In case you are one of the few who haven’t heard of it, Strava is an online repository for training data. On top of storing your training information, it has a social networking aspect by allowing users to follow other users – friends, heroes, or just random strangers. Finally, the most unique feature is that Strava facilitates competition against anyone, anywhere, anytime. Strava has a couple mobile apps that can be used to record your training – one of these is Strava Run.
If you carry an iPhone or Android device while you run, the Strava Run app might be perfect for you. This app turns your phone into a GPS based running device to display and record all the important metrics. The app also allows you to easily access all of your Strava uploaded training on your device (even if it wasn’t recorded on that device.) I have been testing the Apple version of the app on my iPhone 4S for the past couple of weeks for this review. Note that features may vary between device models. For example, on the iPhone 5S, Strava Run uses the motion coprocessor allows the device to disable the GPS when you stop moving to save battery power.
First of all, the app is very easy to install and start up (same process as any Android or Apple app). You can either login using your existing Strava account (if you have previously created one online) or create a new account on the app. If you already had an account and use it to login, your existing training history and followers feed will appear.
The typical use of the app would be as a training monitor and recorder. When you open the app, you will be on the record screen. If you are elsewhere within the app, you simply hit the Record button on the lower menu to get back there. Once the device picks up a GPS signal, you will see its strength shown to the left side above elapsed time. Once the bars are green, you are good to go. Hit the large orange circle in the middle of the screen to get started.
Once the app is tracking your run, the main screen shows elapsed time, distance covered, and the pace for the split (each kilometre or mile) you are on. You can drag the screen to access the splits data and then another screen will show your run progress on a map in realtime. Sliding the screen to the left opens up a screen showing real time segments achievements, but you must be a Premium member (by paying an annual fee) to access this feature. You can select the More button on the lower menu, and then choose Segment Explorer to access a map showing what nearby segments have been created on a map view. You can use this to plan your route if you want to see where you rank!
While running, you can hit the orange button again to pause recording. Once you complete your run, hit the checkered button to finish. You will then be able to name the run, and change the activity type (ie: hike, bike ride, nordic ski, etc). You can also choose to post the activity on your Facebook account, or to keep it private. Once you have made these selections, you save it (which publishes the data to your Strava account.) You can also select discard at this point if you don’t want it saved to your account.
You can go back and view the details of any finished runs (or other activities.) You can see you average page, elapsed time, calories burned, elevation, and split times summary. If you are a Premium Member you also get to see a Pace Zone Analysis and Suffer Score for the workout. You can also choose to share your run data by instant message, email , Twitter, or Facebook.
The competitive component comes from the Strava Challenges and the Segments. Challenges are typically based on doing something the best over a given time period. For example, run the most distance or elevation in a given month or be first to hit a certain target. You can find challenges to sign up for on the Strava Run app by clicking the Challenges button at the bottom of the screen. The segments are designated sections of a route where your time is automatically calculated and ranked once you complete that portion of road or trail. It’s a cool way to see how you stack up against others on that same hill, sprint, or course.
You can set the app to provide an audio feedback of your split time every ½ or full kilometre or mile. This is a nice feature for interval training when you don’t want to have to look down at your phone every time you finish a split. The app allows for the use of third party hardware like HR straps, powermeters, and cadence footpods. You can also connect it to external displays that allow the data from the phone to be displayed on a watch or other display. Note that you have to purchase external hardware that is compatible with your specific device – most have bluetooth connectivity but not always ANT+. Make sure you check before purchasing any accessories.
Strava Run provides all the basic functionality that a running watch would. The fact that it automatically saves the data to your Strava account is nice since you would otherwise have to connect your watch to a computer and upload the information once back at home. It allows you to access past running data that is on your Strava account, and browse through activites of people you are following. Of course the competitive features that are built into Strava are really popular and a really cool feature of this app. If you don’t have a GPS watch, or you carry your phone when you run anyway, you can’t go wrong with using Strava Run.
I did notice a couple of features I would like to see added to Strava Run. It would be nice if you had the ability to set automatic intervals (or laps) on a time or distance basis. I would also like to see the ability to set a lap manually by pushing a button.