Over the past decade we've proven ourselves to be social creatures...since the creation of Myspace in 2003, thousands of websites, apps, and game creators have realized the importance of including a social aspect to their product.
The ability to "share" your experience is available in almost every kind of online hobby...
You used to play video games by yourself, now you play with people from all around the world.
You used to take pictures and print them for your home or save them on your computer, now you just share them on Instagram for the whole world to see!
You used to run by yourself and maybe log your run in a notebook, now every run, split, pace, step and heart beat is captured and shared online.
Listen, I'm no curmudgeon...I use Strava, before that I used MapMyRun, I have a Facebook and an Instagram account. I'm not judging people for sharing their lives online, in fact I think a lot of good has come from it!
It's pretty amazing to see how people from all over the world live...different food, different styles, different languages...it's all at the tips of ours fingers.
We've seen how motivating it can be to share our triumphs or encourage strangers with kind words. Or even how fun it can be to see other people running similar routes as us in our neighborhoods. The ol' internet can be a pretty amazing place!
Here comes the "but..."
But...if you haven't seen how this can impact people's everyday life, consider yourself one of the lucky few.
Some people have become so obsessed with sharing their lives online that they actually change the way they're living to garner more attention, more likes, or more comments on their social media outlets.
They make decisions based on how it will "look" on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter...
Now, I say Strava because it is the most popular activity-sharing app out there (with almost 50 million users!) ...but you could say the same thing about Runkeeper, MapMyFitness, Nike Run Club, or many others.
If you're unfamiliar with these apps, let me explain.
They all basically serve the same purpose as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. They allow you to share.
When you go on a run (or walk, or bike, etc.) you can use Strava to track your run and then post the details to your Strava account. This allows your followers to see where you went, how fast you ran, etc.
Here's an example of one of my Strava runs...
Similar to Facebook's newsfeed, Strava has an Activity Feed. Activities of all your friends and followers show up in this Activity Feed so you can check out what your friends have been up to.
The idea is that this is all exercise focused. You will see people doing all kinds of activities like biking, running, skiing and lifting weights.
And honestly...it's pretty cool.
It's really fun to be able to see what your friends are doing...how and where they are working out, at what pace, and with what gear!
And just like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter...it's addicting.
Strava has "segments" where you can compare your time against others, Challenges that push you to complete specific distances or activities, and of course, all the friends, followers and clubs that make any social media platform successful.
And so, Strava transforms itself from an app where you can track your runs, to a massive social media platform that sucks your time and energy.
Not only does Strava turn into a time sink for many people, but it also begins to affect their decisions, just like the people we talked about before.
You know that when you go out for a run your friends, family, co-workers, and total strangers will be able to see the details of that run...And you don't want them to think you're SLOW!!
So, instead of logging those easy miles at a nice comfortable pace and low heart rate (like you should), you push a little too hard, you run a little too fast, and every run turns into a tempo run.
It's natural, you feel pressure to perform at a higher level because someone is "watching" you and you know they're going to be judging your distance and pace. Sure you could run an easy 4 mile run...but wouldn't people be more impressed by a fast 6 mile run!? Obviously!
This is the Strava trap.
It can cause you to deviate from your running plans, ignore what your body is telling you, and focus too much on performance.
Now, for some people, there is no pressure. They just don't care what people think about them, especially when it comes to running.
That. Is. Awesome!
I wish more people had this attitude...hell...I wish I had that sort of attitude!
But every now and then I find myself thinking about what this easy run is going to look like on Strava, and what people are going to think when they see these really slow miles...
When that happens I try to remind myself...MY training is about ME. I have to focus on what's best for my body right now, and I absolutely need easy runs, no matter what the pace is!
So what should you do if you get caught in the Strava trap?
Well, I'm no expert...but this is what I think.
There are a few options here ranging in intensity...
First, you can just try to change your attitude towards sharing. Sharing your runs should be something fun that you can do to tell the world that you're proud of what you're doing!
It doesn't need to be a testament to what a great runner you are. I mean, does it really matter if you run a 6 minute mile or a 9 minute mile? What difference does it make to anyone other than you?
Instead of being embarrassed by a slower pace, realize that every run, every walk, every bike ride you take is evidence of you making the decision to make yourself a better person. That's it. That's all that matters.
If you can shift your thinking to match that sort of attitude then you'll work your way out of the Strava trap.
Some people really struggle with the ability to just shift their mindset like that...I'm one of them. For me, I need to practice changing my mindset, and I need tactical goals to work towards.
So for those of you who are like me, you may want to try option #2.
On Strava (and most activity sharing apps) you can choose who you want to share with.
You can choose to make your whole profile private, so only people who you allow to follow you can see your activities...or you can set permissions on individual runs.
This is what your options look like when you edit a run (via the web browser) on Strava. You can choose to make a single run private so that only you can see it.
You still get all of the analysis, all of the data recorded, and all of the other important metrics that you would want to keep track of your effort.
BUT, you don't have to worry about anybody else seeing it.
So here's my advice...When you have a good run that you're proud of, share it! Let all your friends know that you crushed a workout today and you're a total badass!
When you need to get your slow runs in and you're feeling a little embarrassed about your pace or distance make the decision before your run to keep this one private. That way there is no pressure. No one is going to see it, go as slow as you want!
The final option is a bit more extreme, but may be just what you need.
Get rid of Strava...
I know it seems kinda crazy to just totally get rid of a social media app that you've been using, but it could also be a huge relief for you.
I know a bunch of people who have deleted their accounts from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Strava and I've never heard one of them talk about how much they miss it.
They always feel liberated, they have more time during their day, and they don't feel guilty for not living up to the fake persona's that people tend to create online.
If you've been wondering if this is the right step for you, just try it. You don't have to actually delete your account or anything, you can just take a break.
Delete the app from your phone and just pretend like Strava doesn't exist for a week. At the end of the week, see how you feel. Do you really miss the social aspect of it? Do you feel less pressure to perform? Did it make any difference at all?
After your "trial period" without it, then you can start making some decisions as to whether or not Strava was really as critical as you thought it was.
I want to reiterate...I'm not telling you that you should get rid of Strava. I'm not saying you should get rid of any social media platform! I'm on many of them myself.
But I do think it's important that we talk about how the pressures of social media really can impact our lives.
When it comes to our everyday lives, it can be detrimental to our mental health.
When it comes to running, it can be detrimental to our physical health as well.
Remember if you want to be a serious runner...you are a serious runner. You don't need a specific pace, distance or heart rate to tell you that you're the real deal.
So be confident in the runner you are and continue to strive to be the runner you want to be!
Thank you all so much for reading!
I hope that this helps you avoid the "Strava trap" and become a more confident runner.
I have two requests for all of you who have made it this far...
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with a friend! It really helps me promote this blog by sharing it with new readers!
Leave a comment below about your experience with Strava...love it, hate it, never heard of it...?