9 Ways to Use Strava Beyond Tracking Runs

Here’s how to make the most of that subscription.


Aisha McAdams

Odds are strong that you or an athlete you know–or heck, your entire run club!–uses Strava. The app is ubiquitous in the sporting community for tracking workouts, and boasts more than 100 million users across 195 countries, according to the company website.

For many folks new to running, Strava is often the first go-to platform for logging workouts, in part because it distills complex data into a simple-to-digest format.

“Strava has been a very user-friendly platform for people to start running, get a smartwatch, upload their workout results, and have an easy way to view them and evaluate them,” Greg McMillan, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based founder and head coach of McMillan Running tells Runner’s World. A longtime partner of Strava, McMillan provides the app with run training programs and his company also offers discounts on their services to Strava Premium members.

But beyond serving as a central data repository, Strava has evolved to become a one-stop-shop for runners looking to find community, discover new routes, level up their training, and more. And now that they upped their subscription price—you can get the app for free, but to have access to features like goal setting, route planning, and advanced metrics, you have to shell out $12 per month or $80 per year—you’ll want to take advantage of those pricier features.

We chatted with McMillan as well as four runners about the varied, creative ways all types of runners can use Strava. Follow in their footsteps to take advantage of all the app offers.

How to Use Strava Beyond Tracking Runs

1. Find New Routes

Strava’s mapping feature allows runners to share the specific routes they tackled for their workouts, which then allows their followers to discover new-to-them routes. “Atlanta is a big city,” Jordan Eison, a runner in the Georgia capitol tells Runner’s World. “Occasionally, I’ll see somebody took a route I didn’t realize was a public trail, or I didn’t realize that area of town was so flat, or I didn’t realize there was a route from there to the park.” In fact, Eison discovered one of his now-favorite routes—one that charts a car-free path through a park about a kilometre from his home—after seeing friends posts runs there on Strava.

The mapping feature can also come in handy when runners are traveling to new places, says McMillan, as it allows them to easily discover popular local routes. Goldie Bain, a runner in Lions Head, Ontario, used Strava for this purpose when visiting Iceland last year. When arriving in a new place, “you just turn on Strava and it’ll show you a route,” she tells Runner’s World.

To see favorite local routes in a new area, go to the map tab in the app and check out the segments or routes tab from there.

2. Conduct Research on a Race

Some of McMillan’s athletes use Strava to gather specific, detailed information on an upcoming race they’ve not yet done themselves. For example, prior to the Boston Marathon, some first-timers looked at Strava data for past Boston participants who were roughly their same ability level to understand how those folks paced the race, and how various elements of the course—like the Newton Hills, for example—influenced their speed.

“People started using it almost as like a race recap mechanism where they could see the splits [and] sometimes the runners would leave a comment about it or write their own kind of recap,” says McMillan.

This allowed runners to “glean information on a race that they hadn’t done, not just from looking at the elevation chart or the course map, but being like, okay, this person is kind of my same performance level, this is how she paced the race to be successful,” says McMillan. Such details would be tough to ascertain from a typical race website.

3. Find Inspiration and Motivation

The social aspect of Strava, which allows you to share your workouts with others and thus see theirs in return, incentivizes some athletes to run that extra kilometre or push a little harder in a speed workout.

“You’re seeing everybody else’s workout, they’re seeing yours, and in a sense, it kind of keeps you accountable to your friends,” Marty Fleischmann, a runner who has been using the app for nearly four years, tells Runner’s World. “I mean, it’s only the pressure you put on yourself ultimately. But when you know that a running workout you’re doing is going to be seen by your running buddies, it’s the difference between running alone and running in a group or running a race—it just gives you a little bit more incentive to push or represent well.”

4. Connect With Other Runners

On Strava, runners with certain goals—say, qualifying for Boston, tackling a half marathon, or moving from road to trail running—can connect with others working toward the same objective. “This sort of relationship develops just because of this shared goal, or shared experience that they are having together,” says McMillan. That bond, he adds, is “really good for runners, particularly those that don’t have big running groups, because you can feel very isolated.”

By connecting through Strava, you have virtual friends and training partners who can cheer you on as you strive for your goals—and vice-versa.

As someone who is “pretty involved in the Atlanta run community in general,” Fleischmann says Strava has helped broaden and strengthen his relationships with other local runners, as well as folks he’s met when traveling for races. The social aspect of Strava, he explains, “helps you solidify relationships with people that before you might have just met and said ‘how you doing’ and then been done.”

