Strava is probably one of the most ubiquitous platforms on the internet. For the uninitiated, it’s a platform where you can have your runs, rides and countless other sporting activities listed publicly. It’s fitness done with a social media flavour.
I’ve been aware of Strava since 2014 when a running friend told me about it and persuaded me to join. I’d previously used Endomondo (most recently owned by Under Armour before being discontinued at the end of 2020) which did a similar sort of thing. But for whatever reason, Strava was the one that everyone gravitated to. Very much the Facebook of the sporting world.
There’s a lot to like about Strava
Nearly every company providing fitness tech has functionality with which to automagically send your workout to Strava. It’s usually a matter of clicking a couple of buttons, agreeing to some Ts&Cs that you probably didn’t read and then voila! Your workout is on the Strava platform.
But Strava isn’t just about listing your workouts for you. What it wants you to do is to invite your friends so you can all see each other’s workouts, put on your pictures etc. It’s social media, but done with a sports focus.
I don’t use the word ‘ubiquitous’ lightly either. There’s a well known phrase/mantra of “If it’s not on Strava…….”. Meaning that it is sort of the de facto way to show off or to prove your workouts.
So with that all said, you might wonder why I’ve walked away.
You see, the ‘benefits’ of Strava, as summarised above, can also be weaknesses.
Fundamentally I run because I enjoy how it makes me feel, it helps my physical and mental fitness and I get to visit places in the countryside that I otherwise probably wouldn’t even know about, let alone visit.
It sounds a bit like new-age nonsense, but when I’m running alone, I’m focused entirely on the moment. I’m in a medatative state. It is my happy place, where everything important at that moment is controlled entirely by me. I’m not on my phone, nor am I checking my emails. I’m in that space and in that moment. It gives me a space for clarity without all the other noise in modern life taking up the room.
I love my running data, but it’s something that I tend to indulge myself on after the event. It’s a very personal thing but I like to poke around the numbers and see what I can glean from them.
Strava as an organisation have gone through some changes which have upset their userbase over time. Indeed it’s the reason I cancelled my paid subscription a number of years ago. But I won’t repeat all the stuff about what they were doing or why, it’s been covered to death by many other writers out there. Instead I’ll focus on the matters specific to me.
Houston, we have a problem
The first time I realised I had a ‘problem’ with Strava was actually last November when I ran the ‘Escape from Meriden‘ race, a review of which you can find here. In short, my Garmin started to run out of battery, and whilst I was charging it, for some reason, it ended the track, which resulted in the total run being split up on Strava, albeit with 4 miles missing in between before I realised what was going on.
Writing it this way sounds insignificant. Yet I was incandescant about the situation; because of the break it meant that my longest run ever wasn’t recorded as such on Strava. The kudos of having achieved something beyond what I’d managed before lost.
But it’s irrelevant. Indeed as the race was being tracked independently so the results could be recorded and verified. I commented about this in my write-up of the race and that it made me think more about why I was using Strava.
Are you addicted to Strava?
I’ve realised more recently that the platform works the dopamine levels in a similar way to the way that other social media does. I found myself clicking back on my own runs to see if anyone had left a comment or kudos. Which is stupid given the runs in question weren’t being done to satisfy other people.
You might see this as harmless, and to an extent it probably is. But I found it was beginning to raise the question about my reasons for doing any runs; were they for me, or were they instead a ‘look at me and what I’m doing’ reason? I’m certain I’ve never gone out to do a run with the sole purpose of doing it to show off to others. But at the same time, it’s a bit weird that one might be putting this information out there in front of others with an expectation of a comment or a like!
The social media problem
The final straw came following a misunderstanding about a well-intentioned comment on a run. It pulled everything back into focus. My runs are mine alone as is the data behind them. Having had a long lay-off from injury and a few health issues, my stats are a shadow of what they were. And that’s fine, it’s the nature of the beast and hopefully over time with the appropriate training, things will get back on track. But I don’t need the eyes of others picking over this, nor do I need their encouragement about it either. I’m capable of sorting my own training out, and if there are aspects I need assistance with, I’ll ask someone with the appropriate knowledge rather than ‘the internet’.
Essentially it’s been a death-by-1000-cuts situation. Each of my issues (plus the wider company issues) probably wouldn’t have resulted in me doing anything other than having a moan. But stack them all up and I began to see how the whole social media aspect was sucking out the enjoyment and benefit I was getting from doing my workouts.
Sure it’s always nice when you’ve done something good or really well for others to congratulate you. Some people need all the support and encouragement they can get to help build up some confidence and get themselves moving forward. And that’s completely fine and understandable. But when it’s a non-descript workout on a weekday evening and people are clapping and cheering online, you do have to question the benefit.
Do you like Social Media sporting?
I’d be interested in your thoughts. Does the social media aspect of running benefit you? Does it bother you? There’s no right or wrong answers of course and it’s very subjective and personal. But on the same token, if on a personal level it’s causing you to feel bad, should you really be doing it?