There is something about competition that’s infectious. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be athletic, you can probably understand the want to win at one thing or another. And, as annoying as oversharing on social media has become, sometimes seeing someone else check in at the gym is followed by a faint desire to go yourself. Or maybe you find yourself wanting to hit the pavement when someone boasts about their new running record.
The idea isn’t new. Training with a buddy has long been a recommendation for motivation. But the idea of tracking and sharing more and more details is relatively new and gaining in popularity alongside the ever-growing number of social networks. There’s an intrinsic motivation to be found in swapping stories, records, training times, and tips with like-minded folks. Strava Founder Michael Horvath learned that well long before Facebook enabled check-ins.
Once on his college rowing crew, Horvath knew that his teammates motivated him more than the short-lived races. When he no longer had them, he set out to recreate the team mentality; a sort of virtual locker room where he could create a culture that was supportive and still slightly competitive. In an interview with Cycling Tips, he shared, “My business partner and I wanted to recreate that feeling of being on a team even though we couldn’t physically train with our friends anymore. The impetus was trying to recreate that feeling of training with your friends to motivate you to new heights.”
Why is it called Strava?
Motivation, after all, is at the core of Strava. The name itself means to strive in Swedish. Strava representative Nichole Teixeira explained, “The company’s co-founder and President Michael Horvath is Swedish (born in the States but lived in Sweden as a child). When he and his co-founder Mark Gainey were looking for a name for the company, they picked out a Swedish word describing what they wanted the company to be about. The word Strava spoke to exactly what they wanted to create; a company that helps you strive and helps you achieve something you didn’t think was possible.”
Initially created with the top third of athletes in mind, Strava recently broadened its approach. “Strava launched its Strive campaign to expand the Strava community by redefining the athlete: Anyone brave enough to lace up their shoes and break a sweat has a place on Strava,” Teixeira said. “Over the last seven years, Strava has built a global community of athletes who range from someone who is fitting in a ride on their lunch break to someone who runs professionally.”
She went on to say, “Strive is for any athlete, whether they frequent the road or the trail or are a beginner daring to reach a new goal. This diverse network of athletes is inspired by each other’s accomplishments, gets motivated to push themselves to be even better and receives kudos from their friends for a job well done. Because the word strive has always had a big influence on the company, it’s important to Strava to celebrate that attitude with its athletes.”
Strava’s breadth of features, available for free at a basic level, or $59 per year for a premium membership, are certainly aimed at helping athletes strive for more. Beyond basic GPS tracking, users can search the database for other athletes or applicable routes, take on intermittent challenges, or set goals. It’s estimated that more than 1 million active users take advantage of Strava’s capabilities.
It’s also being used, however unintentionally, to improve road conditions and routes for cyclists around town. Sheila Lyons, a city planner in Oregon, asked Strava to share its data after struggling to collect cycling data and using the app to track her own. According to the Guardian, Strava Metro, “both an inadvertent tech business spinoff and a similarly accidental urban planning tool, one that is now quietly helping to reshape streets in more than 70 places around the world and counting.”
People like Lyons can get a glimpse of cyclists’ ages, genders, preferred streets, times, and routes. Of the evolution, Horvath told the Guardian, “One of the things that we learned early on is that these people just don’t have very much data to begin with. Not only is ours a novel dataset, in many cases it’s the only dataset that speaks to the behaviour of cyclists and pedestrians in that city or region.”
Further proof that Strava enables everyone, and not just athletes, to strive for better.
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Annelise Schoups is a contributor at Rewind & Capture. With a degree in journalism, experience in public relations, and an education in travel, she is passionate about cultivating knowledge and storytelling.