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Strava for Beginners

So you aren’t already a die-hard junkie who can’t wait to finish their run and upload it to Strava… or perhaps you don’t even know what Strava is? This web-based app was designed as a social network for runners and cyclists. All that is required is creating an account and then linking GPS-recorded activities to it – this can be done by either linking your Garmin or other GPS-based watch, or you can actually use a smart phone and record activities using the Strava app.

So why would you want to do this? Most of you have probably seen the “Strava segments” we have featured in the Summer Series over the past several years. Even before the global pandemic shut down organized races for the spring and summer, TRL already had a Strava segment in the mix for the 2020 series. To be ranked in the standings for that segment, recording a run using GPS and uploading it to Strava is required. The utility for programs like Strava has continued to grow as the 2020 race season appears to be shifting to virtual events – like the Stumptown Quarantine Virtual 5k, which is taking place right now. And odds are good that there will be other virtual events that rely on Strava to have the intra-club competition that is our Summer Series.

Far be it from me to try to convince you of the need to upload every single activity you do to a web-based platform where the whole world can see all of the details – where, how far, how fast. But for those of you who are finding other social media platforms a little depressing, perhaps getting to see what your friends and teammates are up to for their daily or weekly exercise isn’t such a bad thing.

In case privacy is one of your biggest concerns with wanting to use Strava, there are ways to adjust settings so that you can limit who sees your activities, as well as set up ways for people to not figure out where you start/finish your runs from.

The basics:
To join Strava, you can set up a free account when you go to, or download the Strava app on your smart phone. Some basic info is required (name), but you can adjust or add most of the other info after joining (for example, adding a photo).

To adjust your privacy controls:
Open “Settings”. On the mobile app, you can do this by clicking your profile and then the gear icon. On the desktop version, in the top right where you may (or may not) have your photo, when you hover over that you will be able to select “Settings” from the drop down menu.

Within Settings, go to “Privacy Controls.” This is where you can adjust who sees your activities. I would suggest changing the Profile Page setting to “Followers” – this means that only people you approve can see your activities in their feed. This is also the place where you can create a Privacy Zone. This feature hides the portions of your activities that take place within a certain radius of whatever address you specify – note that you won’t show up in the standings for any segments within your privacy zone, so keep this in mind if you set up a 10 mile radius around your house and you happen to live within that radius of the Summer Series segment (or any other segment you want to see yourself in the standings for). The segment and club leaderboard standings are important considerations when setting up your privacy settings, since you do have the option to make your Activities only visible to your followers or only you – but selecting those privacy options means that your activity won’t be considered in the Summer Series standings. So I would recommend leaving your Activities set to “everyone” and instead limiting your profile to “followers”.

Recording activities:
There are 3 different ways to get activities into Strava. Manual entry is just typing in the distance and pace – this will obviously not work for verified times on segments or races, but it is handy for those who are using Strava as their training log. The two more common ways to record activities are to
1) record them using the Strava app (which you can do on your smart phone by clicking “Record” and then the Start and Stop button, or
2) Link your Strava account to your GPS watch or fitness recording device. With so many different devices and programs that might already be downloading that data, the steps are slightly different for each, but you can set up Strava to automatically pull activities from another app (like Garmin Connect).

If you want more detailed step-by-step instructions (including some screen shots), check out this article from Runner’s World.

Join the TRL Club:
Under “Explore” you will find a link for “Clubs”. From there you can find Team Red Lizard and join. The club is set up for just members, so you will have to get approved to join. But that means that when you do see the club leaderboard, it will only be TRL members who see your weekly stats (weekly mileage, elevation gain, etc.). One of the things that makes Strava fun is seeing how your friends and teammates are doing on their weekly training. Plus, this is how we are able to sort results for the Summer Series standings.

One of my favorite things about Strava are the segments. It is virtually impossible to download an activity on Strava and not find random (although the goal is for them to make sense versus truly being random) segments of road or trail that you will find out after your run that your route followed. Whether you find out after the fact, or purposely set out to run some of these segments (like the 2020 TRL Summer Series segment that does the loop around the Garthwick neighborhood near Sellwood), segments can be one of the most entertaining things about Strava. Each segment has its own leaderboard, so you can how your time compares with others who have run it in any day, year, or all time – or sort by gender and/or clubs you belong to. These sort features are exactly how we can assess the standings for segments we include in the Summer Series – sorting by TRL club members who have run the segment this year.

There are several other useful features that Strava can provide us as athletes, but one of the great things it offers always (and especially at this current time of physical distancing) is a way to stay socially connecting while doing the physical activity that brought us all together in the first place.


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