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If you have been involved in triathlon for more than a few weeks and haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Strava and other similar social media/training platforms that are commonly used by endurance athletes.

Strava is a social networking app that allows you to track athletic activity via GPS. The most popular activities tracked are running and cycling. The app allows you to compete and compare yourself against other athletes. One of the most popular features is the “KOM” (King of the Mountain). Strava automatically allocates your time to any segment that you ride through and uploads that time to its site. The app then ranks you with every other person that has ever completed that segment. The fastest of these are then crowned a yellow crown titled “King of the Mountain” (or Queen of the Mountain). They kind of make a big deal out of it.

There are many other competitive features as well.

It all sounds pretty cool, and can be a ton of fun, but is it hurting your training in the long run? Well, my short answer is, just like pretty much everything… it depends. Here are some pros and cons to using Strava while trying to get the most out of your training in smart and healthy way.

Pros

  • It automatically compares your personal efforts against each other so you can see if you are getting faster. It takes the the hassle out of hitting the lap button because you can just use segments for time trials, or create your own segment. Strava will put your past efforts on a list for you and rank them.
  • It helps antisocial triathletes become more social. When you ride with someone (even on accident) it connects you. The app allows you to connect similar to Facebook by liking, commenting, creating groups, etc. It definitely can make a solo sport more social.
  • You can compare your abilities to others. If done smartly, this can be a benefit in daily training.

Cons

  • It could potentially take you out of your training goals for a particular workout. Some athletes just go around looking for KOMs — there is nothing wrong with that, but if your coach has prescribed an “easy” workout, and you are choosing to go all out up a hill because you want a KOM, it’s probably not the smartest choice for your training in the long term.
  • The comparisons can be skewed. If you put a lot of stock in comparing yourself to others on a daily basis, you need to realize that conditions were different when they did the effort, you aren’t necessarily comparing the same thing. Also consider the total duration of that persons workout, were they on a long ride? Or did that person gather all of their energy for that one effort?
  • Negative comments. Some people allow negative commentary to get into their heads. Just like on Facebook, there are always going to be people with negative words to throw at you from behind a keyboard. If you are the type of person that takes this seriously, these social media platforms may not be for you.

Ultimately, I think Strava can be a fun and motivational tool for athletes, but you have to take the program for what it’s worth. This goes back to “it depends”. If you can be on these social media platforms and have fun without letting other people influence your long term training goals too much, then go for it. It becomes a balance of what is more important to you. If your goal is to win your age group in a triathlon, and you can’t resist sprinting up a hill on a recovery day, then it probably isn’t that beneficial to you. If you can use these program to your advantage then I think it’s awesome.

What are your thoughts on platforms like Strava? Do you use them? Do you think they’re a good training tool?