in Gear and Reviews

Getting the Most Out of Strava

strava-logo-350There are a bunch of different run tracking, social fitness websites out there, but Strava does a nice job creating a real community regardless of which GPS device or app you use.

I’ve been a long-time user of Dailymile over the years, but a lack of updates of late, and a bunch of missing features like segments, goals and easy uploads from my Garmin had me looking elsewhere this fall.

Strava is free to join and use. They also have a premium account level with a few additional features, but up until recently, I’d been a happy free Strava user for a few years and found it pretty suitable for my needs.

Tips and tricks

Here’s some tips to help you get the most out of Strava, if you opt to go that route for your run tracking and community:

Support for 50+ devices

Take advantage of Strava’s integration with various services to automatically sync your uploaded runs. Strava supports more than 50 different devices.

Log into your Strava account and go to Upload Activity to connect your Garmin Connect, Fitbit, Polar, TomTom (and other) accounts to Strava. For many popular devices, whenever you upload a run to whatever service your GPS watch maker provides, it’ll automatically get added to Strava within a minute or two.

img-mobile-phones-21f956d49fed137ecb6bb9bda90a39e0If you don’t use or have a GPS running watch, the Strava App for iOS and Android offers GPS tracking. You should probably download it even if you do have a GPS watch as you can give kudos (likes) and comment on your friends runs and view the details on your own when you are away from the computer.

Challenges, Segments and Clubs

Make sure you check out Strava’s Challenges to keep yourself motivated throughout the year. Strava has monthly distance challenges each month, along with different virtual races that will get out out to run 10km, 21.1km or more in certain months.

If you are the competitive type, check out Strava’s Segments for more fun. Segments offer little races within your runs and are generally short hills, or specific sections of popular routes.

Strava keeps track of your performance over these segments and also matches you up with other runners so you can see how you rank against everyone who runs the same areas as you do. You’ll see the various segments when you upload your run. You can also create your own if you want to track a portion of your regular route.

If you are looking for more community, then make sure you connect your Facebook account to Strava so you can find your running buddies and connect with them on Strava. You might also want to connect to your Instagram account as Strava automatically finds your Instagram photos taken on the run and adds them to your uploaded activity.

There are also virtual run clubs to create and join with discussion boards, a leaderboard and a way to plan events. The clubs feature is super handy if you want to train together with a group with the same goal race. While many run clubs use Facebook for this, Strava offers similar features in terms of discussions, but also incorporates running data, and the ability to share routes.

Flybys, training progression, suffering and more

Some more advanced options:

  • Routes: Strava has a route maker with a few neat features. It’s a bit finicky at times (pro-tip: turn off “Use Popularity”), but it does a nice job helping you create good routes to run.
  • Strava Flybys: A neat mapping feature that plots your runs alongside anyone who ran either the same route as you did, or who crossed paths with you during your run. Here’s an example.
  • Runs on this route: if you run the same routes often (like a regular neighbourhood loop), Strava will tell you how you are trending over time.
  • Suffer Score: Strava Premium users ($5.99USD/month) get a few extra features including the Suffer Score which uses heart rate data and other metrics to assign a value for how much you suffered during your run. I scored a glorious 217 during the Marquis de Sade.
  • Personal Heatmap: another Premium feature, Heatmaps plots all your runs on a map and the more you run a street, the more red it gets. My 2015 heatmap is here. You can create various different ones for different periods of time. There’s also a Global Heatmap available to everyone that will help you find popular routes when you are running in different cities.

As with any service, the more you use it, the more you get out of it. Find some friends, comment, give kudos and provide enrouagement and you’ll get the same thing back.

Considering the cost (free for a regular account, $5.99USD/month for Strava Premium), Strava offers an incredible service for any runner.

Some screenshots from Strava: