TRIATHLON TERMS & LINGO

Absorption

A process by which systems of the body recover from individual workouts and adapt to a series of workouts.

Acceleration

A running drill wherein a runner begins at a moderate pace and accelerates to a sub-sprint over a distance of about 100 meters.

Active Recovery

Low-intensity swimming, cycling, or running for the purpose of recovering between intervals within a workout or recovering from a recent race or hard workout.

Adaptation

A process whereby fitness improves as various systems of the body respond to the repeated application of stress in workouts over time.

Aero

An abbreviation of “aerodynamic.” An aero frame is a bike frame designed with blad-shaped tubes to minimize wind drag. Aero wheels are similarly designed bicycle wheels.

Aerobar

A type of bicycle handlebar on which the rider rests his or her forearms and which is often used in triathlons.

Aerobic

Refers to a process by which the body produces energy for movement by breaking down carbohydrate and fat in the presence of oxygen.

Age Group (AG)

A competitive division in a triathlon defined by gender and age (e.g. Male 40-44)

Age-grouper

An amateur triathlete

Anaerobic

Refers to a process by which the body produces energy for movement by breaking down carbohydrates without oxygen. You will find yourself out of breath and gasping for air. You will not be able to sustain exercise in an anaerobic state for very long.

Anaerobic Threshold

A level of exercise intensity beyond which the body cannot consume oxygen fast enough to support the energy demand. As a result, lactic acid begins to rapidly accumulate in the blood, hastening exhaustion. Also known as lactate threshold.

Antioxidants

Nutrients that attach themselves to free radical molecules, thereby neutralizing them and preventing them from damaging tissues.

Attack

To suddenly increase riding intensity on the bike in order to escape competitors, meet the challenge of a hill, or for other similar reasons.

Bag

To blow off a planned workout or race.

Base Phase

The first of three main phases in the training cycle, during which a triathlete focuses on gradually building general endurance by performing an increasing volume of low to moderate intensity training.

Blow up

To reach a state of total exhaustion and sharply reduce ability to perform.

Body Marking

Having one’s race number and age written on one’s body in magic marker by a race official or volunteer prior to the start of a triathlon.

Bonk

A state of exhaustion that is reached in prolonged exercise when carbohydrate fuel stores are depleted.

Bottom feeder

An unkind way of referring to a poor swimmer.

Brick

A workout in which a bike ride is followed immediately by a run

Build Phase

The second of three phases in the training cycle, during which a triathlete maintains a consistent training volume while concentrating on high-intensity workouts.

Cadence

The rate of pedaling on the bicycle, as expressed in revolutions per minute.

Chamois

Bicycle shorts. Pronounced “shammy.”

Cycle

A repeating pattern of training.

Cyclometer

A bicycle instrument that provides the rider with information such as current speed, trip distance, and trip time.

Dehydration

A state in which the amount of water in the body has diminished below the level needed for optimal athletic performance.

DNF

An acronym used in race results; it stands for “did not finish.”

Dolphin

A technique whereby a triathlete runs from the beach into the surf and dives forward, then stands, runs, and dives again, and so on, until he or she is out far enough to keep swimming.

Drafting

Gaining an energy advantage by following in the slipstream of another cyclist or swimmer. Bicycle drafting is illegal in most triathlons.

Drill

A short-duration exercise involving a modified version of swimming, cycling, or running that is practiced for the sake of technique or power enhancement.

Drop

To suddenly leave behind another cyclist on a training ride or in a race.

Duration

The amount of time that an individual workout lasts.

Economy

The relative energy efficiency of a swimmer, cyclist, or runner in motion

Efficiency

Another word for economy.

Electrolytes

Mineral nutrients (sodium, chloride, magnesium, and potassium) that aid muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission by conducting bioelectrical signals.

Endurance

The ability to work at a relatively high intensity level for a long period of time.

Fartlek “Speed play.”

A type of running workout in which an athlete plays with his or her pace by whim.

Frequency

The total or average number of workouts a triathlete performs in a specified amount of time.

Fresh

A state of feeling relatively nonfatigued.

Functional Strength Training

A form of strength training that simulates components of athletic movement patterns against resistance in order to increase the power with which an athlete is subsequently able to perform these movement patterns.

Glucose

A sugar derived from dietary carbohydrate that serves as a primary muscle energy fuel during exercise.

Glycogen

A long chain of glucose molecules that is stored in skeletal muscle and liver and serves as a primary muscle fuel source during exercise.

Hammer

To ride one’s bike very fast.

Hit the wall

To reach a state of total exhaustion and sharply reduced ability to perform.

Hyponatremia

A dangerously low concentration of sodium in the blood that can result from the combination of heavy perspiration and failure to ingest sodium during prolonged exercise.

