5 Years of Using the Strava Fitness App

Late in December 2015, I finally got a cell phone. At the same time, a cycling friend said I had to get Strava (strive in Swedish). I’d never heard of it, but figured why not. So the friend and I met for a ride, and I started recording all of my bike journeys ever since. At that time, I had to use the phone because I didn’t have a Garmin watch. Without Strava, or some other similar situation, I would not really know how far I’ve gone, and all the other data it captures. And man, have I gone far (better than being far gone). I mean, if you consider my having biked the equivalent of around the entire planet at the equator as far. I sure think 24,901 miles is a good, far piece. And what a long, strange trip it’s been.

Copyright Strava

Well, not that strange. Weird sometimes, maybe, because the slogan here is Keep Austin Weird. But riding one’s bike is a perfectly normal thing. 24,901 miles in four years, 10 months and four days is, well a bit odd when you’re a middle-aged fathlete such as myself. But then again, there’s a guy on Strava who is 41 miles short of passing 13,000 miles for this year. Another who also inexplicable follows me and gives me kudos is over 10,000. There are plenty of others who do more than I. It helps if they have a lighter bike with more gears and are a lighter weight. But that’s not the point. I biked a long way, for me. And that’s worth celebrating.

Biking and walking for the last year by month. Copyright Strava

Strava has been a most important tool for this journey. It’s given me the data I need to focus on my biking and walking progress. By upgrading to becoming a Strava member earlier this year, it’s allowed me to do things like set goals and see more statistics about my efforts. I’ve kept adding to my bike mileage, even while riding the heavier steel Sophie the Fairdale Weekender Archer. I can confidently say that without Strava, I would not have been able to achieve nearly as much as I have.

I finished this challenge 10 days early. Copyright Strava

While I do have Garmin vivoactive 3 music smart watch, and an app for that. I just find Strava to be more user friendly and interactive. Sure, I could try to make friends on Garmin, but lots of people I know have other hardware like Apple watches, or Wahoo bike computers, so we couldn’t be friends there. I can also follow people like my nearby neighbor and grand tour professional EF Education First racer Lawson Craddock. I can also comment on friends rides, and until recently, say hi to people whose paths I crossed. The flyby feature still works, but only if you opt into it. There are a lot of other features I haven’t really mentioned, like Trophies, Challenges, Segments, Routes, Beacon, Clubs and deeper dives into the data. Some features I use, many I don’t. It’s really very robust, and you can join Strava for free yourself.

There is a dark side to fitness apps, which I wrote about in a post titled, appropriately enough, Do Fitness Trackers Have a Dark Side? The Exercise Strikes Back. (Appropriate because Season 2 of The Mandalorian just came out, and to quote Mando: “This is the way.” Also, a lot of The Force is required to go as far as I have.) If I were following my own advice on rest days, I’d be taking a lot of time off the bike. Instead, I’m biking every day, going on 15 months in a few weeks. And I’m pretty tired, and getting a bit tired of riding 20 miles a day for weeks and weeks now. But with under two weeks to go in this most horrible of years, I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. As long as it’s not the Lincoln Tunnel, and the light is not New Jersey.

Some segments I did recently compared to previous times. Copyright Strava
Copyright Strava

That is, I intend to keep biking every day (for a while — we’ll see), but I think it should be based on time, not distance. At my average of 10 mph, I’m spending 10-15 hours a week biking. But if I put Sophie on the home trainer, I can crank out 10 miles in 45 minutes. And that’s plenty. It will be challenging to do less, but I hope to do other things to work on my overall fitness instead, like: swim once it’s warm enough to do so at an outdoor pool; use resistance bands, body weight exercise, maybe some weights at home to build upper body strength; and other things like rowing, tennis, pickle ball, shooting baskets, etc. You know, fun stuff. The nice thing is that Strava will record 37 activities, and for those it doesn’t, it just calls it Workout.

Strava means strive in Swedish. And I have sure done that over this past half a decade. I’m fortunate to have had the ability, means and time to do it. Even though a lot of that is due to being unemployed and low or even no income. The times may be a-changing in terms of my priorities, time spent on exercise and writing about it in this blog v. other things. What things? Well, like trying to get my damn book read by beta readers, edited, and then published/self-published. Maybe some cooking, reading, and even sleeping. Maybe when it’s safer from the global virus, I might try freelance writing, getting various gigs or a more traditional job.

Meanwhile, I’m grateful to Strava and my Strava buddies old and new for all the support. Because as all who use Strava know: If it’s not in Strava, it didn’t happen.

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