Strava explained: Tips for using Strava to supercharge your workouts

Ways to get more out of Strava with your wearables
How to master Strava
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

If you're a Strava user, you have one of the most feature-packed and motivating fitness platforms at your fingertips. Packed with great features such as Segments and Strava Clubs and the ability to add friends and compete in challenges, it's one of our fave fitness platforms for logging your workouts.

Strava's success is owed not so much to the wealth of data it shows about your training but to the community it has created as it evolves into a social network for athletes.

Essential reading: Strava compatible watches to own

By chalking up over ninteen million activities a week, Strava has achieved gamification on a grand scale, encouraging even the most casual partakers to turn their local multi-use towpath into a time trial.

Whether you're planning to use Strava for the first time or you want to discover the features that hide behind its premium Strava Summit subscription, we've pulled together our top tips to get the most out of the platform with your wearables and more.

And don't forget to join our Strava Run Club. Click the link above and get involved. Own our leaderboards, leave us kudos, supportive/offensive comments and see who clocks up the most miles in the team. Get involved.

What is Strava?

Strava is a fitness platform, that enables you to track your workouts and compare them. It started with the cycling community but it's now even more popular with runners. At its heart is a deeper analysis of your workouts than you get with rivals – offering good comparisons and trends on the volume and performance of runs and cycles.

It's also famous of Segments, where it turns mundane runs into challenges against yourself and the community – as you run and cycle onto pre-determined Segments, your time is recorded – for that added piece of motivation.

Strava free vs Strava Summit

Most Strava features are free for all to use, but some premium analysis features are paid-for. Strava Premium is now called Strava Summit.

Summit started life broken down into three packs that you could pay for individually or collectively on a monthly or annual basis. That's now all been bundled into one package.

A monthly subscription costs $5.00 with a yearly subscription setting you back $59.99. Scroll down for our guide to all the features included in Strava Summit.

Hook up your wearables

Hook up your wearables

While the app will suit many users' needs, a smartphone isn't the only way to get your activity data into Strava's hands. Luckily, Strava plays nicely with a range GPS sports watches and specialist cycling devices.

Essential reading: How to link Garmin and Strava

All Garmin, Polar and Suunto sports watches and even some smartwatches will push data to Strava automatically, just by pairing your account in the dashboard. The Apple Watch works with Strava as does budget sport watches like the Amazfit T-Rex. Once you get home and sync your run to the paired app, it will appear in your activities list.

However, it's not just standard fitness gear. Fitbit has an interesting partnership with Strava with two-way syncing of data, which not only enables Fitbit tracked workouts to appear in the app, but also give you credit for Strava-tracked sessions against your Fitbit step/calorie goal.

Cyclists after a weatherproof heads-up display may opt to swap their smartphone for a GPS-enabled cycle computer. If you're a swimmer, the great Form smart swimming goggles play nice with Strava too and we've found works really well.

Connect Strava to Garmin and Fitbit

The best thing about Strava is how nicely it plays with both Garmin and Fitbit. If you're using a Garmin Forerunner device, or you're tied to your Fitbit, you can connect the two accounts.

We've compiled guides to connecting Garmin and Strava, so you can have runs recorded on your watch appear in Strava, complete with all Segments, PBs and, for premium users, Suffer Score.

We also have a step-by-step guide to syncing your Fitbit and Strava accounts. This enables two-way syncing of data, so if you exercise with your Fitbit device, the details will appear in Strava, but also the calorie burn from Strava workouts will count towards your daily goals.

Connect to other services

Buried in Strava's Settings menu, the 'link other services' option enables the app to share data with a host of other services. Connecting calorie counter MyFitnessPal ensures any activity gets offset from your intake, while hooking up to Google Fit or Apple Health ensures your Strava activity counts towards any daily goal you've set. You can also pair up devices from Fitbit, Polar, Wahoo as well as Wear OS smartwatches.

