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Tech Trends: An Introduction to Strava

Tech Trends columnist Jim McDannald takes a deeper dive into some popular run tracking apps.

In a previous edition of Tech Trends, we introduced three of our favorite GPS running apps. Over the next few columns, we’ll go into more depth about what makes each of them worth considering on your next run. Up this week: Strava.

In 2011, Strava took their popular online platform for cyclists and expanded to include offerings for runners. After four years, the brand continues to improve their website and running app with easy-to-use offerings and powerful tools for analyzing and visualizing workout data, motivating users in a new and innovative ways, and providing a new resource to assist in finding new running routes.

RELATED: Which GPS Running App Is Right For You?

Bringing It All Together

The Strava app is great at performing the essentials. After opening the app, you are only two taps away from recording a run. During the run, the app displays pertinent data—pace, distance, overall time, a map of your location—in a legible, orderly fashion. Stopping a workout is straightforward and a workout summary is provided when you complete your run. Strava’s app and website also provide a multitude of interactive graphs, data tables and tools to break down previous workouts or races.

An overlooked benefit of using the Strava app is its ability to serve as a centralized recording tool and training log for a number of other sensors and devices. The Strava app can pair with a number of Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitors and foot pods to help provide more data than most running apps. Through their website and software, Strava can collect the information from GPS running watches to serve as a centralized running log. Whether you record with the Strava app, a GPS running watch or manually enter your run, Strava can bring all this information together to serve as a centralized running log.

Warning: Segments Can Be Addictive

Another compelling aspect of Strava is a feature called segments. The app records your time on a specific section of road or trail called a segment. Strava’s software aggregates times—both yours and other runners’—for this specific segment. A segment leaderboard is created and allows for you to see where you stack up against yourself and others all-time. While you probably shouldn’t always go after the CR (i.e., course/segment records), chasing a fast time or a top spot for a segment can serve as a fun and new way to stay motivated.

Keep an Eye On Friends, Pros…and the Competition

Along with recording runs, Strava’s app and website provide an online community for runners to share and interact with one another. Much like other social networks, you are able to follow and comment on the runs of friends, competitors and even some top level professional athletes. Their workouts, easy days and races will be viewable on a timeline. For example, Canadian marathoner Reid Coolsaet shared his recent 2:10:29 clocking from the 2015 Berlin Marathon.

Strava also uses anonymized running data to create a variety of helpful side projects called Strava Labs. I find the Global Heatmap to be the most useful. Whether you are looking for a new run in the neighborhood or away on a trip, the Global Heatmap search feature helps you find the area’s most popular running spots.

Is Premium Worth It?

While the free version of the app provides a good amount of analysis, a premium subscription provides a few more additional features. Those who want a few more data analysis tools, basic training plans or the ability to broadcast activity to other Strava users via Strava Live, can opt for the $6/month or $59/year options for Strava Premium.

RELATED: Strava Launches New Interactive Running Data Tool