Strava – Is an injury worth a kudos?
If you’ve never heard anyone say, “my injury was because of Strava,” you’re probably not alone. I don’t think I have despite spending large portions of my days treating injured runners. So when I mentioned I was going to write a blog on Strava injuries I wasn’t at all surprised that some of my colleagues had no idea what I meant. Let me explain how going for Strava glory may be an emerging contributing factor for a running injury.
I’m Guessing You Know Strava?
Strava is a website and mobile app used to track athletic activity via satellite navigation. Its slogan is “The Social Network for Athletes”. It is mostly used across domains of cycling, running and swimming. You can record an activity and it goes to your Strava feed. On the feed your friends and followers can see your workouts, give kudos to great performances and leave comments on each other’s activities. It can also be used as a great training tool as it has the ability to track nearly every piece of data imaginable such as average heart rate, pace, lap speeds, weekly volume and even what shoes you wore. I use it personally for this reason as I find it is a helpful digital copy of my runs and to track my performance. Additionally, I enjoy commending other runners and supporting other runner’s accomplishments, whether it be a recovery 30 minutes or an ultramarathon. In this regard, it really is the social network for athletes, sharing workouts, liking (kudos) and commenting on performances. As the saying goes “If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen.”The encouraging online community that Strava has built for runners and other athletes is a place where athletes can support each other to keep training and working towards their goals #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet
Social Network without Negativity?
I hope this isn’t an oversight but from my experiences with Strava, but I believe Strava seems to lack negativity and instead acts as a positive online community for athletes to share and encourage each other. Any social media app tends to get negative comments on posts or tweets from ‘haters’ yet Strava seems plentiful in support and positivity. I honestly don’t think I have ever seen a negative comment on someone’s run excluding playful banter between mates. However, I always tend to find there is always a positive “keep your head up” if someone doesn’t have the run they intended to. The encouraging online community that Strava has built for runners and other athletes is a place where athletes can support each other to keep training and working towards their goals. Some may use Strava as a form of validation or simply enjoy a kudos, but I feel the majority just like myself wish to share and support other runners.
So what’s the risk?
Social pressures can exist in almost any situation. The moment we begin sharing our workouts we open ourselves to the opinion of others, for better or for worse. Now, whilst Strava is full of support and has little negativity (in my opinion), through our workouts and ‘social network profile’ we begin to establish an online athlete identity. As this develops we have a baseline of what is normal for us and what our followers think what is normal for us. This can create internal pressure to live up to this image and meet the expectation that we feel are projected on us through our followers. So if I typically run 5-6 times per week and I’ve picked up a niggle I may feel I need to run as part of my identity, rather than take the rest I feel I need. It often doesn’t take much to convince a runner that they should go out for a run when they feel they shouldn’t. Runners are notorious for taking the ‘she’ll be right’ approach (see my previous blog post about my personal ‘she’ll be right attitude’) and not listening to the needs of their body. Despite their body telling them they need rest runners will find a reason to run. The extra pressure of feeling like you need to live up to your Strava goals or image can be enough to make you lace up your shoes and head out the door even if it is at the detriment of your body.
Are you comfortable with people seeing you running slow?
There are some fast athletes on Strava. If we were to compare all the Strava times for a given parkrun (5km) there is a big difference in time from the quickest runner home to the slowest. I have encountered many runners don’t like running slow. Whether it is because they don’t have much time and it’s easier for them to punch out a quick 45min, they prefer to feel like they have worked hard, they are trying to keep up with a mate or they simply don’t want to be that slow runner on Strava. However, this is a common training error many runner’s face. They do their easy runs too fast and this can hamper their efforts to improve as it decreases our ability to go hard in tougher sessions that will help them to improve. Not only does it decrease and limit improvement it can also increase the chance of injury. An important part of recovery is to have easy runs as part of your training. These runs play a key part in improving aerobic capacity and recovery from hard training sessions. We all run our 5kms at different speeds, our easy runs should be different too. So you will have to be comfortable with people seeing that you run ‘slow’ some days and know that it is the right thing to do to help you perform at your best.
Strava is a great community for athletes, lets just make sure we aren’t letting it influence when and how we chose to run. There’s lots of contributing factors to an injury, don’t let Strava be one.
Lewis Craig (APAM)
Masters of Physiotherapy
Featured in the Top 50 Physical Therapy Blog