A-Z Of Triathlon & Ironman Terms


The list is endless but we have added over 100 of the most common words and abbreviated things that are used in triathlon. Some are unique to triathlon while others were first used in single sports like swimming cycling & running.

We do not wish to make the world of triathlon too complicated, see below our a-z triathlon jargon list to help you better understand the sport.

The list below only briefly describes each jargon word many more words are needed to give a much clearer description. A full detail of the list below will be available soon.

If you know of any we have missed send us an e-mail?

ABSOLUTE POWER OUTPUT – this is your average power you generate. This could be the average power for a time trial or triathlon.

ADAPTATION PHASE – a period of training those changes from one style to another. It could be changing from endurance to pre competition.

ADRENALINE – Fight or flight hormone. Released to increase our ability to use oxygen also improves better glucose use.

AERO - this can be referring to a tear drop aero helmet or getting into the triathlon tri bar position making you more aerodynamic when cycling.

AEROBIC – exercise that uses oxygen usually under 80% of MHR for that sport. Expect the max to be higher for the run than the cycle and higher for the cycle than the swim.

AEROBARS – using aero or clip on tri bars allow you to be more aerodynamic than standard drop cycle bars.

If you’re set up is correct you will be lower and narrower at the front in the aero position and will go faster for less energy.

ALOHA – The Hawaiian word means hello, goodbye, I love you depending on the tone of the voice and whatever the contextual use is.

ANTI-OXIDANTS - Radicals which causes damage at the cellular level. This can result in ill health and slow recovery. Foods that contain anti-oxidants reduce this damage.

ANAEROBIC - exercise without using oxygen AT/LT approx 80/85% of MHR

ANAEROBIC THRESHOLD (AT) – the training zone that you can only maintain for about 60 minutes.

AQUATHON – Non stop swim and run event.

AQUA SHOES – worn and taken off before you enter the water to avoid cutting your feet.

AT/LT: ANAEROBIC THRESHOLD – when the work rate produces more lactate than the liver can remove. Then muscular contractions have to slow down.

ATP:Adenosine Tri-Phosphate - is the main energy fuel. Glycogen/ Carbohydrates/Protein/Fats are broken down to ATP.

ATZ – Anaerobic Threshold Zone (80-90%) is the highest intensity you can maintain during an interval or a hard climb on the bike. A sign is a burning feeling in your legs.

ARHR – Average Resting Heart Rate is the number of beats your heart beats when you wake up in the morning.

BAR END SHIFTERS –to avoid coming out of the aero tri bar position you have gear levers fitted to the ends of the aero bars/tri bars so you can change gear.

BEANS – this is often referred to energy beans carried during cycling and running. Sport beans www.sportsbeans.com

BIKE FIT – spending time getting your bike to fit you will improve your performance and comfort and allow you to run well after. Expect it to take 1,000 miles (1600km) before you and your muscles get use to any changes in position. Seek expert advice and expect to take an hour to make adjustments.

BILATERAL BREATHING – breathing to both sides during front crawl. A skill required especially when the waves are coming from one side to avoid swallowing water.

BP – BP1 breathe very stroke, BP2 Breathe every 2 strokes, B3 Breathe every 3 strokes.

BIT & BIT – the front cyclist moves to the side from where the wind is blowing and works at a much harder pace than the riders behind who are sheltered in his slip stream. The front rider then drops back slowly usually from the side that the wind is blowing and the second rider now works at the front against the wind resistance. The rider that was at the front now is at the back and recovers until it is their turn to be at the front again.

BLOOD SUGAR LEVEL – amount of glucose currently in the blood.

BONK – it’s the feeling when an athlete runs out of energy, like hitting the wall in the marathon. Light headed very low blood energy available. In many circumstances very difficult to carry on or a drastic reduction in speed.

BRICK SESSION – This is combing 2 sports together. It is usually a bike to run or swim to bike for Triathlon or a run to bike for duathlon. A multiple Brick session can be a Bike then run followed shortly after by another bike then run. High intensity keeps good form.

BTF – British Triathlon Federation is the national governing body for the sport of triathlon in Great Britain. www.britishtriathlon.org

BURN – the mark left by a wet suit when it rubs

B2B – Back to Back session. Swim to Bike or bike to run.

