Distance Runner’s Body: How to Get It? (What Science Says)

A runner has a physical appearance that looks extremely appealing. He is strong, lean, has a toned body, and is highly functional.

With a little bit of hard work and determination, you can easily get a body like a runner. The steps followed in the process are so simple to follow that even a beginner will be able to ace the runner body with almost no extra effort.

If you are among those whose body weight is slightly on the higher side, it will be slightly difficult for you to achieve your goal of having a toned body like a distance runner; nevertheless, all it takes is a bit of hard work and sheer determination.

This article will let you have an insight into what a runner’s body ideally looks like and what are the steps that will help you sport that kind of a body. Read on to find out.

What is the ideal runner’s body?

What is the ideal runner's body

There are certain traits that we associate with the body of someone who is associated with a particular sport. For instance, a swimmer is believed to have long limbs and fingers and broad shoulders. Similarly, cyclists are known for having well-developed lower bodies and underdeveloped upper bodies.

In the case of runners, you will see that they have lean arms that have very less mass. This is because runners don’t use their arms as much when they run. Here are some of the traits that are common in almost every distance runner.

A Greater Percentage Of Slow Twitch Muscles

If you have come across elite marathons, you must be aware that their bodies contain a greater percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers.

This is ideally determined by the genetics of a person. However, with proper training, one can alter the way these muscles function.

To ensure optimum performance, a runner has to train his muscle fibres in the right way. If he is genetically blessed, that is an added advantage.

Lower Percentage of Body Fat

Of the features that marathon runners have in common, lower body fat percentage is an important feature. They are lean and light because they spend a lot of time in endurance training.

When they train, they use up the calories that they consume.

Having a lean, skinny body provides the runners with an added advantage in marathon running as they have to carry less weight around when they run along the racing course.

Strong Bones

Another important feature of a runner’s body is that they have immensely strong bones. They are highly anti-fragile.

They can handle a lot of stress without suffering any wear and tear. It is mostly the bones that perform the task of weight-bearing, such as the pelvis, spine, and legs, that are the strongest.

This is one of the most important features of a runner’s body!

The Resting Heart Rate Is Low

The term resting heart rate refers to the number of times that the heart beats in a minute when your body is at rest.

On an average, an untrained adult is supposed to have a resting heart rate that ranges from 60 to 100. However, that is not the case with marathon runners.

Since they indulge in intensive cardiovascular training, their heart becomes highly efficient in pumping blood throughout their body. As a result, the resting heart rate of athletes or runners is significantly low.

If you come across a professional marathon runner, you will see that the heart rate ranges between 30-40 beats in a minute. If that is the case with any normal, sedentary individual, a resting heart rate so low would be a matter of concern.

VO2 Max Rate High

VO2 Max refers to the measure of oxygen that the body can use up at the time of exercise. It has been seen that higher VO2 Max Rate is associated with the fitness of the person.

On an average, the VO2 Max value of an adult is approximately 30-45 millilitres oxygen per kg body weight every minute. However, in the case of elite runners, the average level of VO2 Max may increase up to 65-80.

Running Economy Of Professional Runners Is Excellent

The term running economy refers to the measure of the efficiency with which a runner can run.

A runner can improve his running economy with proper training and adhering to a strict diet. This is one thing that makes professionals great at what they do.

Elite marathon runners have an excellent running economy. This means that they do not require a humongous capacity of oxygen to run at a certain speed. This helps them to preserve the energy so that it can be used later in the course of the race.

While on an average an adult might require 220 ml oxygen for each kg of body weight if he wants to run a kilometer, professional runners require only 180 ml of oxygen for each kg of body weight for covering the same distance.

High Threshold Of Lactate

To begin with the discussion, we first have to understand what lactate threshold is. Lactate threshold refers to the exercise intensity at which the concentration of the blood in the lactic acid or the lactate begins to increase at a rapid rate.

When you have a high lactate threshold, you will be able to run at a higher speed for a prolonged period of time without blood lactate accumulation. This enables the speed of running to be maintained for a long time.

Ideal Distance Runner Physique Stats

Ideal Distance Runner Physique Stats
Image: Maxisports / bigstockphoto.com

Every sport requires a specific kind of body. If you are desirous to know what would be the ideal body type for a runner, here are a few things that you need to know.

If we have a look at the trends, we will be able to observe that the modern-day marathoners have a moderate height. They have a lean body disposition, which enables them to run fast.

The list given below will let you glance through the physical attributes of some of the Olympic Marathoners who have won between the years 2000-2021.