Intensity

The rate at which an athlete burns energy for movement relative to his or her maximum capacity to burn energy for movement in a given mode of exercise.

Interval

A segment within a type of workout in which high-intensity efforts of a given distance or duration are separated by recovery periods of a specified duration. In cycling and running, it is usually the high-intensity segments that are called intervals, whereas in swimming, it is usually the combination of a single high-intensity swim effort and the subsequent rest period that is called an interval.

Jammers

A type of swim shorts for men that fits tightly and covers the legs down to the kneecaps.

Kinesthetic awareness

Awareness of the sensation of the body’s position and movement in space

Lactate threshold

An intensity level of exercise above which the metabolic waste product lactic acid accumulates in the blood faster than the circulatory system can remove it. Also known as the anaerobic threshold.

Lactic Acid

A compound that is produced in the body primarily as a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism.

Main set

The longest (or only) interval set in a swim, bike or run workout.

Mash

To struggle with too high a gear selection.

Max HR

Short for maximum heart rate – that is, the highest heart rate one can achieve in swimming, cycling, or running. Usually one will have a different max HR or each discipline.

Newbie

A beginner

Off the front

A state of being ahead of the main cycling pack, on a training ride or a race.

Overpronate

Excessive medial rotation of the foot during the foot-strike portion of the running stride.

Overtraining

A ratio of training to rest that is insufficient to allow complete recovery from and adaptation to training stimuli.

Overuse injury

Dysfunction in a bone, muscle, or other soft tissue generally resulting from heavy repetition of flawed movement patterns.

Pace

One’s rate of swimming, cycling, or running

Paceline

A single-file line of cyclist in training.

Passive recovery

Recovery in the form of inactivity.

Peak

A brief window of maximum athletic performance potential that occurs at the end of a complete training cycle and taper.

Peak Phase

The last of three main phases in the triathlon training cycle, during which a triathlete focuses on performing highly race-specific workouts and getting adequate rest.

Periodization

A training method that involves arranging various types of training in a sequence that will produce the highest possible level of fitness by the end of the cycle.

Phase

A period of training that is characterized by a focus on a certain specific types of training. There are three basic phases in triathlon training: base, build, and peak.

Power

A combination of speed and strength.

PR

Short for “personal record” – one’s personal best time for a standard swimming, cycling, running or triathlon race distance.

Quality

Refers to a type of workout that emphasizes working at or above the anaerobic threshold.

Racing flats

A very light type of running shoe used in racing and sometimes in quality workouts.

Recovery

A process wherein one or more systems of the body returns to homeostasis following exertion.

Repetition

A hard-effort segment within an interval or strength workout.

Rest

A period of inactivity between segments of a workout or between workouts.

Road Rash

A bloody scrape or large scab resulting from a bike wreck.

Saddle sore

Sores on the groin or buttocks that are generally caused by pressure and friction during cycling and sometimes subsequent infection.

Speed

The ability to swim, cycle or run quickly. Also, an intensity level of swimming, cycling, and running that is predominantly anaerobic and serves to improve economy, anaerobic metabolism, and lactic acid tolerance.

Speed work

An interval-type running workout that emphasizes speed intensity and which usually takes place on a running track.

Spin

To ride the bike at a moderate intensity level and high pedaling cadence (85-90 RPM).

Sprint

A brief spurt of maximum-intensity swimming, cycling or running.

Stride

A running drill involving roughly 100 meters of running at one mile race pace followed by jogging recovery.

Stud

A gender-neutral term for a talented triathlete.

T1

Short for “first transition.” It refers to the swim-to-bike transition in a triathlon

T2

Short for “second transition.” It refers to the bike-to-run transition in a triathlon.

Taper

A short period of light training that immediately precedes a race and is undertaken to allow the body to fully recover from and adapt to the preceding hard training.

Training log

A dated journal in which a triathlete records training performed, race results, and other information pertinent to training.

Training Schedule

A calendar in which a triathlete plots information about anticipated workouts and races, usually leading up to a peak triathlon.

Tri-bike

Short for triathlon bike, a type of bike that is designed especially for the time-trial type of bike racing that occurs in triathlons.

Tri-suit

Short for triathlon suit, a performance garment that is designed to be worn through the swim, bike and run portions of a triathlon.

VO2 max

The maximum rate at which a given athlete can consume oxygen.

Volume

The total or average amount of training a triathlete performs within a specified period of time.

Wave

A subgroup of triathletes within a larger field of race participants that is scheduled to start the race together at a certain time. Triathlons often start in waves to avoid overcrowding during the early portion of the swim.

Weekly cycle

A recurring seven-day pattern of training.

Work

To cause a fellow or rival athlete to suffer during a training session or race.

Workload

The total amount of energy a triathlete expends in training within a specified period of time. Workload is a function of training volume and intensity.