Tens of thousands of companies have utilised the Strava API to deliver creative new products. With the most prominent and highly used including Peloton, Wattbike, Puregym and WebMD. Those tie-ups offer everything from specialised analytics, gamification and storytelling through Strava route naming.

How to sync Strava routes to Garmin watch

How to sync Strava routes to Garmin watch

If you're struggling to find new places to run there are two options.

In the Strava app there's a new feature called Strava Routes, which will show you popular running or cycling routes in your area. You specify the terrain, distance and elevation you want to tackle, and it will plot something that fits the bill.

However, if you want to totally own the process, you can use Route Builder tool, on the Strava desktop page. You can plot an entire route, or the start and finish points on the map and Strava will suggest routes based on data where most users run, helping you find those paths and trails that don't show on Google.

You can even tweak it to use flatter routes by hitting the Min Elevation tab on the toolbar, which is great for people whose home is sandwiched between hills, although not so good for your basal metabolic rate.

Strava Route Builder

If you own a Garmin, there are a host of compatible models that let you follow routes built in Strava on your watch. You'll need to be able to download the Strava Routes app from Garmin's IQ support. It's an app compatible with the following:

  • Garmin Forerunner 245
  • Garmin Forerunner 645
  • Garmin Forerunner 935/945
  • Garmin Fenix 5/6 series

The full compatibility list can be found here

To sync a Strava route to a Garmin watch you need to:

1. Download the Strava Routes app from the Connect IQ Store.
2. Once downloaded, make sure the app has synced over to your watch. You'll be able to see it below all of your chosen sports tracking options on the device.
3. Go back to the Strava app on your phone and go to Explore. This is where you'll find the route building option.
4. Sketch out your route and then hit Save.
5. As long as your Strava and Garmin Connect accounts are connected, you can now go to the Strava Routes app on your watch and you'll see your list of created routes.

How to sync Apple Watch workouts to Strava

How to sync Apple Watch workouts to Strava

Firstly, it should be known there is an Apple Watch Strava app, which natively tracks and uploads your sessions to Strava – and we'd recommend this experience.

However, if you use an Apple Watch with the Workout app to track your runs, rides of swims, Strava has now made it possible to sync workouts.

This is thanks to an update to Apple's HealthKit app. While it won't automatically sync workouts it does make it a lot easier to sync them over from platform to the next.

To sync an Apple Watch workout to Strava you need to:

1. Open the Strava app and select Settings.
2. Next, go to Applications, Services and then Devices
3. Select Health and confirm the action be selection Connect.
4. With the connection established, ensure Send to Health is an option that's toggled on. This ensure you can upload data to your Apple Watch/iPhone and Strava's app.
5. To sync data return to Applications, Services and then Devices and sync the session.

So why can you not automatically sync Apple Watch workout to Strava this way? We posed this question to Strava and they told us: "The reasoning is that we believe strongly that athletes control their data - and the Workout app records many forms of exertion (eg taking stairs instead of an elevator, or mowing the lawn) that Strava athletes may not want posted to their feed.

"So, we're offering a simple way for athletes to select which activity or activities they want to sync from their Apple Watch to their Strava account."

It hasn't confirmed that support will be added, but also hasn't ruled out that it could land at some point either.

Put a Strava complication on Apple Watch clock face

Put a Strava complication on Apple Watch clock face

If you use the standalone Strava Apple Watch app, you can add a shortcut to the main watch face in the form a complication (widget) to give you quicker access to it.

The Strava complication works on a range of watch faces and to add it you need to:

1. Go to Apple Watch app on iPhone go to the watch faces section.
2. Select Modular, and then location you want the complication to live.
3. Scroll to locate the Strava complication then save.

If you want to do it from the Watch, you need to:

  • Use Force Touch on the watch face screen. This will bring up the watch customization view.
  • You can then swipe through to find out which of the complications are customizable.