Ideal Distance Runner Physique


Winner Name





Gezahegne Abera (Ethiopia) (Male)

1.66 m

58 kg



Carly Patterson (USA) (Female)

1.52 m

44 kg



Samuel Kamau Wansiru (Kenya) (Male)

1.63 m

52 kg



Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) (Male)

1.72 m

58 kg



Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) (Male)

1.67 m

57 kg



Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (Kenya) (Female)

1.6 m

45 kg



Peres Jepchirchir (Kenya) (Female)

1.6 m

43 kg


Hope the above table gives you an idea about the ideal runner body that professional runners are supposed to have. Runners are not very tall. They are also very light which helps them to make way through the air swiftly.

Although the measurements might stray a bit here and there, a lot of difference is not really observed. However, the numbers are different for male and female long distance runners.

How To Get A Runner’s Body?

How To Get A Runner's Body

There are different types of bodies that can be broadly classified into three categories. When you develop an understanding of your body type, you will focus on what your body requires. For a competitive athlete, the main motive is to slash down the body-fat percentage.

The three major body types are ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph. Stated below is a brief description about the three of them:

  • Ectomorph: Ectomorphs have long limbs and they are not particularly muscular. They have the liberty to eat even without putting on any weight. Ectomorphs have a smaller body frame, and they only have little body fat. As they have less muscle, they lack the power to sprint, which leaves them unable to finish. While training, ectomorphs have to focus on building their resistance and power.
  • Endomorph: Endomorphs have rounder figures, which makes it easy for them to store fat. It becomes difficult for them to keep the percentage of their body-fat in check. Since endomorphs are more prone to gaining weight easily, they have to put in some extra effort to stay in shape. In terms of training, endomorphs need to indulge in CrossFit and HIIT exercises. They should also consume proteins and fats and cut down the consumption of carbohydrates in order to maximize the composition of the body and control the levels of blood sugar and insulin.
  • Mesomorph: Mesomorphs have the highest advantage when it comes to building their muscle mass. Their bodies are ideally proportionally built. They can also gain or lose weight very easily. They also have an upright posture and have short limbs and a long torso. For training, mesomorphs should go us on adhering to HIIT and moderate endurance training,

If you are willing to get into shape and look like a professional runner, there are a number of ways in which you can achieve your dream body.

Listed below are some of the ways in which you can get your body shaped like a runner. 

Losing Weight Is A Priority

This is important for all runners to excel in their sport. The more weight you lose, the easier it will be for you to become a great runner. Losing weight does not change the capacity of your lungs. It only ensures that your breath doesn’t have to travel far.

There are other advantages too that lean runners enjoy. It is easier for lean runners to dissipate heat. It is due to their higher surface-area-to-body-weight and lesser fat tissue which might act as an insulation. They can also burn carbohydrates more efficiently. Hence, it is of the utmost importance for runners to lose weight.

Prepare Your Body Before You Actually Get On The Track

If you are completely new to running, you will have to prepare your body before you actually get on the track. Here are a few tips that might help you:

  • Stay Hydrated: Athletes are always seen carrying water in order to keep their bodies nourished throughout the day. If you are aiming for a body like a runner, you too will have to drink tons of water each day. Drinking water is highly advantageous for the body as it does not only help to hydrate the body, but also suppresses hunger and keeps unhealthy cravings at bay, and increases the metabolism.
  • Try Out A Combination Of Running And Walking: If you are fond of running but your body is unable to cope with too much running at a time, you can try out a combination of the two. To get started with this plan, you will have to begin with running for a couple of minutes followed by a few minutes of walking. Continue this for thirty minutes or more. As your body starts getting accustomed, you will find it easy to run for 3-4 minutes at a stretch while walking for the next one minute. This is one of the easiest hacks for building your body stamina.
  • Indulge In Leg Exercises: If you look closely at a runner, you will realize that a runner does not only have a lean body; he also has some gorgeous leg muscles. You can work on those leg muscles without having to run even a single mile. There are a myriad of exercises like squats, lunges, single-leg raises, etc. that can target your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Get in touch with your gym trainer and start working towards achieving your desired body type.

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Improving The Quality Of The Diet

If you are willing to develop your body like a runner, the key criteria is to get rid of excess body fat. To do this, you will have to improve the quality of the diet that you are consuming.

Your diet should consist of adequate quantities of food items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish, lean meat, whole grains, and so on. You should also make it a point to make sure your food contains less food items like refined grains, sweets, fried foods, fatty meats, and so on.

Here are some of the food items that are ideally suited for a runner. Also find how these food items benefit them:

  • Bananas: If you are looking forward to consuming a high-carb energy booster after you have had a run, bananas are the best option to resort to.
  • Peanut Butter: Peanut Butter is highly rich in protein, which helps in the growth as well as recovery of muscles. Peanut butter is also a good source of Vitamin E, which is a great antioxidant.
  • Oats: Oats cause the blood sugar level of the body to slowly rise; which provides the body with energy for a prolonged period of time.
  • Dark Chocolate: This helps to lower the levels of cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Eggs: Eggs, especially those of hens, are rich in essential amino acids, and other essential nutrients and vitamins.

