One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to commit to a healthier lifestyle, which often includes regular exercise. But though there is strong agreement about the benefits of a physically active lifestyle, it can be difficult to stay motivated, particularly at the start of a new year when it’s cold outside and gyms are crowded. Luckily, there exist a number of smartphone apps that offer a plethora of features designed to motivate you to maintain a regular and consistent workout schedule. One such app, Strava, motivates runners by allowing them to track their activities, check their stats, and compete with others.
Unlike many sports, running is an activity that can easily become dull over time, as the sport is repetitive, simplistic, and can be grueling. However, running is a very effective way to burn calories and maintain cardiovascular fitness, and it requires virtually no equipment save for a pair of running shoes. Running, like most sports, is more exciting when performed alongside others; however, people who are very busy may have difficulty finding a group of people to run with that fits into their schedule. Recently, though, many smartphone apps have been developed that allow people to virtually compete with one another by tracking their pace and mileage via GPS sensors and letting users upload their statistics to the internet and view others’ stats. A large number of apps exist for this purpose, each offering its own unique set of features, but Strava is perhaps the best choice for runners with a competitive mindset.
Strava, which calls itself the “social network for athletes,” is available on both Android and iOS devices as well as through a web browser at strava.com. Like competing apps MapMyRun and Runkeeper, Strava uses your phone’s GPS to record and track your workouts, giving you information about your performance after you complete your run. What sets Strava apart is its inclusion of extensive social features, which take the form of challenges, wherein users compete to achieve a goal designed by the app’s developers, and virtual running clubs, where people can make friends, compare their stats, and organize to meet up in real life. Although Strava is free, the company offers a paid membership called Summit, which unlocks advanced features like more detailed analysis, additional training tools, and safety tools that allow users to share their location with trusted contacts during a run.
While most runners are unlikely to pay the necessary $6 a month for a premium membership, the base app still offers a plethora of features to motivate and engage runners. One distinct benefit of the sport of running is that it’s easy to track your progress over time, as using a GPS tracker lets you know whether your performance has improved, even if only by a few seconds per mile. This characteristic of running makes it particularly appealing to people who like to work with numbers or fans of role playing video games, which are based on the concept of slowly improving your character’s stats over time through continued play. In this way, running can provide the same feeling of accomplishment associated with improving a fictional character’s stats in a video game, with the main difference being an improvement in overall health rather than an improvement in a virtual character’s abilities. The gamification elements offered by apps like Strava only make the sport more appealing to these type of gamers, as the app provides users with a rewarding feedback loop by showing them their progress over time and encouraging them to push harder when appropriate.
Recently, Strava released its “Year in Sport” report, which analyzes all of the data collected by the app over the year and arrives at conclusions about the user base as a whole. The report found that the number of runners who completed a marathon or ultra distance run rose this year compared to last year, with Japan seeing a 23.2 percent boost. It also found that the runners who were the most successful at maintaining their habits were the ones who woke up early to run, and that people are increasingly recording sports other than running, including yoga and weight training, through the app. Given the growing popularity of technologies like smartwatches and virtual exercise classes, these numbers are sure to continue to rise.