Walking (or riding or running) the talk – do you need the lingo to have real fitness cred?

I was in a café sitting across from a table crammed with MAMILs on the weekend – middle-aged men in Lycra who were refuelling after an epic ride (although most looked like the only effort they’d put in was getting their pristine state-of-the-art bikes off the racks on their cars). Listening to them, I wondered just how they managed to weave so many (unidentifiable) acronyms and technical phrases into every sentence. Maybe they were members of the Velominati, ‘Keepers of the Cog’, who live strictly by ‘The Rules’ – a crazy canon of cycling etiquette. It’s a goldmine for great cycling lingo.

With tongue firmly planted in cheek (I hope), according to Rule #4 “It’s all about the bike. It is, absolutely, without question, unequivocally, about the bike. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously a twatwaffle.” The other 94 rules are littered with gems such as “Family does not come first. The bike does.” And “The bikes on top of your car should be worth more than the car.” And, importantly, “When wearing cycling kit and enjoying a pre or post ride coffee, it is only appropriate to drink espresso or macchiato.” These blokes were clearly pretenders – I spotted at least one long black, a latté and even a pot of English Breakfast tea on their table, and their copy of the Velominati rule book must’ve been missing numbers 72 and 81 (“Legs speak louder than words” and “Don’t talk it up”).

Actions should speak louder than words in the gym too, but sometimes it’s like visiting a country where English is the second (or non-existent) language. Jargon-spewing, hard-core gym rats sweat buckets and rave endlessly about ‘bulking’, ‘bitch tits’ and ‘V taper’ as they lift humungous weights and sneer at mere weekend warriors (guys hemmed in by unfortunate commitments such as a job that keep them behind a desk from 9 to 5 and beyond from Monday to Friday), and the cardio bunnies who work the treadmills and avoid ‘the rack’.

Keep an ear on the cardio bunnies as they talk it up while training for a negative split – the only time it’s beneficial to be anything but positive when talking about exercise. A negative split means the second half of your routine is quicker than your first – it demonstrates you’re able to pace yourself, and the term’s most often applied to cycling and swimming as well.

The bunnies may be the masters of high-intensity interval training – HIIT – too. This form of cardio involves going flat-out on a treadmill or stationary bike for a minute or so, and then backing off to a comfortable pace over 90-120 seconds. Because the acronym HIIT doesn’t roll off the tongue easily, you’re probably going to hear lots about their ‘interval training’. Which you shouldn’t get confused with circuit training, a sequence of exercises that combines weights and cardio over multiple laps to shred fat and burn kilojoules.

Over in a different sort of gym, CrossFit fiends jam together interval and circuit training in their WOD, or workout of the day – a gut-busting series of reps and sets where you’re likely to lose your lunch. Hard-core fanatics can turn into man mountains – quite literally a human being, usually a bloke, who has inverse proportions matching Everest or Kilimanjaro. One top tip: if you’ve worked your muscles to failure – the state where your muscles literally fail you – ask a man mountain if they can help you rack the weights you were just using. It’s only proper that after using equipment you put it back where it belongs.

So do you really need the lingo to have proper fitness cred? It’s exhausting even talking about it…

Paul Taylor