Head Physio Sophie shares her views on Strava: it's highs and lows and why she's gone Strava free.
After the summer of 2018, I had fallen down a never-ending rabbit hole of looking at other's data on Strava, and (sadly) comparing it to my own capabilities.
I’m sure a lot of this type of behaviour is human instinct and there is a basic reason that drives us to compare ourselves against others, but it was starting to really get me down. So, what did I do about it? I decided to no longer record any activities on Strava. I didn’t wear my watch, I didn’t use my phone to sync up activities and I didn’t input any manual data for almost 2 months. This type of behaviour may sound like I’m very anti-Strava, when really I’m not - I just didn’t like the way it made me feel in that, despite several efforts, I was still slower than my peers and not able to hit similar targets. To say ‘who cares’ is one thing, but to do ‘who cares’- I wanted to see what it was like. My training days were different, I felt a little more free and loose to do whatever I liked, I no longer ran my ordinary route but added on a few extra bits, or looped back on myself to turn left instead of my usual right at a crossroads. I walked when it got tough where I wouldn’t have before. What is ironically funny is that if I had recorded the routes, I’m sure my maps and results would have looked like some escapee runner trying to decide where to go! I felt I had more choice on where I was going and what speed/route/time to exercise for on those days.
This, I realise writing it, is just an illusion- I always have had that choice but the pre-determined segments and routes that I have used for years made me feel like I didn’t have that choice, and Strava was doing the choosing for me. This all sounds positive so far, and I felt good out and about. The huge negative to come was that when I compared an average week on Strava to a week off Strava… well I didn’t go out or hit the gym anywhere near as much. I was really lacking in my total volume of training. This made me wonder why? Is it the ‘Big Brother’ effect of using Strava that make me go out more? (I always felt it was because I wanted to be out exercising!) Is it peer pressure? Everyone will upload on Saturday afternoon from this morning’s parkrun except me?
In my opinion, the answer is a little bit of everything. When you press ‘record ‘on your phone or ‘go’ your sports activity watch you make a conscious decision to do something that everyone can see. After those 2 months, the strangest part was when I started to record my runs again and I felt like I had to go faster or try harder as people would now be able to see this and wonder why I had gone so slow before. Perhaps I am facing an inner battle, and need to let go of my Strava demons. Perhaps I’m guilty of what every other person does too. The lessons learnt for me are simple, yes, I will use Strava to record my activities. I will try my utmost to stop comparing my times to others, and I will have the odd run without a watch or a phone and remember It’s always my choice.