For those who are paying attention to this year’s Summer Series, you have no doubt seen we have something called the “Strava Challenge” included. And while I know many people have heard of Strava, there are plenty of people who have not yet joined. And I get it. It’s one more thing you feel like you need to track or pay attention to. Between email, the message board, facebook, instagram, twitter and now strava, how does anyone have time to actually go for a run, attend an actual social event, or even go to work? I’m not sure… maybe once I’m done checking all of my social media, I will investigate
So what exactly is Strava? And what are the benefits of you joining? I can really only answer the first question very well – Strava is an on-line fitness activity tracking website for cycling and running primarily (but can also be used to track swimming, hiking or whatever else you want to track and share). I know there are plenty of ways you can track your activities – Garmin Connect stores everything, or perhaps you are old fashioned and still write in a log book? It’s the “sharing” part that makes Strava unique, and might be the hurdle for many people about joining. And the nice thing about using Strava is that if you already have Garmin Connect or the software that your GPS watch uses, Strava will automatically sync activities once you download them – but yes, that means you have to download them…
In addition to having your run, ride or other fitness activities be visible for people following you on Strava, the other interesting aspect it has to it is the ability to set up “segments”. A segment is a route, or more likely, a portion of a route you would run or ride that Strava tracks performances on. If you have a particular route you run a lot and there is a mile chunk of that route where you often do a pick-up, Strava will track your performance on that segment over time and tell you how you did after each run. In addition to showing you how you stack up against other people who have run that same segment. And even if you don’t set up your own segment, you often find that by doing your normal runs, you probably cross over several segments other people have established – so Strava will tell you which segments you were on after each run. Strava keeps a ranked list for each segment, so every person who runs a segment will make the list based on their time for that segment – if you run it multiple times, your fastest time is what will show up on the list.
It is this segment tracking capability that we are taking advantage of for this year’s Summer Series. What we have done is set up a segment that is a 1.4 mile long chunk of our normal Wednesday night group run. So if you show up to the Wednesday night run and run the loop, you will automatically get a time registered for the segment. We will track all TRL member’s performances on this segment between now and the final race in this year’s series (early August), so there is lots of time to run this over the spring and summer – and you can do it anytime you want, not just as part of the Wednesday night group run.
Here is a link to the segment, although I suspect Strava may want you to sign yourself up for an account in order to actually be able to open this. Perhaps it’s time to take the plunge and join Strava???
My original goal with this story was to talk about the evolution of ways in which we track running. I was never very good at keeping a log book, but I did that a bit in college. The funny thing is that I didn’t even run with a watch until after my freshman year in college. It’s hard for me to even envision how I was doing track workouts or runs just “going by feel” – but that is apparently what I did. The next 15 years of running were with the trusty Timex Ironman (ok, there were several of them over that period of time), but as we all know, a watch tells you time, but doesn’t exactly tell you where or how far you ran. That was what the Garmin was able to start doing for me when I finally took the plunge and got one in 2007. So it’s been a decade that I have been able to at least see distance and time – and occasionally download the routes so I can see where I ran on a particular trail run, or track my overall distance.
It was only a year ago that I joined Strava. I actually joined last May because the Bike Commute Challenge would automatically log your daily commutes based on Strava. And since I had just got a new phone, I figured why not start using my phone to track my bike commute to/from work. Until that point, I was also one of those who would use my Garmin to track run distance, but then was never downloading my runs – I was just using the watch to tell me how far I had run. I would periodically download a batch of runs, but the Garmin was really only providing me with slightly more info than my trusty Timex always had. The thing about just looking at runs versus having them logged in a public forum like Strava is that you can do a little “rounding” on your efforts. I know that in comparing workouts with Chris McGinness and Adam DiVergilio before the Boston Marathon last year, they would tell me about how far or fast they had run, and based on the general info I had gotten from running with my Garmin (e.g., the instantaneous pace reading), I had the impression that my 15 mile run had x miles running at such-and-such pace. The difference between then and my Phoenix training? After joining Strava, there are no secrets. Everyone knew exactly how far and fast I was running. While that might sound bad for some, I think it was actually good for me. Even if my Garmin was slighting me miles on a trail run, it doesn’t matter to Strava – what your Garmin registers is what you get credit for – so I think I was running a little further and probably faster than I would have without having my efforts publicly posted on Strava.
Not sure whether that adds any motivation for you to join, or just more apprehension. I think it’s worth taking the plunge, so do it today!