Strava is a free app and social network for runners and cyclists. I have used it for the last five years to challenge myself and to encourage my friends on the way to reaching their cycling and running goals. This post is intended to summarize how Strava works and what you can do with it.
What is Strava?
At its core Strava is a free app that you can use on your phone (Android or iOS) and some smartwatches to track the distance and time of your ride or run. To do this you must enable location services on your phone then tap the “record” button in the app at the start of your ride or run. When you’re done, tap the button again to end the recording. Strava will save the route, speed, and time of your run or ride.
The Strava app can connect to other devices and apps to provide you with more data about your runs and rides. For example, I have Strava connected to the Wahoo ELEMNT computer on my bike. The Wahoo ELEMNT is what I use to view and track my cadence, speed, ride time, directions, heart rate, and watts. I also have my Garmin Instinct watch synced to Strava for tracking data when I go for a run.
Strava as a Social Network
Strava is more than just an app for tracking data about your exercise. There is a huge social network component to Strava.
On Strava you can follow your friends and give them “kudos” for a completing a run or ride. You have the option to make your account public for anyone to follow or you can make it private and manually approve or deny new followers. And just like other social networks you can follow people who aren’t your real-life friends. You can follow famous cyclists and runners who use Strava and make their data public.
Another social aspect of Strava is found in the King of the Mountain and Queen of the Mountain competitions. If you are the person to complete a segment the fastest, you will get a King of the Mountain or Queen of the Mountain badge. And if you don’t get it, you can still see how you stack up against other people who have ridden or run that same segment. I find those KOM segments to be a good way to motivate myself to put in a hard effort and see how much I can improve during the course of the outdoor riding season here in Maine.
Challenges and Badges
Throughout the year Strava hosts challenge activities that anyone can join from anywhere in the world. The challenges that I’m doing in May are to run 20 miles (cumulatively) and ride 100km (in one day). When you complete one of these challenges you get a badge. Some challenges come with the opportunity to win randomly-drawn prizes and some come with the opportunity to buy limited edition gear.
How to Join Strava
Joining Strava is easy. Simply install the app on your Android phone or on your iPhone then sign-up for an account. You can sign-up with a Google account, a Facebook account, or by using your email address and picking a password.
There is a premium version of Strava, but I’ve never used it so I can’t speak to whether or not the cost is worth it.
One final note, Strava can be used to track other fitness activities, but it is primarily designed for running and cycling which is why I focused on those activities in this post.