Best Running App Diary: Strava

Man, the last couple of weeks have been jam packed. I haven’t really had much time to do anything outside of work and weddings for the past ten days or so. It was nice to actually have some time to go running yesterday. It was even better to be testing out the next and final app in my #bestrunningappchallenge – Strava.

If you missed any of my other entries (and I realize that they all have different titles so it was really hard to call this a series) here they are:

The Plan

Workout App

Nike Run Club

RunKeeper

Quick look

The GoodThe Bad
NotificationsSyncing
Data displaySet up after update
Social features

Setting Up

Just like the past three apps, you will need to set up the Strava App on your watch before you start your first run. The phone app will walk you through the process, so it’s not difficult. Just make sure that you set your app up before you start your first run.

Warning: I used the Strava app as my standard run tracker for about a year before I did this little challenge. There have been a couple of times where the app updated and you’d need to pair with your phone again. Best advice, make sure if you’ve updated you app that you have your phone handy before you run again.

Setting Up

Once everything syncs and you start the app, you’re presented with two pages. The first pages list of all the activities that you can track. Strava will track outdoor runs, walks, and bike rides, indoor runs and rides, skiing, hiking, and other workouts. Just scroll through the list, find the one you want, and select it.

The Strava start page
Strava start page

Starting a run is easy, but you’re limited in what you want to do. Unlike the Workout app, you can’t set running goals. Once you pick the type of activity you want the app will launch the tracker, which is similar to the Open workout goal on the Workout App.

Settings Page

The other page you are greeted with is the settings page. Here you can change the few things.

The first thing I notice was the Audio Cues section. If you’ve read my other pieces, you’ve probably seen that I like audio cues. If you go into the Audio Cues section you can tell the app when you’d like those cues: start, stop, and pause, and Run Splits. I like the Run splits so that I can get the information about my run in my ear. You can pick which you like.

There are also options to Auto-Pause your runs and rides. If you run in a city, or a place that might cause you to stop often, these Auto-Pauses could come in handy.

You can also get your history of runs from this screen. It might not make sense, but it’s easy to find.

Running

Once you start your run, you’re greeted with a new screen with lots of data.

Strava Run Screen
the strava run screen

You can see the time spent running, your average pace, mileage, and heart rate on this screen. As far as I’ve been able to tell you can’t change much on this screen. Tap on it and your average pace turns to a split timer instead.

The app really stays out of your way while you run. You can glance at it to see your statistics, or it can alert you at the mile intervals. If you turned on the audio cues, at the mile mark you will get the information read to you, and you’ll get a tap on the wrist.

Of the four running apps that I’ve tested, I felt like these notifications were probably the best. Nike would be a close second. If you’re basing your running app on notifications than I would definitely try these two.

Also, if you have auto-pause turned on, if you have to stop and wait for traffic you will be told that the run is pausing. Conversely, once you start again, you’re notified that the run is resuming. It definitely beats the Workout App’s dings, and blows Runkeeper’s lack of notifications out of the water.

Post Run

Post run is interesting for Strava, and a place where I feel like it struggles a little. When you are done with a run, you simply swipe to the left screen and end the workout. After that, you’ll be presented with all the stats from your run on your watch face, plus you’ll be told that the run will sync to your phone when it is in range.

All the stats are great. The phone app is pretty great as well, with lots of details about your run, community support, and the ability to share to social.

Where it all breaks down is the syncing.

Strava phone app, post run
IPhone app post run

Of all the apps that I tested, the syncing on Strava takes the longest. That’s been the case for as long as I can remember as well. After a run, I’d like to check my stats on the app, maybe share to instagram, and make sure that everything is right in my health app. However, I’ll go to the Strava app and my run hasn’t been uploaded yet.

I wait a few minutes, pull down on the activity feed and wait… nothing.

There’s no telling how long it takes for all the data to get off of the watch and on to the phone. I wish they would look at the way that Apple does it, and get the important information on there quickly, and then import the rest of the heavy duty stuff like the map later. (I know it’s not importing a map, but the GPS coordinates).

Once your run is on there, you can see lots of details like the map, heart rate, etc. From here you can also share it to your social media accounts as well.

But Strava also has it’s own social media service built into the app. You have to find your friends on the app, but that part is pretty easy. The question you’ll need to ask is do you want people seeing your exercises? If you don’t want them to, then you probably don’t want this social media experience.

For me, I hardly really get on other than when I’m waiting for a run to upload to the app. The friends I have on there, I don’t care if they see how slow I am, so it doesn’t bother me.

Wrap up

I’m four apps in and I have an idea for which app I’m going to use.

Strava has many great aspects to it. If you are looking for a running app with strong social feature and good notifications during your run, Strava is a great app to try out.

I’ve tested out four apps now. I think I’m getting close to figuring out which of these running apps will be the most. Stay tuned as I wrap up this entire series by crowning the Best Running App for Apple Watch.

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