Triathlon Glossary

Some of these were copied from other sources, while most have been edited to some degree, and will continue to be a work-in-progress. Please comment on any additions you would like to see or corrections.

Acronym   / Term  Definition 
70.3 See Half Ironman
140.6 See Ironman
Active Recovery A workout after a hard training day or race at low intensity, typically HR Zone 1/2. The idea is to get the body moving to flush out the junk from the previous day(s), so the muscles don’t get stiff, without adding more strain to your body.
Aero Bars Padded elbow rests and extensions allowing a rider to maintain a very comfortable aerodynamic position, reducing arm strain, wind resistance, and increasing speed. Also referred to as tri bars.
Aerobic Exercise Any type of exercise, typically that performed at moderate levels of intensity for extended periods of time, that maintains an increased heart rate. Running a long distance at a moderate pace is an aerobic exercise, but sprinting is anaerobic. The primary source of energy during aerobic exercise is fat, while the percentage of glycogen use increases as your heart rate heads towards your anaerobic threshold.
AG(er) Age Group(er)
AHR Average Heart Rate
Anaerobic Exercise The initial phase of exercise, or any short burst of intense exertion, where the glycogen or sugar is consumed without oxygen-a far less efficient process. Examples of anaerobic exercise include weight lifting, sprinting, and jumping.
Anaerobic Threshold The exercise intensity at which lactate (lactic acid) begins to be produced faster than it can be removed (metabolized), and it starts to accumulate in the blood stream
Aquabike A swimming stage followed by a biking stage with no run.
Aquathlon A swimming stage followed by a run stage with no cycling stage.
AT See Anaerobic Threshold
Athena Athena athletes are women over 165 pounds, previously 150 pounds.
ATP Annual Training Plan.
Basal Metabolic Rate The amount of energy expended while at rest in a neutrally temperate environment, in the post-absorptive state (meaning that the digestive system is inactive, which requires about twelve hours of fasting in humans).
Base The solid foundation of fitness on which you build power and speed.
Big Gear It’s using the bigger gear up front on your bike, making the workout harder at the same cadence.
BMR See Basal Metabolic Rate
Bonk When you suddenly lose energy and fatigue sets in, usually caused when glycogen stores in the liver and muscles are depleted, resulting in a major performance drop. Also “hitting the wall”.
BOP Back of the Pack
Borg scale A method of measuring physical activity on a scale of perceived exertion or how hard you feel your body is working. (See also RPE.)
Bottom Bracket The central axis on which the bicycle cranks rotate.
BPM Beats per Minute (heart rate)
Brick Training session combining two disciplines, typically cycling and running, used to simulate race experience and help your body adapt to switching sports quickly.
Burnout Condition similar to overtraining, caused by doing too much and/or too soon and/or with too little rest
Cadence Pedaling speed, measured in RPM (revolutions per minute).
Carbon fiber Strong but light material, from which many (top-end) bikes are now made.
Cassette The grouping of gears at the bike of a bicycle, which slide onto the hub of the rear rim.
CD Cool Down
Century A 100 mile bike ride, and now also used to describe a 100 kilometer bike ride, as in a Metric Century.
Chain Ring The gears in the front of a bicycle, usually referred to as the little ring and the big ring. Use the little ring for climbing and slower speeds and the big ring for faster riding and sprints.
Circuit resistance training A circuit of various weights to be completed one or more times with minimal rest between exercises. The emphasis is on endurance rather than power or strength.
Clipless Pedals Designed to securely accommodate special cycling shoes, meaning your feet sit in the most efficient position to transmit power through the pedals. Previously cyclists used toe clips and straps to secure their feet to the pedals for improved efficiency.
Clydesdale Clydesdale athletes are men over 220 pounds, previously 200 pounds.
Crank set The crank arms and chain rings that attach to the bottom bracket of a bicycle, to which your choice of pedals are attached.
Crit See Criterium
Criterium A type of bike race held on a short course (usually less than 3 miles), often run on closed-off city center streets. The length of the race can be determined by a number of laps or a total time, in which case the number of remaining laps is calculated as the race progresses.
Derailleur A system of variable-ratio gears allowing you to adjust abike’sgearing and thus your cadence.
DFL Dead f***ing last
DNF Did not finish
DNR Did not race
DNS Did not start
Dolphin Dive Technique used to get through shallow water that is more efficient than wading. Involves doing short shallow dives, standing up, and repeating until you get deep enough to swim.
