What is Strava?

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Strava!

The planet Strava.

“Take me to your leader!” – he is Strava and he will annihalate you!

Er, I’m Strava-ing today, you fancy joining me??

Doing the Strava?

Fancy some ice cream with your apple strava?

Ha, yes, that’s the best one as apple strava sounds just like apple strudle!

But, the sad thing is that Strava isn’t a sweet puff pastry dessert I’m afraid or some far off planet in a galaxy far away. You might have heard all about uploading to Strava. In fact finishing a ride and immediately uploading to Strava is a bit of a thing.

But why?

Let me first say that the first thing on my mind after a long cycle ride is a shower, a large bowl of food and a lie down. Uploading to anyone or anything is way out of the question but for many Strava is the first point of call. And that’s because Strava is………drum roll……..

A place on the internet.

Ok, well it’s actually much more than that it’s more of a community of like minded cyclists on the internet who are able to share ride information, ride statistics and ride experiences.

This is a GREAT THING if it floats your boat. Or, if it feels all far too distopian, a complete nightmare! Before I continue, my current view is that my paltry athletic stats are fit only for my view only and not sharing where and when I have been and at what speed is, as far as I’m concerned, my business only. But, for many, the element of competetion and camaraderie gained by sharing with the Strava community is a great motivation and pushes them and inspires to achieve faster times, greater distances and to increase fitness.

The Strava site is free to join (although there is a premium membership option as well) and primarily is intended as an online cycling community or social network. You can see who is cycling where, look for new routes in your area and see what the speed record is for that particular route, compare your performance with others and generally feel part of a “thing” rather than be Billy no mates out on your bike on your own.

This ranking of times for “segments” or particular routes is one of the key features of Strava and there is a current top male and female performer for each ride or segment at any particular time. These are known as king or queen of the mountain (KOM or QOM) and are highly coveted. As well as this feature there are periodic challenges which usually challenge a meneber to ride a certain distance in a certain time and successful completion allows the member to show a badge on their profile. The premium version also includes the wonderful sounding feature of “suffer scores” which allows the recording of power meter stats, filtered leader boards and a host of other gizmos that allows you to see how you are doing in relation to others.

If all of this sharing is a bit too much for you though you can, of course choose to keep your information private and use Strava to track your own performance. You can record your riding activity in extraordinary detail over a period of time, see how your fitness has improved and keep a record of all of your routes.

In terms of practicality Strava was initially conceived just with the online element but has eveolved to include real time tracking elements as well. You can download the Strava app for both Iphone and Android and this acts as a cycle computer showing your current time, distance, speed, heart rate etc etc. This connects to your Strava online area. You can also upload via a huge number of other apps and cycle computers and Strava is basically currently the default service for this. Many manufacturers specifically state that their devices are “compatible with Strava” and this is basically the current industry standard.

So, do you really need or want to “go on Strava”?

It depends what motivates you I suppose. If you are motivated by being competitive and enjoy sharing your achievements then yes, it makes perfect sense. There is every opportunity on Strava to compare and analyse stats until you go blue in the face and I suppose this is, for me at least, the problem.

Strava addiction is in fact a thing.

People have become obsessed with their Strava stats and there has been media suggestions that cyclists are cycling dangerously and risking their lives and the lives of others just to get a fast time to upload onto Strava.

Madness.

Strava must be brilliant if you are a pro athlete. Amazing if you are motivated by competition and sharing and can keep things in proportion. Over one million current users can’t be wrong.

But, it isn’t for me at the moment. I’m certainly no pro athlete, I have no interest in comparing my performance to others (mainly because it would be sadly lacking) yet I do unfortunately have a ridiculously competitive streak and, if I did do the whole Strava competiton thing I think I would, in the long term, find it quite a negative experience for me at least.

If I have learned anything over the years it’s that comparing yourself to others isn’t generally a particularly helpful activity. You will never feel good enough. The only person you should really be in competition with is yourself. If you can strive to beat your own best time, go longer than your own previous distance or sustain a longer power output than your own previous best then you are doing well.

There will always be someone better than you in all areas of your life. There will always be someone not as good as you as well and the only real way to inner peace is self acceptance. Accepting your limitations and learning to love, or at least tolerate yourself, is really the only way.

If I was going to use Strava I would use it to track my own progress in private. I think that would make me happy but I’m not a particularly statistically minded type of person. There is certainly a lot to be said for training regimes and self improvement but also a huge amount to be gained for just cycling on a whim for as long and as fast as you like. Getting home and standing in a piping hot shower and reflecting on the experience of the ride rather than the stats it produced. Yes, the method of the journey is important but smelling the flowers along the way is the enrichment.

 

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