Text Unlocking Your Training Plan: A beginner's guide to running terms Photo: a group of runners running up a hill

Unlocking Your Training Plan: A beginner’s guide to running terms

.,Text Unlocking Your Training Plan: A beginner's guide to running terms Photo: a group of runners running up a hill

If you are a new runner and diving into a race training programme for the first time, there may be a few key running terms you are unsure of.

So, here is my beginner’s guide to some of the most common running terms found in training programmes that you’ll want to have in your back pocket. It’s like our own little runner’s dictionary to make sure you’re on the same page as you conquer those training miles!


This is the speed you are running at any given time, the minutes per km or mile. This is often combined with an effort instruction such as easy pace or tempo pace.


The intensity of your running session, or how much effort you feel you are putting in. Often measured using the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) scale. This is a scale of 0-10 where 0 is lying in bed having just woken up and 10 is maximum effort.

Using effort allows for daily changes in your training. For example, your pace for an easy effort will be a different on days where you’ve had a good night’s sleep and feel rested compared to days when you’re not. By using the RPE scale, rather than pace, you are always putting the right effort in for that day.


A very comfortable pace that is hardly an effort. You could quite happily run for hours at this pace and hold a long conversation with a good friend.

For most beginner or new to the distance training programmes, this is the effort that the majority of your runs will be run at. On the RPE scale it is a 3-4.


More effort than an easy run but still within your comfort zone. You could keep this pace for a long run but your conversation may not be as flowing.

This effort gets you running slightly quicker but is still very manageable. On the RPE scale it is a 5-6.


This is a pace where if you were asked a question you could reply in a few words. It definitely feels like an effort, your breathing will be more laboured but it is a pace you can continue running for the distance set.

This pace is good for building speed endurance and at the higher effort is often called threshold or lactate training. On the RPE scale it is a 6-7.


Aka ‘speed-play’, this type of workout involves running with a mixture of different speeds and efforts. It’s different from set intervals (see below) as you play around with different speeds and efforts throughout the distance or time specified.

You can use street furniture, trees, landmarks as your markers and run at varied speeds and efforts at a time. For a more details explanation see my post here


This is a form of speed work where you run faster for short periods of time followed by slower running (or brisk walking) to recover. This type of workout helps to improve your speed overall. If you started running with a couch to 5k programme you have already done intervals!

How fast you run in the speed section will depend on the length of the interval. For intervals of 100m or less than 1 minute you can push to an effort of RPE 8-9, with the recovery at RPE 2-3. For longer intervals of more than 400m or over 2 minutes keep the effort at the tempo pace, ie RPE 6-7, and the recovery pace easy.


Are there any other terms you would include in a beginner’s guide to running terms? Or any you have come across as a new runner that you are unsure of?

Comment below and let me know.

And if you need some help deciphering your training plan, or need a training plan that’s more suited to your fitness levels and lifestyle commitments, get in touch. I’d love to help.

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