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Strava’s Hardcore Fitness Following Is Powering Through the Pandemic

The app’s revenue spiked 68% in 2021. But retaining the New Year’s resolution crowd is a perennial problem, especially come quitter’s day—aka Jan. 17.

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Illustration: Arne Bellstorf for Bloomberg Businessweek

Starting right around Christmas every year and continuing through mid-January, traffic to Strava, the social network geared to athletes, surges. “It’s that new year, new you phenomenon,” says Chief Executive Officer Michael Horvath. Unfortunately, both for the company and for those people who really do plan to get off the couch this time, resolutions to exercise more are almost always short-lived. By Jan. 17—or quitter’s day, as it’s known at Strava Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters—the company expects traffic to drop dramatically, as inertia defeats another year’s crop of aspiring cyclists and distance runners.

All fitness businesses have some version of this rhythm, though it was thrown off during the pandemic. The 2020 lockdowns temporarily closed health clubs, leading to a spike in interest in tech-enabled alternatives such as Strava and internet-connected exercise bicycles and treadmills like those from Peloton Interactive Inc. Soon overachievers were ordering so many $2,000 spin bikes that Peloton had to delay deliveries by months. But usage of the company’s subscription service declined starting this summer, as Covid case numbers fell and the appeal of getting shouted at via a tablet stuck between one’s handlebars suddenly seemed less enticing than, say, actually riding a bicycle outdoors.