Elevation gained, calories burned, minutes elapsed: there are a lot of ways we try to quantify our efforts. Suffer Score is our way of measuring how hard you worked. It’ll back you up when you talk to your buddies about that crazy hard run when you were chased by a grizzly and had to scramble straight up a mountain, or a way to compare how deep you went at this year’s race compared to last year’s. Suffer Score is based on your heart rate, so whether you’re a weekend warrior or a professional athlete, if your heart is working hard, you can rack up the same score. The score will only display for athletes that have Strava Summit accounts. Once you’ve activated a Summit subscription, you’ll be able to view Suffer Score for all of your activities on our mobile app and on the web.
We base the formula off of your heart rate zones. We define those zones based on the maximum heart rate you enter in Settings > My Performance or you can define them manually. The Suffer Score measures how much time you spend in each zone. Time spent in higher zones gets more weight than time in the lower zones. A high Suffer Score could come from a relatively short effort with most of the time in the high zones (like a cyclocross race), or a really long activity with a lot of time spent in the lower zones (like a marathon).
So how hard is hard?
For a little more perspective on the feature, we reached out to some athletes who use Suffer Score.
Christian Kreienbühl is a Swiss marathon runner who will be competing in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. He said, “I find it interesting to sort my trainings by descending Suffer Score (under “My Activities”) and go through them from time to time. I found that the Strava Suffer Score matches very well with my subjective toughness rating of the training.”
Christian shared his highest-ever Suffer Score: He remembered, “One day after that training, I got sick and had a fever – therefore [a possible reason for] the raised HR & Suffer Score, as sickness was already lurking in my body.”
Juan Maria Jimenez Llorens shows us that you don’t have to have a high heart rate to rack up an epic Suffer Score. Although Juan’s average heart rate for the 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc was a modest 129 bpm, he held it there for nearly 24 hours. Getting 15th at UTMB isn’t easy!
Omar Di Felice is an Italian Ultra Cyclist who most recently cycled around Iceland in 5 days — in the winter (our featured image above is courtesy of Omar from this adventure). He said, “It’s really interesting to see how it works in relation to my real «suffer» level during a training session.” Omar’s highest suffer score ever was from his victory at the Ultracycling Dolomitica race.
Verita Stewart is an Australian cyclist who rides for the Specialized Women’s Racing Team.
«I use [Suffer Score] as validation that my perceived effort is correlating to the ‘actual’ effort. I did a solid five hours in the hills today, my Suffer Score was extreme – it felt extreme that’s for sure… I was chasing my friend around the hills!»
Each of these athletes and activities offer an example of how Suffer Score can be valuable. Your perceived level of effort is as personal of a feeling as it gets and it might not be possible to truly quantify or compare. But if you’re curious to try and measure those efforts, take a look at Suffer Score and see how you stack up against your friends, the pros and most importantly, yourself.
Join Strava Summit to get access to Suffer Score