Picture this: You’ve just finished a hike, a run, a skin ‘n’ ski, a bike ride—place your favorite mountain sport here. You’re smiling but spent. You feel that wonderful sweaty contented exhaustion, the kind you only get from full days of big activity in the hills. You’re sitting on the tailgate of your Subaru. You’ve cracked your favorite post-mountain adventure beverage. What do you do next? You reach for your phone. And you scroll. And you compare. Because the digital dick-measuring contest of social media and Strava is the only reason you went outside in the first place. Yuck.
How it began
A few years ago, I signed up for my first ultramarathon. I wasn’t really a runner, probably a wee jogger at best. I certainly did not consider myself to be anything resembling an endurance athlete, unless you’re talking about eating donuts well past feeling full. But I wanted a big challenge and I wanted to do something my brain told my body it couldn’t. When I began training, it became clear I needed a way to track my runs. I needed to know my distance, my vertical gain, and my pace in order to properly mentally and physically prepare. Up until that point though, I’d always looked at apps like Strava or Mountain Hub and thought, what’s the point?
What is the point?
I understand the need to track your progress if you’re training, or just for personal atta-boy desires. But I do not understand the need to post results socially and compare yourself to the other folks in your hometown, statewide, nationally, or intergalactically, which I am sure is coming soon. Why is measuring yourself against your neighbor the point? Chances are you’re not a professional athlete. Your “results” don’t matter. To me, this all seems like a great way to peacock, flex your cool-guy attitude about town and on the ole interwebz. Put it this way: Posting socially on Strava is the Axe Body Spray of the outdoors. You want to impress but all you’re doing is creating a pungent, gross cloud that stinks of trying too hard.
The entire “look how rad I got outside” social media attitude is a self-indulgent, self-congratulatory, anxiety-laden digital house of cards. If the story of Narcissus was written today, it would tell the tale of an IG influencer with a bio that read ‘Public Figure, Digital Creator, Personal Brand’ and link out to his “how to live your best life” podcast. And Greek mythology’s pretty boy would be a Strava-using endurance athlete. Strava and the like are for self-involved nerds more concerned with being better than someone than having actual fun. And I just can’t abide people who take themselves too seriously. You know that guy who wears eye-black and runs drills for slow-pitch softball? Well, if you post results to the social platform on Strava, that’s you, bub.
It’s time to declare independence
Your gag reflex should fire when you hear people talking about PRs and posting them digitally. Let’s start a Strava revolution. There are two ways to do this. Method One: Delete Strava from your phone. Method Two: Join me in my new Strava-ing. I’m going to track how slowly I can do things. I am going to eat donuts and hot dogs at trailheads while sitting in one of those camp-chair couches. I’m going set PRs that intentionally mock all other PRs. I’m talking multiple hours to get inches up the trail. Chew on that course record. Let’s get our egos off social media and just go outside to have some g’damn fun already.
One of the things that first attracted me to mountain pursuits was the inherent yahoo factor. I moved to Colorado to have fun in the mountains. I grew up in Chicago as a team sports kid. There’s no question, I love competition and I understand its appeal. But to drag competition into going outside, something that is almost entirely focused on having fun, seems like a Keeping Up With The Kardashians move. If someone points to a person and tells me that they’re at the top of the Strava standings in town, I could not care less. It does not impress me. In fact, it’ll have the opposite effect. You might as well tell me that they’re the type of person who leaves their shopping cart in the middle of the grocery store parking lot. I’ll assume that the townie king of Strava is in fact a dick.
Consider the possibility of enjoying yourself outdoors
You know what’s better than trying to be the best outdoor exerciser in town? Not trying so hard to prove yourself. Exertion without pretense. And what’s even better than that? Going into the mountains to exclusively have fun. I know, it’s a crazy concept: Go outside just for the sake of a smile and some giggles. Hey, maybe even bring some pals with you and have fun together. And don’t use an app to track your activity, unless that app counts high-fives and snack intake. Now, that’s an app I can get behind.
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