Wandrer helped gamify my running, and I think I prefer it to Strava

Writer Jessica's Wandrer miles
(Image credit: Jessica Downey)

I am the farthest thing from a gamer but when I found out about a game that rewards you for running new miles around the world, I got pretty excited. I noticed a fellow journalist had some funky looking stats below his Strava activities and that’s when he introduced me to an awesome platform called Wandrer.

The aim of the game is to cycle, run or walk as many different streets and routes as possible and in return for conquering new roads, you receive points. For those who like a bit of friendly competition, you can opt in to see where you score on the game's overall leaderboard and view other athletes’ progress and position on the Wandrer website.

In my time as a fitness writer, I have tried a fair whack of the best running apps and I’ve got to give it to the team behind Wandrer. This web based app has recently helped me through a bit of boredom I have been feeling on my runs. Keep reading to find out more about why I think every runner should join Wandrer.

How do you use Wandrer 

I’m not a fan of anything that takes too much time or effort to set up which is reason number one why I got on well with Wandrer and why I want to share it with others. It’s also free, which is always a win. 

All you need is a Strava account and then you can head to the Wandrer website where it will ask you to sync your Strava data when you create a Wandrer account. As you are setting up your account it will ask you to set some Strava permissions such as notification preferences and whether or not you wish for your name to appear in public leaderboards on the Wandrer platform.

With the free version of the game, you can import your 50 most recent Strava activities but if you wish to transfer all your Strava miles over you can do so by paying an annual $30 subscription to Wandrer. If you are a paying subscriber you will also be able to download maps to a GPS bicycle computer or a Garmin running watch where you can view roads that you haven’t yet conquered on your adventures. Additionally, a Google Chrome extension is included that will help you plan new routes.

Why I prefer Wandrer to Strava

Now, before I get into my reasons for taking such a liking to Wandrer I must say that without Strava, people wouldn’t be able to enjoy Wandrer. I’m a Strava fan and use it every single week of my life and have done so for many years now. It makes running more social and holds me accountable for my runs but here’s why gamifying my runs with a different platform has spiced up my training… 

It makes you explore your local area more

Writer Jessica's Wandrer stats from a run completed in Scotland

(Image credit: Jessica Downey)

It’s quite easy to become a creature of habit as a runner. Especially, if you are training for a particular event and like the comfort in knowing a route so that you can execute your training session without any obstacles. For example, if you have an intervals session to tick off you may know a quiet path where you can do this without any cars or people getting in the way when you are mid sprint.

However, I’m currently training for a marathon and have been finding the same old parks and routes I follow are getting a little mundane, the more miles I tick off in my plan. Since signing up to Wandrer my mindset has totally changed. As soon as my past 50 Strava activities synced up to Wandrer and I could see all the different places I have run or cycled I felt motivated to explore so much more while training.

I also love how you aren’t marked on how exotic your miles are. Conquering new roads will earn you a point per mile and it tells you the percentage of certain areas you have covered. So there is even great satisfaction in trying to conquer your local town or city. 

Much of my current Wandrer map shows just how often I repeat the same routes over and over in South London, but this made me less of a creature of habit now. For example, during the weekend I decided to take a totally new route on my 11.7 mile run resulting in me earning 11.7 new points on Wandrer, I got to meet the gorgeous deer of Bushy Park and I found a new coffee and almond croissant stop. 

It encourages you to exercise while traveling

Writer Jessica's Wandrer stats from running and cycling while in Abu Dhabi

(Image credit: Jessica Downey)

Many of us leave our best running shoes at home when we travel or go on vacation because we don’t know the place and perhaps are too lazy to look out for running routes in a foreign destination. However, with the Wandrer game, you have an incentive to get out and explore more either on foot or on your bike. The more you conquer the more points you get and you of course get some bragging rights for conquering an exciting part of the globe. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit how cool it is to see the 28 miles I’ve conquered in the UAE this past month. You can read about my experience of cycling through the Al Wathba desert in Abu Dhabi where I brag some more about this.

It’s not about your exercise performance

Don’t get me wrong, it feels good uploading a successful run to Strava and waiting for your friends to drop you kudos on the app. Nonetheless, I know from speaking to fellow runners that it can be hard trying not to compare your stats to other users on the app. Especially when you see a friend complete a sub 20 minute 5K with the caption ‘Easy miles’. 

This is where Wandrer is great, as you are purely being ranked on how many unique miles you have clocked up. So even if you run the slowest 5K of your life but take yourself on an exciting new route, you will be rewarded.  

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.

Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.

She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.