Dolphin Kick Beating your legs in unison while swimming face down, used with the butterfly stroke.
DPS Distance Per Stroke, used in swim training to work on lengthening one’s stroke.
DQ Disqualified
Drafting The process by which one athlete follows directly behind another athlete. The athlete that is drafting gains an advantage, 20-30%, by doing less work, but still travels at the same speed as the lead athlete. Drafting is legal on the swim and run, illegal on the bike, except for world cup triathlon events, the Olympics, and draft legal races for athletes training for these races.
Drills Repetitive exercises focusing on technique to promote efficiency. Most commonly applied in the swim, there are bike drills and running drills too.
DU See Duathlon
Duathlon A race consisting of run, bike, run.
Fartlek Swedish term meaning “speed play” that is a relaxed method of interval training on the run.
Fingertip drag Time-honored swimming drill used to promote freestyle arm efficiency.
FOP Front of the pack
Frame size Common bike measurement, traditionally taken from the middle of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube. It’s vital your bike is the right fit as your seating position will affect efficiency, comfort and drag
FTP Functional Threshold Power, the maximum power you can maintain through an hour’s cycling effort without fatiguing.
Goodie Bag The bag of free stuff, coupons, ads, etc. you get when you pick up your race packet. See schwag.
GPS Global Positioning System, is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.
Grinding With regard to bike riding, grinding refers to a slow cadence while pedaling, say under 85 RPM, particularly when you’re on flat terrain. We all grind up the steeper hills when we run out of gears. There is not “normal” RPM for cycling, but 85-95 is where most people pedal.
Half Mary Half marathon, 13.1 miles
Hardware Award for placing in your AG (medal, trophy, etc.)
HF Hip Flexor, see psoas
HIM / Half-Ironman Half Ironman distance triathlon: 1.2mi, 56mi, 13.1mi, and in metric distances, 1.9km, 90km, 21.1km
HR Heart Rate
HR Training Zones Heart Rate training zones are five distinct training zones based on percentages of your Lactate Threshold HR, used to define your level of training for specific kinds of training and workouts. Joe Friel sets the standard that most people follow, differing slightly for the bike and run.

Run Zones
Zone 1 Less than 85% of LTHR
Zone 2 85% to 89% of LTHR
Zone 3 90% to 94% of LTHR
Zone 4 95% to 99% of LTHR
Zone 5a 100% to 102% of LTHR
Zone 5b 103% to 106% of LTHR
Zone 5c More than 106% of LTHR

Bike Zones
Zone 1 Less than 81% of LTHR
Zone 2 81% to 89% of LTHR
Zone 3 90% to 93% of LTHR
Zone 4 94% to 99% of LTHR
Zone 5a 100% to 102% of LTHR
Zone 5b 103% to 106% of LTHR
Zone 5c More than 106% of LTHR

HRLT Heart Rate at Lactate Threshold
HRM Heart Rate Monitor, is a personal monitoring device which allows one to view their heart rate in real time and record it for later study. A HRM with a GPS chip also provides pace for biking and running.
Hybrid A bike somewhere between a mountain bike and a road bike, which looks more like a mountain bike with its straight handlebars, but with 700c wheels like a road bike.
IM Individual Medley in swimming. Consists of equal distances of four strokes, usually between 100 and 400 yards: butterfly, backstroke, breast stroke and then freestyle.
IM Ironman distance triathlon: 2.4mi, 112mi, 26.2mi, and in metric distances, 3.8km, 180km, 42.2km
Interval Training Any cardiovascular workout (e.g., biking, running, rowing, etc.), that involves brief bouts at near-maximum exertion interspersed with periods of lower-intensity activity
Ironman Brand name of global series of triathlon events, run by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). Ironman distance triathlons are: 2.4mi, 112mi, 26.2mi, and in metric distances, 3.8km, 180km, 42.2km
ITU The International Triathlon Union is the international governing body for the multi-sport disciplines of triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon and other nonstandard variations. The ITU, which is headquartered in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, sanctions the ITU Triathlon World Cup and the ITU Triathlon World Championships.
Kick board A float you grip with your hands in the pool during kick sets
Kit Collection of cycling clothing (jersey, shorts, gloves, helmet)
Lactate Threshold The highest level at which your muscles can still convert glycogen to glucose aerobically, i.e., using oxygen. Exercising above this level will soon lead to discomfort as lactic acid (a by-product of the anaerobic process) accumulates in the bloodstream. Training at, or slightly above, this threshold will gradually push it upwards, allowing you to race faster. Also known as Anaerobic Threshold (AT) .