View Strava Live Segments on a Garmin watch

View Strava Live Segments on a Garmin watch

Strava Live Segments is a useful feature to know about for the most competitive people out there. On select Garmin watches you're out running or cycling, you are able to get notifications as you approach segments. You'll be able to see your own personal best times and the current KOM or QOM if you fancy your chances at tackling them.

Currently, the list of compatible Garmin watches are:

  • Garmin Fenix 5S
  • Garmin Fenix 5S Plus
  • Garmin Fenix 5X
  • Garmin Fenix 5X Plus
  • Garmin Fenix 5
  • Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
  • Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
  • Garmin Forerunner 735XT
  • Garmin Forerunner 935
  • Garmin Forerunner 945

If you own a Polar V800, it also supports the ability to bring Live Segments to the wrist.

To view Live Segments on compatible Garmin watches you first need to be signed up Strava's Summit subscription. You also need to make sure your Garmin Connect account is linked to your Strava account. If you've been syncing data already, that should already be done.

Next:

1. Go to the Strava app and then select Explore
2. Select Segments
You'll now see a map where you can zoom or scroll to another area to see Segments
3. If you want to change from running to cycling, there's a button to do that at the bottom of the map
4. You can star segments an select 20-30 segments from your local area. Next time you sync your watch to Garmin Connect, those segments will be saved.
5. When you approach a saved Segment, you'll be buzzed and be able to decide how to tackle it.
6. When the Segment is completed, it will tell you if you've beat the time you're competing with.

Hook up a heart rate sensor

Hook up a heart rate sensor

So here's the deal with using external heart rate monitors in Strava. Back in 2019, the company announced it removed the ability for users to pair Bluetooth or ANT+ external sensors to its app.

We've written a full explainer of the changes around heart rate sensors in Strava, and the best Strava compatible heart rate monitors you can now use.

Strava said it had to kill off the feature to solve widespread crashing issues for users whether or not they were actually pairing external devices.

If you're using a GPS watch or cycling computer, this shouldn't affect you. You can continue recording data as normal. If you're using an Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy/Gear watch or Wear OS watch, it's the same.

Another option is to connect Wahoo Fitness to Strava and record activities in the former to automatically sync over heart rate data. To do this you need to:

1. Download the Wahoo Fitness app for iOS or Android
2. Go to Profile in the app
3. Select Authorized Apps (iOS) or Connected Apps (Android)
4. Choose Strava
5. When prompted, put in your Strava login details, accept the prompt and you've authorised the connection.

Access training plans and challenges

Access training plans and challenges

Another reason to fork out for a Summit sub, Strava has tonnes of built-in training schedules for all manner of events. Head to the Strava training plans page, from where you can access a bunch of plans for everything from speedy 5Ks to full on marathons. Once you sign up to the schedule, it will feel into your own personal calendar.

If that seems a little bit like hard work, you can also compete for shorter challenges in the Strava app. The Challenges tab at the bottom reveals options for running a 10K or contributing to large scale groups charged with running 2.5m collective miles. This is an area we'd like to see expanded, especially given so much emphasis on social, it's surprising that more one-on-one challenges don't yet exist.

Check your Relative Effort

Check your Relative Effort

One for Summit users, the Relative Effort shows how hard you worked in your session. It's a neat feature, as it's one of the few tools that crunch the numbers of your heart rate and feed it back in a clear format. To access it you'll need to have a heart rate sensor data, which will then gauge how much of your run was spent in specific zones. The higher the number, the more you suffered.

The higher the number, the more effort you put in based on your historical data. The idea being that your training efforts across disciplines can be reported in an easily comparable format. It also combines the heart rate data with the time you’ve spent training to give an accurate overview of your effort - sometimes training at a slower pace for longer is harder work than training full out for a shorter session.

Relative Effort can be viewed as an instant review of your performance in an activity or as your overall effort over the previous week, measured against an average of the last 12 weeks. You may have put your all into that 10k today, but if you did very little the rest of the week then Relative Effort can easily show that. You can then use that data to plan your training load going forward, whether that’s rest. upping the mileage or switching over to another type of exercise.

