Why Strava will derail your training

We all love Strava right? And I include myself in that. Over the years they have developed the platform, made it ever more sticky and really understood gamification. The net result being that it is a truly engaging user experience, it drives massive loyalty and has quite clearly established itself as the social media platform…

We all love Strava right? And I include myself in that. Over the years they have developed the platform, made it ever more sticky and really understood gamification. The net result being that it is a truly engaging user experience, it drives massive loyalty and has quite clearly established itself as the social media platform for runners, cyclists and triathletes. Proof : “If it’s not on Strava did it even happen?”… Well clearly it didn’t! 

But for all of its popularity and virtues, it might actually be the worst platform for athletes that are trying to train with a structured plan. How so?

Take a moment to think about the psychology of many (most?) athletes. Unsurprisingly we are competitive, goal driven, keen to demonstrate our ability and potential, highly focused, often very  single minded. These traits are what get us out of bed at 4:30 am in the dark to get a training session done before work… All the time visualising the race we have entered or the challenge we signed up for. Single minded. Total focus. Get it done.

It is these very traits that Strava appeals so well to! segments, kudos, side by side comparisons, an obscene amount of performance data, sharing tools to ensure that our couch dwelling friends are also kept up to date of our sporting prowess. The kudos that follows uploading an event being the core endorphin provider. As we rest post session, awash with exercise released endorphins, Strava sees to it that we are kept topped up. If Strava were a drug dealer it would be the Heineken of Drug dealers! 

For some, perhaps even many, what the above leads to is a drive to always try and do better. To push that little harder. To shave some time, to go the extra few Kilometers, to smash a few more lengths. Or perhaps to go out and do SOMETHING so that you can UPLOAD and “shoot up”. For the casual athlete, perhaps not part of a club or “pack”, perhaps struggling with motivation, perhaps a data junkie… then having the devil on your shoulder whispering “…but what that fuck will this look like on Strava! DO BETTER. GO HARDER” might be of some motivational value. 

But not for you and I dear reader… Not for us. 

I would venture to suggested that you know about the Devils voice.  I do. You understand the addiction of Strava. I do. But we also know that maximising our fitness does not come from “smashing” every session. From pushing to the max. From being able to collapse at the end muttering “that was horrible… It was so hard… I thought I was going to die… BUT I CONQUERED IT” … Because we know better and we know that those are the words of a rookie that is next to clueless! 

So we follow a training plan. That plan has structure. If you are into endurance sport as I am then much of your training will be about volume. HR / Power Intensity will often sit relatively low, but what we are looking for is to condition our awesome bodies to do what they do for insane amounts of time. To work at their maximal, but sustainable, level for HOURS! Many HOURS. 

But what will that look like on Strava? Maybe we could just… And there, right there in broad daylight, exposed to our scrutiny is the problem. If we are doing a base session (80% of the time maybe?) then that is a BASE session… NOT a Tempo run or Segment smasher on the bike… If we are working on Endurance then we actively don’t want spikes and we are trying to minimise Anaerobic recovery. Sure there are other sessions, race specific sessions, that will require us to spike our efforts and learn to metabolise Lactate “in flight”… But honestly when we need to do this then our training plan will tell us, we don’t need to let the Strava devil dictate it for us. 

Now, I know you are probably shaking your head and affirming that this is not you. The person I speak of is in fact someone else. You only ever do exactly what the plan says and your are 100% immune from the drugs and grooming of the Strava Devil. And that is fine. It’s not true but it’s fine 😉  After all neither you nor I have ever written a caption on Strava that almost tries to apologetically explain the level of performance… No… I thought not!

But the good news is that the more we understand the evil games that the Strava Devil plays on us, the more able we are to rationalise DURING THE SESSION that the session goals count more than todays fix. 

The pay off? Well… when you next post an update and change the type from “workout” to “RACE” – you will have more genuine kudos, sense of achievement and the biggest rush ever. Because the other thing that you and I both know is that following the plan is ultimately the only way to obliterate your race goals 🙂 

Its February 2024… the new season in the UK will be upon us soon. Most of us will soon be finishing our Winter blocks. So maybe now is the time to be super aware of not letting Strava derail our goals and aspirations?

Cheerio – E   

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