To Strava or not to Strava!

Strava - Hills

The other day I was getting ready for training and put on my heart rate monitor strap but then found I had forgotten my Garmin Forerunner (the watch bit). A thought quickly crossed my mind –

“I can’t track my workout and upload it. I might not bother going to training”

I was shocked that I even thought that. It seems the adage about Strava may very well be correct –

“If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen”

Whats Strava?

Strava is an app thats an activity recorder and tracker that can link to GPS watch or can be recorded directly via your phone. There’s a free and a premium version (£5.99 a month or £44.99 a year) ($7.99 a month or $55.99 a year)

What do I use?

I use a Garmin Forerunner 235, Garmin heart rate chest strap and used the Garmin Connect app on my iPhone that syncs with the Strava app. This sync happens automatically via Bluetooth when the workout is done and the watch is in range of my phone. I then go straight into the app and can edit Evening Run to something like Tuesday BMF Run Club (hot and sweaty)

What does it track?

  • Strava - Elevation
  • Totals miles
  • Pace (km or miles)
  • Elevation (ft or metres)
  • Heart rate
  • Heart zone analysis – overall effort – Premium
  • Pace zone analysis – Premium
  • You – a tracker called Beacon so family or friends can track you to make sure your safe – Premium

Works for running, treadmill, cycling, indoor cycling (can be linked to Zwift), swimming (with swimming compatible watch like a Garmin Fenix)

What are Segments?

Segments are popular stretches of road or trails (like your favourite local climb or parkrun) and create a leaderboard of times set by every Strava athlete who has been there before. You can see your achievements showing your personal bests and where your latest performance sits

What else?

  • You can join Clubs – your local parkrun, actual run or cycle clubs, companies, charities, shops.
  • You can take up challenges such as a particular distance or a streak.
  • Find popular routes and heatmaps (when people run) if you in a new city.

So should you Strava or not Strava?

It was quite freeing in the end when I forgot my Garmin. I didn’t look at the time, pace or heart rate during the session. But over the year or so I’ve had my Garmin and Strava I’ve really enjoyed it.

Logging mileage is nice and very convenient, but the thing I really like is the pace per mile breakdown. You can really see your progression and how hard you‘re actually working. Are you in 8-minute mile shape or do you need to be in tracking at 9-minute mile pace for your long runs?

I also like the heart rate tracker, which is why I bought a chest strap. When running I have my Garmin on the heart rate screen, so I’m not continuously checking my pace every 30 seconds. Heart Rate zone training  can be very effective and a good way to track your exertion. It’s also interesting to see your recovery and how quickly your heart rate drops.

Going Social

Strava says it’s also a “Social network for athletes”. This is something Strava has been pushing since the New Year. Some people frowned about this, wanting their tracker to just be a tracker and not have all the mess of a social network. Whilst social networks are not my thing, I’ve really liked the social aspect of Stava.

I have connected with old friends (that I wasn’t in touch with on Facebook) and we now share our passion for running. I’m not the most gregarious of people, but by connecting with people from BMF on Strava I have started to talk to more people before a session (as I now have an opening) which has led to being invited to join a team doing the Green Belt Relay.

I’m also doing the Velo South 100 mile ride  in September with 4 friends and Strava has now become “Look boys, I’m on it and training, you better be too” training log.

Final Thoughts

Strava - Garmin

I’m caught between two stools. I really like the notion of just pulling your trainers one, getting out the door and running on feeling with no tech to distract you. I also like data. Seeing my progression, pace and sharing it with friends and seeing what they’re up to too.

I would highly recommend giving Strava a try. The phone app has a super clean interface, is very intuitive to use and quickly links to Apple Watch, Fitbit, Polar, Tomtom, Garmin or Suunto devices. Give it a go, it might be just the motivation you need.

Oh and please – If you see me collapsed, pause my Stava.

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