Runners seek motivation and accountability from different places. Some turn to their partner or family members for encouragement, others join a running club, and some runners even depend on their beloved four-legged companion and run with their dog.
Another popular avenue for increasing motivation to run is by using a running app. Running apps not only keep track of your workout stats, serving as a training log to help you chart your progress and notice trends in your running, but some running apps are also designed to increase motivation, social support, and even performance.
One of the most popular fitness and running apps is Strava.
Although the trend may be to use running apps like Strava, there are surprising benefits to quitting Strava. In this guide, we will discuss the pros and cons of Strava and the benefits of quitting Strava.
We will look at:
- What Is Strava?
- The Benefits of Using Strava
- The Surprising Benefits of Quitting Strava
Let’s get started!
What Is Strava?
Strava is a workout tracker, route planner, running log, and social network running app all in one. It’s one of the most popular running apps, given its versatility, functionality, and value.
According to Business of Apps, Strava had over 76 million users in 2021 and boasts a growth rate of about one million users per year. In 2020, over 1.1 billion activities were recorded on Strava by the users, with a cumulative total of 17.1 billion kilometers.
Clearly, with numbers like that, Strava must be doing something right. But is it all good? It sure doesn’t seem like many runners are quitting Strava, but actually becoming more and more hooked as time goes on.
Strava was initially designed for cyclists, but it’s long been updated to include running along with many other indoor and outdoor exercise modalities and serves competitive runners and beginners alike.
Some runners have even been known to create Strava map “art,” creating routes through their city or town that resemble recognizable objects like flowers, dogs, rabbits, and words.
Strava also keeps track of your personal bests and lets you know when you achieve new records, which can be quite motivating for many runners, and encourages a goal-oriented or improvement-inclined mindset.
Strava also has a strong community or social network component. For example, there are community records and a leaderboard, so you can compete virtually with other runners in your local area to run the fastest splits for various marked segments on your favorite running routes.
The fastest time over these segments earns the leader a virtual crown, which gets retracted and recrowned when another runner runs a faster split.
As a social network, Strava allows you to follow any of your contacts or friends and search for other runners. It syncs to your Facebook account to easily find friends to follow, and once you follow one another, you can view one another’s activities and give virtual kudos.
You can compare your times, comment on the activities of others, search and join running clubs, and compete in virtual challenges.
The Premium version of Strava has additional features like a safety option called Beacon, which alerts any three of your contacts to know exactly where you are on your run. You can set custom goals, create routes, and more.
Benefits of Using Strava
There are quite a few benefits or reasons to use Strava. It can be helpful to have a record or automatic log of all of your workouts because it gives you readily accessible data to find trends in your training, look for signs of overtraining or potential injury, and keep track of your progress.
The GPS run function in Strava can save you the cost of buying a GPS running watch, and you can search for and find routes. Some people enjoy the competitive nature of trying to get segment records and beating best times. In these ways, Strava has the potential to improve performance.
The social support component of Strava can also be motivating and might encourage you to run on days when you’re not feeling the urge to lace up your shoes.
Studies have found that the social networking component of fitness apps like Strava is indeed associated with an increase in physical activity.
In other words, some people are motivated to work out more if they are going to be able to post about it, share about it, receive kudos, or have other friends in their network see their results (or lack thereof).
These are some pretty motivating benefits to using this app, aren’t they? So why are there benefits to actually quitting Strava? Let’s find out.
The Surprising Benefits of Quitting Strava
While there are undeniable benefits or reasons to use apps like Strava running, many runners also find there are surprising benefits to quitting Strava.
Strava can increase stress and pressure when it comes to running. It tends to draw runners with a competitive mindset who don’t necessarily need anything external (like a running app) to further encourage competitiveness and a “the more, the better” mindset.
For these runners, Strava can increase the risk of overtraining and injury, as some runners get overly obsessed with beating their records, running more mileage, competing virtually with others when their body needs an easier day, and putting too much stock in seeking the approval and kudos of others.
Essentially, Strava can contribute to runners overriding what their body needs or listening to their body in the pursuit of better numbers, faster paces, higher mileage, and more awards.
This can eventually lead to injury and burnout and, in the short term, can cause stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
Instead of feeling free to go out for a relaxed recovery run and simply enjoy the time outside, some runners feel internal pressure to push harder and to get better data for their run to post and share.
So, are we convincing you to think about quitting Strava for a bit yet?
An interesting commentary in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy discussed the shortcomings of relying only on running distance—a tendency the authors argue is encouraged by GPS running watches and apps like Strava, where your run distance is measured and tracked to a T.
The article discusses how focusing too much on distance negates other aspects that contribute to your overall training stress, such as physiological and psychological effort/intensity, speed, heart rate, and ratings of perceived exertion.
The authors raise the question that apps like Strava breed an obsession with mileage and the expense of smart training decisions that ultimately increase the risk of injury.
There’s even a popular saying in the running community, “Strava, or it didn’t happen,” which basically means that if a run isn’t recorded on Strava, it doesn’t count. Obviously, this is hyperbolic to some degree, but it speaks to the reliance and obsession that some runners have with Strava.
Whether you fear the judgment of others—like your run wasn’t “good enough” or “hard enough”—or simply the judgment and criticism of yourself, being too dialed into Strava and putting too much stock in your running metrics can take the joy out of the sport and lead to training overload. If this sounds like you, you may want to think about quitting Strava for a bit.
Although there are benefits to using Strava for running, and it can be a valuable tool, it’s also a helpful decision to step away from time to time, either a few days a week for relaxed runs or for several months or more, and reconnect with your body, reconnect with the simplicity of the sport, and disconnect from technology, stats, and social approval.
Quitting Strava for a period of time can give you a break from unnecessary stress during an activity that should be fun and enjoyable for you.
But, after quitting Strava and taking a break for a bit, you can come back to using technology to boost your runs and share them with your friends all over again. Take a look at some other popular running apps with our 9 Best Running Apps article.