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Strava: Friend or Foe?

by Steve

We all know Strava has become extremely popular amongst endurance athletes over the past number of years, allowing people to log their training, look at their data, track personal bests, plan routes for training, follow their friends and favorite pro’s and get social support from others and “kudos” for their achievements etc.

While some of the above may be beneficial, in my experience as a coach I find that many athletes do not handle the use of Strava well. Some of the common themes I have seen with athletes are as follows:

• Increased Stress and Pressure
Athletes typically have higher levels of stress and pressure using the app than those who don’t. Why? They are consistently thinking about what the workout will look like on Strava when they finish and what others will think. Thinking about the comparison to others etc. A pressure to push harder or faster than they were prescribed by their coach.

• Risk of Over Training and Injury
Due to frequent efforts above what is prescribed by their coach, be it extra distance or faster speeds etc, they start to dig a small hole. Every time we do an “easy” training session a bit harder than this and then load up with a more specific workout soon after and continue this cycle, we begin to deepen that hole and risk over training or injury/illness. We start losing the ability to control the intensity in training when thinking about Strava.

• A Reliance, Obsession, Addiction to the App
I look around and I see so many people being utterly reliant, obsessed and even addicted to the app. They spend too much time looking at it daily, checking what others are doing, comparing themselves to others, chasing segments, trying to beat personal bests etc. this all comes at the expense of consistency in training over long periods of time, which is our number one goal as an endurance athlete. How many years of training can you put together back-to-back with minimal disruptions.

• Comparison with Others
This is likely one of the biggest issues with using the app, the comparison with others. Far too many athletes care about what others think, what training others are doing, how they compare to others etc. The feel the need to write paragraphs about certain workouts or races to explain what went wrong or if the GPS wasn’t correct or to generally come up with an excuse of some sort if not happy with a workout or race. The focus must be on you only and your daily process.

All the issues above are very common amongst the endurance world, can create undue stress, pressure, negative thoughts and for some people they may want to question whether Strava is beneficial to them or not. While I am not trying to be overly negative about Strava, I am trying to educate people on its use. There are many positives to using Strava, but you must look at how and why you are using it and ensure you do not fall into the traps listed above.

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Performance specialist who has 24 years of experience in Development & High Performance sport

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