Triathlon: A Beginners Guide

Well done for taking the first step and deciding to complete a triathlon! Everyone has to start somewhere, and the first step is always the hardest.

We have created a guide for beginners below. This includes training tips, plans and kit suggestions. Once you’ve read our guide, you’ll be a pro before you even reach the start line.

See below for more..

  1. Boredom definitely won’t be an issue

With many more training sessions to fit into your day, there won’t be time for boredom to set in! Though, you may want to warn your non-triathlete friends that most of your chat will probably revolve around triathlon from now on.

  1. Three Times the Fun

The best news, you’ve got the luxury to choose three different sports! So, when it’s cold and wet out you don’t have to go out on the bike, for example.

  1. Variety is the spice of life

Mixing up your training and taking a more dynamic approach that includes swimming, biking and running will help develop your all-round fitness. It is great for conditioning too, which develops power and efficiency.

  1. Hone the perfect beach body

Swimming = toned upper body, bike and run = toned legs. If you’re going for a stacked muscular build then triathlon probably isn’t the right sport for you but it will definitely help you get lean.

  1. Reduce the risk of injury

The repetitiveness of doing the same sport day-in, day-out can cause overuse injuries. As well as this, swimming and cycling offer good low impact exercise.

  1. Something to tick off your bucket list

A triathlon is seen by many as ‘the ultimate fitness challenge’ so pick an event that you really want to accomplish, sign up and get training. Whether it’s a super sprint or ironman, it’s great to have a goal.

  1. Meet new people

Triathlon is one of the most welcoming sports with no shortage of clubs. It’s not just the training though – triathlon is a really friendly community and really does become a lifestyle.

  1. The perfect excuse for new kit

There’s no getting away from the face that if it’s your first triathlon, you’re probably going to need to invest in some kit. You can spend as much as you like but there’s no need to go all out (unless you want to really splurge).

  1. Your ticket to travel the world

Triathlon is always better in the sun – whether that’s training or racing. There are a lot of organised camps and races in exotic locations. So, if you need an excuse to take another holiday, triathlon may be the perfect answer.

  1. Reward yourself with sweet stuff

That extra training is going to eat up a few thousand more calories each week and you’ll want to be well fuelled. Although eating healthy will help improve your performance, it’s up to you if you occasionally use these extra calories to reward yourself with something sweet.


With the help of one of our ambassadors, Mark Kleathous, we have come up with a guide of training tips and a beginners plan for the last 8 weeks of training. Mark has completed over 500+ triathlons, and is now a full time triathlon coach.

Which distance should I go for?

As it is your first triathlon, we recommend you don’t begin with an Olympic-distance race. We recommend a sprint or super sprint distance, anything up to 750m swim/20km cycle/5km run.

How long do I need to train?

The optimum time period we recommend you allow yourself to prepare for this race should be about 14 weeks, so 3 and a half months. However, you can prepare in 8-14 weeks if you have a sporting background in either of the disciplines. If you have been training consistently for at least a year in at least one of the disciplines, or have a past sporting background then you could probably complete the training in 8 weeks minimum.

How should I schedule my sessions?

At the beginning of training is a good time to develop a consistent routine dovetailing swimming, cycling and running into a weekly lifestyle. This is important, because it allows your mind and body to be prepared for the training sessions.

If your day is likely to be busy with work etc, then try to do the training session early in the morning (yes, we know it’s hard to get up earlier, but that way whatever happens during the day, the box has been ticked!)

Organisation is key

You cannot develop a good and consistent training routine without being organised. For example you need to know when the swimming pool is available for lane swimming, you need to find quiet roads on which you can cycle, and circuits need to include both flat and hilly sections.

Work out how long each route will take (approximately) so that your training sessions don’t overrun. That way you will be able to concentrate on the session. It is also good to have a certain flexibility in your schedule so that, if you are unable to train on one day, you can re-schedule the training on another day.

Swimming Tips

We advise your first triathlon to be a pool-based event. Especially if you are new to swimming, have less time to train, or aren’t very confident in the water already.

Overall for fitness, it's advantageous to train the different swimming strokes, but with concentration on front crawl. This is the one most used in triathlon.

Book a swim coach

Our sense do not operate as well in water as they do on land. This makes it much more difficult for us to feel what we are doing, and to self-correct any errors in technique. As good technique is so important for competitive swimming, you might find it beneficial to book a few sessions with a swimming coach. This would only be for a short period of time. If you can develop an efficient style from the very beginning, this will stand you in good stead for the rest of our career in the sport. Also try visiting your local swimming club and getting advice from the club coach.

Push yourself more in the pool

You may find that you are able to push yourself more when swimming than you can when cycling and running. This is because it puts much less stress on the body than the other two sports. The water supports at least 85% of a swimmer’s body weight. Also, the effort is spread much more evenly across the whole body.

Because the water also provides a constant resistance, the chances of injury are reduced. Consequently, swimming is a good form of exercise for rehabilitation after injury.

In order to develop a hydrodynamic swimming technique (the water equivalent of aerodynamic), you might find the following pointers useful:

·         Concentrate at all times on maintaining a good, streamlined body position. This will make it easier to stroke, breathe and kick correctly.

·         Aim to lengthen your stroke in order to reduce your stroke count, but without over-reaching.

·         Avoid excessive body roll by not turning your head too soon in order to breathe.

·         Study the style of good, long-distance swimmers; slow and easy but powerful and efficient.

·         Make sure your arm movements are always smooth. As well as this, ensure that each one spends the correct amount of time through each part of the swim stroke. The swim stroke: recovery – entry – catch – outsweep – press.

·         The more flexible your shoulder joint, the easier it is to raise it out the water without rolling the body.

Develop a good, efficient kick...

·        This will make it easier for you to maintain a horizontal body position.  In turn, this will help all parts of the swim stroke. The kick should not be too deep and the ankles should only be 2-6 inches apart. Otherwise, there will be too much drag. Knees should be slightly bent on the upward part of the kick. On the downward part they should be straight. Make sure your toes are pointed behind you and imagine you are kicking a bucket.

Breathing in the pool...

·         Learn to breathe at the correct times so that it doesn’t affect your arm and leg movements. Once you breathe in, hold your breath. Do not breathe out into the water as soon as you have breathed in. This will allow your body to extract more oxygen and make you more buoyant in the water. Gently release the air before finally pushing out as much air as possible just before you open your mouth. The vacuum caused will force air back into your lungs.

Swimming training tips...

If your normal training swim is 400m, then once every ten days try and swim non-stop 400-600m. Once you are able to cover this distance comfortably, break it into smaller chunks.

For instance, complete one of the following each week (depending on pool size):


400m: (16 x 25m), (8 x 50m), (4 x 100m) or (2 x 200m)


450-500m: (18 x 25m), (9 x 50m), (5 x 100m) or (3 x 150m)


500m-600m: (20 x 25m), (10 x 50m), (6 x 100m), (4 x 150m)

Recovery time

Your recovery time should be a minimum of 20 seconds for 25m and 30 seconds for 50m. For longer distances, your recovery time should be at least half the time it takes to swim each interval.

If you slow down by more than 10% you are either starting too fast or need more rest in between each interval. For example, if you take 60 seconds to swim the first 50m, but then over 66 seconds for future speeds

Cycling tips

First thing: do not buy the most expensive bike. You may not like triathlon and only complete this one triathlon.

Safety and comfort is paramount during the cycle section. So, the most important decision here is how to get your bike set up correctly.

If you develop pain soon after cycling, this is nearly always due to an incorrect body position. Even if the body is only slightly misaligned, injury can still be caused many months later from the thousands of inappropriate movements made in that time.

Bike set-up

We are all different, so everyone’s body position on the bike will be unique to them. Because of this, you might like to get professional advice when setting up your bike. It can be cheaper than two or three physiotherapy treatments for an injury caused by the wrong bike set up. You will obviously need to be aerodynamic on the bike, but avoid ‘aggressive’ cycling positions.

Some further cycling tips...

·         Try to maintain a consistent body position. Keep your body still whether your cadence is fast or slow. Do not bounce on the saddle when spinning fast. Keep your hips from moving from side to side when pushing hard.

·         Cycling out of the saddle towards the end of the bike segment can stretch the leg muscles and relieve tension in the back. This makes it easier to run afterwards.

·         It is also important to learn exactly when you should change gear. Shift too late and you will lose momentum. But, too early and your legs will go round too fast or you'll cause fatigue from an unnecessary resistance.

·         In a race you should aim to maintain your cadence at 85-95 revolutions per minute (or at your own natural cadence). Cadence = how many times the pedal goes around in a minute.

In regards to hills

·         When cycling up hills, make sure your body is as still as possible. Whether you are in the saddle or standing on the pedals, this is important.

·         If the sun is shining, you could try monitoring your body position by looking at your shadow. Otherwise, ask someone to watch you cycle.

·         Change down into an easier gear when going uphill, and change up to increase resistance when going downhill. This will maintain a constant RPM.


Running is the easiest and most natural of the three sports to do; you can start from your front door. However, running can produce more injuries than swimming or cycling. Consequently, your choice of running shoes is extremely important.

Running tips...

·         Develop a running style that channels most of your energy into moving forwards, rather than up or down. Consequently, body movement should be at a minimum and your head should remain at more or less the same level.

·         Arm actions should be symmetrical (i.e. a mirror image of each other). Your hands should be relaxed, and feel ‘light’ when you run.

·         During the cycle segment, the body is supported by the bike, but then suddenly we have to stand up and run. At the start of each run after cycling, you should simply concentrate on finding your correct running style and then settling into your optimum pace.

After dismounting the bike

·         It is rare to be able to run normally immediately after dismounting the bike. You will probably experience one of a number of sensations:

   o   Heavy or wooden feeling in the legs.

   o   Dead-leg syndrome, or your legs could feel like jelly.

   o   Tight hamstrings or a tight back.

   o   Triathlon shuffle (shortened running stride).

   o   You might feel uncoordinated

   o   Altered running gait i.e. flat footed.

Injury prevention

·         Never run if your legs feel heavy, sore or tired. This could lead to injury. Most running injuries are preventable, as long as you listen to what your body is telling you. Pain signals are sent to the brain to let you know when there is a problem – either an injury or the body needs more time to recover. Any pain should always be treated as though it could be serious. That way you will not go wrong.

Combination workouts

Combination workouts get your mind and body used to switching smoothly from one discipline to another. These include swimming and then cycling, cycling and then running and even swimming then running.

If you don't complete combined workouts on a regular basis, the body will take time to adjust during a race. This can result in a loss of performance.


You can successfully complete triathlon training by consistently training for 8-14 weeks as discussed, training up to 6 times per week. Some sessions can be back to back.

Below is an 8-week training program which highlights the key session workouts. This was provided to us by Mark Kleanthous, who has completed in more than 500+ triathlons worldwide and has been using Zone3 wetsuits since 2009.


Complete a 5-8 minute warm up and cool down before ALL of the workouts below. Based on your fitness ability, complete somewhere in between the number of repetitions where there is a minimum and maximum specified. If you are proficient in that particular discipline, try and go for the maximum.

Click here for a downloadable version.

Mark Kleanthous

Mark Kleanthous has competed in more than 500 triathlons during the last 30 years and remembers very clearly his first ever triathlon and first season in triathlon with nervousness and excitement.

You can follow our brand ambassador Mark via Twitter @ironmatemar, Instagram @openwaterswimcoaching or via his website 


The top advice we will give when it comes to kit is to prioritise your comfort, and wear kit that will keep you warm. These are the top picks in kit that we advise for your first triathlon! When it comes to kit, always train in the kit that you will be wearing for the race for a while prior to the race, to ensure that everything is comfortable and worn in. You don’t want any bad surprises on race day!


      If the pool section of your race is open water, you may be more comfortable, and in some cases obligated, to wear a wetsuit. Zone3 Advance and Vision wetsuits are award winning and designed for entry level athletes. The price point has been kept low however they certainly don’t lack in performance – punching well above their price tag. Be sure to try out your wetsuit before the race to make sure it fits right. Top tip: If you find that your wetsuit rubs in any areas, try using our Natural Glide on the area that it rubs to prevent chafing and friction-related irritation.


      A priority when buying goggles as a beginner would be to ensure good visibility, and comfort. We suggest the Zone3 Attack goggles


      Important for drying your feet after the swim section, as it will make the cycle and run sections more comfortable for yourself.

Comfortable shoes for running/cycling

      Most beginners will wear the same pair of trainers for their cycle and run sections of the race, however it is personal preference. As it will be your first triathlon, we suggest you to wear whichever shoes you will feel the most comfortable with. Practice both cycling and running training in these shoes prior to the race, as stated previously. Top tip: Using elastic laces will make your shoes much easier to put on during transition.

Race belt

      A race belt is used to hold your race number. It is convenient to use one as you will need your race number on your back during the cycle and on your front during the run. If the number is attached to a race belt it is very easy after the cycle to simply turn the belt around so that the number is on the front. Our Zone3 Race Belt also contains a neoprene pouch to store energy gels.

Transition Bag

A bag to store your kit in will ensure that everything is well organised and accessible to you on the day. Our transition bag has been designed with the triathlete in mind. It will provide plenty of space and compartments to organise your kit well. Top tip: Lay everything out on your bed or a large surface before packing, and pack everything in reverse order of when you will need it. This will mean that the items which you will need first are on the top, and speed up your transition.


      You can cycle using any bike you wish, however it must have brakes on the handlebars and is not allowed any type of motor attached to it.

Puncture repair kit

      If you are worried about getting a puncture, it may be a good idea to carry a puncture repair kit in a saddle bag on your bike. We suggest that you watch some online tutorials on how to repair punctures and/or practice if you don’t know how to.


      It is essential to wear a helmet during a triathlon, you won’t be allowed to race without one. Most helmets are triathlon-friendly, it just needs to have a CE mark on it.

Tri suit

      It is personal preference what you wish to cycle and run in. The easiest, and most comfortable suggestion would be a tri suit. It makes the transition quicker too. Zone3 provide both one and two piece tri suits. We recommend our activate range for beginners. This range was made to provide first-timers a high quality tri suit at an affordable price.

Water bottle

      Most races will provide a water point during the run part of the race. However, it is advised to bring a water bottle with you, to ensure that you are keeping hydrated.


You should also make sure you practice the transitions, T1 is the swim to cycle and T2 is the cycle to run.

  • Putting on the cycle helmet and running shoes before running with the bike and then mounting (you have to be outside the transition area before getting on the bike)
  • Mounting the bike, running with the bike and then removing your cycle helmet.
  • Go to a local park with all your kit arranged the way it would be at the race, and then practice both T1 and T2.
On race day...
  • When you rack your bike and kit at the start, use non-moving landmarks to remember the location of your bike.

Pre-race Transition Set-up

  • Bike/Triathlon Watch on bike (if you are using one) - switched and set to the correct screen and settings.
  • Check tyre pressure
  • Put bike in correct gear for the start of the cycle.
  • Place helmet so the rear of the helmet is pointing away as you approach the bike. Then, place your sunglasses lens down (if wearing sunglasses), with arms sticking up and then race belt is placed in between arms with the belt straps dropping either side of the helmet
  • Bike shoes (if using) clipped in, straps open and elastic bands holding them horizontal.
  • Check nutrition is loaded – including water bottles, sports drinks, etc.
  • Fold/roll down your socks on themselves and place in each shoe as open as possible.


  • As you’re running up the beach, push your goggles onto your forehead and undo your wetsuit. Pull your arms out of the wetsuit and roll it down to your waist.
  • In some events, it’s a yellow card if you remove your swim cap and goggles before being in the transition area. Once you’re in the transition area, remove them off your head in one.
  • Cap and goggles can be chucked onto floor in front of run shoes.
  • Then, remove your wetsuit fully and put your race belt on.
  • Put glasses (if you have any) and helmet on.
  • Lastly, buckle the helmet and run out of transition as fast as you can. If you can, mount the bike with a jump, trying to take as much momentum as possible.


  • As you’re approaching T2, undo straps on your shoes and slip your feet on top of the shoes. Then, as you get close to the dismount line, dismount on one side and coast the last few metres.
  • Dismount with speed, again without coming to a standstill
  • Once your bike is racked, place your helmet on the handlebars and pull your running shoes on (if different to the shoes you’re cycling in).
  • Grab anything you need for the run (hat, energy gels, bottle) and run out of transition, while switching your watch to run mode (if you are using a watch).

Read terms that you don't know the meaning of? Find an A-Z of every triathlon-related term and their definitions here.

*Shortcut: If you're looking for a particular word, press Ctrl + F on your keyboard, and type in the word in the find bar.


A races – Your most important races, the ones for which you train. They are the ones in which you will want to perform as well as you can.
Adrenaline – A hormone which, when released, increases the body’s consumption of oxygen and improves glucose usage. Commonly called the fight-or-flight hormone.
Aero – Prefix referring to something that makes the athlete more aerodynamic; for example, tear-drop aero helmet or aero-bars that produce a better position when cycling.
Aero-bars – Clip-on tri-bars that allow you to be more aerodynamic than standard drop cycle bars. If set up correctly they will put the cyclist in the most aerodynamic position. I.e. lower and narrower at the front and allow you to go faster in a triathlon.
Aerobic – Meaning ‘with oxygen’. Aerobic exercise improves the body’s use of oxygen and is a good way of burning fat. It involves longer sessions at an easy pace and low heart rate, usually conducted at under 80% of MHR for that sport. In triathlon, expect the maximum to be higher for the run than for the cycle, and higher for the cycle than for the swim.
Age group – Adult, non-elite triathletes compete in five-year age groups based on the competitors’ age on 31 December of each year.

