My pre-run ritual always starts the same. Putting my hair up, lacing up my shoes, selecting my favourite song on my ipod, and then hitting the start button on Strava. At first, it was fun just to see how fast I was running, or how many kilometers I was running a week, or a month. I would use it to compare my speeds to previous times on my favourite running routes, find new routes and share my training with my friends. It was awesome. And then, I became completely obsessed. I started looking at the numbers and stressing out if I hadn’t ran a certain amount of km in the past 28 days. I started worrying that I hadn’t ran in over 2 days. I got upset with myself if I had a slower run. I started comparing myself to other runners… their times, their kms per month. I couldn’t go on a single run or bike ride without using strava. But I honestly didn’t see it as a problem, until I couldn’t run.
When I have been injured, or sick or too busy to run I get down when I open my Strava account. It can be a little defeating to see that you’ve either not ran at all in awhile or not even close to amount you’d like to be running. What makes it worse is then seeing all the miles your friends are logging. This puts a lot of pressure on me to get back out there faster and to push myself to run despite other circumstances that might be preventing me from getting out there. Life is a constant wave and there are times where we are so busy, or catch a cold or roll and ankle and we just can’t get out for a run. The constant need to track my milage, share how far or fast I’ve ran or my weekly miles can really weigh negatively on me when my schedule doesn’t permit my usual milage.
I remember a few years ago when I became very ill after an expedition race. I had to take months off from running. I felt so upset that I was unable to run, and even more upset at the big fat zero plaguing my Strava account. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to get back out there, but I knew I needed to listen to my body and respect it’s healing time. As I started to regain my strength, I started hitting my favourite local trail with Charlie. At first, we walked. I left the Strava behind. I enjoyed being outside, walking with my dog, soaking in the fresh air. As I got stronger, I started running again. Again, I left the Strava behind. I started to reflect back on the past months of training for both the Coastal Challenge and Expedition Africa. I realized that I had become completely immersed in how many kilometres I was running and at what speed and had forgotten to truly enjoy running just for the sake of running. I was training hard, and I loved it, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to run a certain way, and if I couldn’t achieve that, I was really hard on myself. I literally couldn’t go a single run or ride without it, and I was discovering that through this obsession I had lost the true reason for running. Sometimes it can be really beautiful to just run. To forget about how fast your running, or how far. I rediscovered that I loved running because I loved the feeling of movement, the freedom, being outside and spending time with my friends.
Being forced to stop and slow down ended up being a beautiful chance for me to do some self reflection, and I have decided to run purely because I love it. But it doesn’t mean I will stop using Strava or my Suutno watch. This summer I trained with a running coach for the biggest race of my life, Transalpine Race. I really felt a huge benefit from tracking my weekly milage. It gave me a way to stay accountable for my training plan. I was able to track my miles and reflect on why I was feeling so tired after a huge week. I was able to challenge myself and push myself farther and faster. I was able to do speed intervals accurately. I think it can be benefical for keeping track of your progress and motivating yourself.
However I do think it is completely unhealthy to become so wrapped up in the numbers of running. After all, do we not run simply because we love running? I admit, I do have a slight obsession with numbers. And yes it can delay my runs while my watch searches for a signal and I do get frustrated when Strava malfunctions or drops miles.
So, all that being said, the pluses and minuses and throwing around whether I am addicted to Strava or not… here is my final conclusion. If you are using it as a tool to become a better runner, to listen to your training, to stay accountable and to track your miles, then I believe it is totally okay. However, when speed and distance become the only reason why you are running, and you get grumpy and upset when your GPS malfunctions or you get down if your run wasn’t as far or fast as you would have liked, it may be time to leave the GPS behind.
The most important thing I have learned form this is to never lose the real reason why you run. Run because you love it, becuase it makes you happy, because you love where you run, who you run with and how running makes you feel. And maybe, pick a few runs where you just leave the gadgets behind and just let yourself run free and true and wild. I promise it will be beautiful.