I love Strava and use it frequently, though I have to work really hard to not let my comparison-based thoughts sneak in when I am using the app. These little gremlins tell me I need to run a marathon because an ultra-runner I follow just did. If my friends are getting KOMs/QOMs, the gremlins will tell me I need to go chase them as well. The little gremlins are really good at turning encouragement into resentment. Worst of all, the gremlins compare my current version of myself to my past self and shame me for not always getting a PR. Because I am a competitive person who has a past of struggling with the mental side of sport, Strava is a place where I often find myself creating unrealistic expectations.
Strava is the Swedish word for “strive,” and in 2009 the app was founded as a platform for athletes to share their athletic endeavors. Like Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter, Strava has soared in our social media-based world. I hopped on the bandwagon in 2014 and since, Strava has found its way into my regular social media rotation. My favorite parts of this app are creating clever captions for my workouts and the community it attracts. Especially in COVID times, it is meaningful to engage with my friends and follow their pursuits when I cannot send alongside them in person. The “Kudos” feature of the app allows me to cheer on the people I follow, which is a close second to cheering them on in person.
Following other people’s exercise endeavors creates motivation, transparency, and incentive to get out the door. At the same time, Strava unintentionally creates a platform for the comparison game. I consider the comparison game to be the headspace where I measure myself and my athletic pursuits on the basis of what other people are doing. It’s something I have struggled with for years. For example, when I was ski racing, I would feel good about my race until I looked at the results sheet and everything would begin to crumble once I started comparing my effort to others’.
The reality of it all is that you cannot win Strava or any social media platform for that matter. Although you can follow what professional athletes are doing, that does not mean it is what you should be doing. It is unrealistic to follow a professional athlete’s plan if you are at a different level in the sport. Instead, use what they are doing as fuel for your fire and maybe try a modified version of their interval set if it fits in with your goals. Also, if you are a QOM/KOM chaser like I am, it is important to remember that not every day should be a time trial. There is a time and a place for intensity, but my favorite training advice is: keep your easy days easy so you can go hard on the hard days. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is easily over-complicated when you are wrapped up in the comparison game mindset.
If you also find yourself in a complicated relationship with Strava, try to focus on your why to shut down the little gremlins. Reflect on why you love movement, what gets you out the door every day, and if you are fully present, enjoying the process. If you are doing it for the “Kudos,” consider taking a break from Strava as it will be there for you when you are ready to come back. Being mindful of who you follow, how being on the app makes you feel, and how it is impacting your training will help you create a better relationship with this social media platform. There are many of us that will give you kudos regardless of what you are doing. At the end of the day, what you see on Strava is all relative and you are the one in the driver’s seat when it comes to your athletic pursuits.