Tri Star:

  • Start = 8 years old;
  • 1 = 9–10;
  • 2 = 11–12;
  • 3 = 13–14.

Age Categories:

  • A (Youth) = 15–16;
  • B (Junior) = 17–18;
  • C (Junior) = 19.
  • Senior Group D = 20–24;
  • E = 25–29;
  • F = 30–34; 
  • G = 35–39.
  • Veteran Group H = 40–44;
  • I = 45–49;
  • J = 50–54;
  • K = 55–59;
  • L = 60–64;
  • M = 65–69;
  • N = 70–74;
  • O = 75–79.
Anaerobic – Meaning ‘without oxygen’. Aerobic exercise is used by athletes in non-endurance sports to promote strength, speed and power, and is usually conducted at an AT/LT of 80–85% of MHR.
Anaerobic threshold zone – The point at which waste products such as lactic acid are created at a faster rate than the body can convert them. Better athletes have a greater ability to remove these waste products. Anaerobic threshold zone is usually around 80–90% of maximum heart rate. One sign of it is a burning feeling in the legs.
Anaerobic training – Bursts of exercise that are so short that oxygen is not a limiting factor in performance. The energy sources involved derive from the use of phosphagen and lactic acid, enabling the athlete to perform brief, near maximal muscular activity.
Aqua bike – A swim–bike event.
Aquathon – Non-stop swim-and-run event.


B races – These are races in which you will probably want to perform well but in which you might be experimenting with something new, such as an alternative feeding regime, a new bike, or with the taper. You might not want to taper, in which case you would use the race as part of your training.
B2B – Abbreviation for back to back (two sports one after the other). Swim then run known as an Aquathlon
Big-day training – A specific training session used as part of the build up to an Ironman competition. If the session is attempted before the athlete has built up the necessary endurance, it can cause sickness and injury. However, performed in the final six weeks before the event, it could adversely affect the athlete on race day.
Bilateral breathing – The technique used in the front crawl in which swimmers breathe alternately to each side of the body.
Blood pooling – Physiological effect in which the circulation of the blood reduces or even becomes non-existent in a part of the body. During exercise the blood vessels dilate in order to improve the blood supply to the muscles. When the exercise ceases so does the force that pumps the blood back to the heart. Blood pooling can cause lactic acid to accumulate in the muscles. Often occurs after swimming (horizontal) then standing up (vertical)
Body pressing – Training procedure in which a swimmer deliberately presses the head and upper body
Breathing set – A training set in which the athlete pays specific attention to breathing. The swimmer might breathe every 2nd, 3rd or 4th stroke; a runner might try to breathe with each stride; and a cyclist with each pedal rotation. During weight training the athlete might hold their breath during the lift at and then take 2–3 deep breaths before lowering the weight.
Brick session – A training session that combines two sports, usually bike-run or swim-bike for triathlon or a run-bike for duathlon. Multiple brick sessions are where one brick session is repeated shortly afterwards. The high-intensity training achieved produces good form.


C races – Races that you might use as part of your training regime; they don’t have to be Triathlons. For example, an open-water swimming competition, cycle time trial, 10km run, duathlon, etc. It is unlikely that you would taper for these races.
Cadence – Number of leg spins per minute when cycling or the number of strides per minute when running. A cadence monitor will be able to provide this figure constantly during a training session. Or, simply count the spins or strides over a 15 second period and then multiply this figure by four.
Cold laser therapy – Medical treatment used to speed up the healing process after injury. It is often used on inflammation, nerve root injuries and the spine.
Compression clothing – Clothing designed to push the blood back towards the heart, thus delaying the build up of lactic acid. Compression clothing also works because it compresses and holds the muscles together in their correct anatomical position. Manufactures claim that this reduces muscle vibration and thus fatigue.
Cross training – The use of an exercise that is different from an athlete’s main sport in order to maintain cardio fitness. It is often done in the off season or when an athlete is injured. For instance, a triathlete who swims, cycles and runs could cross train on a rowing machine. Or, mountain biking can be substituted for road cycling, and off-road running for road running. Cross training has many psychological benefits. Also, the use of different muscles can improve overall fitness and allow the athlete to regain their enthusiasm for normal training. It can also refer to two consecutive exercises or the use of two muscle groups at the same time.


