Strava is a fitness social media that is very popular with runners and cyclists. It tracks activities using GPS, then runners and cyclists upload them, so that other Strava users, can see them. You can choose whether to share this information publicly, or just among your followers. For many runners and cyclists, it is a great motivational tool. There is potentially a lot of pleasure to be had from seeing that you’ve run a particular route faster than anyone you know.
But what if you haven’t run that route very fast?
What if you’ve pushed yourself too hard just so that your data looks good?
What if comparing yourself to others makes you feel crap?
As I see it, there are a number of potential problems with Strava, both in terms of mental and physical health. If you suffer with low self esteem, it’s not good to compare yourself to others, because it will just make you feel worse about yourself. You may worry that people are judging you, if they see that your run or bike ride wasn’t as quick as theirs.
(Of course, it’s 99% certain that they’re not judging you in any way, but that’s not how many people’s minds work. We all go through phases of assuming people are judging us.)
When training for a marathon, or any type of race, there are times when you should be running slower. You need to build up strength, not speed. So your Strava results might look a bit crap. If you don’t want your run to look a bit crap on Strava, it’s easy for those thoughts to overtake the rational thoughts of ‘I need to run slower to get stronger’. So you push yourself too hard, just for the data. And you end up injuring yourself.
My husband got Strava a few years ago, when he was into cycling. He enjoyed looking up various routes and seeing how he compared to others. But he’s never used Strava for running and is now convinced it is a bad thing for many runners to be using.
I’ve never compared myself to others when running (OK, so there’s just one woman at our parkrun who I’ve actually made friends with over our friendly rivalry). I just run for myself and my own health and wellbeing. I use a TomTom watch to track my runs – it makes it easier to track my own distance and pace, but I don’t share that data. It is just for me. Sometimes I run to increase my speed, sometimes to increase my strength and a lot of the time I’m just happy to tick off another parkrun on the long journey to my 250 parkrun milestone.
Strava might seem like a great tool for you and if it keeps you motivated, stick at it. But if you find yourself beating yourself up over it, step away and remind yourself what you’re really running for.