Sweating with Strava

Strava is a unique fitness app that is used by many Paly athletes. The use of the app has exploded during the pandemic

Liam Nagesh, Josh Butler, and Henry Bolte

It’s New Years Eve. Fireworks light up the sky and many turn to a night of (bacchanal) celebration. Despite the care-free nature of these festivities, there is a serious side to the night: you’re New Years Resolution. Most likely, you decided to make it your New Year’s Resolution to lose some more weight and become more active, quite a common one (there’s a reason there are so many Peloton ads around Christmas time).

Fast forward to today. Have you been sitting in the warm confines of your home watching Bridgerton or jogging like you promised yourself you would? It’s understandable that you haven’t kept to your resolutions, many people fail to do so. However, if you truly don’t want to spend next year making the same resolution to maybe lose some pounds, you must download Strava.

If you’ve ever found yourself unmotivated to go on a run or track your exercise in a more analytical way, then you have to join a multitude of Paly athletes and download Strava. 

Strava, the self-proclaimed social network for athletes, has combined social media with fitness, garnering a large user base. Boasting more than simple GPS technology, the app allows athletes to track all sorts of data, such as heart rate, overall effort and speed. 

Additionally, Strava allows you to challenge yourself by competing with others, completing challenges or hitting new milestones. Whether creating art by traveling along certain routes or chasing the King/Queen of the Mountain (the award given to an athlete with the fastest time for a given segment of a route) what was once the chore of exercise has transformed into a competitive, fun adventure.

The fall season for Paly athletics has been pushed back, stopped, pushed back again, and now practices have, for the most part, resumed. However, there are significant restrictions and most students have limited hope of actually competing this year. Because of the upheaval and chaos in school athletics, many students have turned to working out with the aid of Strava, citing the positives of being able to track their progress and keep them accountable to their fitness.

“Since dance practice is not in person anymore and isn’t as effective, I’ve started to do more at home stuff. I think a lot more people, like me and my friend have started using [Strava] during this quarantine to try and stay active when things aren’t in person anymore,” Riley Herron (‘22) said.

While Strava is a fitness app, it allows you to track your friends runs or bike rides and give them “kudos”, effectively creating an online community for athletes amongst its 55 million users. 

“The app is super cool because it’s like a social media platform and you can see what kinds of stuff other people are doing and get inspiration,” Herron said.

Strava has especially seen a meteoric rise in popularity during the seemingly never-ending pandemic. A lot of people, especially teenagers like cross country runner Jimmy Miller (‘22), have capitalized on the amount of free time they would normally have spent socializing working out. With Strava, users gain access to new and exciting routes, document their work outs, and track their progress and fitness levels.

“I like Strava because it simplifies the process of tracking my miles run each week,” Miller said. “Others I know love Strava because it motivates you when someone gives you kudos.”

However, the app is not without its downsides. While there are already systemic barriers that prevent people of lower economic status from engaging in a more expensive activity such as cycling, the app does these individuals no favors.

Strava offers a free service, but also a subscription package that allows users to view segment analysis and your suffer score, which helps you know when to take off days. Further, the app works best with a smart watch, of which the range in price is between $200 and $1,000 dollars. While Miller does use a watch, he thinks the paid features for Strava are non-essential, and he himself opts to use the free version.

Aside from the financial costs, the social media aspect of the app does present some negatives. Miller is especially concerned with the performative nature of some workouts.

“[Strava] enforces the idea that running more miles, no matter the quality, is a good thing. This can lead to the association between high mileage and success on race day, which doesn’t exclusively correlate, especially for younger runners,” Miller said.

Despite these drawbacks, the app is still seen favorably by Herron, who cited the app as integral to her motivation and keeping her active during the extended period of restrictions, a point Miller echoed.

“Runners or non-runners, especially those looking for a way to hold themselves accountable to working out, should use Strava,” Miller said.

With so much uncertainty in the world today, it’s nice to find certainty and routine with Strava. What are you doing at home reading this instead of running like you said you would? Go download Strava and start collecting some kudos.