Dead-leg syndrome – The effect of ‘heavy legs’ often felt in the early part of the run following the cycle segment.
Deca Ironman – An event that is ten times the Ironman distance, consisting of a 24-mile swim, a 1,120-mile cycle and 262 miles on foot. The event usually takes about eight days with athletes taking 1–2 hours sleep each day.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness – Damage caused by microscopic rupture of muscle fibres as a result of strenuous exercise. The soreness or pain usually develops over the first 24 hours after the exercise, but without treatment can last for up to seven days.
Descending – A training session in which each repetition is performed quicker than the previous one; for example, consecutive 100m swim splits of 1:58, 1:51, 1:47 and 1:45.
Distance per stroke (DPS) – The distance travelled through the water for a single swimming stroke. It is an important factor in long-distance swimming. DPS is the abbreviation
DNF – Did not finish the race.
DNS – Didn't start the race.
Double iron man – An event that is twice the Ironman distance, consisting of a 4.8-mile swim, a 224-mile cycle and a 52.4-mile run. It is sometimes called a non-stop, no-sleep, continuous triathlon.
Drafting – Swimming in the slipstream of another competitor in order to save energy.
Drill – Training sessions that emphasise one part of a certain movement. For example, a typical swimming drill could concentrate on catching the water or on the push-back phase. The typical cycling drill could involve single-legged cycling to improve circular movement or could concentrate on lifting the knee rather than just pushing down. Finally, a typical running drill could work on reducing the contact time between the feet and the ground.
Duathlon – An event consisting of run-cycle-run. The standard race consists of a 10km run, a 40km cycle and 5km run.


Endurance zone – Training performed at 60–70% of an athlete’s maximum heart rate in order to increase endurance.


Fat-burning zone – The range between the maximum heart rate and the resting heart rate (FBZ = MHR – RHR). Also called the working heart rate.

Fuel belt – Used for carrying fluids, gel bars and salt tablets, usually during the run.

Full Iron-distance Aquabike –3.8km swim; 180km cycle.


Hand paddle – A swimming aid that attaches to the fingers of the hand. It is used in training and allows the swimmer to achieve more power.
Heart rate (HR) – The number of beats of the heart per minute.
Heart rate monitor – Device that records and displays a person’s heart rate. The sensor is usually strapped around the chest and the data is usually displayed on a watch-like device attached to the wrist.
Hyperthermia – This condition occurs when the body overheats. It is a medical emergency and should always be treated immediately, as it can lead to death. Triathletes competing in hot and humid climates should takes steps to avoid hyperthermia.
Hypertonic drink – Type of high-energy drink with a much greater concentration of carbohydrate than isotonic drinks, usually around 10%. Although it can provide large amounts of energy quickly, hydration of the athlete is much slower than with isotonic drinks. Getting the balance right between energy supply and hydration is crucial for optimum performance. The type of drink you choose depends on the environment you are in, so do not use the same drinks for all conditions. Experiment in training first before any big competition. Hyper means more.
Hyponatraemia – Low concentration of sodium in the body fluids.
HypothermiaWhen the body’s core temperature drops below that required for normal metabolism and functioning.
Hypotonic drink – Type of carbohydrate-electrolyte drink that is usually used in hot or humid conditions, especially when sweat rates increase. Its carbohydrate concentration is lower than isotonic drinks, usually 3–4%, but it also contains electrolytes such as sodium, which is necessary to maintain performance. Hypo means below.
Hydrodynamics – Forces that impinge on an object in water. Important in the manufacture of wetsuits, which are designed to reduce a swimmer’s resistance in water.
HyponatremiaAn electrolyte disturbance in which the sodium concentration of blood serum is lower than normal. Can be fatal and can develop when a triathlete drinks only water. Preventable tactics include taking salt tablets.


IRT = in-reverse triathlon – A triathlon in which the sequence is run-cycle-swim.
interval – Period of recovery time between high-intensity training sets. By reducing the length of the interval the athlete becomes used to extreme fatigue and therefore increases endurance.
Isotonic drink – Type of sports drink containing 5–8% carbohydrate. Most drinks manufacturers use this concentration in their drinks as it is considered to offer the best absorption rate to the body.


