There’s an app for that

As wear­ables con­sume our daily lives, we put a vir­tual sport­ing com­mu­nity to the test to find out its pros and cons.

Esquire (Singapore) - - Special Feature - MaHB / Sports by Ni­cholas Fang

When most of my friends were ei­ther hol­i­day­ing or drink­ing farewell to the year, I was ask­ing my­self why my ass hurt and my legs were numb. I had signed up for an on­line chal­lenge us­ing fit­ness track­ing app Strava, which en­tailed try­ing to ride 500km be­tween Christ­mas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Part of my mo­ti­va­tion was aligned with the broader aims of the chal­lenge: to stave off the in­evitable fes­tive weight gain. But I also wanted to ex­plore the phe­nom­e­non of a vir­tual fit­ness com­mu­nity.

My ex­pe­ri­ence with Strava’s Fes­tive 500 saw my ex­act routes be­ing tracked via GPS on my phone, with tim­ings for in­di­vid­ual seg­ments and over­all rides be­ing up­dated al­most in­stan­ta­neously, and com­pared with those of oth­ers us­ing the same app world­wide. I could re­ceive “ku­dos” and snarky com­ments alike from my friends, as well as any en­cour­age­ment they felt gen­er­ous enough to give.

I must con­fess that this vir­tual com­pe­ti­tion made me take the chal­lenge more se­ri­ously. There was pres­sure to not lan­guish in the bot­tom half of the global leader­board, and per­ish the thought of ( gasp) not com­plet­ing the chal­lenge at all!

And so I dragged my­self out of bed at 5am and into some cy­cling at­tire, and started ped­dling. The first day or so was man­age­able, but then ev­ery mus­cle in my legs, butt and back, and even­tu­ally neck, arms and any­thing else that could be sore started to hurt.

But I per­se­vered. If I stopped, my friends— and any­one else in Strava-verse—would see, and I would stop get­ting ku­dos. And if I didn’t have a bet­ter ex­cuse than “it hurts too much,” I wouldn’t have been able to live it down.

So I plod­ded on and fi­nally made it. Along the way, I com­pleted a cou­ple of rides with an­other friend who was also aim­ing to com­plete the same chal­lenge. And it was those rides, with an­other


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