Tri Lingo

A Glossary of Triathlon Terms

The distance of a full Ironman triathlon. It consists of a 2.4-mile/3.8-kilometer swim, 112-mile/180-kilometer bike, and 26.2-mile/42.2-kilometer run.

The distance of a half Ironman triathlon. It consists of a 1.2-mile/1.9-kilometer swim, 56-mile/90-kilometer bike, and 13.1-mile/21.1-kilometer run.

6.2 miles

2 a day
Two workouts per day

Nutrition calorie percentages–Carbs/proteins/fats

3.1 miles

Active Recovery
Though you might be tempted to sit down after your race and not get up for the next 3 days, studies show performing low-intensity exercises immediately after hard activity is better for circulation and helps remove lactic acid.

Age Group(er)
Triathlon race results are often divided up into age groups. These are every 5 years starting at 20. It means you can see how you compare with others approximately the same age as you.

Aerobic Exercise
Any type of exercise that maintains an increased heart rate when performed at moderate levels of intensity for extended periods of time. Running a long distance at a moderate pace is an aerobic exercise, but sprinting is anaerobic.

Age Group(er)

Average Heart Rate

Race with just a swim and a run.

This refers to a position that an athlete assumes on the bike in order to minimize drag

Aero Bars
Also can be called “tri bars.” They are handlebars that face forward with places to put your elbows. The position keeps your elbows closer to the body and lowers your torso compared to the usual upright biking position. These bars allow triathletes to maintain a comfortable aerodynamic position.

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
When you exercise above the intensity at which the body’s need for oxygen can be met. This intensity can be sustained only briefly. For example, an all-out sprint—which requires a great deal of power output in a short period of time — uses the anaerobic system. Elite endurance athletes on average have a higher AT than untrained individuals.

A swimming stage followed by a biking stage with no run.

See Anaerobic Threshold

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).

The solid foundation of fitness on which you build power and speed.

See Basal Metabolic Rate

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”.

Beats per Minute (heart rate)

Commonly, a combination workout that includes a bike and run back to back. It can be any combination of triathlon sports with less than 10 minutes between sports.


Cool Down

Bike ride of 100 miles

Chamois Butter
A clean, non-greasy lubricant between you and your cycling shorts. In addition to making biking more comfortable, it reduces the chances of saddle sores, and restores dried-out chamois & short liners.

Front chain rings and pedal cranks on a bike. These come standard in set of two, but are also available as a triple set.

Distance Per Stroke
A freestyle swimming drill where your goal is to take fewer strokes per lap. If it takes you 25 strokes for one lap, you’d want to do the next lap in 23 strokes (without just pushing off the wall farther).

Endurance Ride
A cycling workout at a moderate intensity level. You want to stay at a pace below lactate threshold for a majority of the ride.

Did not finish

Did not race

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.


The process by which one athlete follows directly behind another athlete. The athlete that is drafting gains an advantage (roughly 20%) by doing less work, but still travels at the same speed as the lead athlete. In most triathlons drafting is illegal on the bike, but it is never illegal during the swim. All world cup triathlon events and the Olympics are draft legal.

See Duathlon

A race consisting of run, bike, run.

Invented by a Swedish coach as a form of interval training to help running speed. You alternate between periods of fast bursts above race and lactate threshold pace and short periods of jogs for recovery. The time of the jog is kept short to keep your body

Half Ironman.

Heart rate.

Ironman (or IM)
Ironman distance race (2.4mi/3.8km swim, 112mi/180km bike, 26.2mi/42.2km run).

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.

Collection of cycling clothing (jersey, shorts, gloves, helmet).

Lactate Threshold
The exercise intensity at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in your blood stream. This happens when blood lactate is produced faster than it can be removed, which can govern your speed. Exercise helps train your body to process lactate.

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.

An interval workout that progressively increases then decreases distances. For example, run fast for 400 meters, jog for 200 meters, run for 800 meters, jog for 200 meters, and run for 1200 meters. Then work your way back down by running for 800 meters, jogging for 200 meters, running for 400 meters, and finish with jogging for 200 meters.
 The ladder also helps increase your threshold by improving circulation.

The opposite of a “spinner,” a masher pedals a big gear slowly to conserve energy, rather than “spinning” a smaller gear at a faster pace. Beware: This technique is linked to knee injuries and leg cramps.

Negative Split
A technique preached by many coaches in which you pace yourself through the first half of a race in order to run the second half at a faster pace.

Olympic distance triathlon (1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run).

Open water swim.

Personal record.

The big group of cyclists in a road race who together so they can draft off each other.

Changing the focus and workload of training over a period of time. If you start your training months out, then it’s a slow and steady progression to longer and more intense workouts before your body is physically able to compete.

Race Packet
The race specific materials you get after having registered for an event. This usually contains your race number, a color coded swim cap, timing chip, coupons, etc.

Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE/Borg Scale)
A method of measuring physical activity on a scale of how hard you feel your body is working. The Borg Scale ranges from 6 to 20, with 6 being no exertion at all and 20 being maximum effort. It’s believed that the rating you think you are working at can be multiplied by 10 to estimate your heart rate (16×10=160 beats per minute).

Revolutions per minute. The pace at which you are turning your cranks when you cycle.

Rear Cassette
These are the chain rings at the rear of the bike.

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.

Cycling at a high cadence without pushing as recovery

Sprint distance tri — 750m swim, 20K bike, 5K run.

The area where you leave your bike during a race. It’s part of the race. After the swim you pick up your bike here then at the end of the bike you swap your bike for running shoes

The swim — bike transition

The bike — run transition

A place to keep your equipment — your bike, wetsuit, towel, running shoes, and other gear — and to the process of changing disciplines during a race. “Transition 1” refers to a station between the swim and bike portion where you wipe your feet, put on shoes, and mount your bike. “Transition 2” is the checkpoint between the bike and run where bicycles are traded for running shoes. Triathletes consider transition a “fourth discipline” worth practicing before race day to minimize time at the stop.

Transition Run
A short (around 10 minutes or 1 mile) run off the bike (as opposed to a Brick, which is usually a longer run).

Tri bike
Triathlon specific bike with aero bars, a steep seat angle, and aero wheels (possibly a disc wheel at the back).

Time trial. A cycling race over a set distance (Usually 10m or 25m) where the person who completes it in the quickest time wins.

USA Triathlon, the national governing body for the multi-sport disciplines of triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon and winter triathlon in the United States.

VO2 Max
The highest rate at which oxygen can be taken up and utilized during exercise by a person.

When a race does not start en masse, the RD will break it up into groups called waves. Often separated by gender and AG’s.

Warm Up.