Triathlon Glossary Terms
The list is endless but we have added the most common words and abbreviated things that are used in the triathlon sport.
active rest: Easy exercise with no training benefit other than to help speed up the recovery process.
active recovery: A method of recovering from exercise, usually by walking, light jogging or cycling. Sometimes, after hard exercise, recovery is best facilitated with low-intensity exercise over complete rest.
adaptation phase: A phase during training where your body has to get used to the
aerobic: Meaning "with oxygen." Aerobic exercise improves the body's use of oxygen and is a good way to burn fat. It involves longer sessions at an easy pace and low heart rate, usually conducted at under 80 percent of maximum heart rate for that sport.
anaerobic: Meaning "without oxygen." Aerobic exercise is used by athletes in non-endurance sports to promote strength,
anaerobic threshold: The point at which lactic acid begins to accumulate in the bloodstream. Athletes usually slow after working at this intensity for a 30-minute period. (Also called lactate threshold.)
aerobars: Because it's more comfortable and more aerodynamic for triathlon racing, most triathlon bikes are equipped with a set of bars which attach to the main handlebars (base bars) or stem of a bicycle and allow you to ride in the aero position. These can also be placed on a road bike.
aero bottle: Many triathletes attach a water bottle to the
aero position: Also known as the time trial position, the aero position involves riding in a "hunched over" position with the elbows resting on the
arm warmers: Single sleeves of material worn in cooler weather to shield the arms. Can be removed mid-ride and stuffed in a jersey pocket.
arm coolers: Similar to above, but made of a thinner material intended to keep the arms shielded from the sun in hotter temperatures.
aerobic (runners): This term is used to define the intensity of a run that is primarily conversational at a slow, easy pace. Generally, you burn
anaerobic (runners): High-intensity pace that allows lactic acid to build up, and can generally not be sustained much longer than a 10K.
base: Also "base pace," refers to a swimmer's pace they can hold for interval sessions. Also defines the lane swimmers choose for masters classes, ie: "John swims in the 1:30 lane."
beach start: When athletes start the swim portion of the race from dry land (not necessarily a beach) and run into the water.
bilateral breathing: When a swimmer breath on alternating sides.
buoy: The floating markers used on a triathlon course to indicate course layout, distance, and turns.
bento box: A small bag that attaches to the top tube of a bike to store food and tools.
bibs: A style of padded cycling shorts that are attached to a bib-like portion that goes up and over the shoulders.
bonk: Because you cover long distances while cycling, it's easy to get stuck during a ride or race without food or calories. When this happens, your blood sugar can drop so low that your brain goes into a fog and your muscles quit firing. This is called a
brick: A workout consisting of two triathlon disciplines, in which you run immediately after finishing a bike workout or bike immediately after finishing a swim workout.
cardiac drift: An increase in the heart rate caused not by going faster, but as a result of fatigue, dehydration, or heat.
cool down: Sometimes called a "warm down," this comprises the last five to 20 minutes of a workout, intended to bring the heart rate down, cool the body, and "shake out" the effort.
cross training: The use of an exercise that is different from an athlete's main sport in order to maintain cardio fitness. It is often done in the off-season or when an athlete is injured. i.e: mountain
cadence: The speed of pedaling while bicycling, also known as RPM, or Revolutions per Minute.
chamois cream: A cream or lotion that cyclists apply to their crotch area to help ease chafing of the saddle and shorts against the body.
C02 cartridge: A small cartridge of compressed air that enables cyclists to inflate flat tires quickly.
delayed onset muscle soreness: (DOMS) Damage caused by microscopic rupture of muscle fibers as a result of strenuous exercise. This type of muscle soreness normally peaks about 48 hours after a particularly intense or long workout.
deck: The hard surface around the pool.
draft: To swim directly behind or just to the side of the swimmer in front of you, which makes it easier to swim.
drills: Specific swimming exercises a swimmer employs to improve technique and feel for the water.
disc wheel: A solid, spokeless wheel that is very aerodynamic and often used as a rear wheel in triathlons.
drafting: Riding close enough behind the cyclist(s) in front of you that your pedaling becomes less difficult due to that rider
dropped: When you're riding with a group of cyclists who are drafting, and you eventually get too far behind to be in the draft, you'll find that the gap increases between you and the group, pedaling becomes harder, and you can't catch up. This is called "getting dropped."
elastic laces: The "stretchy" shoelaces many triathletes have on their shoes to allow easy and fast entry into the shoe without having to tie a knot.
fat-burning zone: The heart rate range where you are burning fat as the main energy source.
fins: Rubber "flippers" worn on the feet that, depending on their shape and size, can make swimming easier, change the focus of the kick, or provide propulsion when working on drills.
flags: Small triangular pennants hung over the pool to indicate that the end of the lane is near. Especially important for swimming backstroke so the swimmer doesn't hit the wall.
floating start: Also "water start." Starting the swim portion of the race from a treading water position in deep water.
freestyle: The common front stroke style usually used in triathlon.
fartlek: A style of running that is "random" or variably paced. For example, a fartlek run might involve running five miles on a trail, and sprinting at various intervals throughout the run. Also known as "speed play."
