Do You Look Like a Runner?


During the my time with the Running4Real community, I sometimes lead talks about nutrition, and after I had finish the basics about nutrition, I have the question in my mind to talk about body image.

Most of the time we end up having a fantastic discussion about body image, and how most runners believe they do not “look like a runner”. We are all guilty of that right?

Yes. Me too.

I know you may not believe this, but I look at other runners as I stand on the start line, and I think to myself that I do not look as lean/ripped/fast as them. I often have those few moments where I doubt myself, and occasionally, that will slip through to my race, and mean that I do not run to my potential as I allowed those negative thoughts in.


I have other running friends who are incredibly lean, every single muscle is visible in their body. Every vein sticks out, and yet they wish they did not look like that. The grass is always greener on the other side.

I wonder why that is.

Is it the airbrushed images we see in magazines constantly? Is it the pressure we put on ourselves to look perfect? Is it the body dysmorphia we see in the mirror?

I talked to the runners about how when I look in a mirror, my eyes go right to the bottom of my stomach. The part where the 6 pack should be. Every morning or night, my eyes stray away from my face, stray away from the power in my legs, the muscle tone in my arms, and instead focus on that little belly of mine.

I talked to Sarah about this, and she could not believe I was self conscious of my belly. She admitted that her “spot” was her thighs, thinking they were too big. I was horrified to hear this. I always thought Sarah had the most beautiful, strong, legs, that allowed her to power towards that 2:30 goal she is striving for.

Sarah Crouch

But it just goes to show, that everyone has something they are self conscious of, and I mean everyone.

Sometimes I wonder whether it is a specific moment during our lives that makes us focus in on that zone rather than others.

During these discussions, I want to have the runners write down all the negative thoughts that went through their mind, and then counter those thoughts with something positive about that part. It is a great exercise, and I recommend you try it. It flips your perspective around to see that you are perfect just as you are.

Like I always say, Be Brave. Be Strong. Be YOU!

What does a runner look like anyway?

There isn’t a “look”, because there isn’t one way to be. I love looking at photos of Kim Conley or Emily Sisson as they both have a similar body type to mine.

Every single body has something to celebrate. Every single runner has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and that should be taken into account. Do not spend your life trying to look like someone else, spend your life doing what makes you happy, and the rest will follow.

For me, yes I could lose those extra few pounds, but then I risk sending myself down a dark, obsessive path, and it would mean I would not get to enjoy the cake and ice cream that does make me happy, so I would rather stay as I am, but know I am enjoying my food, and staying healthy as a runner.

My challenge to you is to share what part of your body you love the most about yourself. Too often we are too hard on ourselves, but in this post today, I want us to celebrate our bodies, and appreciate them for what they are able to do.

I would love to hear what you are proud of.

To start things off, I love my chicken drumsticksΒ legs. Yes, they are more muscly than the average elite marathoner, but they give me power, they give me strength, and they help me to run fast.

body image, runners body type

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  • Michele Gonzalez
    September 18, 2015 5:13 am

    I love this post and felt like I could have written it. I am incredibly self conscious of my thighs – just like Sarah, I feel like they are too big. And like you, I know I could probably lose a few pounds and that they would end up looking more in line with how I want them too – but I don’t want to start obsessing over calories counting, restricting or anything like that. I enjoy my nightly glass of wine and chocolate too much!
    I am most proud of my abs and arms – they have always been the leanest parts of my body!
    Thanks for this great post, Tina! xo

  • <3 <3 <3 this as it crosses all workout and healthy living boundaries too. These days Im SO PROUD OF MY OVERALL STRENGTH. Inside and out. It's the only way Im powering through my days.

  • Lisa@runningoutofwine
    September 18, 2015 5:31 am

    What a great post- there are so many part of my body that I am self conscious about and I don’t think I look like a runner, although I have learned to be proud of what my body has allowed me to do. I am most proud of my legs for the same reasons you said!

