How Strava Is Changing The Way We Run

What you need to know about the psychology of the popular running app and how to use its powers to make you a faster, happier runner

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In the era of smart technology, running has undergone a profound transformation, becoming not only a physical pursuit but a digitally connected, socially driven experience.

Strava, a prominent app in the running world, has emerged as a central hub for runners seeking to track, share, and compete in the digital realm.

This article delves deep into the psychology and motivation behind the use of Strava among runners, examining how the app is reshaping the culture of running in the 21st century.

The Digital Running Revolution & The Social Fabric of Strava

Gone are the days of lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement in blissful solitude. 

The digital age has ushered in a running revolution, with apps like Strava turning the act of running into a multifaceted experience. 

It’s not just about the miles; it’s about documenting, sharing, and competing in a virtual landscape that extends beyond the physical run.

At its core, Strava is a social platform for runners. 

It taps into the fundamental human desire for connection and competition

Sinan Aral’s research on social contagion reveals that friends’ running activities can significantly influence an individual’s own training efforts. 

Strava’s emphasis on personal records (PRs) and leaderboards creates a virtual running community, fostering motivation, camaraderie, and a sense of shared achievement.

The Addictive Nature of Running Apps

Strava, like other fitness apps, capitalizes on the addictive nature of technology to become an indispensable part of a runner’s routine. 

The ‘trigger-reward-investment’ loop, as described by marketing expert Nir Eyal, is in full play here. 

The app becomes the trigger that prompts a runner to hit the pavement, with the reward being the satisfaction of achieving a PR or topping a leaderboard. The act of logging a run becomes an investment in the ongoing cycle of motivation.

Strava goes beyond being a mere tracking tool; it serves as a digital diary for runners. 

Just as Deborah Lupton‘s study on self-tracking cyclists revealed, runners use Strava not only to analyze performance but also to relive the emotional highs and lows of their runs. 

The post-run ritual of uploading photos, sharing routes, and engaging with fellow runners on social media platforms has become integral to the modern runner’s experience.

The Balancing Act: Real vs. Digital Experience

While the digitalization of running has undeniable benefits, it also introduces challenges. 

The constant pursuit of PRs, virtual accolades, and social validation can potentially overshadow the sheer joy of running for its intrinsic value. 

Ultrarunner Nicole Linke‘s perspective on unplugging, especially during races and group runs, underscores the need to strike a balance between the digital and the tangible aspects of running.

In the pursuit of running excellence, it’s crucial for runners to find a harmonious compromise between the real and the digital. 

The essence of running lies not just in the numbers on a screen but in the rhythm of breath, the pounding of feet on the pavement, and the exhilarating feeling of pushing personal limits. 

Strava and similar apps should be viewed as tools to enhance, not overshadow, the joy of running.

Acknowledging the Impact of Social Media on Motivation

As runners navigate the digital frontier, understanding the role of social media in motivation is paramount. 

Strava’s virtual community can be a powerful force for good, inspiring individuals to push their boundaries and connect with like-minded enthusiasts. 

However, it’s essential to recognize when the pursuit of virtual accolades begins to compromise the authentic enjoyment derived from the act of running itself.

Strava and other running apps have undeniably transformed the way we approach and experience running. 

Rather than viewing technology as a distraction, runners can embrace it mindfully

Setting personal boundaries, such as designating tech-free runs or races, allows for a deeper connection with the physical act of running, fostering a sense of presence and mindfulness.

Beyond the competitive aspects, Strava can be a powerful tool for personal growth and happiness. 

Instead of getting caught up in endless comparisons, use Strava as a motivator and a source of inspiration. Focus on setting realistic personal goals, celebrating small victories, and recognizing that every run, regardless of pace, contributes to your overall progress.

How to Be a Faster and Happier Runner with Strava

  1. Set Personal Goals
  2. Celebrate Small Wins
  3. Use Strava as a Motivational Tool
  4. Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
  5. Embrace Variety in Your Runs
  6. Learn From Your Data
  7. Prioritize Enjoyment
  8. Unplug When Needed

1. Set Personal Goals

Strava offers a wealth of data that can be used to set and track personal goals.

Whether it’s improving your average pace, conquering a challenging route, or achieving a new distance milestone, establish targets that align with your fitness level and aspirations.

Regularly revisiting and adjusting these goals ensures a dynamic and motivating experience.

2. Celebrate Small Wins

Embrace the philosophy that progress is progress, regardless of scale. Instead of fixating on major achievements, appreciate the smaller victories.

Completing a run during challenging weather, maintaining consistency throughout a busy week, or conquering a previously intimidating hill are all noteworthy accomplishments.

Strava allows you to commemorate these achievements, fostering a positive mindset.

3. Use Strava as a Motivational Tool

Leverage Strava’s features to stay motivated and engaged.

The app’s segments, challenges, and monthly mileage trackers can provide a constant source of motivation. Engage with the Strava community by participating in challenges or joining running groups.

Encouragement from fellow runners can be a powerful motivator, turning your individual journey into a shared experience.

4. Focus on Progress, Not Perfection

Perfection is the enemy of progress.

Understand that every run contributes to your overall progress. Strava’s detailed activity logs allow you to review your improvement over time.

Recognize the effort you put into each run, appreciate the consistency, and acknowledge that progress is a continuous journey, not a destination.

5. Embrace Variety in Your Runs

Strava provides a platform to diversify your running routine.

Experiment with different types of runs – intervals, hill sprints, long slow distances – to keep your training engaging and prevent monotony.

Use Strava’s route planning features to explore new trails or scenic routes, injecting excitement and variety into your runs.

6. Learn from Your Data

Dive into the wealth of data that Strava provides.

Analyze your performance trends, identify areas for improvement, and celebrate the strengths revealed by your data.

Understanding how external factors like weather, sleep, or nutrition impact your performance empowers you to make informed adjustments to your training plan.

7. Prioritize Enjoyment

Ultimately, running should bring joy.

Don’t let the pursuit of faster times overshadow the sheer pleasure of the run.

Use Strava to enhance your enjoyment by sharing experiences, connecting with fellow runners, and appreciating the unique journey each run represents.

8. Unplug When Needed

Recognize the moments when you need to detach from the digital realm.

Designate certain runs as tech-free to reconnect with the pure essence of running. Enjoy the freedom of a run without the pressure of data and virtual comparisons.

By approaching Strava with a mindful and positive mindset, runners can harness its capabilities to become faster and happier. 

The app becomes a supportive companion in your running journey, encouraging personal growth, fostering a sense of accomplishment, and transforming each run into a celebration of progress.

Photo of author
Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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