Let’s Start Using Strava for Long Walks, Too

A regular amble is the most important exercise you'll do over the course of your life

Let’s Start Using Strava for Long Walks, Too
By Tanner Garrity

Strava now has 50 different “supported sport types” available for fitness tracking, and some of them are extremely niche. Users are no longer stuck with triathlon’s big three — they can log workouts in concentrations like canoeing, Nordic skiing and velomobiling. (I had to Google it, too.)

Which is great. The added breadth means a platform with nearly 100 million users is now more fun, geographically representative and adaptive-friendly than it was a year ago.

Considering it’s now very possible to see a badminton session on the app, I guess it’s a little weird how bewildered I was when a friend of mine started posting his walks to Strava a few months ago. But I was used to a feed stuffed with runs, cycles and hikes. Kudos bait from cardio kids. People who get up really early and run really far.

His walks were just around the park near his house, or through his neighborhood, or the long way to the subway after a workday. Why were they on Strava? I texted him, asking him what he was doing. “Just walking,” he said.

Recently, one of the uploaded walks also featured a random smattering of photos: a Beaux Arts facade, someone’s dog, three Monet paintings. He’d Strava’d the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Gentle exercise >

It took me a minute, but I’m fully onboard. Let’s normalize uploading walks to Strava.

Why? Because walking is exercise — and not in the “sure, you could count that” sense. It’s legitimate, critical movement, of the sort that doctors are increasingly writing prescriptions for, in order to combat the country’s sedentary crisis. Short walks after a meal stabilize blood sugar levels; long walks to get away from the desk can help you get a handle on stress or depression; and fast walks will literally help you live longer.

And at a time when exercise too often lionizes heart-pumping intervals, Strava walks are a vote for gentler exercise. They’re a dual PSA, capable of both A) reminding the app’s most gung-ho users to slow down, and B) reminding its still-finding-their-footing users that every step counts.

Nothing matters

Not your age, not your route, not your speed. At its best, Strava is a supportive place where people congratulate each other on exercising. At its worst, it’s a pissing contest that engenders overtraining and feelings of inadequacy. Strava walks, though, are able to source the app’s features without participating in its spectacle. There’s no “segment chasing” when you’re out on an afternoon stroll. Who cares? You get to enjoy your exercise, catalogue it, and understand exactly where you went/how long it took to get there…without having to care what anyone thinks about it.

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Preserve the streak!

We’ve put run streaks on blast in the past, and for good reason. They’re impressive, but some runners go to absolutely batshit lengths to preserve them. (We once profiled a guy who ran every single day for over 50 years; he ran through flus, broken bones, shingles…even getting out for a jog the day doctors performed surgery on his artery.)

Whenever exercise makes the leap from consistent to compulsive, there’s usually a physical tax to be paid. But the same can’t be said — fortunately — for low-stakes movement like walking. A walking streak is actually an excellent idea, considering a walk (of any length or time) will make literally any day better.

In fact, “bad days” (travel days, days you’re feeling down/disconnected from nature, days your kids or pets are nuts) are the days you should go to great lengths to preserve your walking streak. It’s worth it, and will give you some clarity and a change of scenery at a time when you probably really need it.

It’s sightseeing

Speaking of: walks are beautiful. I’d contend that anything different is beautiful. There are the usual things, like your commute or your laundry or your spreadsheets, which melt your gray matter down day after day, pressing it into Belgian brain waffles, and then there is everything else — trees, bakeries, cyclists, puddles, softball games, construction projects, fender benders. You can sightsee your own neighborhood, I promise you. Do it every single day.

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