The Strava comparison trap is real. While I don’t think that many people are constantly looking at my Strava feed and wondering why I don’t post my training, it is something I get asked occasionally, and actually, something that Hilary Spires and I talked about in our trail running tips podcast episode. So, I figured I would clear it up, and hopefully invite some discussion around it for everyone else as well!
Honestly, I’ve always been sporadic with tech (coaches HATED me when I was more serious about cycling and never would upload power files). But admittedly, the new connectivity of even my cheap Garmin Forerunner makes it pretty damn easy to upload workouts without any issues. However… when Garmin had that hack last summer that forced everyone to need to re-log into the Garmin Connect app, which then syncs to Strava, I just never got around to it. (I needed to reset it which meant going to the website).
After a few weeks passed, I noticed something: I didn’t care. In fact, I felt… better about my training.
It turns out, I was becoming a bit of Strava addict, constantly looking at everyone else’s mileage, tallying it up, feeling like I was going too short/too slow/too something. It wasn’t that I was obsessed with scoring QOMs or that it was affecting my training because I was always trying to snag a segment, it was just that I would post, scroll, and feel bad about my run because there will ALWAYS be someone out there logging more miles/more vert/more whatever than you. My training wasn’t affected by this: I didn’t add more mileage. I just didn’t feel as good as I did before I scrolled. I’d finish my 30K long run—which is LONG for most people—and realize my friend logged a 50K, another did 35, another did 40, et cetera. Instantly, my happiness about a strong 30K would deflate because now it’s “only a 30K.”
This scales, I think, regardless of whether you’re logging a lot of 5s, 15s, or 50s. At every level, there’s always someone training just a bit harder or longer than us, who can make us feel like we’re not doing enough.
So, I stopped logging at all. I took myself out of the equation.
Now, I upload on occasion, i.e if I’m doing an FKT, a race that requires logging the data, or a huge milestone like my 100K back in May. But it’s because I choose to log it, not because it automatically goes up, and I make an effort to NOT scroll through to see what everyone else did that day. Because you know what? I know the day I did 100K, someone I follow almost certainly did 100 miles.
I’m sure at some point, I’ll start auto-posting again. But for now, I’m good.
The same thing is true of most social media: You can fall into the comparison trap on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, whatever—for me, those don’t get me nearly as stressed as Strava did. Something about the cold hard data on Strava feels more tough for me to handle: I can look at Instagram and know that I’m seeing a highlight reel, and that not everything is as picture perfect as it appears. But you can’t fake time/distance on Strava. Maybe that’s why it gets to me and makes me get into that comparison mindset more than other social media.
And it’s not like I think Strava is bad—it’s an amazing tool, and we actually love the premium for the ability to create routes, see heat maps and get GPX files. It’s a fabulous tool if you can use it for good, not for evil.
Let me know in the comments: Is this just me?
Pssst… Have you checked out our book, Becoming A Consummate Athlete? We have a whole chapter on doing your own training—not someone else’s. Excuse me while I go reread it!