Last Wednesday I got out of my morning lecture early, and although part of me was inclined to head to the library and study for my organic chemistry exam, another part was begging to enjoy what was left of the day. It was 40 degrees outside and there was not a cloud in the sky. You don’t get many days like that in the middle of January in Michigan. I decided to go on a quick run between classes to enjoy the weather.
I took Geddes Avenue into Nichols Arboretum and then ran down to the Huron River. I was definitely on a runner’s high that morning. “Ladders” by Mac Miller was playing in my headphones, and I could feel my pace speeding up. As soon as the bass dropped, I reached an uphill part of my run. It was as if Spotify was synchronizing the music to my route. I ran up the hill at a blazing pace, and I knew this run was going to be a personal record on Strava.
Strava is a social network for athletes, and although it’s geared toward running and cycling, the app lets you measure your athletic performance in a variety of activities including rowing, surfing, ice skating, kayaking, rock climbing, skiing and more. Once you choose your type of workout and click the start button, the app will begin tracking stats including distance, time, speed, route, elevation gain and average pace along with many other features. It is a great way for athletes to track their training plans, but also a fun way for those who are new to working out to track their fitness goals. The platform allows you to record your favorite statistics and post them along with a photo to round out the full fitness experience. Your followers can give your workout a “kudos” which is equivalent to a “like,” as well as comment on your post.
Strava, unlike other social media apps, emphasizes personal goal setting and celebrating your own fitness accomplishments. On Strava, you have the opportunity to connect with close friends who are also tracking their workouts and support each other in obtaining fitness goals. It provides a way to feel the support of your community, even when your workout buddies are not physically there with you.
The aspect of community in fitness is important. In a study on medical students, it was found that individuals who work out in a group have a lower stress rate and better quality of life than those who work out alone. Strava could serve as an alternative when you can’t have a group with you, but still desire the encouragement a community provides. It can be difficult to find inspiration to push yourself when you are working out by yourself.
The intersection between social media and fitness is growing in popularity so much that the term “fitspiration” has emerged. However, this type of inspiration is not always beneficial. Many times, it can lead to low self-esteem or body image issues when comparing oneself to fitness trainers, athletes and other health gurus that you most likely will never cross paths with in real life. I have caught myself multiple times scrolling through Instagram and seeing posts about the latest cycling trip, backpacking expedition, triathlon or exotic yoga retreat that celebrity athletes have just accomplished. Meanwhile, I am questioning why I just ate that cinnamon pizza bread from MoJo.
Let’s admit it, we all have those days when we feel like doing absolutely nothing. After class, we would rather head home and curl up with a cozy blanket and Netflix to relax instead of going to the gym. Your dedication to those New Year’s resolutions might be starting to wear off, and that’s okay; it just means there’s a need to find motivation elsewhere. Fitness apps, like Strava, can provide that motivational factor. When I go on Strava and see how active my friends on campus are, it gives me the ambition to work out and produce stats worthy of “kudos.” Sure, maybe I’m addicted to social media, but at least it’s in a way that drives me to be more active and take part in a healthier lifestyle.
Emily Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.