Glossary of Triathlon Terms, Lingo and Abbreviations

A comprehensive list of terms, abbreviations and lingo that every triathlete should know when training for a triathlon.

Glossary of Triathlon Terms, Lingo and Abbreviations

Aerobars: Bike handlebars that allow athletes to rest their elbows and ride in a tucked aerodynamic position. 

Aerobic (“with oxygen”): maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood. The heart will beat faster/become more efficient, which increases blood flow to your muscles and back to your lungs. The lungs take in more oxygen, and the muscles become more efficient at using oxygen. It is ​​the point at which exercise is just possible without significant lactic acid build up.

Age grouper: Amateur athletes, or non professionals. Age groupers are separated into groups by a 5-year age range. (Race age is determined by one’s age as of Dec. 31 of the race year.)

Anaerobic threshold: When oxygen delivered to the muscles cannot break down glycogen and produce energy fast enough, lactic acid starts to accumulate, and is used as a complementary energy source. This energy system is less efficient than the aerobic system, and cannot be maintained for a long period of time. Anaerobic exercise involves short, fast, high-intensity exercises. 

Aquabike: A swim and bike combination race.

Aquathlon: A swim and run combination race.

Base: A general fitness level upon which you can build upon. The base period generally consists of aerobic training to improve endurance.

Bodymark: Race number is written on the racer’s arm and age is written on the calf with a temporary tattoo or black marker.

Bonking: A condition of sudden fatigue and energy loss that is caused by depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles.

Brick: Combination workouts that include two disciplines back to back with minimal or no interruption (example: bike→run).

Build: A training period after a base period, when more intense training is added.

Cadence: The number of swim strokes, pedal revolutions or steps per minute in your swim, bike and run. This corresponds to the revolutions per minute (RPM) in cycling.

Catch: The first of three underwater phases of your swim stroke after your hand enters the water.

Clydesdale/Athena: Race categories for men over 220 lbs and women over 165 lbs.

Cleats: Attached to the bottom of your bike shoes, allowing them to lock into clipless pedals.

Clipless pedals: Locking mechanism that connects the cleats of the cycling shoes to the pedals; they transfer power evenly throughout a pedal revolution through pushing and pulling.

Cooldown: Physical activity done after a workout or race to loosen muscles and rid the body of lactic acid.

Cross-train: Participating in various sports or exercises to work on different skills and activate different muscle groups. 

Double: Two workouts in one day.

Drafting: Swimming or riding behind someone to reduce resistance and save energy.

Duathlon: A run/bike combination race.

Electrolyte: Play a critical role in maintaining equilibrium of water throughout the body, particularly during exercise when electrolytes and water can be lost through sweating. Key electrolytes include sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Fartlek: A workout that consists of non-structured speedwork.

Foot strike: The way your foot hits the ground when you run (i.e., forefoot, midfoot or heel-strike).

Functional threshold power (FTP): The highest average power you can hold for 45-60 minutes. It is approximated based on shorter test protocols, such as 20 or 30 minute tests.

Heart rate monitor (HRM): A device (typically a belt with a transmitter) that measures heart rate. 

Indoor trainor: Tool which allows you to set up your bike indoors and train.

Mashing: Pedaling at a low cadence in high gear.

Negative split: When the second half of a race or workout is faster than the first.

Plyometrics (plyo): Various forms of jump exercises that are often explosive and build strength, power and balance. 

Positive split: When the second half of a race or workout is slower than the first.

Power: Measured in watts (W) and calculated as force times velocity. Used mostly in biking where it is measurable (force applied to pedals or crank arms times the angular velocity of pedaling). In contrast to heart rate, power is a direct measure of output.

Pronation: ​​Inward rolling motion of foot after foot strike.

Mount line: Line in a race when you can mount your bike.

Rate of perceived exertion (RPE): A subjective rating of intensity and effort level. 

Revolutions per minute (RPM): Number of turns a bike wheel makes in one minute.

Sighting: Done in open water, swimmers follow the swim course by lifting their eyes out of the water every couple/few strokes to see their location in relation to the shoreline and course buoys.

Speed laces: Elastic/bungee laces for running shoes.

Split: Time for a specific discipline or transition in race/workout, or segment of a discipline.

Transition: A marked area where athletes keep their equipment needed for a race.

Transition 1 (T1): Period between the swim and bike legs of a triathlon. 

Transition 2 (T2): Period between the bike and run legs of a triathlon.

Taper: Short period before a race when training volume is decreased so accumulated fatigue dissipates in time for the race without losing too much fitness. 

Trisuit: Shorts and a top, or a one-piece, that you wear throughout the entire race.

TT bike/tri bike: Special road bike made for triathlon racing (has flat handlebars and a set of aerobars).

VO2 Max: The maximum rate of oxygen uptake and utilization in the body; common fitness measure.

Warm-up: Light exercise before a race or workout to warm up the muscles.

Waves: When a race does not start in a mass and athletes are broken into groups, often separated by gender and age.

Wetsuit: A close-fitting suit worn by swimmers to keep their bodies warm. Wetsuits also make you more buoyant.

Zones: Can refer to heart rate, power zones, or general training load zones. (Examples: recovery, aerobic endurance, aerobic threshold, anaerobic threshold, anaerobic.)



DNF: Did not finish

DNS: Did not start

HR: Heart rate

LBS: Local bike shop

OWS: Open water swim

PB: Personal best

PR: Personal record

RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation