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Fartlek and 9 other must-know run terms

July 12, 2016

Found in Activities, Skills and tips

Run crews are teeming with veteran racers and pace bunnies bonding over tempo work, PRs and tales of hitting the wall. We’ve decoded some common run terms so you can keep up during walk-break chats.


Fartlek is Swedish for “speed play” and is a relatively unstructured run workout where you switch between a sprint and a jog. An easy way to try a fartlek run is to choose an object ahead – like a telephone pole or fence – and sprint to that object, then slow down to a jog until you reach another object. After that, choose another target, speed up again, and repeat as many times as you’d like. The flexibility of fartleks makes them a popular workout.


Sadly this has nothing to do with bananas and ice cream or gymnastic-esque agility. Instead, it’s when you divvy up your run into different pieces and compare the times for each section. If you divided a 10km run in half, that’s two 5km splits. Splits are a great way to perfect your pace. Trying to work on finishing strong? Make a point of running the second half of your route faster than the first. That’s known as a negative split – fantastic for out and back runs.


Somewhere between a comfortable conversation and not being able to talk at all, you’ll find your tempo pace – it’s the tasty but challenging filling in your run sandwich. Start with an easy warm up and know that you’ll cool down at a similar pace. Set your effort in between to a spot where you could speak in broken words and watch your metabolic fitness levels soar.


This is where you build your distance. Often referred to as your LSD run (that’s Long Slow Distance), these training sessions are all about building a base and logging kilometres. Most runners will schedule these for a Saturday or Sunday, and will work in a water fountain at their turnaround point and a nice spot for an espresso or smoothie at the end. It’s a good rule of thumb to start these slow and gradually increase your pace towards the end of the run.


Hill training is an essential part of your run arsenal. They not only increase your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, they also strengthen your muscular system, elevate your heart rate and improve your overall strength. When finding your optimal hill route, look for one that is about 0.5–1.5km in length, is out of the way of traffic, and allows you a good recovery on each downturn. Make sure you keep the incline manageable, too.


Interval training or speed work is a variable speed workout that flips between fast brief periods of running and slower recovery periods of about the same length of time or longer. These workouts are more structured than a fartlek (but less fun to say) and key to finishing fast and upping your pace. Try running at a fast pace for two minutes, jogging slowly for three minutes, and repeating five times. You can also find a track and use landmarks to train by distance instead of time.


Your pace is the amount of time it takes you to run one kilometre. Holding a specific pace per kilometre can help you reach your finish time and also helps distinguish your effort levels between different types of training runs. You’ll often see pace bunnies at races, distinguished by their goal finish times (and yes, sometimes they wear bunny ears); they’re eager to get their group across the finish line in a specific time and keep a close eye on pace along the way. Be your own bunny with a great run watch.

The Wall

Ah, that dreaded point in your run when everything suddenly seems impossible – your legs feel like blocks of concrete, you’re overwhelmed by the distance you have yet to cover, your pace falls apart and your muscles are mush. Getting over the wall is truly a triumph of will, mind over matter, moving those arms so the feet will follow and taking a walk/fuel break when needed.


As equally important as the other types of training, recovery runs are the sweet, swift runs between your hard workouts. These runs give you an opportunity to log distance, build your base and maintain a love affair with the sport. Recovery can also refer to beneficial cross-training like yoga, post-run routines such as foam rolling and stretching, as well as general days off. After all those fartleks, tempos, intervals and splits, you’ve earned it.

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