Posted by Richard Sault on 5th Mar 2016
For all intents and purposes, Strava does exactly what it says on the label: It’s a fitness social network app that tracks your progress. Using GPS, Strava maps your route each day. If you run up a mountain, it will show you that you ran up a mountain. If you cycle around Richmond Park, it will show you that you cycled around Richmond Park. Each time you stop to catch your breath or take a short walk, Strava stops mapping.
Strava also tells you how many km you’ve ran or cycled and it also tells you how many calories you’ve managed to burn. Not just this, but Strava comes with a really a neat feature that automatically takes photos during your cycle before uploading them to your Instagram account. It can also check your heart rate which many athletes find super useful.
Strava works as the quintessential social fitness tool. You can create your very own community and invite your buddies to join. This means you get to compare your times, which serves as a sort of accountability tool that motivates each of you to do better next time. Today, perhaps you cycled faster and so your friend wants to outcycle you tomorrow. And so on. And when someone does really well, you can give them the thumbs up which further encourages everyone to keep on performing and improving.
So, this is how most people use Strava.
Artist Stephen Lund, uses Strava in a cooler way than could have possibly been imagined.
Who Is Stephen Lund?
Stephen Lund is a Canadian cyclist who uses Strava to hold himself accountable, to track his progress, compare his performance with others, analyse his own times, and to update others with how he’s doing. His recent achievements on Strava include coming 8th on the Inverness cycle to Savannah, and 7th on Bumpity Bump Bump! His average monthly distances covered is 1,500km, and he has so far logged 29,791.3 km on his Strava app.
He uploads photos to his account so that his 2,365 followers can live vicariously through him and use him as an their own inspiration to keep pushing themselves to do better.
Sounds Awesome! But What Is He Doing Differently?
Stephen Lund is clearly an athlete with an artistic mind, and he uses his Strava app to create drawings on GPS. The idea first came to him last January when he cycled around Victoria on New Years Day and wrote a Happy 2015 message.
By his own admission, it was crude and rudimentary but it also hinted at what art could be created using GPS and Strava, which traces a thin red line on every route you take.
His bike was no longer just a bike anymore it was a paintbrush. “The city became my canvas,” he said.
In February 2015 he set out on an early morning cycle in Victoria as he always did. But this time he decided that he would do another better GPS doodle, just for creative kicks maybe and to upload to his blog that averaged 59 users a day. He wanted to test the potential of GPS for doodling.
So he did just that. He planned his journey so that his route would look like a giraffe when Strava converted the data, and he uploaded his 11km GPSdoodled giraffe to Reddit.
Within a matter of hours the giraffe had gone viral. Page views for his blog went from scraps to thousands.
A single doodle changed his life.
In his own words, “the year between then and now has been a wild ride indeed.”
He was invited to give a TEDx talk at TEDxVictoria, where he admitted that his claim to fame was that he “drew a giraffe.”
Of course he and many others know that it was much more than that. His giraffe gave him a moment of clarity, and showed him that Strava has made exercise more fun than it ever was. No longer just a dull, tedious act of repetition, it became pure creative expression.
“GPS doodling changes everything,” says Lund.
“3 hours on a bike is no longer something you do just for a healthy heart. Three hours on a bike is this, this and this.”
For Lund, GPS doodling has reignited his passion for cycling. Subsequently, it has served as motivation to stay fitter and to keep improving. For a cyclist who rarely broke 10 km in a single season over 30 years as a serious cyclist, the distances he is now covering is incredible.
He shares his doodles with fellow members of the Stava community and invites them to share theirs, too. In this way, a thirst for new forms of creative expression is motivating others to exercise and to stay healthy and fit.
And in a fantastic twist, cycling can be just as solitary a process as art itself. A new wave of tortured artistic geniuses cycling through cities, sweating blood in the pouring rain for their art?
Yes, we like the sound of that!
Here are some of our favorites: