and their definitions:
Short Interval: there is no set in stone length for how short short intervals need to be but my bioenergetics training tells me less than 2 minutes. For most people this covers 200m... and for some 300m, 400m, and for some even 800m. I generally stop at 400m. They help develop your high end (upper limit) of speed and strength and help develop form. At the point where you are giving it your all, you really need to hone in on what good form is at what it feels like. Hence, really short intervals like 100 or 200m will often be called form or efficiency intervals. Often these distances (under 20secs of work) rely heavily on your anaerobic energy system. This powerful but inefficient system creates energy within the body without air and is only functional for a brief time before the aerobic system catches up and the body slows down.
Long Interval: long intervals are designed to work your speed and strength but add in that stamina component that is so necessary for long distance running. They are still run fast and you still get lots of recovery between them but you can't go all out or you simply wouldn't finish them. Often we will ask for these to be run at 5k race pace or if we want them at the faster end, 3k race pace. You needn't have run a 3,000m race before - just feel like you are running faster than 5k race pace.
Cruise Interval: a cruise interval is designed to be run or sometimes at race pace on shorter recovery breaks. They are usually used in a program as a substitute for a tempo run.
Tempo Run: this is where you run just below lactate threshold (or the pace at which you could go for one hour - so think 10k race pace, sometimes 8k or 15k). Usually you hold this pace for 20-40minutes or an equivalent number of miles. Sometimes tempos are run at a lower intensity for longer (for instance a marathon runner may do a 90 minute tempo). Sometimes also called rhythm runs, these runs are designed to get you accustomed physically and mentally for race pace. You should feel "comfortably uncomfortable" - or like you could run for about an hour. Talking should not be easy and unstrained but you should be able to carry on a conversation if needed.
Hills: think of hills as mother nature's gym. A healthy dose of cardio and strength in one little workout. Usually hills are added nearer to the beginning of a plan to develop strength and lay the foundation for speed training. They are also sometimes used for overspeed training or increasing turnover speed downhill. The downhills can often cause injury though and should be approached with caution from anyone who is recovering. You can always walk downhill. The nice thing about going up hills is that the ground comes up to meet you, the bad thing about going down is that it is further away.
Long Slow Distance: often referred to as the other LSD. These runs build your aerobic powerhouse up and build a base for your body to work off of (see last week's post).
Recovery Runs: are slow runs where you still reap the benefits or an easy aerobic workout and let the body recover and soak up the training you did to earn the recovery run at the same time. You need to run these very slowly though or you get all the bad without any of the good.
Note on track distances:
100 & 200m are usually considered sprint distances and used for form intervals or striding. Warmup strides involve increasing your pace to about top speed and then decreasing it again within about 100m. They are used to get your muscles warm and moving and increasing the range of motion of your hip joint.
400m are often referred to as "Quarters" since they are about a quarter of a mile. Tracks are generally made to be 400m around... so 1,600m for 4 loops, which is close, but not quite, a mile.
1000m is a weird track distance since it is 2.5 loops on a standard track but used because it represents a kilometre.
800m is 2 laps and a half mile (or so)... 4 laps is about a mile. These are what we speak of when we talk about longer track intervals.