CADENCE – The frequency of your legs spinning on a bike or number of strides per minute when running.

CARDIAC DRIFT – this is the increase in the heart rate not caused by going faster but as a result of fatigue, dehydration and heat.

CATCH UP – When swimming front crawl extend your right arm as far as possible past your left hand before pulling back your left hand. So called because you wait till the entering hand catches up and passes the hand that is already extended.

CD – Cool down after exercise. Gently slowing down to speed up recovery.

CF – Carbon Fibre used for bike manufacturer.

CHIP TIMING – this is a transponder that is unique to each athlete. When the athlete crosses the start line intermediate timing mats and the finish line their times are recorded. Champion Chip & RFID are just two of the many brands available. In running you wear the chip on your shoe and in a Triathlon you attach it to some neoprene and wear it around your ankle for the swim bike run.

COMPRESSION CLOTHING – the clothing is designed to push the blood back towards the heart which will then delay the onset of lactic acid build up.Compression clothing also works because it is designed to compress and hold the muscles together in their correct anatomical position. Manufactures claim that they hold muscles together, reducing muscle vibration which then reduces the fatigue created by this vibration.

CO2 (Cartridge) – Used in with a fitment to put air into a tyre in seconds saving precious time should you get a flat.

CR – Cycling repeats with the purpose to keep the time from bottom to the top the same.

CROSS TRAIINING (CT) – this can be a different exercise to your main sport. I.e. if you compete in triathlon swimming cycling and running you may cross train on a concept 2 rowing machine. Cross training can also be referred to as two consecutive exercises or using two muscle groups at the same time.

CRITICAL POWER: CP – this is your average power watts for a given distance.

DEAD LEG SYNDROME – experienced when you have tried to hard on the bike and try and run after.

DECA IRONMAN – 10 times the ironman distance. The athlete covers 24 miles cycles 1112 miles then cover 262 mile on foot taking 8 hours with 1-2 hours sleep each day.

DESCENDING – when each repetition is quicker than the previous. For example 100m swim splits 1:58 then 1:51 then 1:47; then 1:45

DDM – dual density midsole in your running shoe.

DNF – did not finish the race.

DNS – did not start the race.

DNT – Did Not Train as a result of injury sickness or other commitments. Not due to the weather, having the appropriate clothing or equipment should never stop you training.

DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is damaged caused by micro-scopic damage to muscle fibres. Soreness or pain usually gets worse in the 24 hours after exercise that caused it. Expect pain to go without treatment in 2-7 days.

DOUBLE IRON – this is a triathlon that is twice the Ironman distance 4.8 mile Swim 224 miles cycling and 52.4 miles running. Non-stop no sleep CONTINOUS triathlon. John Quinn Huntsville Alabama 1994 recorded a course record of 19 hours: 36 minutes. Mark Kleanthous did 23 hours 51 minutes.

DOWN STROKE – The movement completed when cycling that generates 85% of your cycling power.

DRAFTING – in the slip stream of another competitor will save energy. There is a drafting zone in cycling if you stay inside this distance you can get a time penalty or be disqualified. Check your race information for more details. Also known as a technique work out which should be incorporated at least once a week in swimming cycling and running during the warm up and warm down.

DRILLS – This can be a swim cycle or run drill. Emphasis on one part of the movement. Swim drill could involve catching the water getting more feel or the push back phase. Cycling drill can be single legged cycling emphasis to improve a more full circular movement or working on lifting the knee up rather than just pushing down. Running drill can put emphasis on more economical movement reducing contact time on foot landing and pushing off. Improving leg kick and better use of the arms to help you run faster.

DQ – when DQ appears after the name of an athlete in the results it means that they have been disqualified. Always read the race information, obey the races and concentrate.

DUATHLON – Run bike run. The standard powerman distance is 10kn run 40km bike 5km run.

EM – Endurance miles required to develop your base fitness.

ENDURANCE ZONE – is the training zone you train at 60-70% of max heart rate to build up endurance.

ES – is for Easy Session usually used in a training plan.

FARTLEK (Swedish word for speed play) – Running usually off road either structured (time or distance) or unstructured (as you feel different distances) fast and slow speeds not necessary flat out intervals just a different change of pace.

