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Useful Triathlon Terms Beginner Triathletes Must Know

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

Triathlete Swim Bike Run Race Photos
Norma Rocking Her Triathlon Race

We are so excited for you and your decision to embark on your triathlon journey. As a beginner triathlete, we know all to well that getting started in triathlon can be confusing and overwhelming some times - no worries we got you!

As you begin to train, adopt a training plan, join a triathlon club and watch countless YouTube how-to video's - you will quickly realize that you need a glossary of triathlon terms, lingo and vocabulary to speak and understand all things Tri.

SwimBikeRun Fun Club is a supportive and fun community and we wish to assist you and make your transition into being a triathlete easier by providing a comprehensive list of common triathlon terms, abbreviations and lingo used.

We created this great resource to get you started in quickly in triathlon, prep you for awesomeness and put you on a path to success. Below you will find "70 Common Triathlon Terms" frequently used by triathletes, coaches and race directors.

Female Triathletes in T1 exiting the water off a Race

70 Triathlon Terms & Lingo New Triathletes Need To Know

  1. Aerobars: These special handlebars extend out from your bike and give you a place to rest your elbows. They offer a more aerodynamic, tucked position than can help you achieve faster bike times.

  2. Aerobic Threshold: The exercise intensity at which the blood concentration of lactate and/or lactic acid begins to exponentially increase.

  3. Age-Grouper: Amateur athletes are called age-group athletes, competing with others in 5-year age and gender groups. Race age is determined by one’s age on Dec. 31 of the race year.

  4. AOS: Adult Onset Swimmer is someone who didn't learn to swim as a child.

  5. Aquabike: A multisport event where participants swim and cycle but don't run (also known as swim-bike-done).

  6. Aquathalon: A multisport event where participants swim and run but don't cycle.

  7. Beach Start: A multiport event where the swimming portion begins out of the water, on the beach or edge of the water.

  8. Bodymark: Race number on arm and age on calf with temporary tattoo or black marker.

  9. Brick: Combination workouts that include two disciplines back to back with minimal or no interruption, traditionally implies a bike followed by a run.

  10. BTA: Between The Arms refers to a location where you can mount hydration storage on the bike.

  11. BTS: Behind The Saddle refers to a location where you can mount hydration storage on the bike.

  12. Buoy: flotation device used in the pool and open water swimming

  13. Cadence: When cycling or running, this is the number of repetitions per minute.

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

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

  16. Critical Power: The highest average effort you can maintain for a specific period of time. Usually referred to as CPn, where n may be an interval of five, 10, 30 or 60 minutes. CP60 is essentially the same thing as Functional Threshold Power.

  17. Critical Speed: The theoretical swimming speed that can be maintained continuously without exhaustion. This number is usually expressed as a function of distance, usually over 50, 100, 200 or 400 meters.

  18. Cross-Train: To engage in various sports or exercises especially for well-rounded health and muscular development.

  19. Cycling Shoes: Special shoes designed for road or mountain bike riding where the shoe attaches to the pedal with a special attached cleat. Used to increase speed, power and pedal efficiency

  20. Cycling Shorts: Special padded shorts/pants used during cycling to increase comfort

  21. DFL: Dead Freaking Last, a.k.a. the last competitor to complete an event.

  22. DL: Draft Legal is a multisport event in which competitors are permitted to ride behind one another, just like a cycling race.

  23. DNF: Did Not Finish.

  24. DNS: Did Not Start.

  25. Drafting Bike: Where you closely follow another athlete to reduce wind resistance — is only allowed in draft-legal races. In non-drafting races, participants must keep at least three bike lengths of clear space between themselves and the cyclist in front of them. If you move into the drafting zone, a rectangular area surrounding each bicycle, you must pass within 15 seconds.

  26. Drafting Swim: Swimming behind a slightly faster person can save your energy, and is allowed.

  27. Duathlon/Du: Abbreviation for a duathlon multisport event, which typically indicates a run and a bike leg with no swim. Sometimes due to weather, triathlons are shortened to duathlons when the swim is cancelled.

  28. Flip Turn: When pool swimming, the action one performs when reaching the end wall: tuck, forward flip and push-off in streamline position, followed by a rotation, so that your face is pointing down. Also known as a tumble turn.

  29. Floating Start: A multiport event in which the swimming portion begins in the water.

  30. FTP: Functional Threshold Power refers to the maximum average power output, measured and expressed in watts that you can sustain for 60 minutes at a given point in time (see also Critical Power).

  31. Half-Ironman: A 70.3 distance race consisting 1.2 mile, 56 mile bile and a 13.1 run

  32. HRM: Heart Rate Monitor refers to a wearable device, like a watch or a strap that you can wear around your chest, that measures heart rate.

