Well, it’s February, still the time of year that packs out the gyms, every shop is trying to sell you gear to get you active, and all the exercise companions appear. There is no reason to bother with all the new apps and gadgets as there is a reasonably old one that could be the best of them all. Strava combines performance recording with friendly competition for everyone from fit to first timer.

I am already a pretty active guy, I run around 30 miles a week and have the attention span of a puppy when it comes to sedentary things. However I have been pretty stagnant for the last year or so, running constantly on my own (I prefer it) so I needed a kick to get faster and run further. Strava was recommended to me during a work meeting by someone that spotted my Apple watch - and frankly it is great.

It is however not just for the fit and healthy, you can link it to Facebook and have heathy motivation from whoever you choose, giving a new reason to go a little further or faster. All your activity can be compared against people of a similar age and weight to you, so you won’t just be looking at people running faster than you could dream of.

Strava Social Competition

There are all sorts of services out there to get you running or biking together, but what happens if you just don’t like people? If you want the competition and the motivation but just don’t want to have to talk to people to do it? I like to put my headphones in, put on a good podcast and disappear into myself - well Strava helps with all that and adds a little bit of friendly and local competition.

Strava calls these mini competitions ‘segments’ that other users of the app have set whilst out running or biking. If the same routes are run a few times it will intelligently select areas to compare times against each runner. They can be anything from a half marathon challenge, to a few hundreds meters dash between roundabouts, to a serious hill that will leave your breathless. You will be surprised how many users of the app there is and how many segments you will find - in my local area there are hundreds.

You can search them in the Strava app, or whilst you are out running if you pass the start of a segment you will get a notification and the app will record your time. All the times of people that complete the segment are recorded and ranked, not just by fastest to slowest but you can see ranking by age and weight  - meaning that you won’t just be competing against ultra fit machines, but relevant people like you.

Health Data

All of the activity levels, heart rates and distances covered collected by Strava is pushed right into the iPhones health app. Meaning the data can be exported elsewhere if required. As a side bar to this - whilst going through some medical appointments recently being able to pull my phone out and prove my activity levels was a brilliant experience.

If you are an Apple watch user the experience is even better, the Strava companion app allows you to start and stop your activity with ease. As well as allowing easy to read data on distance and times at a glance. The watches auto activity detection will also fill your coloured circles in Activity if that is important to you.

Design and Navigation

The Strava app’s all theme although does nothing to harm the aesthetics it seems safe and secure rather than a delight to use. This would be perfectly acceptable if it was a trade off to make the app easy and simple to use - but to first time users it is daunting to say the least. Things like the segment details are buried inside a few layers of menus and should be front and centre given it is such a strength to the app.

This is the only criticism of Strava, which the designers have done an excellent job in graphing and displaying all your data gained from runs in an easy to use format. Considering the app will be collecting data on speed, distance, heart rate, elevation, undulation, location, and also segment data they have worked wonders to make it easy to understand.

Premium Member

In order to use all of the features of the app it requires signing up as a Premium member, this ultimately costs £4.49 per month and could be a stretch for some. However in exchange for the the increase in levels of reporting this could well be worth it for those wanting to push onto the next level. Also consider trying this out if you are just starting out too as it will give you information about how hard you are working and areas to improve.

The Strava premium members receive the following benefits:

  • Suffer Score - during heart rate monitoring the app will create customs HR zones to display exactly how hard you are working.
  • Goals - You can set custom distance and or time goals over the course of a week to improve training levels.
  • Training plans - tailor to exactly what you want to achieve and when choose race distances and the app will calculate when to try, for how long and how hard to make sure you are at your best come race day. All the data collected during race and runs is analysed for easy to read info on how you are doing.
  • Trophy Case - view all the challenges you have achieved and look back at all you have done.
  • Active friends - find out when and where your friends are running and receive real time segment challenges.

So for the cost of a couple of cups of fancy coffee you can benefit greatly and achieve the goals you really want to. Consider trying the app by downloading from the app store and you can eve get a month of premium membership free.