Join a run club

Join a run club

Strava now boasts virtual run clubs, where you can join leaderboards among real users. There are run clubs hosted by brands like Garmin, as well as just people in your local area. In the Strava app you can search for clubs via location or name, sign up and take part just for going for runs and cycles.

Just head to Explore and you'll be presented with some suggestions. Tap 'Find a club' and choose a type of sport. Tapping 'current location' will just show you ones locally, or if you're looking for a specific club or brand, just type it in.

And we've made one for you. The Wareable Run Club is live, and we're building a community of like-minded runners who love their running watch and pouring over the data. Just click the widget below to join us.


Give out all of the Kudos

Give out all of the Kudos

Giving someone kudos is Strava's way of letting you say well done to someone for an impressive running session, putting in some big cycling miles or simply just getting out and being active.

There’s a handy time-saving and very cool feature that sits within the app for anyone that’s taken part in a mass participation race or event that saves a lot of time and will, hopefully, make you more popular - Mass Kudos.

All those people that have done the same race as you will be shown on the main activity screen under the brief activity analysis. If you click on that section you can see the full list of all those users that completed the same route (or race) as you. Perform a figure-of-eight motion with your phone and you’ll be given the option to give kudos to all of your fellow racers in one fell swoop, saving you time laboriously praising each one individually. It's a win-win, even if you didn’t actually win.

Strava Summit features

These sets of features about getting ready for race day. So if you need some guidance on what you can do to be better prepared, whether that's training plans or getting more in-depth analysis for your sessions, these are the features to look into.

Training Plans

Training Plans

Whether you're using the web app or the smartphone app, cyclists and runners (sorry swimmers) can build training plans and then every day of that plan you'll receive an email with detailed instructions of what you need to do for that day's session. You can also glance at your full plan, which is better on the desktop app right now, as it's still in beta on the phone.

Custom goals

This is your opportunity to keep yourself motivated by setting up personal challenges and is available for runners, cyclists and swimmers. Currently, this is a feature that's only accessible through the web app. Custom goals are also based on either segments or power. So for the latter, you'll need to own a power meter like the Stryd, or a setup that pairs Garmin's Running Pod, a compatible sports watch that supports power, for example.

Once you've decided what you want that custom goal to be, you can set a deadline and will also show you other athletes with similar goals.

Filtered leaderboards

If you want to know how you compare to Strava users that are the same age or weight as you, this is your way to make it happen. The best way we've found doing this is from the phone app. When you view a logged session and go to segments, you can select individual segments. Scroll down all the way down the page to see the filtered leaderboards. If you haven't entered in your weight and age to get the most useful filtered leaderboards, you can edit those in the My Profile section of the app.

Live performance data

When you sign up to Summit you can expect to get a boost on the data you can see in real time. So while you usually see averages for metrics like heart rate, speed, cadence and power, you'll be able to see those same metrics but with real-time data. So if you care about the data from the moment, you're going to have a lot of time for this feature.

Race analysis

Race analysis

You've crossed the line and managed to stop your watch or reach for your phone to end the session. Once your legs a feeling a bit normal again and you've refuelled, there's a good chance you'll want to know how you performed. Race analysis will of course only appear on races. So it'll recognise high profile marathons and half marathons.

You can only view your race analysis in the web app at the moment, when you select the relevant activity in your feed. Just look for the option on the left hand side. The data you'll get is a breakdown of splits, laps and pace, letting you view markers for key distances in the race. Adding pace zone data (which we'll get onto next) also adds another layer of data and is referred to as GAP (Grade Adjusted Pace) as part of your analysis.

Pace analysis

Pace analysis

Let's talk about pace. That's the number of minutes it takes to cover a mile or kilometre. It's that data that Strava wants to make use of to align your workouts with your target goals. From the My Performance tab, which you can find under Settings in the web app, you can enter a recent race time to calculate running pace zones. You'll find it alongside where you can enter heart rate zones and power zones.

