Why “girl cyclist thighs” aren’t such a bad thing

I’m going to sound like a stalker – but I cannot write this piece without doing so.

Like many bloggers, and actually online marketeers, journalists – and the like – I do like data. And data on which search terms drive people to my blog? Love it. Only because it tells me what you want to read.

Before I proceed – I’ll point out Google gives me very little info, most days I’ll only get to see about one in ten actual terms typed into Google that resulted in a visit to RideWriteRepeat, and despite knowing what got you to my blog, I have no idea who you are. Don’t worry – Big Brother is not watching you – not from here anyway.

Back to search terms. In the last few months, I seem to be seeing a dramatic increase in the use of terms such as:

“i have gotten big thighs from track cycling”

“my thighs got huge cycling”

“will i get big legs from cycling”

“how to stop cyclist legs on a girl”

I wrote a piece a while ago – “Why big thighs shouldn’t stop you cycling (and other responses to reasons women don’t ride)” – in which I explained that, honestly, unless you are squatting some (really, really) heavy weights in the gym, and taking on a lot of calories, mostly from protein (my ex-boyfriend was a Rugby and squats fanatic – I know how many protein shakes you need to drink for that result!) – you genuinely are not going to develop thighs like his Hoyness.

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Most women who begin cycling are likely to gain lean muscle, that if anything slims them down as it replaces fat. And whilst we’re on it – adding some squats and weight lifting will have the same healthy, lean muscle looking effect (if that sounds good, check out my post on Strength and Conditioning Exercises for Cyclists here).

Body builders and track sprinters alike will tell you they work damn hard to achieve the results you see in their thighs. Those huge thighs are not going to pop up like tree trunks on speed after a few century rides.

The fact that cycling isn’t going to give you huge thighs, however – isn’t the point I want to make. What I’d like to say is that if cycling has given you slightly bulkier thighs, but made you fast, strong, and fit – then you should be proud.

Look – Beryl Burton had quads, and they served her pretty well. They’re not ‘huge’ either, just the natural lean muscle of an endurance cyclist:

beryl-burton-

I know it sounds preach-ey, like perhaps I should be wearing an A-Board, standing at Speakers Corner, with the body image equivalent of the Bible in my hand. I’m not claiming I’m exempt from staring at pictures of my racing self thinking “dear me, those thighs look big on that tiny bicycle”.

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Other times, of course, I’ll see a super fast woman with amazing strong legs and think “why am I so puny?!”

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Regardless what my thoughts are in response to various photos, despite what I might think and feel, I know in my head that those thoughts aren’t helpful and that (when it all goes well) I’m proud of what my body can do.

Total Women’s Cycling editor Heather Irvine made some similar points in her article “How I came to love my athletic body” – the points I’m making are nothing new – but I believe the more women state “I love my athletic body”, the fewer will feel afraid of discovering the joy of an active lifestyle.

We all know that there’s a huge gulf between numbers of women and men  taking part in sport – and that’s a shame. Sport teaches you to strive for a goal, and it teaches you to be proud of yourself when you achieve it. Sport teaches you to work hard for what you want, and it rewards you with an almighty surge of confidence when you get there. I’m not saying it’s the only path to self-confidence, work ethic, and a love for life – but it is a very good road map to all of those things.

And yet what is stopping so many women taking to the bicycle, or perhaps any other ‘muscle developing activity’? Fear of it negatively affecting our body.

The frustrating thing about the situation is that the antidote is just behind that fear – getting involved in a sport, and learning to love it, can remove these concerns, as it becomes clear that a strong body is not a scary thing – it’s an amazing thing, it’s something to work towards, a reason to wake up at 5.50am to get to the gym.

So if you’ve found this post searching “my thighs have become huge from cycling” – I have three comments to make:

1) Your thighs are probably not huge, they’ve probably got a bit of lean muscle on them, and they’re probably amazing. If they are huge, you must be a demon on the track.

2) Regardless if you’ve got lean muscle, or genuine Hoy quads – you are strong, and that’s something to be proud of.

3) Regardless what you think of your quads (they are quads by the way, not ‘fat thighs’) – remember the sense of achievement you get from a PB, and the confidence that gives you – that confidence is a lot more positive than the joy any thigh gap, ever, will give you.

Ps – lastly, cycling is also fun, and happy people, enjoying life, are generally the more attractive breed. And of course, they are happy.

That’s my final point really – even if none of the above works for you – there is the simple fact that you live only once, and you don’t need to live for a reflection in the mirror. If you like cycling, do it. If you like going to the gym, do that. If team sports are your thing, then play on – enjoying yourself, being happy, and healthy, is not going to make you unattractive – and if it turns anyone off, they’re probably not worth your time.

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There are 4 comments

  1. Laura Laker

    I often get comments on my muscly legs, to the point where people have started to recognise me by them! I’m proud of them though I’ve never trained them to be big, they got that way from riding around town, and the occasional long ride. I spotted a pic of me at primary school in a leotard and noticed I had the same strong quads then. I wouldn’t change them 🙂

  2. Dampjumper

    Thank you for this great and positive article! I’ve been cycling for about 6 months now and yes, I have noticed that last year’s trousers are a bit more snug across the thighs… BUT they are looser on the waist and when I catch sight of my lovely round butt, well I can’t believe I am 43 and have had 2 babies in my life. I feel fit, healthy and happy, I’ve avoided seasonal depression all winter, I’ve got firm friendships and shared goals with other cycling-minded people, goals, confidence and a little bit of ability.

  3. Violet

    I took up track cycling as a girl, and I took to it like a duck to water. Being good at a sport was eye-opening.
    If someone had told me how massive my thighs would become, I wouldn’t have done it. I’ve done irrepairable damage to my skin and bones, which I’m now paying for.
    A sub 20s standing start on a 200m TT is fun the first few times, and then you wonder why you’re sacrificing your life and incoming opportunities for it. A professional woman doesn’t look like a track cyclist.
    “Where great sport begins, good health ends.”

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