  33. Hydration: Refers to liquid you take in, usually an electrolyte and/or carbohydrate solution, to fuel before, during or after a race or training session.

  34. Indoor Smart Trainer: an upright frames that holds your bike in place as you pedal. Has bluetooth technology that makes it smart and connects with your computer and phone for online riding and coaching programs. Great for winter cycling training.

  35. Indoor Triathlon: Swim, Bike and Run race held entirely indoors. Swim is done in a pool, bike legs are done on a spin or stationary bike and running is completed on a treadmill. Customarily a time based race with each leg when combined equally about 60-90 mins.

  36. Ironman: Triathlon distance race covering 140.6 miles. 2.4 mile swim, 112 bike ride completed with at 26.2 mile marathon run leg. Also referred to name of Branded Events and Merchandise produced by WTC &

  37. ITU: International Triathlon Union is the international governing body of multisport events.

  38. Lactate Threshold: The exercise intensity at which the blood concentration of lactate and/or lactic acid begins to exponentially increase. When exercising at or below the LT, any lactate produced by the muscles is removed by the body without it building up.

  39. LSD: Long Steady Distance; when cycling, a training mode where you cover a relatively long distance at a relatively low level of exertion.

  40. Mount Line: You can’t get on your bike until you cross this line.

  41. Multisport: A sport consisting of more than one discipline, including triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, off-road triathlon and winter triathlon.

  42. NDL: Non Draft Legal; multisport events that do not permit competitors to closely follow—draft—each other during the cycling leg of the event.

  43. Negative Split: When referring to pacing, a tactic where you get faster as the race progresses.

  44. Nutrition: Refers to solid food you consume while training or racing.

  45. Off-Road Race: Think mountain biking and trail running instead of paved roads

  46. OTB: Off The Bike is usually used in the context of running after cycling

  47. OWS: Open Water Swim; any non-pool swimming—taking place in a lake, river or the ocean.

  48. Paratriathlon: Special category, or entire special events, for athletes with disabilities and/or assistive devices.

  49. PR/PB: Personal record and personal best. Good for you!

  50. Racking Your Bike: Placing your bike in the transition area on provided racks.

  51. Relay: These allow a team of two or three to compete in a multisport space

  52. Rolling Start: The timed manner in which Race Directors let's athletes start a race. For example letting 2 racers at time into the water every 20-30 secs.

  53. RPM: Rounds Per Minute (see also cadence).

  54. Sighting: Follow the swim course by lifting your eyes out of the water every stroke or two to see where you are in relation to the course buoys.

  55. Speed Laces: Elastic/bungee laces for your running shoes to save time tying them.

  56. Swim Waves: Based on gender, age and/or speed, you’ll start the swim with a subset of people, with your own starting horn. This is to space out athletes on the course.

  57. T1: Transition One refers to completing the swimming portion and beginning the cycling portion of a multisport event.

  58. T2: Transition Two refers to completing the cycling portion and beginning the running portion of a multisport event.

  59. Timing Chip: You’ll wear a chip, attached to an ankle strap, through the whole race to track your time.

  60. Trainer: A device that fixes a bicycle in place to allow the user to cycle without going anywhere.

  61. Transition (T1 + T2): Areas where your bike and gear are stored throughout the race. You’ll have an assigned spot. After each leg of the race, athletes return to swap equipment before heading back onto the race course.

  62. Triathlete/Triathlon: An endurance race done by ridiculously cool people who look great in stretchy spandex that wake up ridiculously early to swim, bike and then finish their race with a run & a smile.

  63. Tri Suit: These are shorts and a top, or a one-piece style, that you wear through the entire race.

  64. TT bike/Tri Bike: Special road bikes made for triathlon racing, with flat handlebars and a set of aerobars.

  65. USAT: USA Triathlon; the governing body of multisport in the United States. Athletes purchase an annual membership for racing benefits and supplemental insurance.

  66. VO2 Max: The measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise.

  67. Warm-up: To engage in activity before a race or workout. Warming up has a wide range of physiological and psychological benefits.

  68. Wetsuit: A close-fitting suit made of rubber and worn by swimmers when they are in cold water to keep their bodies warm. Wetsuits also make you more buoyant and faster.

  69. Winter Triathlon: Swimming is replaced by running, followed by mountain biking and cross-country skiing round out the third leg in lieu of running

  70. Zone: Categories of training based on the intensity of training in relation to your maximum heart rate or power output.

This list of 70 triathlon vocabulary terms should get you well on your way in deciphering your training plan, figuring out what the lingo means in your triathlon club Facebook group and achieving success training for your next and perhaps your first multisport or triathlon race.

Did we miss any that you would love to see added to this list?

Comment or send us a message and we will include it on this triathlon vocabulary list of terms that beginner triathletes need to know.


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