FG – Fixed gear bike used on the track and on the road to improve smooth 360 degree cycling action. You have to always keep pedalling no free wheeling.

FUEL BELT – used for carrying fluids gels bars and salt tablets generally during the run section.

FUEL UP – not just for racing but training. Good nutrition after training speeds up recovery and your fitness at the same time. Fitness is the ability to recover at the time or quickly afterwards.

GELS – a pouch containing energy, the athletes best friend. Companies manufacturing gels include Accelerade www.accelerade.com Cliff, GU www.gusports.com , High5 www.highfive.co.uk, Honey Stinger www.honeystinger.com , Maxim www.maxim-nrg.com power bar, Leppin www.sportadecorp.com ,Torq bars and gels www.torq.ltd.uk. Power bar www.powerbar.com , Science in sport www.scienceinsport.com Check each individual packet as calories can vary with even with different each flavours. Expect about 100 calories of easily digestible carbohydrates.

GLASSY – the description used for open water to compare it with smooth glass, like a mill pond to describe the surface of the water no wind or water movement.

GLIDE – The section of the swim stroke when you glide through the water.

GLUCOSE – small amount of carbohydrate in the blood available and ready to use for energy.

GRANNY RING – also known as the little front ring on a bike.

GPS – Global positioning system using satellite technology. Tells you where you are. The top spec ones tell you how far you have travelled, height climbed heart rate.

HAMMER – describes hammering the bike or flying along. Just like nailing the bike. Fast and almost effortless.

HAEMOGLOBIN – the red blood cells have a protein called haemoglobin, oxygen attaches itself to the haemoglobin in the lungs and the oxygen rich cells are carried around the body in the blood stream to the cells. Training cannot increase your haemoglobin

HGH – human growth hormone that is needed for growth.

HIT THE WALL – a phrase coined from the marathon where you felt you had literally hit the wall and had stopped and could not go any further. Sudden energy levels that caused a sudden drop in speed.

HR – Heart Rate.

HRM – Heart rate monitor

HYPERTONIC DRINKS – contain high levels of carbohydrate for giving you energy but are slower to absorb than water.

HYDRODYNAMIC – the force on an object in the water. Wetsuits are designed to create less resistance so you can swim faster.

HYDROPHOBIA – a huge fear of water.

HYPERVENTILATION – often caused by shock of suddenly entering cold water or starting too quickly without an adequate warm up.

HYPERGLYCEMIA -is usually caused by an over abundance of insulin and low food intake, also abnormal levels of blood sugar can cause it. The most common symptoms are double vision, hunger, muscle weakness, faintness, and nausea.

HYPOTHERMIA – caused by prolonged exposure to water.

HYPOTONIC DRINKS – Diiferent to Hypertonic drinks in that they contain a low percentage of carbohydrate so they are absorbed quickly mainly to rehydrate you.

HYPNOTREMIA (low blood sodium levels)– if you just have water you risk. You can avoid this condition which can be fatal by having salt tablets.

ICE CREAM HEAD – if you have ever had cold ice cream and it’s made your head cold this is the same that you can experience when your head goes into the water.

INTERVALS – hard intensity training with recovery between. Depending on what you hope to achieve a long recovery is taken to go fast during the intensity or a short recovery to build up endurance and get use to extreme fatigue. Intervals work because you train the HEART and MUSLCES to work at higher ranges then the heart has to recover in a fatigued state, fitness is all about recovery and improving cardiovascular endurance.

IRONMAN 70.3 – This is the official name for the half distance of the ironman Triathlon so named because you swim bike and run 70.3 miles.

IRONMAN DISTANCE – 2.4 mile Swim 112 mile Cycle 26.2 mile Marathon.

IRONMAN FAMILY – when you have completed an Ironman you are part of the Ironman family.

IRT – A triathlon that is starts run bike swim called a In Reverse Triathlon.

ISOKINETIC EXERCISE – is when the muscle contracts at a constant rate while the maximum muscular tension occurs.

ISOMETRIC EXCERCISE – is when there is no change in the length of the muscle but tension increases.

ISOTONIC EXERCISE – the muscle contracts with different tension while lifting a load.

KILOJOULE (9KJ) – measures energy. One joule = one watt of work/power for one second. One Kilojoule = 1,000 joules.

KONA – the place in Hawaii where the Ironman Triathlon World Championships are held every first full moon of October.

MAGIC MARKER – A felt tip pen to number your arms and legs with.

MS – main set of training in between a warm up and warm down.

MSHR - Maximum sustainable heart rate.

MSP – Maximum Sustainable power during a given time i.e. 6 minutes or 60 minutes.

NAIL IT – precise accurate performance usually on the bike like banging in a nail straight without any problem. Failing to nail it will be like just bashing at a nail bending it and having to start again.

NEGATIVE SPLIT – Completing the second half quicker than the first half swimming cycling running or any other sport.

NEOPRENE – the material used for making wetsuits.

NEUTRAL GAIT – this is a running style that needed a stable flexible running shoe. Under 25% of runners have a neutral gait other over-pronate or under pronate.

NEGATIVE SPLIT – the second half of your training racing is faster than the first. If an out and back run you came back quicker than the time it took to get to the turn.

LACE LOCKS – a quick release system for fast entry into running shoes.

LACTIC ACID – produced by exercise due to the incomplete break down of glucose during the production of producing energy when in intense exercise. A by-product of anaerobic work which slows and can stop muscle contraction.

Level 1 is at 65-75% of MHR easy to moderate effort needed to improve endurance also for warming up and recovery. Easy to talk with full sentences.
Level 2 is at 75-85% MHR and required for developing aerobic power. Many athletes fail to train in this zone; they either train too slow or too fast. Talking for more than 5 seconds is difficult at level 2.
Level 3 is at 85-95% intensity. This effort is needed to develop Lactate Threshold (LT) and required for Olympic distance events and the ability to cope with build up of fatigue. Talking is difficult especially more than 3-4 words at one time.
Level 4 is above 95% and needed for V02 max sprinting talking is almost impossible. Efforts can only be maintained for a few seconds.

L.S.D: Long Slow Distance - training at sub maximal effort to improve endurance.

LT LACTATE THRESHOLD – this is when the blood lactate reaches a level in the blood during intense exercise and accumulates faster than the body can get rid of it. This is a much better indicator for the endurance athlete than the test for V02 maximum. You have to be rested for 96 hours before this type of testing to get an accurate result, hard training in the 4 days before could give you a lower result.

M-DOT – The official name for the Ironman logo. Ironman finishers will often have the M Dot tattoo put on their lower leg.

MHR – maximum heart rate.

MIDDLE DISTANCE TRIATHLON (70.3) – often referred to as 70.3 (miles) 1.2 mile swim 56 mile Bike 13.1 mile Run.

MULTI-SPORTS – events such as Aquathon, Decathlon, Pentathlon and Triathlon, those events that combine more than one sport.

ONSET OF BLOOD LACTATE (OBLA) -is when blood lactate reaches 4 millimoles per litre in the blood during intense exercise.

OLYMPIC DISTANCE TRIATHLON (OD) – 1500m Swim 40km Bike 10km Run

ODBB – Over Dose same as Over drawn bank balance. You need to slow down and build up your reserves. This refers to having nothing in your tank from too much training too soon without adequate recovery.

OVERLOAD -is required to push yourself in small amounts and be able to recover from extra demands. The secret is knowing when how much is enough and avoid over training.

OVER-PRONATION – the foot when running has too much motion at the top of the foot and the foot rolls inwards. Often as a result of a flexible foot. A curve lasted shoe or see a running gait expert for individual orthotics. Lower leg and knee injuries are associated with over-pronate running style.

OVERREACHING – create extra fatigue to improve i.e. a training camp or an increase block of training, but needs 2-14 days to recover to notice any benefits.

OVERTRAINED – when you have over reached your ability to recover. You are now in a chronic state of fatigue, this can take many weeks if not months to fully recover from.

PERIODISATION – describes the training year and its phases each part has a part to play in total fitness. Microcycle last 7 days, Mesocycle lasts 4 weeks Macro cycle last 12 months. Quadrennial cycle last 4 years and is also known as an Olympic. Long term cycle is the whole career of the athlete.

PKWS – post killer workouts give you confidence but without adequate rest can lead to hormonal imbalances and overtraining and disappointing results.

POST RACE NUTRITION – Hydration and the “carbohydrate window “of opportunity is when your muscles have the best ability to refuel.

