Down with the kids

If you know your bae from your bare and your hench from your dench then you my friend are a better man/woman than I am.

Slang and a somewhat confusing use of language though isn’t solely the domain of the under 20s. Since taking up running I’ve entered a whole new world of terminology, so I thought that for other relative newbies like me a blog to explain what on earth some people are talking about may prove useful.

Below is just a small selection of words and acronyms that have now entered my vocabulary on some level, it is by no means a definitive jargon busting glossary but hopefully will point you in the right direction and give you a bit of a laugh at the same time.

Tapering – This was a completely new one on me and has nothing to do with that blue tape that athletes of all shapes and sizes now seem to cover themselves in, in the hope of holding up their dodgy back/hamstring/bicep. I’d started to see the word more frequently and research tells me that you should taper in the period before a long distance race, usually a marathon, when you reduce the length and intensity of your training so that your body can prepare itself properly for the exertions you’re about to put it through on the big day. It’s kind of guilt free putting your feet up and doing not very much in the knowledge that you’re not going to become a sloth and you will soon be getting yourself back in gear to do something amazing.

Maranoia – Nothing to do with Diego

Maranoia – No, he wasn’t the one who claimed it was the Hand of God that helped him to punch the ball into the net against England at Mexico ’86. Apparently maranoia often occurs during tapering, I have also seen it referred to as taper tantrums, as people start to doubt their ability, their training, their diet and in some cases their general sanity before a marathon. As we’re now in peak spring marathon season there seems to be a maranoia epidemic breaking out up and down the country as otherwise rational people lose the plot, just what an already overstretched NHS needs!

Carb loading – Whilst I’d heard the term before I wasn’t particularly clear on what it meant and how to do it, basically I just thought you had to get as much pasta down your neck the night before a race as possible. I have become somewhat more enlightened though through a bit of research and find the explanation below clear with the added benefit of some suggested recipes that I’m looking forward to trying out,

DOMS – I love Twitter and find it is the starting point for a large proportion of how I gather news and information these days. That said the 140 character tweet limit leads to some confusion and ignorance and DOMS is a case in point, it’s the acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Basically if your muscles are stiff and painful 24-72 hours after exercise, it’s likely to be DOMS. At least I now have something to call those awful toe cramps when it feels like they are tying themselves in knots.

LSR – Another acronym used in the running world and which I’ve been seeing a lot of recently as people build up to marathons is LSR. The Beatles sang about LSD, The Shamen sang about LSI but as far as my musical knowledge goes nobody so far has penned a tune about long slow runs. LSR’s are used to get your body accustomed to running over a longer distance and to teach it how to improve its efficiency in storing and using energy. My running is pretty one paced and metronomic so dialling down the speed as I up the miles is going to be challenging I think.

Rolling – This one really confounded me, I ended up tweeting someone who kept mentioning rolling and received a short video in response to make sure I clearly understood what it actually was. This video I think does a good job of demonstrating the exercise.

Depending on who you believe rolling, or foam rolling, is either a great way of loosening your leg muscles or it is a form of torture that people inflict on themselves. I’m yet to give it a go.

Bonk – I sniggered to myself like a child when I read this word in someone’s blog recently. I think the last time I heard anyone refer to bonking it was probably Victoria Wood at some point in the late 80s on one of her many sketch shows. Bonking, in the running context at least, is probably more widely known by the term hitting the wall. Essentially, it is the point in a run or race where an athlete feels like they suddenly have nothing left to give, their legs are wobblier than Bruce Grobbelaar in a penalty shoot-out and they think they can’t go on. I’m not looking forward to my seemingly inevitable meeting with this legendary piece of civil engineering, although hopefully with the right fuelling and some mental strength it can be overcome.

Not for hair styling

Gel – Not John Frieda, not Vidal Sassoon, not even the cheap bright blue stuff with bubbles in that was the preserve of the 90s boy band and made your hair look like you’d just walked in from a rain storm despite it being bright sunshine outside, in the world of running, gels are to be swallowed not applied liberally to your barnet. As I’ve been finding out, gels come in handy sachets and various flavours with slightly differing added extras depending on your brand of choice. Lots of runners use gels to boost energy during a workout or run and personally I’m glad I’ve discovered them as they really seem to work for me and give me a lift when I need it most.

Ultra – If you’ve read any of my previous blogs or you follow me on Twitter you’ll have no doubt picked up that aside from running I’m a bit keen on football too, so when I saw the term ultra for the first time my mind instantly jumped to Gazzetta Football Italia, James Richardson supping a latte in front of a fountain and images of blokes with a flare in one hand and a megaphone in the other orchestrating a group of fans in Turin or Genoa to bounce up and down behind their numerous banners proclaiming allegiance to the various wonderfully named Ultra fan groups. Ultra in the running context though is a race that is anything more than a marathon distance, typically 50k plus, fair play to anyone who can do it, I’ll say here and now though I will never be an ultra runner.

Fartlek – Oh my, where to start with this one? Is it some form of renewable energy source generated by the consumption of copious amounts of prunes and mushy peas? This word also took me back to my dark days as a secondary school modern languages teacher. Don’t get me wrong I love words and language, shameless plug for last week’s blog, but it doesn’t half make it hard to teach adolescents when you are using words such as Kunst (art), Fuchs (fox) and Vater (father). Fartlek translates from Swedish as “speed play” and therefore it refers to a type of training in which you play with your speed by running faster for short periods of time in a unstructured way, for example running to the next tree or junction, followed by a slower recovery section.

C25K – For most people with an interest in running this bit of jargon is probably blindingly obvious but it threw me. I read the C as if it was a C. (ie circa) and so when people said they were a C25K runner I thought they meant they ran c.25K. With the amount of new runners using the term though I was baffled, when I started running c.10k was a slog so how come all these other newbies were already smashing more than double that!??! Of course I eventually twigged that it is short for the fantastic couch to 5k programme, face palm!!

Nearly a no ball(s)

Streaking – Growing up  it seemed most major sporting events attracted a streaker or two, from Erica Rowe giving the Twickenham crowd a eyeful before her modesty was protected by a well placed St George’s flag to Michael Angelow and his epic jump over the stumps at Lords. I genuinely thought when I first read about streaking in running that it was some form of niche nudist event most likely held on a remote beach somewhere. In fact run streaking is running at least one mile on consecutive days for a sustained period. I’ve seen posts about people doing at least 5k a day which is admirable and this has given me some ideas about what I can do in the future to sustain my running.


And there you have it, hopefully now you’re a bit more enlightened and I’d love to hear from anyone else who has come across more weird and wonderful words in running that to the untrained eye either mean something else or absolutely nothing at all.

Quick update on the training too. Friday last week saw me run 14.7 miles in 1hr 58 mins, a really enjoyable run including a couple of peaceful miles along the Leeds – Liverpool canal, followed up on Monday by 9.25 undulating miles in 1hr 12 mins, I haven’t been rained on either for a couple of weeks which is always a bonus!


4 thoughts on “Down with the kids

  1. Love it…what a great summary, really enjoyed the take on the terms. There’s plenty more out there too…you could keep this series going for a while. Cheers!!

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