Have you heard of Strava? It’s an online community for athletes like you. Grab a device, go for a run or ride, and then upload and analyze your data. What makes Strava different is the ability for athletes to compare their performance over the same course, or even segment of a course with others in the Strava community.

For a competitive athlete or just the curious runner, this a great motivator. You can track the performances of other local runners, keep tabs on your rivals, and offer kudos along the way. All your data is stored in the cloud and a variety of tools are available for analysis.

Strava Segment
Segment comparison of a recent run. Still hold CR! Phew…

 

Strava Training Log
A sample of my summer training.

 

Strava Challenges
Strava offers athletes unique monthly challenges to keep them engaged and motivated.

 

Strava Training Plans

Strava is free. Anybody can create an account and join the community. However, if you want access to all the bells and whistles, you may want to consider becoming a premium member for less than $6 per month. One of the biggest benefits of a premium membership is access to Strava’s training plans.

Strava offers training plans designed by coach Greg McMillan to help runners compete in the most popular race distances: 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, and Marathon. Each plan is 6-12 weeks long and can be tailored based on experience level (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) and desired start date.

I followed McMillan’s training plan to PR at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in 2014. The guy is rock solid, and his plans work. I was able to go from 6:55 half marathon pace, to 10 miles at 6:20 pace. Bam!

Strava makes things easy with automated emails and reminders. Just choose your distance, the number of times you’re available to train each week, and your race date. Bingo! You’ve got a customized training plan. To fine tune your workout pace, check out the corresponding McMillan Pace Calculator.

Q&A with Strava and Coach Greg McMillan

I always try to bring you guys the best information I can. So, I asked to interview a representative from Strava as well as Gregg McMillan from McMillan Running so that I could gain some insight on product development and coaching philosophy.

Me: Are there any plans to integrate a social component so that you can join a team of other athletes in training for a given distance/race?

Strava: You can join Race Pages for your race to follow athletes who are in the same boat as you. For example, check out this year’s Boston Marathon page. There is a link in the training plan section pointing you to the list of featured races on Strava.

Me: Has there been a significant uptick in user interaction after adding the ability to take pics and upload with activities?

Strava: Yes, nearly 10 million photos have been uploaded, driving kudos. Nearly a quarter of Strava’s active athletes now upload photos.

Me: What’s next for Strava? Have you guys considered the integration of live data and auditory feedback similar to Pear training?

Strava: Check out Strava’s latest update, featuring an enhanced real-time experience for all Strava athletes, and we also recently announced a key partnership with Garmin around live data feedback.

Me: How many users are now following Strava training plans? What’s the most popular distance/plan?

Strava: We don’t disclose numbers of athletes on training plans, but as of early July, 22% percent of Premium athletes have started a training plan.

company_gregMcmillan

Me: What’s the greatest challenge in developing a training plan for runners of varying ability?

Coach McMillan: Every athlete is unique and has a unique life situation into which they are fitting their training. So, the challenge is to create programs that have enough direction to keep the runner on track but enough flexibility so that they can modify the program based on when “life” happens.

Me: How did you overcome that challenge?

Coach McMillan: I always start with frequency of running. Most runners self-select the number of days that fit into their life schedule so we offered 2-3 days per week, 4-5 and 6-7.  Second, using feedback from Strava, I focused the plans on what type of runner the Strava user is. Third, I build in lots of flexibility. There are many days when the runner has choices on what to do. For example, there may be a recovery day where the athlete can take the day off of exercise completely, she can cross train or do an easy recovery run. Hopefully, this gives the runner ways to modify the plan based on their life.

Me: Athletes can jump into the Strava training plans at any point, would you recommend they follow the entire progression form beginning to end? Why?

Coach McMillan: The programs have a “method to the madness” if you will in that they are build to be gradually progressive. Injuries are runner enemy #1 so athlete must be careful to simply jump into a program without the necessary preparation. Also, the programs are built for a race distance so runners can easily move between programs that are close in distance (5K-10K for example) but should be careful when moving from distances that are far apart (5k-marathon).  As always, more training time before a race is great but again, it depends on the preparedness of the athletes. Newer athletes should follow a plan for the full length of time. Experienced runners can jump in later in the program and be fine.

I’m a Strava user, and have been for about 18 months. Before that I used DailyMile and Nike+ to log my miles. If you’re considering the move to Strava, it’s possible to transfer all your historic data. However, Nike+ will make you jump through some hoops to get there.

Once you arrive, look me up here.

Thoughts?