The Strava effect 

“There’s no way I’m putting up a run and advertising the fact that said I ran that slowly. Everyone will see it and think I’m really slow”

But if a session isn’t on Strava then it didn’t happen right? If I don’t post it then no one will know I actually dragged my arse out of bed at 5am to go to the pool and knock out that 4000m swim before work.

Chasing Kona book available

From smoker to back of the pack triathlete to the Ironman World Championships.

Read about how I overcame all of the odds and discovered what it would take to get to the Ironman World Championships – my eBook is now available to buy as an eBook on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes

It is also available as a paperback at Wheelworx.

This article first appeared on our coaching blog TriCoach.ie.  We have several hundred training articles and Rob keeps a weekly blog most of the year here

Then there is still the problem that I don’t want people to know that I went so slow. Maybe I’ll give it a funny name that takes attention away from how slowly I was actually going. Maybe I’ll call that slow ass swim “Drillz and Skillz” everyone knows that when you’re doing drills that you swim slower. Then those splits don’t seem so slow for a session that’s all about the drillzzz.

And that run last night, I’ll call that one a “recovery run” That explains why I was drag arsing around at six and a half minute kilometres.

Strava can be a great motivational tool. It can turn an otherwise boring ride into an entertaining one chasing PB’s or KOM’s on segments. It can keep you pedalling or running until the session is done because once you post it everyone knows what you did. Including the coach or your training buddy’s. If you were supposed to do a sixty minute run and only did forty then you will have some explaining to do.

The problem with this is that is can have a tendency to push people to run or ride faster than they should when they are supposed to be going easy. Training requires polarity. Hard sessions should be very hard and easy means easy. Really easy. Easier than you think.

Related: Slow down you’re going too fast

I’ve a friend who’s a sub 2 hour 17 marathon runner. For the non runners out there that’s fast. Really fast. In Ireland it’s just about touching on Olympic qualifying standard fast. In a 2h17 marathon he’s racing at about 3:14 per kilometre or 5:13 per mile pace. I would have to sprint flat out to do one kilometer at that pace before having to stop to have a little vomit.

Anyway I’ve seen him do long easy runs at over six minute per kilometre or ten minute mile pace. Admittedly this is usually in his off season but it is still done at half the speed of his race pace. His marathon race pace, he obviously runs faster than that for 5, 10k or a half marathon.

The reason it’s important to train slowly is twofold.

  1. It is how you build aerobic fitness.
  2. Training easy allows you train hard.

If your “easy” pace is 5:45 per kilometer and your “faster” pace is 5:15 per kilometer then you are neither going easy enough to have a significant impact on aerobic fitness nor going hard enough to have an impact on anaerobic fitness, lactate threshold or strength endurance.

These different systems, aerobic fitness and anaerobic are trained in completely different zones. Not at the top and bottom of the same zone. If your training effort is measured on a scale of one to ten with one being walking and ten being flat out then an easy session should probably feel like a four or five out of ten effort. Hard should feel like seven to ten depending on the duration of the effort.

Strava Shame

The embarrassment of posting a slow run or ride for all of your training mates to see can force athletes to go too hard on a day that should be just about recovery or building aerobic fitness. This then impacts your ability to go hard on the days that you have a harder session scheduled. If you haven’t recovered because your easy day was too hard then you can’t complete the intense workout at the correct effort. This limits the efficacy of both training sessions.
Strava Pros

  • Motivation
  • Entertainment
  • Training aid

Cons

  • Easy training is never easy enough.
  • Hard training isn’t hard enough due to lack of recovery
  • Training polarity can be sacrificed

Strava like all of the other training apps and aids that are available to us should be used as they were intended, as training aids or entertainment. They shouldn’t negatively influence our training. I was embarrassed by the slow pace for my easy runs and rides when I first started using it but forced myself to get over myself because I know that training correctly works regardless of what your Strava followers might think.

I find using Strava can be motivational. When I’m looking at athletes I know that I will be racing against posting sessions, I know I need to get the work done and not slack off. I usually try to ignore what they are doing. Just because someone is doing a hard interval run and crushes it doesn’t mean I need to do that too. I have my plan and coach and try as much as possible to stick to it and do what I’m told.

You will still find me changing the names of my sessions. Though that’s more me trying to look clever and funny than feeling embarrassed.

Chasing Kona book available

From smoker to back of the pack triathlete to the Ironman World Championships.

Read about how I overcame all of the odds and discovered what it would take to get to the Ironman World Championships – my eBook is now available to buy as an eBook on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes

It is also available as a paperback at Wheelworx.

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