Running & Fitness

Running Terms Explained

Matt Orlando
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Running, like most sports, has a language all unto itself. If you are new to running, or even a seasoned vet, some of the terms can leave you scratching your head in confusion. Terms like fartlek and taper can be intimidating and leave you feeling like a tourist visiting a new country without a guide to translate for you. So consider this article your own personal pocket translator. While it is not possible to go over all running terms in one sitting, just as it is not possible to learn any foreign language in a day, this article should give a good basis so you do not feel out of your depth at your next running group get together.


Fartlek is a good place to start, since it definitely is one of the more obscure sounding running terms. In Swedish “fartlek” means “speed play.” Basically, a fartlek workout consists of both even paced running and bursts of running fast.  These bursts can be based on time, distance, or a combination of both, and are usually a mix of varying stretches (with varying recovery times) rather than more traditional intervals. It can be a very fun and exciting workout, and a great way to break up your normal training routine. It is also very beneficial as it more closely mimics the stresses of a race than set interval training does.


LSD, or long slow distance, is exactly what it sounds like. It is a longer than normal workout that consists of slow, even paced running. The goal of these workouts is not to go fast. Instead, you are trying to teach your body how to run an even pace while working at increasing your distance. Typically, you want to run these workouts at about 2 minutes slower than your goal marathon pace.

Tempo Run

The tempo run is similar to the LSD, only instead of running slow, your aim is to run at consistent speedier pace, often at your goal race pace or above (depending on your race distance). A tempo run usually begins and ends with a warm up of equal times or distances. Sandwiched in between is a set time or distance where you goal is to run an evenly consistent pace, usually outside of your comfort zone. You are teaching your body how to comfortably run fast over a longer distance than speed work would provide.

Splits / Negative Splits

“What were your splits?” is probably a question you will hear quite frequently after work outs or even a race. Runners will often tell you that you should aim for negative splits. So what is a split? A split is simply a sub unit of your overall workout. Typically you will be talking about each mile being a split, though this can vary depending on the workout or race distance. Running negative splits simply means that each sub unit (again, typically a mile) was run faster than the one before it. So, for example, running negative splits in a 5 mile run might look like this: 9:02, 8:59, 8:58, 8:50, 8:45. Negative splits are ideal as you are not burning yourself out by running your fastest pace right out of the gate.


RICE is really a term that applies to all sports. Broken down, RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. It is the standard treatment plan for most minor running injuries. You want to rest the injured area, ice it to help reduce swelling, use compression to keep movement to a minimum (and help reduce swelling), and elevate it (also to help reduce swelling). Remembering this acronym can help you bounce back from most minor running injuries in no time…just remember that each is important, especially the R.

Hopefully this gives you somewhat of a starting point to feel a little more confident in your running vocabulary. Now the challenge is to correctly work them into your next running conversation…and then head out there and put these terms into action!

What running term had you baffled when you started, or what are you still confused about? Share in the comments below!