  • I really like this post. I think everyone has their weaknesses and what they “wish” they looked more like. Honestly you are a runner no matter what you look like. This post definitely goes to show everyone of every ability has something they wish they could change!

  • Another great one here Tina and yes, we are all guilty of this! *raises hand* but, I could not agree more with just enjoying your life and eating the cake and having a glass or two of wine. If YOU are saying that, as an elite competitive athlete, then I’m certainly not going to worry about those nagging 3-4 pounds!

  • I think that we all look like what we are in our own special way–just like we are all beautiful in some way! People say that I look like a runner (now) when I tell them that I run–but I’ve also heard other responses. I love that the perception and conception of what a “runner” looks like is changing. Whenever I hear that runners look a certain way, I tell them to go and spectate a marathon!

  • Great post Tina! It’s nice to know that we are all in this together! Reminding ourselves how strong we are and what we do with our bodies is so important and such a good tool in moving towards a positive image of ourselves <3

  • Love this! I always compare my legs to other runners and women and wish they were thinner but then I remember that I thinner doesn’t mean faster. I like my muscles, they stop me getting injured and keep me running strong. And running strong is far more important to me!

  • Oh yes, it’s so hard to avoid comparing ourselves to others and to just be content with our own unique body! The belly for me also is where my body will hold an extra few pounds, but like you, a little sugar is worth it! πŸ™‚

  • This post is so great! I know my body image has taken a nose dive since being injured. My runner’s body that I thought had flaws before is not nearly the same as it was 5 months ago. And not in a positive way. It’s definitely a slippery slope that I could easily fall down. I will say that no matter what, I’ve always like my legs. They are muscular and can power me through a ton of workouts. I love ’em even if their imbalances!

  • Thank you for sharing this, Tina; it’s actually quite nice to hear that even the elites struggle with these thoughts, too, even though I hate than anyone feels badly about any part of their body. I quit smoking cigarettes (I smoked AND ran for many years!) in 2011 and gained about 30 pounds in the months after; since then, I’ve lost 15 of those but the last bit haunts me and I always see myself in race photos and think of how much “better” I would look if I lost more weight and that maybe it would help me run faster. I know that my legs are strong, though, and I am always proud of what they do. Thanks again; you are awesome!

  • great post tina! i’m most happy about my shoulders – i think that i have strong and proportionately broad shoulders (literally and metaphorically)!

  • I love my legs, and my arms! Through running and doing upper body strength workouts, both are pretty toned. I am like you and dislike my midsection. After having a baby, there’s definitely more “pooch” down there then I’d like. I also know that “abs are made in the kitchen”, but…good food is made there too! In the end, I agree with you, I’d rather enjoy a glass of wine or a dessert than worry about having the “perfect” stomach.

  • That’s the spirit! I struggle HUGELY with body image since having babies. My boobs are the silliest things you ever did see, because they’d go from a 32A to a 34D and back and forth every time I had a baby (FOUR TIMES!). But like you, I’m practicing self love and instead focusing on the good bits about my body. I could say that I love my stomach the most because it’s the leanest, or my muscly strong legs, but it’s not true. I love the soft fleshy part of my thighs and bum because it’s those parts that remind me of my femininity. They’re the parts that Andrew likes the best too. πŸ™‚

  • Hi,

    Thanks for the great post. Even as a recreationnal runner, I keep comparing myself with others runners. I am proud to be lean and strong however when I look in the mirror I would like to see a more muscular man. I am running since 2011 so I have to accept that I will never look like the runner in the magazines.

