Strava Guide: How to Get Started on Strava


, by Katherine Turner

New to Strava? We’ve got you. Looking to learn more about a favorite feature? We’re here to help. This is the first in a new series called the “Strava Guide”. We’ll start at the very start, getting you ramped up with all things Strava and then we’ll work through the app from there. It won’t just be a feature overview, but more a primer on how to apply the features to your training, with a dose of motivational meandering while we’re at it.

I first downloaded Strava a decade ago. Way back in 2014. I don’t have access to that account anymore. I used an email address, long since lost, that would almost certainly make me cringe today. We’re talking “koolgirl03@hotmail” territory. I was in my second year at university and a committed member of the track team, albeit more in spirit than in the number of miles the soles of my shoes were subjected to. 

I distinctly remember the first time I heard about Strava. I was shuffle-jogging after a workout that had left me so flooded with exhaustion that the cooldown was little more than an exercise of survival when my teammates started talking in a language I didn’t fully understand.

“Did you see that Matt took the crown near Grantchester?”

“I’ve got my eye on the segment past Kings.” 

Ever the competitive type, even if my willingness to commit to the task of training was less than full-spirited, my interest was piqued. 

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I downloaded the app and immediately had the distinct sensation that I’d crossed over into a new frontier of training. It was intriguing and more than a little exciting. What were segments? Should I join this club? And how did I start following my teammates? But I’ll admit that it took me several years, and a fresh, less cringe-worthy email address, before I considered myself fully capable of navigating this new Strava world. That’s where today’s guide comes in. 

Out the Blocks

For the first installment in this series, we’re starting at the very start. You’ve downloaded the app and set up your profile – unlike my 2014 self, I’ll presume you have some familiarity with the world of apps – and you’re ready to get started. Here are the first five steps I’d recommend you take to get out of the blocks strong. 

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Follow Some Folks 

Before doing anything else, including logging your first workout, you can start to unlock the power of Strava, and draw some inspiration for that upcoming workout, by following a few people. This is truly what keeps the Strava universe alive – the opportunity to connect with, encourage and draw inspiration from athletes around the world. 

Start with friends in your network: Did you hear about Strava from a cycling or running buddy? Give them a follow. And then check out our list of favorite follows – from ultrarunners to Olympic marathoners, Tour de France cyclists to cyclocross champions, there’s truly no better way to get inspired and learn a thing or two from, quite literally, the world’s best athletes. 

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Join a Club  

Now you’re following a few folks, here’s a tip to take that inspiration up another level: Join a club. Connect with your local running club. Follow your favorite running brand to see what their athletes are up to. And, join Strava’s biggest club, The Strava Club. Part coach, part feature guru, part inspirational magazine, there’s a reason the club has over 5 million members. You’ll get the inside scoop on the newest features and discover the coolest activities happening all across Strava.

Record an Activity

Okay, now we’re ready to start moving. While the community is the soul of Strava, activities are its beating heart, and recording your first one is the quickest (albeit not the easiest, as it requires you to move your body) way to unlock the power of the app. Check out this article for a more extensive guide on how to do that, but essentially, you’ve got two options: You can record an activity using the app, meaning the app will track your distance, pace and other key stats as you go out and move your body. Or you can connect a device. For the runner’s out there, this is likely to be a GPS watch and for cyclists, we’re talking about a bike computer. This will mean, when you record an activity using your device, all your important data will be ported over to Strava. And then the fun starts: the stats. Which takes us to our next step.

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Swat up on the Stats

You’ve done an activity. Nice work! Now what? It’s time to learn a bit more about the effort you just put in. Head to the “You” tab and click the activity to open up the details page. You’ll see a GPS map showing where you went, along with other key stats from your activity like your average pace, elevation gain and total time.

We’ll dive into each of the data points in more detail in future articles, but the key thing here is to spend some time exploring this activity page. What were your splits? Tap  “View Analysis” to take a closer look at your pace and your elevation. Did you slow down? Was the last mile, which felt like a mountain, as hilly as you thought? Make a mental note of some of the stats as you’ll be able to see fitness gains as you record more activities over time. 

Segment Silverware

You might have noticed a tab called “Results” and been curious why there’s a list of seemingly random place names. 

“Highgate Hell” 

“The Spanish Kick”

“Mean Bastard Section up to the road”

These are just a few of the segment names that show up when I do a quick search in my local area. If I rewind back to my 2014 self, segments were one of the things that truly baffled me, so here’s a quick primer: Segments are stretches of road or trail, they could be miles long or just a few meters, created by users on the app. When you cross the start and finish of one on a run or ride, your time for that stretch of road or trail will be recorded. If you run or ride that same segment again, you’ll be able to see how your time compares. And you can also, if you would like to, compare your time against everyone else who has crossed that segment on Strava using a global leaderboard. Run a new personal best time on a segment, you’ll get a trophy. Claim top spot as the fastest to ever complete that segment and you’ll get a crown. 

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While I won’t try to dissuade you from chasing a crown, it’s easy to get caught up in going too fast, too often. Segments can also be a great way to check how your fitness is progressing. Find a few that you pass over regularly, and you’ll be able to see your average pace on those segments creep up as your fitness builds.

What’s Next? 

Now we’ve finished the warm up, our initial primer on getting started with Strava, we’re ready to level up our Stava fitness and dive a bit deeper into some core features. Next time, we’ll be exploring five features that will take your Strava experience, and your fitness, to the next level. See you there.  

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