› Triathlon Training Terminology

Triathlon Training Terminology

Don't Be Confused, Everything Is Explained!

You will probably have come across lots of sciency words and phrases over the course of your triathlon training. Coaches, fellow-triathletes, magazines and websites will all use these.

Unfortunately it is very common for these phrases to be mis-used or misunderstood. So, to help you avoid these pitfalls, below is a short, straightforward guide to the main phrases and words you’re likely to come across.

Click on each one to find out more detail on:

  • What they mean
  • How they impact on your performance
  • What sort of training affects them
  • What values you would expect for triathletes of different ages and competing at different levels.

The most important thing is that you understand the basic physiology behind triathlon training. This is far more important than getting wound up trying to differentiate between different terms and knowing the right phrase or triathlon training terminology to use.

VO2max (maximal oxygen uptake):

VO2max, or maximal oxygen uptake, is the highest rate at which oxygen can be taken up and used by the body during exercise, and is commonly regarded as setting the upper limit for performance in endurance events.

Velocity at VO2max (Also Speed at VO2max/VVO2max):

The speed associated with VO2max. This is the key speed to train at to improve VO2max. It is calculated from VO2max and running economy.


The points, or exercise intensities where the type of fuel you need to use to sustain activity changes significantly.

Lactate Threshold (also aerobic threshold):

This is the point in exercise where lactate levels first start to rise above baseline.

Anaerobic threshold (Also Lactate threshold, Lactate turnpoint, MLSS, OBLA, Dmax, CP60, Functional threshold):

This is the point where there is a ‘sudden and sustained’ increase in blood lactate concentration.


maximal lactate steady state – highest exercise intensity where the production of lactate and its clearance are balanced.


Onset of blood lactate accumulation. The name says it – the exercise intensity when lactate starts to accumulate in the blood.

Run Specific Terminology:

Running Economy:

Running economy is basically a measure of how efficient you are, measured by the volume of oxygen (relative to your body weight) that your body needs to be able to run at any given speed. It is therefore a measure of the energy cost of the body’s movement.

Bike Specific Terminology:

Max aerobic power output:

The maximal power output that you are able to sustain for a minute at the end of a test where the power output you produce is required to increase in short increments (1 minute or less) throughout the test.

Swimming Specific Terminology:

The physiology of endurance swimming training and competition performance is based on the same physiological principles as outlined for running and cycling. However as physiological testing is a lot rarer and harder to carry out with swimming than it is for the other disciplines, there is a lot less ‘science talk’ involved with this discipline.

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