Why You Should Also Share Your “Slow” Runs on Strava

April 30, 2020

a runner looking at her watch on a sidewalk lined with flowering spring trees

I have a love-hate relationship with Strava. Strava is a workout tracking app and social network that’s been around since 2009, but it didn’t hit my radar until 2018. After getting my first GPS watch, I eventually made an account for myself in early 2019. While I appreciate the app, its functionalities, and the community, I don’t love how it’s sometimes another social media “highlight reel” that breeds insecurity.

Some runners will only share their “good” runs on Strava, and not the “slower” ones, often because they’re self-conscious about their pace, or don’t think their run is worth sharing. While I understand those feelings, I think there are many more reasons to share your “slower” runs than there are to keep them to yourself.

What is Strava?

Strava is primarily a workout tracking app, like MapMyRun, RunKeeper, or Nike Run Club. It allows you to track your runs with your phone, have a digital record of your runs, and to see your progress.

Strava is also kind of like the Facebook for athletes. You can upload your workouts, follow people, and give “kudos” on each other’s posts. For runners who are active on social media, Strava provides a space where it’s socially acceptable to share every single run you do, without annoying your non-running friends.

The app is free, but there’s a premium version called Strava Summit—at $5/month, it provides training plans and race analysis, among other features.

the Brooks Launch 6

Pros and Cons of Strava

Pros of Strava:

It’s easy and free to track your running. You don’t need a GPS watch to get pacing and elevation details throughout your run—you just need your phone.

It’s a great way to follow trends in your training. Strava even has a feature that shows how the pace of your latest run on a certain route is trending compared to previous runs on that same route.

You can keep up with your friends’ running journeys. My friends don’t post every single run on their traditional social media (if they did, we wouldn’t be friends anymore lol). In all seriousness though, I don’t feel that regular social media accounts are the place to post daily about your training, unless you have a sports-specific account. Strava is an appropriate place to do that though, and it’s cool to be able to follow your friends’ training. Through the app, you might even discover that you have something in common (running) with people you only consider acquaintances, and you can bond over that.

The app can be motivating. Seeing how others are training might inspire you to get out there and run too, especially if you’re not feeling it one day. Strava and the running clubs on the app have monthly challenges, which have previously included running a 5k, hitting 50 miles in a month, or covering 2,000 meters of elevation gain over the month. These challenges motivate you to tackle and work towards new goals each month.

Can help you discover running routes. Strava has what’s called “segments,” which are mapped routes (or portions of a route) that others have created (you can also create your own). These segments help you compare your running performance over multiple runs. If you pay for Strava Summit, they also have a more user-friendly route explorer with complete running routes, not just segments (I don’t have Summit, so I can’t really comment on whether or not it’s worth it).

Cons of Strava:

Lack of privacy. Strava shows the route you took on a map, so your address can be easy to pinpoint. You can set up a privacy radius manually, but it only goes up to .63 miles (~1 km).

Fear of judgement. Many runners don’t upload their “slower” or shorter runs onto Strava because they feel like the runs aren’t significant enough, or the runners are embarrassed about their pace. And even if you do post your recovery runs, you might feel self-conscious that others may perceive you as “slow.”

Another “highlight reel” and false reality. Because of this fear of judgement, Strava ends up being another social media false reality, causing runners to feel even more insecure about their pace. Runners only post their “good” runs, leading you to believe that everyone is running fast all the time—but you don’t know you aren’t seeing the whole picture, because no one is going to announce that they’re not posting their slower runs. And even if you are aware that Strava is a highlight reel, you don’t know who is selectively uploading runs, and how many runs they’re leaving out.

Why You Should Share Your “Slow” Runs on Strava

I’ve always posted all my runs on Strava, even the ones that are slower, shorter, and not “share-worthy.” I do this because I personally believe in transparency on social media—I’m known to write posts like My Resume of Failures or Why I’m Not Working Full-Time. I share these experiences because I think they’re valuable, relatable, and humanizing. All the celebratory posts online give us the false impression that everyone is doing just great, but the truth is that we all have our challenges—we just don’t share them. Writing more vulnerable posts helps keeps things real.

It’s only logical that I would be just as transparent on Strava, especially since it’s fitness tracking app. I know that fitness journeys are never linear, especially in running. It took me 3 years to finally run a sub 4-hour marathon, and it’s been 5 years since my last half marathon PR (though I did get close in the 2018 Lyon Half Marathon!). Since my marathon PR at the Paris Marathon last year, I haven’t been anywhere close to a PR in any distance, mostly because I’ve been dealing with some nagging injuries.

Running involves lots of ups and downs, and I want my Strava to reflect the reality of the process, so I upload all my runs: the runs that felt (and look) awesome, the speed workouts, and the races, but also my easy runs, runs that felt awful, and runs that aren’t impressive or note-worthy at all. I do it for myself, to stay transparent, and to hopefully show others (my whopping 9 Strava followers lol) that it’s healthy to take recovery days, and normal to go through some rougher patches in your training.

So, here’s why I think you should also post your “slow” runs on Strava:

There’s no reason to be embarrassed by your pace.

It doesn’t matter if your pace isn’t as quick as you’d like—that’s a feeling every runner can relate to! And even if you feel that your pace is “slow” relative to others in your feed, your followers aren’t judging you. Runners are generally a nice bunch, and I know that if I see a “slower” run in my feed, I think “awesome, they got out for a run today” or “oh, good for them, taking a recovery run” (if the pace is not as quick relative to what they usually post). If people are judging you, that’s their issue, and if they actually voice their judgment, you know that you don’t need that negativity in your life 🙂

What you post or don’t post can also have a trickle down effect. Posting “slower” runs might help others feel less insecure about their pace, and encourage them to post more of their own runs. Not posting might cause others to feel self-conscious about their pace, as they may only be seeing faster runs on Strava.

You’ll have an accurate digital training record.

Strava is a tracking app above all—it wasn’t intended to be an athletic social media app where you selectively share your best workouts. If you’re hoping to nab some PRs and improve your pace, it’s important to have a full record of your training, so you can track trends and see what works (or doesn’t) for you. This is especially vital if you have Strava Summit, as the premium training features won’t be accurate if you’re not uploading all your workouts.

But what if you do some runs without your watch? Totally fair—I know some people who like to do recovery runs without tracking them. In these cases, you can upload your run manually with as much info as you have. If you only have time elapsed, use that. If you know the distance from a familiar route, include that. You can also just estimate and write in the notes that it’s your best guess, which is better than not accounting for the run at all.

If you also truly, truly don’t want to share a run because of your pace, you can still upload it and set it to “private.” You want that record for yourself, at the very least.

It erases potential for misinformation.

New runners who start using Strava might see their friends only share their “good” runs, and mistakenly believe that everyone is running quickly all the time. They might try to mimic that training and end up doing all their workouts at a higher intensity, when they should be including easier recovery runs too (which they may not see on Strava).

The training process is more important than individual runs.

Sharing all your runs highlights the training process and all its ups and downs. I think it’s important to highlight the reality of that, as it’s easy to get really discouraged when your training isn’t going how you want, but reassuring if you remember that we all go through rough patches and get through them eventually.

Only seeing the “good” runs on Strava doesn’t tell you the whole story about someone’s running journey. But if you get to follow along each run (whether good, bad, or ugly), you can witness the improvement and understand how meaningful it is when that person reaches their goal. For me, what makes running meaningful is not all the happy moments and the successes—it’s all the challenges I had to struggle through that make the PRs feel gratifying and empowering.

a runner stretching on a sidewalk lined with flowering spring trees

The Bottom Line

Remember that Strava is not the whole picture a lot of times. There’s not anything you can do about what others share, but you can try to use Strava in a way that will help you.

I encourage you to share all your runs so that you have an accurate training record, show others it’s okay to have a pace that’s “slower,” and highlight the training process. Strava is not supposed to be a social media platform that makes us feel insecure—it’s supposed to be tool to help us reach our goals in the sport we love, and to connect with others who love that sport as well.

And if you want to follow along my training, here’s my Strava profile 🙂 You might also like my post on how much money I spend on running in a year.

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2 Comments

  • Kezzie July 22, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    This is a great post! My problem with Strava is the top one you mentioned- how your address could be found so easily.
    My husband recently got into a spot of bother with a cycling group on Facebook- they used a derogatory term towards women on one of their posts (well, an individual in the group wrote on it)- my husband thought that the term was really outdated and sexist and he commented that it wasn’t really a nice way to describe it saying it was sexist- he said it politely and was otherwise positive about the post and the guy was seriously rude back to him calling him an F***ing snowflake and then all the other ‘alpha males’ in the group all left horrible, rude comments to him calling him gay, basically being that toxic male thing and he was really annoyed by it. Then, one of those who commented had actually been on his Strava and made a comment on it (he’d passed my husband) and then he got worried that these guys might know where we lived, as it is a local cycling group. It is such a shame!

    • Lily July 22, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      That’s really upsetting about that cycling group! I hope none of those guys continued to harass your husband, and good for him for standing up for what’s right in a respectful way. If he’s worried about privacy, he can definitely change his Strava privacy settings – he can choose to keep his profile private, and set a privacy radius. That could help!

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    About Me

    I'm Lily, and I run races and go places (& blog about it). I also try to advocate for the planet & its people.
    Here is where I document my (mis)adventures and try to offer some helpful advice. Feel free to join me for the ride. Read More

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