Running Terminology Glossary

Running Terminology Glossary

ON April 24, 2019 by Zwift

If you are a new runner on Zwift, you might come across some terms which are unfamiliar. We’re here to help! Expand your running vocabulary with this glossary of phrases used in our workouts.

Cadence or Leg Turnover

Cadence is simply the number of steps you take per minute. Maintaining an even cadence during your run is a good way to maximise running efficiency, taking longer strides when you run faster and shorter strides when you run slower. However, in practice most people find that the faster they run, the higher their cadence and vice versa.

Everyone is different. A sprinter may have an average cadence of 250spm whereas an elite marathon runner’s cadence will likely be between 180-190spm

Fartleks or Intervals

Fartleks and intervals are essentially the same thing. Fartlek means ‘speed play’ in Swedish and is to run fast between say two lamp posts on a street or trees in a park and then to run slowly to recover. You repeat this a number of times.

Interval training is the same. You might run fast for one minute and then recover for one minute before doing it again. There are numerous different types of interval sessions.

Heart Rate Zones

We divide your heart rate into different zones to show how hard you are working in a run. There are 5 zones in Zwift they are colored:

  • Zone 1 (Blue), up to 65% of Max HR
  • Zone 2 (Green), 66-75% of Max HR
  • Zone 3 (Yellow), 76-85% of Max HR
  • Zone 4 (Orange), 86-95% of Max HR
  • Zone 5 (Red), 96%+ of Max HR

If you know your Max Heart Rate, plug it into your Zwift profile and we will automatically compute your heart rate zones.


Although it sometimes gets a bad rap due to misconceptions, lactate is simply another fuel source for your muscles. It is created when your body breaks down glycogen (stored carbohydrate).

Lactate Threshold

The max effort you can maintain for an extended period of time without generating more lactate than your body can utilize. The fitter you become the longer and harder you can go before reaching your lactate threshold.

Ladder Workouts

A ladder workout is usually an interval type session in which either the pace or the distance increases or decreases in each set.

An example might be 100m @ 16kph, followed by 200m @ 14kph, then 400m @12kph. You are climbing up the ladder in distance but down the ladder in speed.

But a ladder workout might also look a lot like a progression run, where the intensity ramps up more as the run goes on.


These sessions refer back to threshold running. An over/under workout will get you running intervals above and below your Lactate Threshold.

Again it helps to know your Max HR here. Lactate Threshold can often be loosely defined as around 85% of your Max HR.


A form of training which is structured around blocks of progressively-increasing training stress followed by rest. Periodized training plans typically target key events on an athlete’s calendar, with the goal of “peaking” in fitness for the most important event.

Pick Ups or Strides

Often used during a warm-up, strides are brief bursts of speed where we ‘pick up’ the pace. In practice, the terminology here is interchangeable and ‘pick ups’ are often used to describe the faster or working section of an interval session. But ‘pick ups’ are generally no longer than 50-200 meters or 20-60 seconds.

Progression Run

Progression or Progressive Runs begin at a defined pace. Throughout the run, the pace gradually increases. It is common to start at a comfortable pace and be working hard by the end.

You can split a run into more than one progression set. Perhaps you might run a 10k with a progression for the first 5k, then drop back down and start the progression again for the second 5k.

Pyramid Workout

A Pyramid session is another interval type workout that consists of steps up and down in speed and distance.

Usually, the workout starts with longer distance and slow speed, rising to short distance intervals at a fast pace at the peak, and then back down again.

Threshold or Tempo Run

You will often hear the Tempo Run described as a Lactate Threshold Run or simply a “Threshold Run”. This is because you run at a pace at which your body is able to flush out the lactate as fast as it is produced.

Thinking about heart rate zones, a tempo run is one which is completed in zones 3 and 4.

VO2 Max

The maximum Volume (V) of oxygen (O2) that your body can use during exercise. It depends on a variety of factors, but this numerical value is one way to measure your level of fitness. Typically VO2 Max pace/power can be sustained for 3-8 minutes.