How does Strava calculate relative effort?

In this guide, we will talk about how Strava calculates relative effort and what it means. Also, we will mention why the name was changed from Suffer Score to Relative Effort, problems related to the Suffer Score model, what the weekly effort means and some of the pros/cons of Strava Relative Effort.

How does Strava calculate relative effort?

If you wonder, how Strava calculates relative effort, here we have the answer. Strava relative effort measures the time spent in a given heart rate zone. But it weights scores according to intensity rather than overall time. 

Imagine you are attending that spinning class or even something like Zumba or aerobics. You may be interested in knowing how much you spend on a certain activity right? Moreover, if you are planning on losing weight then you may be interested in spending more time in a given heart rate zone than another. This is usually the same principle for athletes, they are interested in knowing if they are working the hardest and pushing the limits as much as they can. 

Before Strava revamped the name, it was called Suffer Score. But to be honest, the new name sounds much better since the word ‘suffer’ really has a negative connotation. Who likes to be reminded about suffering while they are exercising or working out? Personally, I don’t. In contrast, Relative Effort becomes motivating because even if you struggled a lot, you still put in all your energy and effort into it. Let’s take a look at this popular premium feature which is a very useful way of quantifying effort during an activity.

What were the problems behind the Suffer Score?

Before the Suffer Score was replaced by Relative Effort, the model seemed to have some problems, as indicated by Will Meyer from,  such as not being well suited for comparing effort across the different sports. Additionally, running efforts were scored higher than rides and swims of the same length and intensity. Subsequently, a similar amount of effort applied to a run, resulted in a higher Suffer Score than it would have in a race of similar characteristics.

Finally, the length of effort was weighted much more than intensity. This meant, more intense efforts had lower Suffer Scores than longer, less intense ones even if the shorter effort had a much greater training effect.

Relative Effort = Cardiovascular Activity

As indicated on Strava Support, “Relative Effort, found on the activity details page, measures how much cardiovascular work went into any activity that has heart rate data or Perceived Exertion. A short and hard activity can require just as much effort as a long and leisurely one, and Relative Effort makes it so you can compare the two”.

Moreover, different activity types are also weighted so your efforts can be compared across sports, and the values are personalized to your heart rate zones so you can compare them with other users.

For instance, let’s imagine you and your friend go cycling for the same amount of miles and time, your Relative effort score would be comparable.

Weekly Effort

According to the Strava Blog, Your Weekly Effort should be reflected when accessing your activity details page or profile page on your mobile app or website. The weekly view shows how you’re trending by totalling your relative effort for the week and graphene it alongside previous weeks. 

Moreover, it will be based on a weighted average over the previous 12 weeks and you can also see a suggested training range that may give you an idea of whether you are maintaining or increasing your training load, at risk of exceeding yourself or allowing your body some time to recover. Weekly Effort shows your total Relative Effort for the week so far and it also indicates your trends over a week and weekly Relative Effort Range. 

Here are some things we have to consider such as the within range, the below range and the above range. The first refers to the productive amount of activity to maintain or improve your overall fitness. The below range is lighter than your average amount of activity that aims for levels below your weekly range when taking a recovery week. Finally, the above range will be higher than your average amount of activity.  

Pros and Cons of using Strava’s Relative Effort

Here are the pros and cons of using Strava’s Relative Effort measure when you workout. This feature is said to be a very reliable and precise training tool that uses your heart rate data during activities such as running, riding, or any other activity within Strava. Moreover, if you consider yourself to be a bit competitive, you can also measure group workouts to see how well your performance was against how other group members have performed. 

However, the only cons we can think about at this moment would be that this feature is not for free. This feature is only included and accessed through Strava Premium and also that the user must have a heart rate monitor connected to get this type of data. 

Why is this blog about How does Strava calculate relative effort important?

As we have discussed on how Strava calculates relative effort, Strava relative effort measures the time spent in a given heart rate zone. But it weights scores according to intensity rather than overall time. This feature was introduced to track your fitness intensity across different activities such as riding, running, or even swimming so you can always stay on track of your progress and overall performance.

Moreover, you can use this metric so you know how much or how little effort you need to maintain during certain activities without the risk of exceeding yourself. Finally, we find this measure to be a reliable and precise training tool that uses your heart rate to calculate relative effort but one of the cons someone may find is the need of paying to have access to it through the premium version. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How does Strava calculate relative effort

How do relative efforts work Strava?

According to Strava Support, Your Weekly Effort can be accessed from the activity details page or your profile page on the Strava mobile app or website. You can also easily compare your Weekly Effort and Fitness chart from the Training tab in the lower right-hand corner of the mobile app. Before it was called Relative Effort, it was called Suffer Score. 

What is the Strava suffer score?

The Strava Suffer Score measures how much time you spend in each zone. A higher Suffer Score could come from a relatively short effort with most of the time in the high zones, or due to a really long activity with a lot of time spent in the lower zones. Now, Suffer Score has been replaced by the name of Relative effort.

How do I add heart rate to Strava?

If you would like to add heart rate to Strava so you can analyze your performance, here are the steps on how you could do it:

Open the mobile app, then navigate to Visit the settings page from the gear icon and tap link Other Services. 
Tap Connect a device to Strava and select the device’s brand you are using.
Follow the instructions to connect your Strava account. 

Is Strava summit worth it?

Some people may say that Strava Summit is not worth it, preferring to use the free Strava account for segments (if you use them) but overall, some consider they don’t seem necessary to pay for Strava Premium. However, athletes seem to benefit from the Premium version especially due to the included Premium Features such as Relative Effort (previously known as Suffer Score).

Does Strava calculate TSS?

The TSS or Training Stress Score on Strava is estimated using your Heart Rate. If you do have a power meter, you should be able to get the Training Stress Score to match up by setting your FTP as the same value. The Training Stress Score calculator Strava offers can help you achieve your training goals. Finally, the Training Score Score quantifies the intensity of your training through an algorithm. This measure also indicates the stress we may have subjected your body to.