On Second Thought, Strava is the Cure for the Unpacking Boxes Blues

After 11 months and over 9000 miles of almost daily cycling with the simplicity of carrying only the things we needed in four small bags, the past few weeks overwhelmed me with complexity of unpacking. The packing then unmotivated me to cycle familiar roads, jog around the neighborhood, or lift weights at my old gym. I felt myself shutting down. Desperate means called for desperate measures.

I decided to download Strava.

Strava is a computer application (app) that tracks speed, distance, laps, and segments of a workout and than allows you to share those workouts with friends. You can give your friends comments or “kudos” to praise and encourage them to do more. You can join challenges or you can just keep track of your own progress.

I’d heard about Strava over a year ago when Eric added it to his growing collection of “mapping apps” including MapMe, Pocket Earth, MapMyRide, Google Maps, (I’m sure he has more…)
Here’s a sample conversation:

Hey, Penny. This looks like a good app. Give it a try.
No, thanks. We can’t even use the apps we have. Isn’t one map program enough?

But, Eric ignored me, friended his brother on Strava, and proceeded to upload our cycle tour data from Garmin to Strava so his brother could comment on our trip (his version of Facebook) and ask us if we took a bus or our average speed really was 45 kph. (Yes, occasionally he forgot to stop the app when we took public transportation and his brother’s comments showed that he really analyzed the data and compared rides.)

Still I declined Strava for myself because I wanted to use my free-time more productively – scrolling Facebook, reading a book, drinking a beer, washing my socks, or, if I was really motivated, writing a blog.

Several months ago some biking friends in Australia tried to convince me to download Strava. They told me they like to compete with their friends, give kudos for good rides and comments of shame for slow ones. After failing to keep pace with them on a heart-pounding ride, they friended Eric so they could all remember this“epic, cardio killer” for years to come.

But still I wasn’t ready to take the plunge.

Little did I know that mind-numbing days of unpacking boxes and lonely rides on long ribbons of highways stretching through brown, dusty farmlands would push me into a new gear.

Last week I finally downloaded Strava. Then, I tapped the bright orange Strava icon, pressed start, tucked my phone into my jersey and began to pedal.

After nearly an hour of relatively flat roads, brown dirt, yellow tumbleweeds, plowed fields, few cars and a very large horizon of sameness, I was ready to call it quits. I was only mildly interested in checking out my Strava results.

The screen showed me that I’d ridden a mere 16.8 US miles.   28 kilometers, the unit of measure almost everywhere else in the world sounds so much more impressive even though both distances are exactly the same.

After checking my stats, I uploaded them making sure NOT to share them on Facebook.

The following morning, I turned on Strava. I have to admit I  was mildly delighted to see that Eric had given am a little “thumbs-up/kudos for my ride. OK…so a little recognition did make me slightly more motivated. I smiled knowing that Eric would see where and how far I’d ridden. It was actually a little bit easier to hop on my bike. Maybe this app was going to be more fun than I’d thought.

On the third morning, I woke up and checked Strava before I checked Facebook. A kudos from Eric, a  friend request, and a little trophy with the number “4” in front of it greeted me on the screen.

Eric liked what I did, a fellow cycling friend wanted to share rides and times, and, according to Strava, I had the 3rd best time of all female Strava users up a hill. (There must not be many Strava users because I’m not that fast.)I also had 3 personal bests. The personal bests on a first ride was kind of stupid, though, because it was my first time riding this portion so the entire ride would be a personal best.  But, I could see how these little tidbits of information were going to motivate me to work a little harder.

Now, after exactly one week of using Strava, I’m once again motivated to get out of the house to cycle or jog . And, while my cycling routes may lack variety and newness, they do include personal challenges and friendly spousal competitions.

Today, for example, Eric posted his Sunday morning sub 60-minute 10K in London before I even awoke in Washington. His Strava post, in turn, compelled me put on my running shoes and hit the pavement before I talked myself into that second cup of coffee and talked myself out of exercising.

So, for the time being, I’ve found a new motivator. Check out Strava and let me know what you think.

N.B. Our cycle4retirement was a journey, not a race so the only part of Strava that would have interested me during our tour was the map of the route. But, at home, since the scenery does get a little dull, the Strava “challenges” keeps things interesting.