During the 2022 Chicago Marathon, for example, Fleischmann struck up a conversation with two strangers and ran with them for almost twelve kilometres. Afterwards, they all found each other on Strava, where they continue to keep in touch. “We’ve talked about trying to meet up again at another race,” says Fleischmann.

Jenny Coppock, a runner and run coach in Llangollen, North Wales, likes that on Strava you can comment on other runners’ workouts and provide encouragement, especially if they’re struggling with their training. For example, if someone posts a workout with a note saying they felt bad, you can point out specific elements of the run, like the elevation gain, temperature, or their pace, that support the notion that they’re actually crushing their workouts. “You can kind of motivate and support your friends,” she tells Runner’s World.

5. Shake Up Your Training

Strava offers regular challenges—for example, run 100K in a month or climb 2,000 meters in 31 days—in which users can choose to participate. For some, these challenges can provide the accountability and motivation they need to get out the door, says McMillan. And for others, they can be a fun way to spice up a monotonous training plan, he says.

Coppock recalls many instances where the challenges have encouraged her to get out the door and log an extra run. “It can be a little bit of a motivational twist of the arm,” she says. Bain similarly finds the challenges inspire her to up her running game more than she otherwise would. “If there’s something that I’m not doing—like if I haven’t run as far as I should have that month—then that challenge is sitting there and it’s like, ‘oh, I gotta get that done,’” she says.

For Eison, one challenge in particular of walking 50 kilometers in a month has encouraged him to end nearly every run with a measured walk and to incorporate more walking as active recovery on his off days. He attributes this new habit, which he’s sustained for about eight months now, as a reason why he’s managed to stay injury-free the past year. “It allows me to get an activity on a rest day as opposed to saying I need to go run a kiloemtre real fast so I can say I’ve done something,” he says.

6. Set Goalposts

By following other athletes on Strava in Atlanta who are of a similar age but faster than him, Fleischmann has felt inspired to up his own running game. “They’re a good one to two minutes faster than I am at a 5K,” he says. “I just know I’ve got room to improve.”

Following these folks on Strava helps Fleischman understand how they’re training and what paces they’re running so that he has a specific roadmap of what it would take to bring his performance to the next level.

For example, leading up to the 2023 Boston Marathon, Fleischmann was running a max of 48 kilometres a week. On Strava, “I’m seeing some of these guys doing 60, 70, 80 kilometres a week,” he says. Noticing that discrepancy helped him identify how he can adjust his next training plan to better reach his goals.

There is a caveat with this one: You have have to train the way that works for you. Just because your friends run 90 kilometres a week doesn’t mean you have to—and definitely doesn’t mean you should go from 50 weekly kilometres one week to 100 the next, which is a recipe for injury. Use others’ workouts as motivation, but recognise your own limits.

7. Stay Consistent With Interval Training

The “Local Legend” award on Strava recognizes the athlete who has run a particular segment more times than all other Strava users in the past 90 days. And the “Fastest Time” leaderboard lists which users have completed a specific segment the quickest.

In the spirit of friendly competition, these features can encourage folks to spend more time training their speed and running specific segments. Eison, for example, sometimes does hill repeats on a specific hill near his house, a habit that earns him the title of Local Legend. But inevitably, when he bypasses that spot for a couple weeks, either due to travel or simply because he’s running different paths, he’ll get notified he’s no longer the Local Legend. That alert drives him to reclaim his title. “Every time that I’ve gotten that email, IÆm like oh great, my run today goes over that hill and I’m doing hill repeats.”

Bain, who lives in a small village where only two other athletes are big on Strava, finds these titles motivating as well. When one of the other runners eclipses her Local Legend title, she feels encouraged to lace up for another workout and earn her spot back. Her mentality, she says, is “I’ve got to beat him.”

8. Shamelessly Share Running Content

Not every social media platform is the place to post your run workouts and share nitty-gritty race recaps. “There are times I’m sure I’ll have friends roll their eyes at how much I post my running activities on Facebook,” says Eison. But on Strava? “It’s a community that you aren’t gonna get shamed for sharing your run activity,” he says. “It’s also a community that expects it. That’s what it’s for.”

9. Capture Fun Run Moments

One Strava feature Coppock especially appreciates is the ability to attach photos or videos to a workout—something she aims to do after every run. Logging runs with these visual reminders helps her better remember her workouts, she explains. According to Strava’s latest year-end report, in 2022, users shared more than 10 million photos and videos a week on the platform.

Coppock also enjoys looking at the photos and videos other runners share, such as those posted by a Strava friend in France. “He’s always uploading all these beautiful images,” she says. “It’s nice seeing all the different places in the world [where people run].”

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