Appetite Management

Many people eat out of boredom. If you want to get into shape, this is one thing that you need to strictly eliminate. This will be the key to your healthy body and let you have a lean, chiseled body.

If you wish to slash the excess body weight off your body, you will have to make sure that you keep your unhealthy temptations at bay. Runners do have lean, flat bellies, ain’t it?

You will have to remove all the food from your kitchen that will not add to the nutritious value to your diet. Replace all the present dishes with other smaller dishes so that you have smaller portions of food to fill yourself with.

You Will Have To Eat Often

This might sound contradictory to the former point, nevertheless, this trick will help you increase your metabolism. Make it a point that you do not overeat, else your body might start showing reverse effects.

According to studies, it has been seen that people who consume six meals per day, or more than that, usually have lower BMI as compared to those who eat only three large meals daily.

Therefore, the catch here is to make sure that you identify the meals that can be served in small portions and are going to fill your body with adequate quantities of nutrients. You should also take vegetables and fruits that are rich in fiber and consume protein. They will help you remain full for a long time.

Keep A Track Of Your Consumption

If you really want your diet to be effective, you will have to make sure that you keep track of all the things that you consume.

Studies have shown that even non-athlete dieters can lose more weight if they weigh what they are eating.

Using the scale to weigh the quantity of food helps one to be conscious about the quality as well as the quantity of food that one is putting on the plate.

Get Into Marathon Training

Get Into Marathon Training
Image: pajche / bigstockphoto.com

When you embark on a journey of running 26.2 miles in marathon, it is evident that you will be at a higher risk of injury as compared to any other jogging practice that you might ordinarily indulge in. You are suggested to get in touch with your physician before you start marathon training.

When you get into marathon training, you need to understand that you need to add variety to your training sessions. You also have to be consistent in your effort. Here are some more tips that you will find beneficial:

  • When you train, make sure you do not go very long. Overstressing your body will expose you to the risk of not recovering on time.
  • You need to indulge in non-running activities as well! Elite athletes who perform at the highest level incorporate activities like aqua-jogging or bike training as they can help in developing the fitness and enriching the performance.
  • You also need to train your body to handle the distance that you will cover running by working on your endurance and your speed capacity. You need to be cautious about the overall training volume.

To prepare your body and mind for the first marathon, you need to begin with running short distance.

Indulging In High-Intensity Interval And Strength Training

A lean physique helps the runners to remain swift and cut through the wind easily. If you are aiming for that lean runner’s body, you should make it a point to incorporate 1-2 hard sessions each week.

You should also try to incorporate strength training to your training sessions so that your body can give the most optimum output. You may also indulge in resistance training so that you can derive the most effective results.

Listed below are some of the HIIT that runners should indulge in:

  • Sprints: Although quick and easy to perform, sprints are sure to provide you with a gush of immense energy.
  • Hill Sprints: If you are willing to build immense lower body strength and speed, this is an ideal option.
  • Tabata Protocol: In this, you can perform full-intense exercise for 20 seconds and then allow your body to recover for the next 10 seconds.

If you follow these steps, you will be blessed with the most appropriate kind of body that will help you in marathon running.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Runner’s Body?

You can expect to notice changes in your body and aerobic ability after 4-6 weeks. And also only if you remain consistent!

Keep in mind, that there is no proper time duration that you can vouch for, which will bring about a change in your body and help you have the runner’s build. You are not likely to see or experience immediate improvement right from the moment.

Nevertheless, if you remain consistent in your effort and adhere to the right kind of food, you will probably be able to fetch the desired body in little or no time. You might not be able to notice the changes in your aerobic ability before 4-6 weeks.

To maintain a good runner’s physique, it is important to remain consistent in one’s efforts. You cannot quit exercising in between and expect to feel the same kind of benefits on your body.

Rest, an individual’s genetics also has an important role to play in determining the kind of response that his body will have to the kind of exercise and diet plan he follows.

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The Bottom Line

Therefore, if you are aiming for the runner body, you need to know that a runner’s body, although doesn’t come easily in a day, is attainable. You are also going to have to spend extra effort on maintaining the runner’s physique.

If you are into long distance running, your training will differ from short distance runners.

Alongside all these, two other important factors that are of great importance to athletes are that they should have great mental endurance and take adequate rest to allow their bodies to recover from the shocks and injuries that they experience while training or running.

If you can master the art of managing stress, you can definitely go a long way in achieving great things in life!