The Trouble With Strava

I joined Strava last week, in order to connect with women I know from an online community, and I kind of regret it.

Strava was clearly created with competitive runners in mind. The ones who size each other up at the starting line, who take photos of their feet on their treadmills or their running watches in order to “prove” their best workouts while conveniently leaving out the struggles, who speed up when passed during a training run but slow down later on, who go on every Runner’s World forum thread and make snide comments about people who dare to run marathons against their sage advice (which they don’t follow themselves). There are a lot of really great, fun, inclusive runners out there, but yeesh, there are a lot of smug jerks.

Strava is all about comparing yourself to others. When I click on someone’s profile, it immediately gives me a comparison to that person, pitting my PRs, training times, training miles, YTD miles, everything up against that person. I always lose (except I always win in the “average time/week” category because I am so slow), which is fine, but I don’t see the point of such an in-your-face comparison. It also shows how many people I pass during runs. I don’t actually pass people; I am sometimes overtaken, and I guess I go by people heading in the opposite direction, and walkers, but I’m not passing other runners. Again, I don’t have a problem with this. It just confirms this app was not designed for people like me.

I am the slowest person in my group, too. By a lot. Last week my average pace according to Strava was 16:24 (it eliminates times when I’m not moving so it gives a slightly different pace than other apps), and the next closest person was a minute and a half faster, and the next closest person was 4.5 minutes faster. The average pace of the fastest woman in the group was 9 minutes faster than mine. 9 minutes! I can’t even run a mile in 9 minutes! I don’t think. Maybe one single mile. I am out of my depth! But still #1 in total running time! Go me! I wonder what the fast woman thinks about having someone like me in the group. She probably doesn’t think about it at all.

I’m not quitting the app or anything, and I’m sticking with the group (getting and giving kudos is kind of nice), but I would not recommend it for a runner who prefers to run their own race, rather than getting caught up in how they compare to others.

Patience

Ah, I love this song. I wish Axl wasn’t old and fat with a ruined voice. I saw him perform Welcome to the Jungle a few months ago on some show and he was out of breath and horrible.

Out of breath and horrible? Sounds like me.

I took both Monday and Tuesday as rest days this week. It was unplanned, but probably for the best. I hadn’t taken a rest day since the Friday I fell down the stairs, in an effort to turn Mondays into my scheduled rest day for the rest of the semester. I don’t plan on taking 9 days between rest days in the future. Tuesday I had too much homework to take an hour or so to work out. That was unfortunate because I like to work out the day after a rest day.

I like to work out the day after the rest day because I have more energy and I always expect to be about a minute faster than the dragging workout I suffer through right before the rest day. I don’t know why I expect it because it’s never true, but hope springs eternal.

Until recently, when I ran, I expected to get better every time I ran. I expected to “PR” each route every time I ran it. My logic was: I’m so slow and out of shape, every workout should come with fitness gains because my body isn’t used to it. This was obviously based on nothing. It also led to an ineffective way of training. My “easy” days were shorter distances and flatter routes. My “hard” days were longer distances and hillier routes. The effort level was the same: try to be faster than the last time out on the course. This doesn’t mean I was giving 100% effort on every run. I don’t think I’ve ever given 100% effort ever during an athletic activity, except when I was on a swim team. I gave 100% effort at meets, or at least 90%. That was long ago and far away.

Since I’m training based on my heart rate, I’m giving a similar effort (from a cardiovascular perspective) each run, so that hasn’t changed. However, the pace I can maintain at that heart rate varies from day to day, so some days are faster than others, but all days are slower than what I am capable of achieving.

At first, I made peace with this. Now I’m creeping back into that same old mindset again. I expect to be faster at the same heart rate. I expect that I should be starting to see some 15:xx times at the same heart rate. I did, finally, on Thursday (15:44 average pace for 45 minutes on the treadmill), but I was expecting it on Wednesday (which is stupid because I had a 16:02 average pace for an hour, so that’s still an improvement) and was bummed when I couldn’t get it.

I did have a mini-mental breakthrough when I reminded myself that on the treadmill, I can only adjust my pace in discrete intervals. When I bump up the pace one increment, from say 3.7 mph to 3.8 mph, that is an increase in pace of 26 seconds. A bump from 5 mph to 5.1 mph is only 14 seconds, and from 6 mph to 6.1 is only 10 seconds. A 26-second increase in pace is significant. Maybe I’m capable of maintaining 142 bpm at 3.85 mph; I can’t do that on the treadmill. What I can do is run a longer period at 3.9 before bumping it down to 3.8, but every time I hit the decrease pace button, it feels like a defeat.

That was a lot of feelings and frustration for one post, but translating those feelings and frustrations into words makes things more clear and more logical to me, and can help me move beyond them. I should probably bookmark this post for myself and revisit it from time to time when I’m getting impatient with my training plans. Alternatively, I can revisit GNR when I’m getting impatient and get the same message as this post. Woman, take it slow and it’ll work itself out fine.