Lactic Acid Lactic acid is formed from glucose, and used by working muscles for energy. It is thought that muscle cells convert glucose or glycogen to lactic acid, then lactic acid is absorbed and converted to a fuel by mitochondria in muscle cells. Lactic acid is what causes muscle soreness.
Ladder An interval workout with progressively increasing then decreasing distances at each interval. For example, run fast for 400m, jog for 200m, run for 800m, jog for 200m, run for 1200m, jog for 200m, run for 800m, jog for 200m, run for 400m, jog for 200m.
LSD Long Slow Distance, some people say Long Steady Distance, not Lysergic acid diethylamide! LSD runs in particular are essential cardiovascular training foundation workouts for endurance events
LT See Lactate Threshold
Marathon A 26.2-mile running race, which constitutes the third part of an Ironman.
Mary Marathon
Mashing A cycling term indicating pedaling a big gear (53 x 13 or 14) with a slower cadence instead of spinning a smaller gear. See Grinding.
Mass Start When a race starts with all athletes at once, versus wave starts. Ironman distance triathlons are the premier event that uses mass starts, while most other triathlons do not, separating the races into waves, typically based on gender and age.
MHR Maximum Heart Rate, the highest rate that your heart can achieve. Your max HR is based on genetics, having a higher max HR doesn’t mean you’re a better/faster athlete, and you can not change this. A general rule of thumb is that your max HR drops by 1 beat/year from age 40 on.
Mdot Ironman trademark
MLSS Maximal Lactate Steady State, is defined as the highest blood lactate concentration (MLSSc) and work load (MLSSw) that can be maintained over time without a continual blood lactate accumulation.
MOP Middle of the Pack
MS Main Set (of a workout)
Negative split Finish the second half of a workout/race faster than the first half.
OA Over-All, as in overall placement in the race.
OBLA Onset of Blood Lactate, refers to an effort level in athletes that corresponded to the point at which blood lactate begins to increase exponentially.
OLY Olympic Distance Triathlon, a 1.5K swim, 40K cycle, 10K run. This term became standardized so the IOC (International Olympic Committee), would accept triathlon as a new Olympic sport. Prior to this, in the US we would call races of this distance International Distance, in reference to their metric distances.
OWS Open Water Swim, for example in the sea or a lake as opposed to in a pool.
Paddles Worn on the hands during swim training, they increase your workload.
PB Personal best
PE Perceived Exertion, a rating based on the 15 point Borg Scale, defining an athlete’s level of perceived exertion ranging from 6-20, from very, very light to very, very hard.
Peloton The large main group in a road bicycle race or the mass of riders out for a weekend ride.
Periodization Carefully planned training schedule, focusing on different training elements in turn and culminating with a specific competitive goal. Varying the training levels over discrete periods of time helps to prevent overtraining and allows an athlete to peak for the races.
Periodization Varying the training levels over discrete periods of time to prevent overtraining
PF Plantar Fasciitis
Power Meter A device on a bicycle that measures the power (defined as the amount of energy consumed per unit time, typically displayed in watts), output of the rider.
PR Personal record
Psoas The psoas major is a long fusiform muscle located on the side of the lumbar region of the vertebral column and brim of the lesser pelvis. It forms part of a group of muscles called the hip flexors, whose action is primarily to lift the upper leg towards the body when the body is fixed or to pull the body towards the leg when the leg is fixed.
Pull Swimming exercise using a float between your feet/legs, leaving only your arms free to pull you through the water.
Pull – Take a pulll Taking a turn to lead, allowing those behind to draft you and follow your pace. Typically associated with bike riding, technically it works on swims too.
Pull Buoy A shaped piece of foam you hold between your legs for pull sets in the pool, when you’re using paddles on your hands. You use this to help lift your hips higher during pull sets.
Pull Set A swimming drill set where you use paddles and a pull buoy, focusing on your upper body work while not kicking.
QR Quick release lever that allows bike wheels to be easily removed and replaced for travel.
Race Packet The packet you get that has your number, swim cap, chip, etc.
RD Race Director
RHR Resting Heart Rate
RI Rest interval
RICE Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate
RPE Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion, based on the Borg RPE Scale measures perceived exertion. In medicine this is used to document the patient’s exertion during a test, and sports coaches use the scale to assess the intensity of training and competition. The original scale introduced by Gunnar Borg rated exertion on a scale of 6-20.
The seemingly odd range of 6-20 is to follow the general heart rate of a healthy adult by multiplying by 10. For instance, a perceived exertion of 12 would be expected to coincide with a heart rate of roughly 120 beats per minute.
RPM Revolutions per minute, the rate at which you are turning your cranks when you cycle. See Cadence.
Run or ride belt Waist-mounted belt for carrying snack bars/gels/drinks.
Schwag Free stuff given out at race expos and in your pre-race packet bag. Some of it is useful, most of it is promotional material for the companies displaying their wares.
SPD clips Shimano Pedaling Dynamics clipless pedal system (now a standard term).
Spinning On the bike this means pedaling at a higher than normal cadence, typically over 100. See it’s counterpart, grinding.
Split Your time for a portion of your race or workout. For instance, your mile splits in a 5k are your times for each individual mile.
Sprint A short-distance triathlon, typically a 1/4 mile swim, 6-15 mile bike, 2-3 mile run.
Strides One of several good drills to perform before your harder run workouts and races. On a track you would do at least two laps where you gradually pick up speed along each straight, “striding out”, and then jog the corners, repeating this for the two complete laps. By the end your HR has climbed, your legs are warmed up, and you’re ready to run fast.
T1 First transition, where a competitor switches from swimming to cycling.
T2 Second transition, where a competitor switches from cycling to running.
Taco A bent bike wheel that looks like, well, a taco! A.k.a. pretzled.
Tempo Training Working just below your lactate threshold for an extended period (rather than a short interval). This will raise the threshold, raising the speed at which you can exercise for long periods
The Washing Machine Referring to an OWS start
Threshold Test Is a test designed for cyclists and runners to determine their Anaerobic or Lactate Threshold heart rate. This value is then used to determine their heart rate training zones.
Threshold training See Tempo Training
TI Total Immersion, swimming instruction by Terry Laughlin, which primarily focuses on making us long and narrow in the water like a racing sailboat, versus short and wide like a barge, minimizing our frontal drag, so we can swim faster.
Time-trial bike A purpose built bicycle for time trialing. Used by both cyclists and triathletes, the differ slightly for each, where the UCI has a more restrictive view of what a bicycle frame looks like and the positions of the saddle relative to the bottom bracket. See Tri-Bike
Toe-clips A clip on a bike pedal, with a strap, that ensures the foot doesn’t sit too far forward. These have been pretty much relegated to the back of our garages with the advent of the clipless pedal systems, in its various formats.
Transition Area Place where a triathlete keeps belongings (i.e., bike, wetsuit, running shoes) during a triathlon. This area is part of the race course. After a triathlete finishes their swim, they run to the transition area where they mount their bike. After the bike leg of the race is completed, the triathlete dismounts their bike (in the same spot they retrieved it) and begins the run portion. The race always ends at the finish line (usually near the transition area).
Transition Run A short (around 10 minutes or 1 mile) run off the bike, as opposed to a Brick Run, which is usually a longer run.
Tri-Bike A triathlon-specific bicycle designed for riding in the aerodynamic position. This bike features aero bars, a steep seat tube angle to put you farther over the cranks and allow for a comfortable aerodynamic position.
Tri-Geek One who is obsessed with triathlons and all the toys that go with it. He/she lives for the sport, loves to talk about triathlons, loves to train for triathlons, and is involved with anything having to do with the sport. Cyclists love to call triathletes this name.
TT Time Trial (usually in reference to cycling)
Turbo (static) trainer A device that holds a bicycle in place, applying resistance to the rear wheel, used for indoor training.
UCI Union Cycliste Internationale, “International Cycling Union” is the world governing body for sports cycling and oversees international competitive cycling events, based in Aigle, Switzerland.
USAT USA Triathlon is the national governing body for the multisport disciplines of triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon and winter triathlon in the United States. USA Triathlon is a member federation of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Triathlon Union, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
VO2 Max The highest rate at which oxygen can be taken up and utilized during exercise by a person.
Waves When a race starts in staggered groups (waves) usually separated by gender and age groups.
Wrench A bike mechanic.
WTC The World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) is a for-profit corporation, owned by Providence Equity Partners, that organizes, promotes and licenses the Ironman Triathlon, Ironman 70.3, and the 5150 series of triathlon races. The WTC is also the owner of numerous “Ironman” related trademarks used both in connection with Ironman race series’ and in conjunction with various goods and services.
WU Warm Up

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