Killer workout – Training sessions that are either too difficult or performed at the wrong time, making the recovery period too long for adaptation to occur before race day.


Lace locks – Quick-release system that allows running shoes to be rapidly placed on the feet. They are essential for triathletes.
Lactate thresholdSee anaerobic threshold.
Lactic acid – By product of anaerobic metabolism. Produced in muscle tissue and red blood cells during exercise due to the incomplete breakdown of glucose. Its presence in muscles prevents them from functioning at high intensity.
Long slow distance – Training at below maximum effort in order to improve endurance.


Macrocycle – Long-term training goal, usually from six months to ten years.

Magic marker – Felt-tip pen used to mark a competitor’s race number on his or her body. Usually the shoulder carries the race number while the calf carries a letter to signify the age group.

Maximum heart rate (MHR)– Highest rate at which a heart can beat. It usually declines with age. A good way of calculating an approximate figure for it is to use the formula 220 minus age in years (a 20 year old would expect their maximum heart rate to be 200 beats per minute). A triathlete’s maximum heart rate would usually be recorded when running; the heart rate when cycling is normally 5–12 beats/min lower than this, and yet another 3–8 beats/min lower when swimming. However, there are many other factors that can affect the maximum heart rate.

Microcyle – The shortest training period. A number of Microcycles can be used as small steps towards a Macrocycle.

Middle-distance Aquabike –1.9km swim; 90km cycle.

Middle-distance triathlon – A triathlon of 70.3 miles distance, consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile cycle and a 13.1-mile run.

Modern pentathlon – Multi-sport event involving pistol shooting, épée fencing, a freestyle swim (usually 200m), show jumping and a cross-country run (usually 3km). In the Olympic event the modern pentathletes have to perform all five disciplines on the same day.

Multiple brick workout (or multiple back-to-back session) – Training session in which the athlete moves from one sport straight to another, usually from cycling to running several times.

Multi-sports – Events that combine more than one sport, such as aquathon, decathlon, pentathlon and triathlon.


Negative split – When the second half of an exercise or event is completed quicker than the first. It often occurs when an athlete breaks a marathon record.
Neutral gait – Running style in which the foot initially strikes the ground on the outside of the heel, but as the weight is transferred across the foot it rolls towards the centre-line so that the weight is distributed evenly across the metatarsus. At this point the knee is usually above the big toe. This inward-rolling motion as the action progresses from heel to toe is the natural way in which the foot absorbs shock. Less than 25% of runners have a neutral gait (also called neutral pronation; see overpronation and underpronation).


Olympic Aquabike –1500m swim; 40km cycle.
Olympic-distance triathlon – A triathlon of 51.5km distance, consisting of a 1.5km swim, a 40km cycle and a 10km run.
OTILLIO – SwimRun event.
Oxygen debt – Amount of oxygen needed to metabolise and remove lactic acid after a period of intense exercise. It is also called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).


Peaking – Process through which an athlete arrives at the optimum emotional, physical and mental condition on a certain race day. Without correct planning and experience, peaking is much less likely to happen on the exact day of the competition.
Periodisation – Varying phases within a training period, usually a year. Each segment has a part to play in total fitness. For example: volume training; pre-competition training; tapering; then post-race recovery. A microcycle lasts seven days; mesocycle four weeks; macrocycle 12 months; quadrennial cycle four years (also known as the Olympic cycle); and long-term cycle indicates the whole career of the athlete.
Pontoon – The floating jetty from which triathletes dive into the water at the start of the swimming segment of the triathlon.
Priority races A, B and C – The A race is the one race in the year in which you want to perform best. B races are less important but you might still want to perform well. C races should be approached more like training sessions. Your training, preparation, tapering and race focus will vary depending on the priority of the event.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation – Stretching procedure used to increase the range of motion of muscles and therefore improve an athlete’s performance. To perform PNF, stretch a muscle for 8–10 seconds then relax it while stretching the opposite muscle (antagonistic); then repeat. It is the most effective way to extend a tight muscle.
Pyramid set – Training set in which the distance travelled or the number of repetitions performed is first increased then reduced. A pyramid 1,500m swim session could be a broken down into the following segments: 50m, 100m, 150m, 200m, 250m, 250m, 200m, 150m, 100m and 50m.


