Some runners live for it. Some runners don’t. Or won’t. And some runners want to become a Local Legend, Expert, king (or queen) of the mountain, etc., — and want you to know about, too. You’ll usually see them launching a full-on sprint along random stretches of sidewalk or dirt during their usual running route. It’s a thing.
We’re talking about run data collection apps like Strava, Map My Fitness, Komoot, Peloton, Garmin Connect, and others. These platforms track runs and rides and other activities via GPS data uploaded by your fancy watch, and feature social components for sharing and community. Athletes can use them as a storehouse for training and racing data, route planning, workout scheduling, and other functions. Social or community features allow data to be shared and compared. That shared data can be a useful training tool or inspiration, it can also generate undue stress in the same “culture of comparison” that social media can foster.
What’s in it for you…
Want to see where your friends run? Fitness tracking apps allow you to view routes, collect run data like pace, and elevation, and the like. Some allow you to plug in a personal recap and pictures from your run. Kind of like a social media platform for athletes. You can follow not only your friends but the pros, as well. Presuming, of course, you’d consider it kind of cool to see what kind of run-day Shalane Flannigan had.
PRO: route planning, mileage tracking, personal stat tracking, run club route previews, inspiration, relationship, and community-building, diet and food intake diaries, and then some.
CON: run stalkers (note: having a private account is an option, and allows only friends to see your runs), it invites comparison (never good), and it’s easy to lose the joy of running by focusing only on the data.
Feeling good about a run? Let your friends congratulate you by giving you a thumbs up or “kudos.” Feeling bad about a run? Check out someone who just ran that same route faster than you: it will make you feel worse. Just like all social media platforms, there is definitely an element of popularity or self-worth attached to all of those likes or comments a run gets.
PRO: confidence boosting
CON: confidence busting
Like most things, only you can decide whether the pros outweigh the cons.
What actual runners say about it…
CON viewpoint: I run primarily for my mental health, and race for fun. I know that my reaction to seeing other people’s easy paces is going to be to judge mine, and that’s a double-edged sword: 1) it takes away some of my joy and 2) (more importantly) I am likely to push too hard during my easy days if I have that on my mind and end up in the grey zone.
PRO viewpoint: It is incredibly easy to get burnt out, as well as not good for your training in general when you repeat the same loops or paces during your training. Strava segments are segments, created by runners in the local community, that create a playful atmosphere to go faster and get better at the sport. I am a pretty competitive person, and into my second year of more intense running, with a little more mileage on my legs, I enjoy getting to know who else is out in the community and who’s banking hard workouts. How fast are people around me going? How fast can they go when they’re given a segment? Whether it’s 200 feet or two miles? Trails or roads? While it doesn’t govern my overall training plan, it does add some fun to the mix.
If you’re into it…
RunCharlotte has its very own Strava group and if you’re currently using the platform and it’s a good fit, we’d love for you to join. Because we want you to have a positive experience online, we suggest asking yourself these questions before you download it and join.
- Am I looking for an opportunity to connect with local runners?
- Am I looking to challenge myself by running faster, trying out new routes, or looking at my data or data posted by runners?
And – most importantly…
- Will seeing other runners’ times and/or success inspire me or cause me stress?
If question 3 sends up mental health red flags for you, then this app is probably best to avoid. If, however, you feel you can use it to make a positive change, then give it a try. And if you like, track your own training for the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon.