January 1, 2011

Training Program Glossary

To help you understand a running program, here are some useful definitions for terms in use by most runners, coaches and publications. Feel free to contact me if you want some terms added.

Running Form / posture

Describes the general posture of the runner’s body while running, and often specifically the way their feet hit the ground. Without getting into too much detail, there are three common running forms : heel striking, mid-foot landing (or striking) and fore-foot landing (or striking). There is much debate over which is best, but there is a growing consensus that heel striking should be avoided as much as possible, more so for beginning runners (for whom it’s much easier to learn the proper technique than to transition later on).

Here’s a good video analysis of running postures.

Running Base

A qualitative measurement of a runner’s experience at running. Also used to describe the added beneficial effects of running and training over a long period of time, where a vast and complex system of muscles, blood flow and oxygen use (to name only a few) gets fully developed. Conservative trainers consider that a sound running base can take up to 4 years of regular running to develop.


A calculation of your ground speed while running. In parts of Europe and Canada, most people use minutes per kilometre, while in England and the USA others will use “minute miles”. For example, a running speed of 10 km/h translates into a 6:00 min/km pace, or 9:40 minute mile.

R1, R2, R3

This is a personalized speed measurement system used for determining the intensity of your training. It is based on your current running performance. Typically, your running pace in an official target race is your R2. Your R1 is your “slow” training pace, while your R3 is your “fast” training pace.

  • If you run a 10K in 1 hour flat, your R2 is 6:00 min / km. Your R1 should be significantly slower, (depending on your fitness level and objectives) and your R3, faster. Although calculations differ, a 30-second rule-of-thumb can be applied here. Your R1 would then be 6:30 min/km, your R2 6:00 min/km, and your R3 5:30 min/km.

LSD – Long Slow Distance

A type of training run that is the longest in distance, and the slowest in pace. It is a training designed to accommodate your body to run for a long time (relative to your capacity) at minimal effort. You should be able to talk freely at all times while doing this type of run, and should feel minimal effort, if any. A typical well-done LSD will leave you feeling like you could’ve ran much more.

Speed training / intervals

A type of training run where you push your body beyond its comfort zone by running faster than you are used to. A typical speed training run will have you jog slowly at first, than speed up at S3 for various lengths (called intervals), than recuperate at a slow jog, than speed up some more and so on.

Hill training / hill repeats

A type of training designed to help runners familiarize – and deal with – uneven terrain, both up and down. Basic hill training is composed of short-to-medium uphills and downhills, repeated a certain number of times.

Tempo run

A type of training designed to make a runner run at their target race speed (R2) for a specific distance.

Progression (Prog) run

A type of training designed to increase speed as the distance is being covered. It typically starts with a slow jog, then includes some distance at R1, then up to R2 in various increments. It might end there or include the last segments at R3 or even slightly higher (called an all-out sprint).


Like in meditation, a mantra is a very personal word or short phrase that the runner repeats mentally to help their performance or motivation in tougher times. Famous mantras include Lance Armstrong’s “Livestrong”, Caballo Blanco’s “Easy, Light, Smooth, Fast” and Scott Jurek’s “This is what you came here for”.

DNF – Did Not Finish

A term used to describe forfeiting a race after having crossed the starting line, whether because of injury or for other reasons.

Wall (The, Hitting the), bonking

Hitting the wall or bonking describes the moment where a runner has consumed most or too much of their glycogen (blood sugar) reserves and experiences an acute physical and mental crash.

PR, PB – Personal record, personal best

A runner’s best official recorded time over a fixed distance. Also used as a verb (“I PR’ed!”). A typical runner will have PR’s and PB’s for the distances they have raced in events – 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, etc.

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