Race belt – An elasticised belt onto which an athlete’s race number is attached. Some athletes have the number on their back when cycling but then pull the belt around so that the number displays on the front for the run.
Rating of perceived exertion (RPE) – Scale of effort, numbering from one to 10, that indicates an athlete’s feeling about how difficult an exercise was. It is a judgemental rather than scientific rating. One is the equivalent of sitting in a chair; 3–5 light effort; 9–10 very hard effort.
Repetition – The completion of one set of movements for a particular discipline. For example, one repetition can be a press up (push up from the ground until arms fully extended, then lower back to the start position). But, it can also be a 25m swim or a 400m run. Often shortened to ‘rep’.
Rest day – A day without training or competition, usually as part of a recovery period. Novices and underperforming athletes often ignore rest days, but experienced athletes know how important they are. Elite athletes who have been endurance training for at least five years sometimes have very easy active recovery days but still take adequate rest. They might do more training but will also have more sleep and quality rest between training.
Rest interval – Recovery time between a set of exercises or repetitions. Example swim 15 x 100m rest interval 30 seconds between each 100m


Send-off time – Time by which an athlete is held back at the start of a handicap race or at the start of an interval. It is sometimes used in races containing athletes of mixed ability, with the idea being that, if all competitors produce their normal performance, they will all finish together.
Set – Number of completed repetitions of an exercise before resting. Example 5 x 200m = 5 sets of 200m.
SKPD – Swim-kick-pull drills.
Splash-mash-dash – Another term for the triathlon.
Split – The time taken to perform an individual segment of an event. In triathlon, split times are usually taken for the swim, cycle and run elements as well as for the two transitions.
Sprint triathlon – A shorter triathlon event consisting of a 750m swim, a 20km cycle and a 5km run.
Super Sprint - Swim 400m (pool or lake) bike 10>20km run 3 to 5 km


T1 –  Swimming section to the cycling section.
T2 –  Cycling section to the run.
T3 – Post-race period, usually referred to as recovery or sleep
Tapering – The reduction in the volume and intensity of training prior to a competition in order to allow the body to recover and to store extra energy.
Target heart-rate zone – A range of heart rates designed for a specific purpose. For instance: 55–70% (of max) for recovery; 60–75% endurance training; 70–80% aerobic and tempo work; and 80–90% to improve anaerobic threshold. Knowing how long to stay in each zone is the secret of achieving good fitness.
Tempo pace – Working at a high rate but not flat out. A tempo rate can usually be maintained comfortably for 45 minutes.
Threshold pace – Pace that can be maintained for up to 60min in any given discipline. Any greater and you cross the lactate threshold, the point at which the muscles start working without oxygen and at which fatigue begins to increase.
time trial – A certain type of competition or training session in which the athlete has to perform alone while being timed over a set distance. Swim 750m time trial as preparation for a sprint distance triathlon.
Transition area – The place where the bicycles and associated equipment is kept, and which is used when the triathletes change from swimming to cycling and from cycling to running.
Triathlete – An athlete who has competed in a continues swim bike run multi-sport triathlon.
Triathlon – Endurance event with three separate disciplines, usually swimming cycling and running.
Tri-suit – Item of sportswear used for swimming, cycling and running, so that the triathlete does not need to spend time changing clothes during the race. It is made from quick-drying, breathable fabric with a chamois lining in the crotch. Two-piece tri-suits provide more ventilation and greater movement than one-piece.
Type-2 muscle – Muscle used for high intensity activity. It is quick to react but has a low resistance to fatigue.


Working heart rate – The range between the maximum heart rate and the resting heart rate (WHR = MHR – RHR). Also called the fat-burning zone.


Xterra – A global triathlon series with at least one race in every continent. It involves swimming, cycling and off-road running. The world championships are held in Maui, Hawaii, in October each year following qualifying races all around the world.


Yellow flag – In a race it usually indicates a no-overtaking zone, normally in the cycling.


Zone3 - Wetsuits developed and designed by elite athletes at one of Europe’s leading sprits universities for swimmers of all ages all abilities to swim in open water and compete in triathlons. Zone3 wetsuits have won many awards for the quality and performance of their wetsuits.


A-Z By Mark Kleanthous...

The above information has been provided by Mark Kleanthous who has competed in more than 500+ triathlons worldwide and has been using Zone3 wetsuits since 2009.

Mark is a full time triathlon coach and has his own lake for open water swim coaching.

He is author of the bestselling book “The Complete Book of Triathlon Training”

Contact mark via his website


You can follow mark on Twitter @ironmatemark or instagram @openwaterswimcoaching 


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