I’ve been in the lifestyle for about 10 years now and now coaching. One of the things I’ve come to realize is that we triathletes are a very tribal community. We like to have our own teams and communities and team colors and apparel. Just like any well connected tribe, we also have our own language! The phenomenon was popularized in a recent viral video titled Sh*t Triathletes Say which already has a few hundred thousand views (below). As soon as I saw the video I laughed loudly and thought to myself, they nailed it! I always like when you meet a fellow triathlete, you start talking and quickly realize, you speak the same language. It won’t be long before someone says, “did you see that article in LAVA recently?”
When it comes to “lingo” we (triathletes) probably have one of the most interesting sets of vocabulary out the groups of endurance enthusiasts. Much of the lingo I have to admit was popularized with coaches and training science. It reminded me of a time when I started coaching a newer triathlete that was very new to the lingo. After reading one of my prescribed workouts, I got an email and to paraphase, the email amounted to “Uhh what??” The workout read soming like the following:
“Do a 30 Minute tempo @ threshold/Z5. Should be at 85% of of max for most of the duration. Update HRM data.” Now someone not familiar with the lingo, such a statement might surely call for a translator, so I laughed and sent back one of those emails starting with a smiling face. Translation, wear your heart rate monitor (HRM), run for 30 minutes, and you’ll get your heart rate up to 85% of your max heart rate for most of the workout, that will be heart rate zone 5 (z5). She replies “Oh ok well why don’t you just say that? ;)”
That’s one of the more tame ones when you look at swimming workouts; “10 x 100 free on Desc. splits. w/30 second rest in between. Cool down with 300 ABF.” Sounds like an elaborate math problem. Wouldn’t it be much less confusing to say swim freestyle 100 yards 10 times, faster with each one, and then cool down and do anything but freestyle (ABF) for 300 yards? Of course it would be easier, but that would take much too long for me to write. 🙂 It was a learning excercise for me as a coach to remember to gradually teach an athlete the lingo first.
The vocabularly goes on with talk of drafting, watts, sighting, Vo2 Max, TSS, cadence, functional threshold power, gear ratio, and I can go on and on. Much of the lingo has to do with us bragging about our performance, how much work we’re putting in, our PRs or PBs, (personal record or personal best). We can go on at length aboutti the latest sports nutrition, technologies and apparel we’re spending tons of money on.
Of course, the perception is, if you don’t know the latest stars of triathlon and their nicknames like Chrissie “muppet” Wellington, MACCA, Mighty Mags, Rinny or Crowie then you’re not really up on current events in the sport. The more lingo you know is usually directly proportional to how long you’ve been in the sport.
Newer triathletes would be well advised to consult the glossary on Beginner Triathlete for one of the most complete lists that I’ve seen out there. Learn the lingo! Because when your training buddy tells you that she wants to go to the track and do some “Fartlek repeats,” you don’t want to completely break into laughter. A funny sounding word to describe speed intervals that means simply “speed play” in Swedish.
So triathletes if you’re reading this, put a comment below and tell us what you think about “the lingo.”