    • Hi Phil, nice to meet you! It is a tough trap not to fall in. You are so right, and something we are all guilty of, its hard to remember they are airbrushed and do not actually look like that. Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

  • Martina Di Marco
    September 18, 2015 11:07 am

    Very interesting post. Strangely enough, running has actually taught me to love my body MORE. Before I started taking running more seriously, I’d run/workout to stay in shape and “be skinny.” Now, I honestly don’t care about how I look or how much I weight: I need for my body to be STRONG and feel good and I’m so so thankful for what it is capable of. I went from talking negatively to my body (“oh legs, why are you so big?”) to actually have lovely conversation with it (“I love you legs and I will make you stronger and will always make sure to take good care of you!’). I’m 5’2” and I have huge hips: not really the body of a marathoner. But guess what? This “non-runner body” allowed me to apply for Boston today, so I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. Running has taught me to worship my body and stop talking bad about it.

    PS: tell Sarah I’d kill for her legs πŸ˜‰

  • This is so amazing, thank you so much for sharing this. I always wonder if men go through this too, or if this is strictly a women’s thing. While there are a lot of parts about me that I wish I could change, I’m proud of my legs. They’ve gone from being very skinny to very strong, and I love that I have a hard time pulling my jeans on over my calves and quads now!

  • Beauty in Christ
    September 18, 2015 12:54 pm

    I love this, because I think if you run, you are a runner. It’s not a certain look or body type. You are a runner if you love the sport!

  • Thank you for such a refreshing post! We definitely all have our “things” we dislike about our runner bodies, but it’s nice to be reminded that we are all strong runners, no matter where our indulgences like to place themselves. πŸ™‚

  • Another great post, Tina! I think most of us runners are too hard on ourselves about our bodies, and we need people like you to give us this gentle reminder. I have never 100% liked my butt or thighs – I put muscle on easily there and it’s frustrating because any jeans that fit my butt are too big for my waist. But those same muscles power me through runs and hikes!

  • If there’s anything I learned from my time in the blog world, is that’s runners come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and that you can’t tell by looking at someone how good of a runner they are. I have days where I start to get all nitpicky with certain parts of me as well, but there’s no way I’d be willing to do what it takes to tone up and lose those few vanity. I’ve been down that road before, and it definitely didn’t make me happy.

  • Really good post and conversation Tina. Funny how we all go to races and look around at others thinking how much greater & more confident they look as runners, when actually, as you’ve discussed & all the comments on your post reveals, most people are just as self-conscious about their bodies as we are. I’ve lots of bits of me I don’t like but I like my arms at the moment which have toned up a bit from running. It’s all about the positives πŸ˜‰

  • I love this and I think its so important to focus on the positive. That said, we do have moments of thinking about the things we’d like to change. When I am not running a lot, I am self conscious about my butt πŸ™‚ I feel like its too big if I am not running a lot. I think my arms are strong and I love all they have done for me – picking up my babies as well as taking me across many a finish line. I’m the same – I love food (and wine and chocolate!) and life is too short to give that up. I want to have fun with my family and we love to eat! ha ha! Thanks so much for sharing this and btw, I think you look like a beautiful, strong runner!!! xx

  • I love my shoulders! I definitely don’t have the runners body that I would like, but it’s my own fault. After having kids I’ve carried around some extra weight in my tummy. I could get rid of it if I put my mind to it though. I don’t know why we are all so hypercritical of ourselves. We should be showing them off in pride! I wish I knew how to change that!

  • I’ve struggled with disordered eating so I am super passionate about the importance of positive body image and self love. Treating our bodies and minds kindly is fundamental to self care enabling us to thrive.

    My favourite part of my body is my blue eyes and my heart…I love that it pumps my blood and let’s me feel amazing things that can only be felt by our innermost truth.

    • Thank you so much for sharing Christina. That is very brave of you, and yes, you know I am there with you helping to promote that image. LOVE LOVE LOVE that answer, that is AMAZING!!!!! You are beautiful inside and OUT!

  • This is a great post! Initially, I was going to respond with what I “do not like,” but then I realized it is my perception of what other think, which causes the “not like” bit. I love that my body builds muscle and quickly. The challenge is to keep that muscle toned.

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