Strava: Competing Against Yourself or Others?


Williston students are getting active on yet another social media platform. This one seems different from the rest. But is it really?

Strava is an app where users track and post their physical activity. Running, biking, swimming, hiking, and even kitesurfing are some of the forms of exercise that can be shared with friends on Strava. The Williston Boys Cross Country team took  to Strava to track their training this past summer. Each member of the team could see every run their teammates posted. As far as social media goes, one that promotes exercise is far more beneficial to users than one that promotes laying in bed all day, right? However, there are negative aspects of popular apps like Instagram that also translate over to Strava.

Strava was created in 2009 by Mark Gainey and Michael Horvath. The app did not truly take off, however until April of 2020. During the span of April and May of 2020, three million people a month were joining Strava, looking for a way to stay motivated and active during the pandemic.

Junior Calvin Klumpp has been running Cross Country at Williston since 7th grade. He joined the Track and Field team this past spring and is looking to run this coming winter in some capacity. Needless to say, Calvin is dedicated to the grind; and he uses Strava to document this. Calvin saw some benefits the app had on the Cross Country team this past summer.

“I think without it, the team wouldn’t have put in so many miles this summer,” Calvin said. “I felt like people were inspired and motivated by others’ runs, which led to more runs by everyone.”

I surveyed the Boys Cross Country team to see if this hypothesis was correct. I found that everyone who ran more than 200 miles this summer used Strava and everyone who ran less than 50 miles did not use Strava. It is clear that the use of Strava correlated to more mileage, but Calvin did have some concerns.

“Sometimes people get too into the details, like stopped time and weekly miles and pace and whatnot,” he said. “It can bring some toxicity, as people don’t run the way they want, and feel they need to match or compete against others’ runs.”

Running more than one’s body is equipped for can do some major damage to knees and shins. Running while injured is not fun. It’s painful when it should not be, and can suck the fun out of a would-be relaxing easy run. Runners train to improve, but also to stay healthy, in shape, and mentally sharp.

Senior Jake St. Marie, who is new to both Cross Country and Strava, loves how Strava allows him to visualize his improvement.

“Seeing my times get better is one of the best feelings and pushes me to keep grinding,” he said.

Jake also touched on how Strava reflects some of the toxicity seen on all social media platforms.

“If you are seeing someone running five-minute miles for 12 miles, you could get down on yourself, as this is completely unrealistic,” he noted. “People will pause their runs to rest and then keep going, making their stats appear much better than they actually are. Since it is a social app, people are just trying to impress each other.”