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Don’t care about Strava segments? There is more to Strava than you think.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

October
16
2013

Strava gets a lot of flack–some of it deserved–but overall I think it’s a fantastic service. While Strava’s signature functionality is their timed segment system, the service has evolved considerably over the years; there’s a lot of cool stuff there if you take the time to poke around. This is especially true if you’re a Premium member.

In a past blog I discussed the very beneficial (but not very well-known) Strava feature that allows users to automatically track mileage on every single component on all their bikes (see “An underutilized, but very useful Strava feature: component mileage tracking“).

Today I’d like to look at another area of Strava’s site that some of you may have overlooked: the “Training” section. You can find it at the top of your main profile screen (click to enlarge):

The Training tab, highlighted in yellow, on my Strava Profile screen.

The Training tab, highlighted in yellow, on my Strava Profile screen.

 

Upon clicking the Training tab, you’ll be presented with your Training Calendar for the current year as the default view (click to enlarge):

My 2013 Training Calendar

My 2013 Training Calendar

 

Right away you’ve got some pretty useful information. At the top I can quickly see that so far in 2013 I’ve ridden 4,219 miles over 255 hours and 181 rides, and that I’ve set 199 personal records. Looking at the calender itself, I’m shown how many hours I rode each month along with a basic visual representation of the number of rides (the vertical lines), and the distance of the rides (indicated by the length of the vertical lines).

Clicking on any of the months drills down to more detail. For example, here’s my June 2013 (click to enlarge):

My June 2013 Training Calender.

My June 2013 Training Calender.

 

Some basic information is provided at the top: 39 hours of riding, 725 miles and 48 personal records over a total of 22 rides. The rides are presented on the calendar (another good reason to give your rides meaningful names instead of just “Morning ride”!), and the rides are all AJAX hyperlinked. This is a cool design feature, as clicking the link doesn’t take you away from the calender, it dynamically opens the ride overview like this (click to enlarge):

AJAX-enabled calender allows for quick looks at ride overviews without taking you away from the calendar.

AJAX-enabled calender allows for quick looks at ride overviews without taking you away from the calendar.

 

Of course you can always click the “View Details” button if you want to go directly to the full ride.

The next three tabs are only for Premium Strava members. First up is the “Power Curve” tab (click to enlarge):

My 2013 power curve

My 2013 power curve

 

This shows my wattage outputs on a curve. Note that this feature requires a power meter. I do not have a power meter, but Strava is able to use TrainerRoad’s “Virtual Power” as a substitute. Of course this means that only my TrainerRoad rides are used to create this curve.

You can compare various time periods against each other (helps you see if you’re getting stronger or need to HTFU), and it can even estimate your FTP. The amazing thing here is that Strava estimates my FTP to be 294 watts–that is identical to my actual tested FTP! Nice.

Next up, another Premium feature, is “Fitness & Freshness”. This feature is pretty interesting (click to enlarge):

My

My “Fitness & Freshness” chart, past six months.

 

Strava defines “Fitness” (the dark gray line), Fatigue (the medium gray line) and Form (the light gray line) as follows:

Fitness: “While fitness is a complicated concept, it can be simplified to just an accumulation of training. The Fitness Score is calculated using Training Load, to measure your daily training, and an impulse-response model to quantify its effect over time. This will intuitively capture the building up of fitness, as well as the loss of fitness during a break. “

Fatigue: Conceptually, fatigue is easy to understand; it’s that tired feeling which limits your performance. We model it the same way as fitness, but on a shorter time scale. You’ll notice the score go up quickly after a couple hard days, but also go down quickly as you take a few days off.

Form: “Being in form, or “peaking,” happens when one is very fit but not fatigued. Here we model this as the difference between your Fitness Score and your Fatigue Score.”

The thing about all of the stuff on the “Fitness and Freshness” tab is that it’s only computed from rides done with a power meter. I don’t have a power meter, so the only rides considered as part of my data are those from TrainerRoad (using their Virtual Power to compute training load). In other words, unless you do almost all of your riding on a trainer with Virtual Power, without a power meter the numbers found in this section are virtually meaningless.

