Suffering With Strava

I did Manchester to Blackpool (zoo) yesterday. Not the charity route but a shorter, hillier course. I cycled for 2hrs 30mins and travelled 40 miles with an average moving speed of 16mph. In a few places I had to slow for roadworks or cobbled streets (aggh!) but generally my progress was unhindered bar normal junctions. I felt comfortable and enjoyed the ride. I had power in reserve but went at a pace that suited my touring bias towards cycling. I've uploaded it to Strava.

All very well and good you may be thinking but so what? Well, what I want to know relates to the Strava Suffer Score. It has given me a score of 75. Two thirds of the ride I was in Zone 2 and one third in Zone 3 (near enough anyway). Should I have gone faster/harder and reached the higher zones to get the best exercise benefit from the ride? What is the optimum time to be each zone? Does it make sense to 'suffer'?

Thanks for any help.

EDIT. Just thinking this might be better in the Health, Fitness and Training forum. No objection from me if a moderator wants to move it.
I don't pay the extra to get the 'Suffer Score' on Strava, but isn't it really just another way of measuring your epeen rather than a scientific tool to implement into a training schedule?


Über Member
Malaga, Spain
I think you need to be in higher heart rate zones to get higher suffer scores.

Here's my ride from today.

As you can see, distance and time/speed were fairly similar, but my ride had nearly half as much climbing again and it was also bloody windy, which pushed my heart rate up a lot higher.

Someone I follow did a 200km mountain sportive at about 17mph average a few months back, and he got "Epic" for that. Well deserved, I think!


Call me MAC
I don't pay the extra to get the 'Suffer Score' on Strava, but isn't it really just another way of measuring your epeen rather than a scientific tool to implement into a training schedule?
Well that's it. I'm really not sure how valuable it is for the average cyclist out to enjoy some healthy exercise, fresh air and countryside.

Strava states: "The Strava Suffer Score is an analysis of your heart rate data. By tracking your heart rate through your workout and its level relative to your maximum heart rate, we attach a value to show exactly how hard you worked. The more time you spend going full gas and the longer your activity, the higher the score...".

Yep. Nice to see you have worked hard but does it actually provide more benefit by pushing yourself into Zones 4 & 5 and causing 'suffering', particularly as just being active is a sure way to increase health and reduce chronic disease risk according to recent advice?

Do I need to work harder and enjoy less?
Good question - I can't answer with any degree of knowledge, only from what I've read online myself. From my research a while ago I found a site giving four heart rate zones as follows:

Zone 4 (90-100% of max heart rate) Red Line Zone being mostly of use to train and build your fast twitch muscles and you shouldn't be able to maintain it for long.

Zone 3 (80-90%) was Anaerobic, best for training your bodies ability to deal with lactic acid, and builds endurance and speed.

Zone 2 (70-80%) was Aerobic, builds endurance and your bodies CV system and burns fat.

Zone 1 (60-70%) was resting, burns fat.

This was all ripped straight of a training site somewhere and obviously differs to other theories as you quote five zones! The site I read gave the above info and suggested tailoring your workout to the zone that improved what you wanted - I.e. if you want to burn fat, zone 1-2, if you're training to be a sprinter interval training pushing into Zone 4.


Depends upon what your aiming for. I did a 10mile TT the other day and for that ride my suffer score was really high as I was in zone 4 pretty much 90% of the time. Whist the score itself is not particularly useful, the HR distribution is if you are trying to analyse/measure your output/performance over a set piece, like a TT.

For everyday bikers (ie those not really interested in competition or specific training) it's not really relavent.
I can't see the point in paying for something which is a guess, you should know your own body and whether you feel the need to work harder. On my last hilly TT my HR (using higher zones) was quite high, zone 4 average, a mate of mine (10 or more years younger) HR was a lot lower but he trounced me; knowing him I wouldn't say he was working less hard (he was probably working harder) he just has a different system ;)
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