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Fat to Fit: The Magic Strava Elixir

stravaI started flossing in 2007. Prior to that I never flossed. Not once.

My dentist, Willie DeVeas, has a hygienist that told me my “gum scores” were low, whatever that means. I had 3’s & 4’s and healthy is 1’s and 2’s. I wanted to be healthy.

So now I floss, most days anyways. My gum scores are good: 1’s & 2’s.

I received a letter from my doctor last Friday. Here’s the important part:

Surendra Marur Doctor GBMC

The 2010 letter from my doctor didn’t read like that. It read more like a Steven King novel gone bad. I’ve made serious progress.

I love numbers. Don’t know why. For some reason if you give me a way to keep score about almost anything I’ll not only keep score but I’ll want to make sure I have the best score possible. I’m just a little competitive.

Strava is my scorekeeper for fitness. Before I pedaled anything, my friend Greg was bugging me about logging my runs on this app called Strava. I didn’t see the point so I ignored Greg for a while.

A few months later, I bought a bike and started riding with Greg and some of his friends. They all used Strava. I broke down and signed up. On the next ride I turned on the iPhone app and recorded my ride.

Nifty. Now I could see a map of where I had gone, my speed, who I had ridden with, etc. But that was just the beginning. Within a few weeks I was tracking progress, meeting new people, learning more about training, and trying to best my previous times on segments.

The best part: I get to be a part of a community of athletes that pursue the same endeavors that I pursue. A community that encourages & supports each other. What a gift that is.

My dental health is drastically different because of gum scores. My overall health is drastically different because of lab reports.

My fitness is drastically different because of Strava.

Here are just a few of the benefits I’ve seen in the last 18 months using Strava:

I’ve made friends. These aren’t just “exercise acquaintances.” These are real, live, “in the flesh” friends. I met my friend Alain on January 28, 2012. I was riding with Andrew, Pete, Tom, Jerry, and Greg when a rider in an Adventures for the Cure kit came pedaling along next to us. We introduced ourselves and I recognized Alain from Strava. We had been following each other. 16 months later, I’ve ridden thousands of miles with Alain and spent hundreds of hours in the saddle on his wheel.

My fitness level has improved significantly. I was a fat runner for twenty years. I ran at the same pace (slow) for the same time (not long) for all of that time. When I joined Strava, I started to see each run and think about my performance. I’ll never forget this run. This was the fastest I had run in a LONG time. I’ve since run faster five milers but that was a breakthrough for me. The fat guy had made progress. Seeing my activities on Strava fuels my ability to push myself a little more each time (or take it easy if I should be recovering). Whether running, riding, or swimming, I keep seeing my fitness level improve as I progress as an athlete.

I have a very real tangible way of tracking goals. Last year my goal was simple: cover 100 miles per week by running, biking, swimming, or any other way I can move my body. That’s 5,200 miles per year. I knew if I did that I would continue to get fit and stay healthy. I passed that mark in August and at the end of the year I had covered about 7,000 miles. Strava did the work of tracking my goals. I just looked at the results and kept moving.

Strava makes it easy to learn from others. I learned most of the trails that I ride from following my friend Chris on Strava. When I started riding a mountain bike I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t even know Chris at the time, but I followed him on Strava. I would look at where Chris had ridden and follow his routes. My friend Jen rode an 85 mile ride that had over 9,000 feet of climbing last summer. That’s a lot of climbing for our area. So I downloaded a file from Strava onto my Garmin and off I went riding the same route.

And the secret behind all of this? It’s the easiest thing in the world to do. You can track runs and rides on your phone or on a Garmin. But either way, it couldn’t be easier to track your progress. Press start, go ride or run, press stop, upload. That’s it.

Numbers matter. The important ones anyways. Just ask my doctor.

Keep moving forward,

Written by

I am the CEO of Blue Ocean Ideas, a creative agency in Baltimore, Maryland. My job is to clarify the strategy and take care of my team. I am married to the beautiful Elise Rittler and we have four great kids. When I’m not at Blue Ocean Ideas or with my family I am riding a bike, running, playing ultimate frisbee, eating, or sleeping. There is a little more about me here.

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