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Revisiting the Three D’s and The Pursuit of the Strava KOM

By Dana Williams | In General, Optimal Performance | on February 13, 2015

An athlete that I coach and I were recently discussing Strava and its merits as a training tool. I’d notice that a few of his workouts were a little strange in that he seemed to be going hard between intervals, when he should have been resting. As a result, his numbers were a little lower than I had expected.

“It appears that you put up some good numbers on a few segments. But your intervals seem a bit off,” I observed glancing at a recent ride.

“Yeah. I suppose that I got a little carried away,” he replied somewhat sheepishly.

For the record, I like Strava. I, and most of my AchievePTC athletes use it in conjunction with Training Peaks. Living in the Bay Area, it’s very difficult not to be associated with it. However, it occurs to me that Strava, with its instant gratification via the “kudo,” has given rise to some very interesting dilemmas for both athlete and coach. Specifically, are segments and the “kudo” creating a culture of instant gratification that is at odds with a structured training program? Is the culture of the Strava segment KOM diametrically opposed to periodization?

The Three D’s:

Last season, I wrote about my personal experience as an Olympic-level skier in an introduction to the three major aspects behind the AchievePTC motto: “maximal performance, minimal time”: Desire, Determination and Dedication (the oh-so unsexy dedication).

For those needing a refresher, you will find the original blog post here.

In the blog, I described how I went from living a relatively-care free life devoted almost exclusively to sport, working with my coaches and setting long-term goals which I could work towards over the course of a season, to being a husband and father with considerably less free time in which to train and compete.

Interestingly, the fact that I have so much less time available for training and racing has only sharpened my desire for results. To the point where, like my athlete above, I may dig deep on a particular Strava segment just to get a kudo from my friends, when previously I might have completely ignored it, choosing to save it for race day.

The Strava KOM:

There is a certain ethic that states that hard work is its own reward. And up to a point, it is true that working hard towards a goal is, in itself, an accomplishment.

In a sense, that it is what the “kudo” represents- an acknowledgement by one’s friends of all of the hard work an effort that an athlete has put in. And I think it perfectly acceptable to hunt the occasional KOM. If that is your objective, than I say go for it.

The danger is when we start supplanting long-term goals for them.


Strava is a great training tool. But, like the power meter and the heart rate monitor, it is just one of many tools available to the measure performance. The Strava KOM has enlivened many an otherwise dull training ride. And like my athlete above, many are the riders who have found themselves digging a little deeper than planned for that KOM while out on a training ride.

And that’s ok – just be aware as to when it is appropriate to go a little hard than planned, and when you might be jeopardizing future goals.



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