Friday, November 28, 2014

The mystery of the missing Strava Premium feature for runners

I had a Strava Premium free trial available to me for about a month up to mid November - and I took it up as I do find knowing a suffer score some source of amusement. But that is it - I really don't find that Strava Premium offers that much to runners. The pace bands are nice, but I can replicate that very easily in Sport Tracks. The 25% splits in the race analysis are handy, but it's not to difficult to calculate 25% of your run distance and do a little subtraction to figure out those splits.

Strava bases its pace bands on the best 5km, which I set as the best GPS-recorded 5km.

Sport Tracks uses pace bands set by the user - both in terms of quantity and the pace categories.

The only problem I have with Sport Tracks is that there is no Mac version. Each time I want to use it, I need to start a Windows partition on my Mac and lose 4GB of RAM. Just opening that partition slows my whole system down - so while I love Sport Tracks for a variety of reasons (check out DC Rainmaker's great overview here), it's annoying to use. So I'm always on the lookout for web-based logs that offer something useful.

I use Nike and Garmin GPS watches - I prefer the simplicity of the Nike, but I need the Garmin if I'm on my bike (very rare these days) or wish to set up intervals. I can easily export the data from both devices (to upload to Sport Tracks), although uploading activities to Smashrun or Strava is a much easier process that just requires a few clicks and no downloading/uploading.

But I persist with Sport Tracks because I love the Training Load plugin, which I can use to monitor my fitness and fatigue.

Yellow bars show the Training Impulse (TRIMP, read more about it here) for each day's activities, blue is the fitness and red is fatigue.
At the moment I'm trying to find a sweet spot for an easy run - the shortest distance at an easy pace that doesn't reduce my fitness score. Although I'll point out that the distance/time will increase as my fitness improves. But it means that I am opening up Sport Tracks (and thus Windows) each day. It is not an instantaneous process.

So imagine my annoyance when this little critter turned up on my Strava feed a day after my Premium Trial expired!

After a bit of digging I found a Premium Trial offer online, so I signed up again and tried to find out where this pot of gold was and what my data looked like. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

Look at how unfit but fresh I am - because it's a feature for cyclists only!

Historically this "Fitness & Freshness" feature only used power meter data, and now they have enabled it to use heart rate data too. So now that this has happened, why can't this feature be opened up to those of us who run! Or swim (possible if you use an optical heart rate monitor), or do any other activity that can be uploaded with heart rate data? Of course, if the fitness/freshness feature was something some wanted to check in on, they could change the activity type to be bike rides, but that'd really annoying. And you'd fall off the appropriate leaderboard (which is what Strava is really about).

I changed the activity type for the last two days of last week from run to ride, and it did come up on the plot... so that's an option for Strava Premium subscribers who are desperate for this feature.
I do like Strava - it's a great way to see where your friends (and rivals) are running (or cycling, swimming, kayaking, etc), and how their chosen activity is going. It has the best privacy feature of all the web-based apps, allowing you to share runs without divulging the specifics of your home address (and/or other addresses, as required). But there is nothing in the current Premium subscription that I value. The goal-setting for specific segments is nice, but it's not something I'm interested in. At least not right now.

Despite all the segments and friends I have on Strava, I place a lot more value on the data I get from Smashrun. I even upgraded to Smashrun Pro because I really enjoyed the site, but now love all the Pro features! Plus Smashrun is just plain fun, albeit disguised as an easy way to keep track of your running. The notables are what do it for me - Strava may have something similar when it identifies top-three performances, but Strava Achievements are based on overall PB while Smashrun detects overall, quarterly and monthly PBs! You can be on the comeback trail and it will let you know when you're improving. Strava only let's you know after you put all the hard work in again.

So, for the moment, while I am exclusively a runner, I just don't see the point of Strava Premium.


  1. Thorough review! I joined Strava ages ago but wasn't using it until I got into cycling. Love it for cycling! Being able to find good places to ride and the segment PR thing, plus doing the same rides as friends at a different time. I'd like to know the % of runners v cyclists using it. When the number of runners increases it'll become more interesting.

    I'm not sure how accurate fitness/freshness scores can be. My own one for fitness is heart-beats per km (ave HR x ave pace) over a certain distance/course. I can be running slower (like last night) and still see that my fitness is improving. For 'freshness', I'd rather have something that warned against over-reaching/over-training. I'm rarely fresh unless I specifically taper for 3 or 4 days prior to a race.

    1. Strava is definitely a lot more fun when you're cycling, especially if you're trying to find new routes or the best way to get to somewhere. Am interested to see where this parkrun-Strava link goes too... Have you had a play with It's another great way to see what else Strava data can offer to regular folk.

      I've noticed the use of the bpk stat in your blog and it's definitely something I wanted to play with, and to compare with the Sport Tracks figures (I might use my second Strava account to save all my runs as bike rides, and then see what their fitness/freshness plot looks like when I can get my digital-hands on a free Premium trail).

  2. If you're a SportTracks user on the Mac, you may want to check You can seamlessly sync your PC logbook to the cloud. Boom, all your data is there.

    It's got integrated Training Load, Garmin sync, and a new PR segment page searchable by date, including a new innovative feature called "PR Timeline". Check it out:

    Sophisticated gear tracking, health measurements, all the stuff you like SportTracks. Plus it's tailored for run, bike and swim, not just limited to running or cycling.