heart rate: The number of times the heart beats per minute.
heart rate monitor: A device, usually strapped around the chest, that records and displays a person's heart rate.
hyponatremia: A low concentration of sodium in the body fluids that develops when an athlete is low
hammer: To pedal very hard, typically for an extended period of time (i.e. "That ride was a Hammer-fest").
hill repeats: When a runner runs up a hill to increase their strength, and down at an easy, recovery pace. Also used in cycling.
hitting the wall: Generally happens about mile 20 of a marathon due to depletion of carbohydrate. A drop in blood sugar leads to immediate fatigue and loss of energy. (Also called a "
interval: A type of
jersey: A cycling top made of technical fabric, usually equipped with a front zipper for ventilation and back pockets to store food and tools.
kickboard: A floating piece of styrofoam used for kicking drills.
kit: The full collection of cycling clothing, often matching and worn together, including shorts, jersey, gloves, socks, vest, jacket, arm warmers, etc.
lactate threshold: See "anaerobic threshold."
lactic acid: A by-product of anaerobic metabolism. It is produced in muscle tissue and red blood cells during exercise due to the incomplete breakdown of glucose. Its presence in muscles prevents them from functioning at high intensity.
limiters: The factors that keep an athlete from performing at their best. For
lane: A sectioned area of the pool for lap swimming, can accommodate anywhere from one to 10 swimmers.
lane lines: The floating markers that separate lanes.
length: From one end of the pool to the other.
maximum heart rate: The highest rate at which a heart can beat, and useful for finding the appropriate "zones" at which to train. (In Heart Rate training-based philosophies.)
main set: The bulk of a coached swim workout. Usually consists of 2000 to 4000 yards/meters of swimming.
mass start: Common at many Ironman© events, this is the type of
marathon: 26.2 miles. Generally the distance in an Ironman© triathlon (a half-marathon is the distance in an Ironman© 70.3© event.)
negative split: Running the second half of a run faster than the first half.
open water: Swimming outdoors in a lake, river or ocean.
peaking: The process through which an athlete arrives at the optimum emotional, physical and mental condition on a certain race day.
plateau: A condition in which increases in fitness do not occur, even though the athlete is in training. A change to the training program to add variety and rest will probably be necessary.
paddles: Pieces of shaped plastic attached to the hand, which increase resistance
pull buoy: A floating piece of Styrofoam that goes between the legs so that a swimmer doesn’t need to kick. Often used to help the swimmer work on upper body strength.
peloton: The large, main group on a group ride. Not allowed in Ironman© racing.
power meter: A tool installed on a bike to measure the watts or kilojoules of work a cyclist is producing.
negative split: Running the second half of a run faster than the first half.
pick-ups: Short accelerations performed during the run, generally to stretch out the legs and prepare them for speed work or a run. Usually 10-30 seconds long.
plyometrics: Jumping, bounding, hopping or other explosive movements designed to train the body for reducing ground contact time.
pronation: The inward roll of the foot as the arch collapses after the foot strikes the ground. Over pronation is excessive inward rolling due to weak support, which can cause many running injuries.
qr: Quick release lever that allows bike wheels to be easily removed and replaced for travel.
rate of perceived exertion: A scale of effort, numbering from 1-10, that indicates an athlete's feeling about how difficult an exercise was.
recovery: A period of non-activity after exercise that allows the athlete to subsequently increase the intensity and length of training sessions.
rest day: A day without training or competition, usually as part of a recovery period.
runner’s high: An intense feeling of exhilaration that can occur during a run, usually due to the release of endorphins.
sighting: A technique in which an open-water swimmer lifts their head in order to see where they are going, locate buoys, watch for other swimmers, aim for dry land, etc.
spin: To ride easy or pedal with very low resistance. (i.e. "We went for an easy spin.")
strides: Similar to pick-ups, but usually performed as intervals (i.e. a set of 8 strides to warm up prior to a race).
supination: Opposite of pronation. Outward rolling of the foot after foot strike. Less common, but also a cause of running injuries.
taper: The period where an athlete reduces the volume and intensity of their training before a race, allowing the body to recover and store extra energy.
time trial: Typically a 20-180K ride at the maximum sustainable pace, usually performed in the aero position. The bike leg of most triathlons is defined as a time trial.
top tube: The tube that extends from the handlebars, between your legs, and horizontally back towards the back wheel.
trainer: The nickname given to a stationary trainer, where indoor cycling or specific intervals can be easily completed.
tri bike: A nickname for a time trial bike, or aero bike, commonly used in triathlon. A lightweight bike with specific bar and seat post set-ups, as well as weight modifications, for riding in the aero position.
tube: The rubber inner tube that goes inside a bicycle tire.
tubeless tires: Bicycle tires that do not have a separate tube that goes inside.
warm-up: Increasing the body temperature gradually to prepare the body for exercise.
wetsuit legal: A triathlon in which the water is cold enough to allow a wetsuit. For major events, this temperature is usually below 76.1 degrees Fahrenheit (24.5 degrees Celcius).
watts: The amount of power, in watts, an athlete is generating on the bike. Measured by a power meter.