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Dear Christians in Sport,
I love cycling and have just started riding regularly with a club. Most of the riders use Strava regularly and it gets quite competitive sometimes! I love the idea of tracking my fitness and improving my times, but I’m worried about the ability to constantly compare my performance to others online. So should I use Strava at all?
This is an interesting question to answer, especially as fitness and activity sharing apps like Strava have completely changed the landscape of athletic sports in recent years.
The idea is simple: exercise - record - upload and then you have all the analysis of your run, walk, cycle or swim. You can get all the data you could ever wish for - splits, heart rate, cadence, elevation. And with all this data available online, you can compare yourself to your friends, and even top professional athletes that share on these platforms!
Sounds fantastic, but there are potential downsides. Let’s look at God’s word together and ask – is Strava a friend or foe?
There’s little doubt that technology is key in the establishing, developing and maintaining of relationships for most of us today, be it in our social, professional or family lives. This is why Strava is so successful, it allows sportspeople to dock in with each other online, to share their athletic lives together.
As Christians, we know we’re created to be in relationships, Genesis 2:18 says:
“It is not good for man to be alone”
Strava, like other social media outlets, enables relationships to continue online, albeit in the form of kudos and comments – and surely that is a good thing?
Going one step further Strava provides a way to stay connected with friends as you try to share life and the good news of Jesus with them. You can praise them for their achievements, comment on a training ride or a virtual race and ask about a route they’ve just ridden. It’s fun to compare form and fitness and to stay connected to others online, and then pick those conversations up in person when you meet up for the Saturday club ride.
On connection; Strava is definitely a friend.
As you upload your latest training session, it’s easy for thoughts to flash through your brain like:
“Let’s see who’s impressed with that!”
"Only 12 Kudos - can’t people see the progress I’m making?”
“I hope the club chairman sees my time up that climb!”
The second of the ten commandments states in Exodus 20:4-5:
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything…and bow down to them or worship them"
Idolatry is not just about a carved image. It’s not just a religious god replacing the one true God or just when a heart is ruled by an evil thing. Paul Tripp in his book ‘Lead’ says:
“In its most fundamental everyday form…idolatry is when things take on a greater weight in our heart than God does.”
Strava can so easily become that greater weight. The lure and lust of popularity, wanting to be liked, wanting to be impressive. This can spiral so easily, leading us to seek this popularity and approval more than we seek God, and it starts to replace God as the true treasure of our hearts.
On consuming, undoubtedly Strava is a foe.
Strava is a simple and fun way to add another dimension to training and competing, but it can quickly constrict and suffocate the joy of sport if we let it. You might think:
“Oh no I’m off the pace - I just won’t submit this run.”
“I should go for a ride…my weekly milage record will be way down if I don’t.”
“He’s really upping the anti - I won’t keep up with him if I don’t get a turbo session done tonight.”
The joy in God that you often get from sport is in danger of being usurped and constricted by powerful sinful thoughts of a misconstrued idea of competition and a self-consumed performance-based identity. And this is not a surprise? For we know that the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy all that is good.
On constricting, it’s always foe.
So is Strava a friend or foe? Well, it’s always a bit of both!
Should you download Strava? Or ignore it and just go for a ride? You may feel you can’t use it for some of the reasons we’ve discussed. But the potential to use it to deepen your relationships with those you train with may be too precious to ignore.
Whatever you decide, it’s important to continue spending time in prayer, and talking to others, to weigh up where technology is a help or a hindrance in your Christian life.
Here’s three things to keep thinking about as you consider using Strava:
There we have a microcosm of the Christian life found in a running app! It screams to us that we are in need of a saviour! In all this be thankful that all we have, and need, is Christ!
Do you have any questions about sport and faith?
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