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I often hear people worrying that cycling every day might not be healthy, and asking about rest days.
I’ve heard this a lot with reference to their legs, and that they might be doing damage to their joints or muscles.
For those without a history of leg issues or conditions, cycling every day will normally be a positive experience for their legs. It helps develop muscle endurance and is low impact so kind to your joints. Be certain to set up your bike properly to avoid leg injuries.
However, there are some people that should not be cycling every day.
In this post, I’ll take a look at:
- 7 issues which mean you shouldn’t be cycling every day (and it’s not good for your legs)
- 7 facts why cycling every day is good for your legs for most people
Cons – 7 Times When You Shouldn’t Cycle Every Day
There are definitely situations where cycling every day should only be done with caution.
If you’ve suffered any of the following issues, then it may make sense to adjust the amount you are cycling:
A nice simple one to start off with!
If you are exhausted for whatever reason, then be careful with the amount of cycling you are doing.
Here I am talking about both mental and physical exhaustion.
Too much training can lead to:
- Decreasing levels of performance
- Even burnout!
Cycling when mentally exhausted can be dangerous and raises the risk of you having an accident.
2. Overuse Injuries
If you are experiencing pain from cycling, this may be an overuse injury. Though it’s not always easy to tell, typical overuse injuries include:
- Knee pain
- Muscle strains
Proper rest and recovery may be the best solution.
3. Muscle Imbalances
One thing that is unusual, but worth knowing about, is the risk of your muscles becoming imbalanced through too much cycling.
Cycling primarily targets the:
If you find these muscles are becoming more developed than other key muscle groups, this can lead to issues with posture and movement.
If this is happening (which is unlikely), then you will want to work on other muscle groups, to get them to a similar level of strength and condition.
Pretty much everyone gets ill occasionally, and it may be wise to hold off on cycling for a while when this happens.
Colds are probably the most common issue to consider.
If you’ve just got a runny nose, then you’re almost certainly fine to carry on cycling.
However, if your symptoms are below your neck (such as aching muscles, high temperature, productive cough, or shortness of breath), then it is time to rest.
5. Leg Injuries
Injuries are another thing to consider. It’s best to take the guidance of a medical professional if at all possible.
Some serious leg injuries will require a carefully thought-through cycling rehabilitation plan. Some examples of these kinds of injuries include:
- ACL tears
- Runner’s knee
- Meniscal tears
There are also little niggles to think about.
I found an excellent Youtube video on the Phil Burt Innovation channel.
He talks about some common sources of cycling leg pain and what you can do about them. You can check out the video here:
6. Shin Splints
A lot of cyclists associate shin splints much more with running than biking, but if you have pre-existing shin splints, then it’s best to seek the advice of a medical professional before starting cycling.
Shin splints are an inflammation of the bones, muscles, and tendons in the shin area.
Shin splints: Inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bones in the lower leg can make cycling painful.
Another key leg issue to get checked out before starting daily cycling is tendinitis.
This is the inflammation of tendons, such as the Achilles or the knee. (Source)
This can be exacerbated by cycling, and be made more painful.
Pros – 7 Things That Are Positive About Cycling Every Day
Right, now that the doom and gloom are over, let’s take a look at all the positive benefits and advantages of why you would want to cycle every day.
1. Generally Cycling Is Really Positive For Legs
Just to start off with, cycling is a really fantastic form of cardio for your legs.
It gets the blood flowing, keeps your legs supple and strong, and tones and sculpts.
So all in all, this a positive recipe for winning legs!
2. Cycling Tones Leg Muscles
Cycling is one of the best cardio exercises for toning muscles in your legs and for developing muscle mass.
In particular, there are four lower-body muscle groups that are impacted by cycling, and those are:
|Muscle Group||Importance In Cycling||Role In Cycling|
|Glutes||High||The glutes help to stabilize the hips, and also create power alongside the quads|
|Calves||Medium||They work alongside the quads to force down on the pedals|
|Quads||High||The quads are the most important muscle group in cycling. They are responsible for driving downwards on the pedals|
|Hamstrings||Medium||The hamstrings help to bend the leg in the upswing of the pedal|
All of these muscles will be toned and developed through cycling.
For added muscle mass, think about some of the following:
- Integrating interval training into your cycling sessions
- Turn up the resistance
- Try climbing hills
- Get out of the saddle
3. Low Impact So Good For Ankles And Knees
This is a really big issue!
Cycling is low-impact. This means it is kind to knees and ankles (among other joints), and there is no jolting or jarring of these joints.
Also, the movements of cycling are predictable, and generally linear. Your muscles are working in one plane of movement, rather than working randomly in different directions.
These things all add up to a positive experience for muscle, ligament, and cartilage health in the legs.
4. Setting Up Bike Correctly Drastically Reduces The Chances Of Injury
This is a crucial cycling fact – get your bike set up right for your personal dimensions, and the chances of overuse injuries absolutely plummet!
Certainly, where leg issues are concerned, bike setup is the key player.
But how do you set up your bike correctly?
Here are a few top tips to help you set up your bike correctly for optimum leg health:
You basically want to have the seat at a height that allows your legs to be about 85%-90% straight at their lowest and straightest point.
Any straighter can mean you run the risk of hyper-extension (not good!)
The seat should be parallel to the ground. Your knees should be over the balls of your feet when the pedals are in the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions.
These should be slightly higher than the seat. This helps maintain good back posture.
The best Youtube video I’ve found about how to simply set up your bike right is this one from the Global Cycling Network:
5. Don’t Over-Cycle
If you listen to your body you will usually be fine!
Just bear in mind that cycling every day will usually fine for most people. However, there are some factors you want to be aware of such as:
- Pre-existing issues
- Your fitness level
If you start feeling pain or discomfort when cycling, this is usually the biggest indicator that something is wrong.
You want to try to give yourself adequate rest and recovery time if this is the case, and seek professional help if symptoms continue.
6. Go Up Through The Gears
If you give yourself every opportunity to succeed by taking things steadily, then things are much more likely to go well.
Start off slowly, and build up the distance you are trying to cycle, the speed, and the intensity.
7. Muscle Endurance
Alongside toning, and muscle development, cycling also boosts muscle endurance in the legs.
This is the ability of the muscles to continue working under stress without fatigue for longer periods.
You can experience an increase in muscle endurance quite rapidly through cycling, literally often within a few days or at least weeks.
Rides that seemed harder will usually seem easier day by day.