General Background

I've been long distance running for one+ year and have a marathon under my belt (in addition to dragon boating for three years) and being a college student, my meals usually consist of cheap things like cereal (Cheerios), sandwich + apple, and soup/pasta and exercises are general leg stretches (and now leg strengthening due to recovering ITBS injury). I currently have a well paying job so money restrictions in terms of food aren't necessarily an issue as much any more. I'm hoping to step up my game and achieve a core fitness level of having a six pack of abs and since long distance running is kind of the opposite of general strength building (muscles effectively being dead weight and/or 'burned away' in long distance running hence the huge body type difference between LDRs and sprinters, although one can argue having strong abs to help the back is a good idea), I'm wondering the plausibility of this goal.


Is it possible to be a long distance runner and have a six pack (not necessarily be ripped everywhere, just have a strong core to help out the back and the like) and what meal plans and training/stretches/exercises are ideal towards achieving a strong six pack core while being able to maintain decent long distance running (eg not cut carbs from meals)?

(The more specific the better I think)

  • 4
    With a low enough BF%, your abs will be visible, so in that respect yes, its possible. They just wont be as pronounnced as the ones of a strength training person/bodybuilder. As for reachign the six pack/low enough BF%, see appropriate questions on this site.
    – K.L.
    May 16, 2013 at 10:59
  • 2
    I'd like to note that six-pack abs are not a fitness goal, but rather a body-fat or appearance goal. "Strong abs" is a fitness goal and involves different training from a six pack. May 16, 2013 at 15:17
  • @K.L. do you have any recommended questions/answers to point to? There's quite a bit of them from the looks of it. May 22, 2013 at 16:26

1 Answer 1


As k.l. says, having a six pack is a function of both muscle structure and body fat levels. The "six pack", or 4, or 7 or 8 (etc) is basically just the abdominal muscles, with the connecting/support fascia making the indentations. (I say the other numbers as you have no control over how many divisions your fascia makes, it's genetic. I've even seen one guy with 10.)

As a distance runner, it will be easier for you to cut body fat than it will be for less aerobic based activities. Attention to diet and timing, along with your normal training regimen (And I am basing this on the assumption that you train 5-7 days a week for running) will bring your bodyfat down.

Abs start becoming visible around 10-15% bodyfat (Depending on muscle development and fat distribution), and sharply defined around the 5-8% level. Much below 5% is not recommended, as it is actually unhealthy to have that low a level for an extended time. Simply do a google search for "galen rupp abs" or "meg keflezighi abs" for some examples of distance runners with defined abdominals.

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