Strava Summit guide: The lowdown

The idea is that with that running pace zone data placed into zones using Grade Adjusted Pace (GAP), it'll show you how long you spend in each pace zone. Those zones are shown in the screenshot above. You will now have the ability to see how your pace varies for different forms of running workouts. Essentially it's an alternative to heart rate and power to govern your training.

Relative Effort

This heart rate based metric developed by Strava along data scientist Dr. Marco Altini offers another insight into the intensity of your logged activities. So it works for running, swimming, cycling and pretty much anything where you have a heart rate monitor strapped on.

Read this: Best Strava-compatible watches

The metric is developed from Strava's Suffer Score (which is no longer available) and matched with workloads for thousands of activities to offer an accurate measurement of your fitness level.

That Relative Effort data (image above) can be viewed within each tracked activity, showing how the latest effort relates to your most recent efforts. You can also view weekly effort data indicating whether you are maintaining a good level for building fitness.

Fitness and freshness

Fitness and freshness

For those who don't know when they need to give their bodies a break, this analysis featureswants to help you track fitness over time and identify trends where actually maybe you should be resting. It takes the heart rate-based Relative Effort data and combines that with training load generated from your power numbers (you'll need a power meter for this) to produce a graph plotting the data.

A number is assigned for your fitness level, fatigue and form in this graph. The latter is the difference between fitness level and fatigue. The idea is that if your fatigue level is above your fitness number, maybe think about reducing your training.

Workout analysis

Workout analysis

A feature heavily geared towards runners, workout analysis is essentially an easier way to get to grips with your splits. Available to view in the web and mobile app for each logged activity, you'll see splits by miles or km, or based on when you use your device's lap button. Those splits are displayed in different shades of blue to indicate intensity. If you've set up the pace zones, you'll also be able to view those too.

Power analysis

Power analysis

As the name suggests, this feature is all about power. It's a metric that has been used by serious cyclists for years and it's starting to find its way into the world of running. If you use a power meter for cycling, this is is the place to delve deeper into the data. The range of insights include weighted average power, total work, training load, power curve, power zone distribution and intensity. Basically, there's a lot here and if you care about power, this is one for you.

Live segments

Live segments

If you're all about owning segments and you need to know if you've nailed a new PR, this feature is basically for you. Getting that real-time segment data can be viewed from the phone app and from a bunch of compatible devices including the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, Forerunner 935 and Forerunner 645 Music. A full list of compatible devices can be found here.

You'll need to link your Strava account with your Garmin Connect one. When you're out with your wearable you'll be able to view when you're approaching a segment, view your PR and see the next person in the leaderboard that you might have set your sights on beating.

Strava Summit guide: The lowdown

If you train a lot alone (and we're sure there's a lot of you that do), Strava's safety features introduce a couple of things that will help friends and family have a better idea of where you are and when you're out running or riding.

Beacon

If you've been a long term Strava user, you may well be familiar with Beacon. The concept was inspired by users and allows safety contacts to see where you are on a map in real time. So if you said you'd be back in an hour and you're not, they'll be able to see where you are.

Read this: Best fitness trackers to buy

So how does Beacon work? When you start a run or ride from the Strava mobile app, look for the Beacon icon in the bottom right hand corner. From there, you can choose to share your location with up to three safety contacts. You'll need to allow Strava to access the contacts on your phone to select those safety contacts.

If you also run or ride with a Garmin watch, you can share your location while using your Bluetooth-packing device. You'll need to link your Strava account with your Garmin Connect account first though.

Personal Heatmaps

Personal Heatmaps

If you want to know the routes you've covered, whether that's for cycling or running, you can get a better insight with personal heatmaps. To view those maps, go to the Dashboard dropdown menu on the web app and Heatmaps will be down the bottom. You can generate heatmaps for the year, all-time or a custom data range.

From a privacy point of view, these maps will only show data from activities that you've made public. Additionally, if you've set up privacy zones, those will not be displayed in these heatmaps.