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How to win Strava KOMs (why Strava is bad for training)

Wondering How to win Strava KOMs?

To win Strava KOMs, ignore Strava KOMs.

Timbo, VeloNomad head raconteur

Now I realise this might cause a measure of apoplexy amongst readers, and catcalls of “The man’s daft!” as well as behind the scenes moves to prematurely and precipitously end my benevolent rule. But stick with me.

Why I say this

It occurred to me the other day after I launched the VeloNomad cycling training program that some people probably neglect high quality (or any) training in order to go KOM hunting (yes, I’m guilty).

Or, people mistake chasing KOMs for quality training.

Or, people might try and train with Strava alone, perhaps using KOMs as a measure of progress. Don’t get me wrong, continual KOM acquisition can be a sign of training that is working, but one doesn’t equal the other in all cases.

getting KOMs can create a false sense of security – “I’m knocking KOMs off so I’ll be ok during the Etape du Tour, Haute Route [or any other hard sportif].”

Here’s the thing though – if you do bicep curls every day, your biceps will get good at doing bicep curls. It doesn’t mean you’re adapting to increasing levels of stress and increasing strength and endurance (I can do 70 pushups no problems – doing 80 requires a training build up).

I only started thinking about this when I realised I had not done a proper training session in around a year but had just been schlepping around, totally focussed on knocking over KOMs. I used to train 6 days a week. Not lots and lots of hours, but very intense and specific rides. (You can read more about how I train in this post.)

What is Strava?

To really understand how to use Strava and benefit from it, you need to understand what it is.

Strava is a great data processing and presentation tool. It takes data, processes it, and provides outputs.

Remember it’s not *really* a training tool (unlike something like Training Peaks).

Why Strava is a poor training tool

Strava have done an incredibly good job of manipulating our susceptibility to gamification. (And that’s cool, they’re a business.)

There is no better example than the leaderboards.

Hands up who has groaned every their KOM has been knocked off.

The trouble with Strava is it can encourage you to go out KOM hunting. And KOM hunting does not tend to make for good training (it can, if done right).

The focus can tend to be on outcomes, not the input (training) that can affect the outcome.

How to win Strava KOMs

So, how to win those Strava KOMs?

Forget Strava KOMs and concentrate on quality training.

This morning, it was a cracking day in the Byron hinterland, and I had two choices. Go after one KOM I am only 3 seconds off winning and have been chasing for months, as well as another that got taken from me this week (curse you Wes), or, forget it all, and go back to basics.

Basics it was.

The lure of the ego was strong, calling me to the hills, but instead I opted for a solid Session 3 of 2.5 hours along the flats to Evans Head. (As you can see, I picked up 2 3rd place KOMs in my warm up. Ooops.)

This particular session (if you’d like to know more, check out the VeloNomad Training Program) is short and intense and when I got home my legs were battered. You can see 2 x 20 minute efforts at a high heart rate then a solid base for the rest of the time.

I know this session works. It used to be one of my favourites.

So remember. Training first, KOMs second. KOMs come with good training.

If your training plan calls for you to utterly smash yourself on climbs in your session and you end up with KOMs as a result, great.
If your training calls for you to spin at 60RPM to build your endurance on climbs, then do so.
And if your training calls for you to ignore the hills, then ignore them.

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A significant amount of time and effort goes into these reviews, all with the aim of helping you. As lots of readers say, I give way too much information away for nothing, and it really does take a lot of time and effort (but I do love doing it!).

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by Tim Marsh

Tim is an ex Melbournite now living near Byron Bay on 10 acres, happily growing mangos, avocados and lots of other stuff, with his wife Kate, son Arthur and adorable Golden Retriever, Whiskey (RIP our 1YO G/R Poppins :( ).

2 comments… add one

  1. Good article, I agree with your point about getting quality training in vs. going for KOMs,, but I think you mean “gamification” rather than “game theory” as to the strategy Strava employs to get people to use the site more.

    1. Hey blanco, thanks for the heads up. Will change it!



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