PRONATION – helps the foot absorb shock by naturally rolling forward.

PROPRIOCEPTION – manufacturers of compression clothing believe that wearing compression garments give feedback to us quicker where our limbs are at that time. Proprioception is impaired when we are tired.

PRIME – this is where extra points or prizes are given to the athlete.
Triathlon – first out of the swim Fastest in T1, Fastest Bike Fastest T2 or fastest Run.
Cycling – first to a point or hill wins that prime of the day, the most points during the race or multi day competition is the point’s winner.

PYRAMID SET – this is a set where you build up the distance then reduce the distance again. A pyramid 1500m swim session could be a broken down into the following. 50m/100/150m/200m/250m/250m/200m/150m/100m/50m.

RACE BELT – Attach your race number to your elasticised belt. Pin your number onto the belt. Have the number showing on your back for the bike pull belt round so you can display your number on the front for the run.

REPETITION – this is often referred to as a rep for short. The whole of the effort i.e. 100m swim or 400m run.
REST DAYS – novice or athletes who underperform ignore having rest days while the experienced athletes know how important they are and don’t shout from the roof tops their importance. This is when your body recovers. Elite athletes who have been endurance training for 5 or more years may often have VERY EASY active recovery days but remember they have more rest per day anyway; they may train much more but will have extra sleep and quality rest between training.

REST INTERVALS (RI) – this is the recovery time between hard efforts sets or reps.

RESTING METABOLIC RATE (RMR) - is the calories burned (needed) daily without calories required for activity.

ROLLER COASTER WORKOUT – after a thorough warm up a typical session could be. Swim easy hand paddles and flippers hard without. Half and quarter lengths hard and rest of length easy rather than stick to full lengths. Even consider half length easy, then hard to wall then hard off wall for half a length then easy for last half of length.

Bike non-stop 1 minute seated high cadence, 1 minutes out of the saddle low cadence, 1 minute seated low cadence, 1 minute out of saddle high cadence. Another session could be ride up the first 2 hills easy then the next 2 hills very hard then continue riding and repeat while alternating cycling every odd hill (1-3-5 etc) in the saddle and the even hills (2,4,6,8,10) out of the saddle irrespective of the severity and length of the upcoming hill.

Run roller coaster session could be find a very rolling area then after a thorough warm up intersperse the hard running with a segment of easy running.

Run down a hill up a hill easy, medium effort hard up medium down, easy up very hard down. If you want to go faster consider walking to recover then run much faster.Unlike Fartlek you are trying something new with hard running on time and terrain.

ROPE Rating of Perceived Exertion – A scale of effort numbered as 1 -20. One = sitting in a chair.6-7 Very light effort. 9-10 Very light 11-12 Easy light effort. 13-14 medium light effort. 15-16 Hard. 17-18 Very Hard 19-20 is VERY VERY HARD.

RP - race pace efforts.

+ RP = faster than race pace for shorter periods.

–RP slower than race pace

RPE – race pace efforts

RPM – Revs per minute while cycling.

RRCA – Road Runners Club of America, national association of running clubs.

SEND OFF – this can be either the time that the athlete starts in a handicap race with the objective that all athletes of mixed ability aim to finish together or the time that the athlete starts each interval. This could be starting each 100m every 2 minutes, so the quicker you swim the more rest you get but your send off time is 2 minutes.

SET – a number of repetition efforts is a set.

SHOT – a shot describes energy consumed from a gel to avoid hitting the wall.

SPLASH MASH DASH – another description for triathlon.
SPLITS – The different parts of your Triathlon, the Swim, The time it takes to exit the swim get to your bike exit transition, the time it takes to cycle the bike leg, the time it takes to enter transition rack your bike and exit again, the time it takes to complete the run section. Your total race divided into split times.

SPECIAL NEEDS BAG – the bag you are given at the ironman to put your favourite foods and drinks in. It is then handed to you during the bike section.

SPORTS BARS – Too many to mention here. Full report on each one to follow shortly. See Gels above for web sites that make gels and bars.

SPRINT TRIATHLON – the standard distance for the sprint triathlon is 750m swim 20km Cycle 5km Run.

SWIM SESSION – S.K.P.D = Swim Kick Pull Drills.

T1 - Transition one, from swimming to bike section.

T2 - Transition from cycling to running.

T3 - – often referred to as recovery or sleep

TAPER – You reduce the volume & intensity or both prior to a competition to allow the body to recover and store extra energy.

TRASHED – an athlete that has paced themselves well hydrated and had correct nutrition has performed to the best of their ability will have extended themselves and will feel like trash, wasted.

TRI BIKE – a time trial bike to get aerodynamic. Lightweight and aero with steep angles. Able to fit many drinks bottles bars etc.

TRIATHLETE – an athlete who has competed in a Swim Bike Run Triathlon.

TRIATHLON ESSENTIALS – Aquapshere open water goggles, wet suit, triathlon suit, time trial bike with tri bars, aero wheels, sunglasses, cycle helmet, cycle shoes Velcro easy entry and exit, clip less pedal system, run shoes fitted with elastic laces.

TRIATHLON GEEK – a person who is obsessed with triathlon and has all the latest gizmos that go with triathlon. Just has to have the best of everything. 95% of searches made are on the internet are triathlon based. The partner throws out the triathlon magazines and the tri Geek secretly gets them out and hides them! Goes out training when the biggest sporting game of the year is on the television. Spends more time on holiday in sports stores than normal shops. Lives breathes eats sleeps www.triathlon247.com best item of clothing is a past triathlon t-shirt. Triathlon clothes take pride of place rather than regular clothes.

TARGET ZONES – are a range of heart rate zones designed for a specific purpose. Makes you more productive with your time. They are called recovery 55-70%, endurance 60-75%, aerobic & tempo 70-80%, and anaerobic threshold 80-90%. All zones are required to improve overall fitness, knowing how much when in each zone is the secret to success to improve different components of fitness.

THRZ = Target Heart Rate Zone – staying within a planned heart rate range to improve one type of fitness.

TMG – TWG – TYG – training monthly goals, training weekly goals, training yearly goals. These are short mid and long term goals you aim to achieve. TRANSITION - this is the area between swim and run where the bike and equipment is kept to change between swim to bike and bike to run.

TRI-SUIT - a one piece suit that you use to swim bike run so you do not need to change clothes during the triathlon saving time. Made from quick drying breathable with a chamois. A two piece tri-suit has more ventilation, cooler and allows more movement.

TT – time trial efforts.

TUCK – in the aerodynamic position.

TURBO – is an indoor bike accessory that attached to the rear wheel and creates resistance. A stationary trainer is Ideal when the weather is not suitable (Dark Cold Windy Icy etc) and you can work much harder more safely and stop when ever you need to. Also you can train more scientifically to a planned session without having to worry about other road users or pot holes.
TYPE 1 MUSCLE FIBER – small aerobic muscle that can produce easy & steady efforts for long periods of time. High resistance to low fatigue and slow contraction time.

TYPE 2 MUSCLE FIBER – muscles that can produce high energy efforts. Low resistance to fatigue but fast reaction time.

USCF – United States Cycling Federation the governing body for amateur cycling.

UNDER PRONATION (supination) – a ruining style that has a rigid foot motion. When the foot hits the ground it rolls along the outside edge. Seek running gait help for orthotics. The minority of runners run this way so there is a limited number of shoe made for this type of gait. Injuries can occur if you have a high arch as you cannot absorb the shock and so need a cushioned sole.

VO2 – maximum oxygen uptake capacity of a person to use oxygen during one minute. Increasing exercise. An effort that you are only able to maintain for up to 2 minutes. An elite athlete would have a V02 max of 75

VT - Ventilatory Threshold normally coincides with anaerobic threshold. This is when you are unable to supply enough o2 to meet the demands of the working muscles.

WTC – World Triathlon Corporation – www.ironmanlive.com

XTERRA – This is a global triathlon series with at least one race in every continent. Swimming cycling and running off-road. The World Championships are held in Maui Hawaii in October each year after qualifying races all around the world.

ZIPP – a brand of cycling wheels. Aero wheels shallow deep section and disc wheels for every type of rider and course.

ZOOT – A triathlon clothing company based in Hawaii called Zoot.

Please log on again for more updates triathlon tips coming soon, remember to tell a friend about our web site.