Strava Guide: Four Features to Help Level Up Your Training


, by Katherine Turner

Want to take your training to the next level? Strava can help you do that. In the latest installment of the Strava Guide, we look at four features you can use to help you train better and healthier.

We all want to get better. Whether that’s measurable improvement like running a faster 5k, or the intangible mental strength gains we get from completing a hard workout or patiently returning from injury, humans seem to be hardwired to pursue progress.

So that’s why, for the second installment in the Strava Guide series, we’re focusing on four features that will help you supercharge your personal progress, without the need for any additional gear like a GPS watch or bike computer. If you missed the first article in the series, check it out for a primer on how to get started with Strava. 

RELATED: Strava Guide: How to Get Started on Strava

In this second article, we're going to look at how to use Strava to help you progress your training. Whether you are making mental gains or performance gains, self-improvement is a sustainable and enjoyable way to approach sports. Even the pros, who make a living out of beating other people, seem to agree. If you listen closely to interviews with the world’s best, they’ll often talk about reaching their personal potential and not worrying about what the competition is doing.

So, in that spirit, the following four features are what I like to think of as a Strava power pack – rocket fuel for your personal progress as an athlete. 

Matched Activities: Tracking personal progress

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a creature of habit when it comes to running and cycling. I have my four or five favorite routes of varying distances and hillyness and I tend to stick to them, partly out of comfort, partly out of practicality. Matched Activities harnesses our habits to help us better understand our fitness and track our progress. 

RELATED: How Runners Can Get The Best Out of Strava

Using an algorithm to automatically identify when you have completed an activity on a route that you’ve completed before, Matched Activities will then group all the times you’ve completed that route together into a single chart to show you how you’re trending overtime. 

How to use Matched Activities: It’s important to say that you’re not going to get faster every time, and progress is unlikely to be linear, but, if you complete the same route often enough, you’re likely to see your fitness increasing over time. If you’re new to running or riding, this might simply mean that your average pace is getting faster. If you’re more experienced, you’ll likely start to feel that the same pace feels much easier. 

When you start to mix workouts into your training, don’t be alarmed if your Matched Activities show that you’re slowing down. You’ll be more tired from the added intensity, but if you complete a similar loop for all your tempo efforts, you’ll likely be seeing progress there. 

Time to get some fresh kicks?

Avoiding injury is arguably the most important thing you can do to progress as an athlete. The list of things that can cause an injury includes plenty of things that are either out of your control, like a mysterious biomechanical quirk, or good old bad luck, like stepping on a pothole, but one thing you can control is ensuring you’re not using worn-out gear.

Photography by: Suriyawut Suriya

Strava can help you track how many miles you’ve logged in your favorite pair of carbon-plated shoes or on your go-to bike, so you know when you might be due a fresh pair or a service at the bike shop. 

Between 300 - 500 miles is a generally accepted benchmark for the lifespan of a pair of everyday running shoes, with a lot of the variation coming down to biomechanics, body weight and the surfaces you run on. If you have a pair of carbon-plated race shoes, you can expect them to wear out more quickly – you’ll likely need a replacement after 150 - 300 miles. 

RELATED: Adding Gear to Your Activities on Strava

How to get started: To start tracking your gear, go to the “You” tab in the app and then click on your profile photo. From there, scroll down and select “Gear” and you’ll have a choice of whether to add shoes or a bike. You’ll also be able to choose if you’d like to be notified when you’ve logged a certain number of miles in a pair of shoes. I like to set a notification for 400 miles, which gives me plenty of time to procrastinate over purchasing a new pair before they truly become unwearable. 

Once you’ve added your bike, including a nickname (mine is nicknamed Herbert if you were wondering), you can also track your bike components like your wheelset and cassette although, for now, this will need to be done via the Strava website.

Get in the Zone

You can think of intensity and volume as two complementary tools in an athlete’s toolbox. It’s common for people to just focus on volume – running or riding for longer, more often. But varying intensity can also really help your progress as an athlete. However, it can be hard to know what pace you should aim for in structured workouts like tempos or intervals, which is where Strava’s Pace Zone Analysis comes in. It’s designed to help guide you as to what pace is appropriate for what intensity, so you can structure your training more efficiently. 

RELATED: How to Use Strava to Optimize Your Bike Training

How to get started: To generate custom pace zones, go to the “You” tab and then tap your profile photo. Click the “Edit” icon and then scroll down to the “Performance Potential” section. Here, you can add in a “Running Race Time” – this might be a recent race result or target time – and Strava will do the rest. 

Imagine you want to run 25:00 minutes for 5 km but you’re not sure how fast to run your easy runs or what tempo pace is. If you put that goal time into Strava, it suggests that you should be aiming for 11-minute miles or slower on your recovery days and your tempo pace will be 8:26 - 9:24 per mile. It’s just a guide, but it’s a great place to start as you dial in your training. 

Grade Adjusted Pace: Some help on the Hills

Talking of understanding different efforts and paces, Grade Adjusted Pace, also known as GAP, is our last feature of the day and it’s a really helpful tool here too.

How to interpret GAP: It might not be immediately obvious how GAP is going to help you progress as an athlete, but stick with me. GAP takes the steepness of the terrain into account, giving you an estimate of the equivalent pace if you were running on the flat. While having set paces for workouts can be really helpful, hilly terrain can often result in athletes pushing too hard to hit a goal pace. Progress as an athlete relies on consistency and that can quickly be derailed if you fall into this trap. Use GAP to compare efforts across different types of terrain, and stay disciplined with not pushing too hard just because it’s hilly. 

RELATED: How to Get Better at Pacing (and Why It’s Worth the Effort)

I live in pretty much the hilliest part of London, so I’ve had to put my ego aside and admit that I’m just going to have to run slower. GAP has helped me stay sensible on my easy days leaving me the energy to push my harder days. If, like me, you’re running somewhere super hilly, try and aim for a consistent GAP rather than worrying about your average pace. 

What’s Next?

Now we’ve taken a look at some of the best Strava features you can use to progress your training, without any extra equipment, we’re ready to take a look at Strava’s most advanced features. Next time, we’ll be taking a deep dive into heart rate and power to unlock their secrets so you can perform at your best. 

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