The idea is simple: exercise - record - upload and then you have all the analysis of your run, walk, cycle or swim. You get everything you could ever imagine or wish for - splits, heart rate, cadence, elevation. It’s really quite incredible!
I’d heard lots about Strava (other exercise apps are available!); with friends at the running club comparing stats and the apps features, making it sound as though it should be every runners new best friend.
So in March 2020 I relented to the FOMO (fear of missing out), and as we entered lockdown I took my first steps to discovering the virtual pulls and mysterious pushes of Strava.
Nearly 12 months on, what’s the verdict? Strava - friend or foe?
There’s little doubt that technology today continually plays a key part in the establishing, developing and maintaining of relationships. We’ve seen that truth sky rocket over the course of the pandemic - without technology where would our relationships be?
Strava has been a wonderful place to dock in with my friends in the running club. With Tuesday speed sessions, Thursday club runs and weekend races all falling foul to the restrictions, where else do you go for that sought after community?
Perhaps for many, the words from the Lord God himself “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), have never rung so true than during the last 12 months. Strava, like other social media outlets, has enabled relationships to continue, albeit in the form of kudos and comments - but even that is surely still a good thing?
Going one step further Strava has prompted me and provided me with a way to stay connected to fellow runners I’ve been trying to share life and the Good News of Jesus with for many years. I’m able to check in with them, give them praise for their achievements, comment on a training run or a virtual race and ask about a route around the surrounding parts of Bicester. It’s fun to compare form and fitness and to stay connected to those we can’t see physically at this time.
On connection; Strava is definitely a friend.
As I log my latest 10km attempt, so many thoughts flash through my brain:
The second command states:
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything…and bow down to them or worship them" (Exodus 20:4-5).
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.”
Oh, how so easily Strava has become that greater weight. The lure and lust of popularity, wanting to be liked, wanting to be impressive - in the words of the cult song by Stone Roses ‘I wanna be adored’. And it’s so true.
And maybe you’re smiling, thinking ‘that’s way too much thinking’ and of course you’re right. There’s my temptation. The greater weight in my heart at times is for recognition and praise. I seek it often more than I seek God. I chase after it because I don’t let the all encompassing nature of God’s love for me in Jesus, consume me and be my treasure! Strava simply fuels that imbalanced weight. It needs to be kept in check or it spirals and easily becomes that runaway train.
On consuming; undoubtedly it’s a foe.
Polly Standring wrote in her soul searching, helpful blog:
“What started as a harmless escape from lockdown boredom became dangerously addictive… and Strava - an exercise tracking app - didn’t help”
As a boa snake constricts and suffocates its prey so Strava can constrict and suffocate my joy.
“Oh no I’m off the pace - I just won’t submit this run.”
“I should go for a run…my weekly milage record will be way down if I don’t.”
“He’s really upping the anti - I wont keep up with him if I don’t do some speed work tonight.”
My joy in God that I often get whilst running 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 why should I be surprised? For we know that the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy all that is good.
On constricting; always it’s a foe.
So what do I do with Strava? Friend or Foe? It’s always a bit of both!
Whats the antidote? Pack it all in and just go running? I often think that could be best but I’m sticking with it in the light and promise “that he who began a good work in me will carry it on completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). The connection points are too precious to throw away. That won’t be the case for everyone however, and you need to prayerfully, and with others, make decisions on where technology is a help and a hindrance in your Christian life.
Three things I’ve found I need to do as I approach my running and Strava especially are:
Here then we have a microcosm of the Christian life found in a running app. It screams to me that I am still a man in need of saving and so I’m thankful that at the end of the day I can remember that all I have, and need, is Christ!
Ian Lancaster runs with Alchester Running Club, is one of the leaders at Town Church Bicester and is our UK Team Leader.
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