The final Premium feature in the “Training” section is “Goals”. Here you can set both segment and power goals. Personally I don’t set specific segment goals, as my goal is always to ride as fast as I can. 😉

Finally, available to all members, is the “My Activities” tab. This is sortable, searchable list of all your Strava activities. You can filter by activity type, sort by date, title, time, distance, elevation or suffer score and even search your activities for certain keywords (yet another reason to give your rides meaningful and descriptive names).

My activities, sorted by Suffer Score.

My activities, sorted by Suffer Score.

 

Even if you don’t care at all about Strava segments and the competitive aspect of their service, there is still a whole lot to like about Strava as a very useful training tool.

John Stone Fitness Comments

9 Responses to “Don’t care about Strava segments? There is more to Strava than you think.”
  1. Well put, John. I love strava for many of the reasons you describe. Most people get wrapped up in the fake racing aspect of it, so thank you for mining out these gems. Personally, it’s one of the easiest ways to keep track of when I need new running shoes.

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  2. Interesting. I wish they gave a little better definition of the Fitness and Freshness, what I would like to see is a definition of the range of numbers. Mine is currently 12-3-9. I guess my fitness is good (haha..its higher then yours!!) my freshness is 3 which I am assuming means lower fatigue and my form is 9 meaning I am on a peak cycle. I feel these numbers represent my current condition rather well. I have been doing alot of long distance tempo work for my upcoming 50 mile MTB race (this sunday). I went out on the MTB for the first time in a few weeks yesterday after doing only road rides for a while. Felt super strong and was able to keep my HR fairly low and still go pretty fast. I know I cant go hard for 50 miles but if I can keep my HR in the 150-160 range I feel like I can hold that all day long.

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    • The thing about all of the stuff on the “Fitness and Freshness” tab is that it’s only computed from rides done with a power meter. I don’t have a power meter, so the only rides considered as part of my data are those from TrainerRoad (using their Virtual Power to compute training load). In other words, unless you do almost all of your riding on a trainer with Virtual Power, without a power meter the numbers found in this section are virtually meaningless.

      I’ve amended my article to clarify this–thanks for bringing it up!

      If you’re interested in learning more, the method for calculating Fitness, Fatigue and Form is based off an impulse-response model first developed by Dr. Eric W. Banister in 1975. It was later applied to cycling by Dr. Andy Coggan.

      P.S. Good luck in your race this Sunday!!

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  3. Well that is kind of dumb. Strava calculates power on all your rides but only uses power meter data to calculate statistics? Feel like Im going to do well this weekend, I feel fresh and the race is at sea level, last time I raced at this venue, I crushed it. Only bummer is I was expecting to be racing my new carbon hardtail this weekend but the frame is stuck in customs in Portland. I may get it friday but that wont be enough time to give it a proper shakedown.

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    • I agree, it doesn’t make much sense that their estimated power data is not used in the absence of power meter data. I mean, the data is good enough to put out there in the first place, so why not use it?

      Everyone is getting carbon hardtails! My friend Daniel just finished a beautiful Niner Air 9 carbon build.

      Bummer you won’t have your new ride in time for this weekend, but with 50 rough miles of riding you may be glad you had the rear shock. 🙂

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  4. So I looked at the Freshness scale again, if you scroll through the graph it shows non-power meter rides plotted on the graph which makes it even more confusing. So it really sucks having a box of components sitting in your garage and no frame to put them on! The course this weekend is pretty smooth and only a few small climbs per lap (12.5 miles/4 laps) so a hardtail would be an advantage for sure, they also only break it down only by age division, not Cat 1, 2, 3.

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    • Hrm, not mine–only TR rides are being used as data for this section. Even in the screenshot you can see giant gaps in the vertical lines where the “real rides I did registered “0” on the Training Load scale. So the non-TrainerRoad ride show, but they are a zero and not factored in.

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