Many runners say they love the sport because it gives them a chance to be alone with their thoughts. But if you’ve ever trained for a long-distance race, you know that’s an awful long time to be alone with your innermost desires or that same old Top 40s music on your iPod.
Usually free and frequently updated, podcasts are a great alternative when you just want to zone out as you log the miles. Whether you’re looking for entertainment, personal growth or just to learn how to run faster, you can find a show to fit your mood. We asked pro runners, running bloggers and coaches for their favorite podcasts to give you a heavy dose of motivation as you hit the pavement.
Podcasts to Move You
1. The Balanced Bites Podcast
Whether you eat like a caveman or are just curious about the Paleo diet, Practical Paleo author Diane Sanfilippo’s podcast is a go-to for anyone curious about the grain-free, dairy-free lifestyle. With cohost Paleo blogger Liz Wolfe, Sanfilippo covers everything from what to eat to lower cholesterol and why you need to give up gum to see results from a sugar detox.
“I recently became a nutrition and health coach,” says Sara Larsen, “so I love listening to learn something new, and it keeps me entertained on long runs on the treadmill.”
2. Marathon Training Academy
Married couple Angie and Trevor Spencer’s Marathon Training Academy podcast is the ideal companion for runners who’ve set their sights on 26.2 miles. Each episode is packed full of helpful training tips, race recaps and fascinating stories to make the miles fly by. You’ll find episodes about the “The Bizarre World of Race Cheaters,” an interview with an 11-year-old marathoner, and Q&A’s with running greats like Dean Karnazes. With more than 120 episodes (and counting) that average an hour in length, you’ll want to stay tuned in throughout your training season.
This podcast-gone-viral, in which NPR reporter Sarah Koenig attempts to solve a decades old real-life murder, will draw you in so quickly you’ll forget how many miles you’ve logged. Each episode is between 28 to 56 minutes, and the plot unfolds episode-to-episode so make sure you listen to them in order. If you’re already up-to-date on Adnan Syed’s story, don’t worry, the next season of Serial is supposed to start sometime in 2015. Can’t wait ‘til then? Check out NPR’s new Invisibilia podcast, which uses a storytelling format to explore human behavior. The first episode focuses on the tale of a man plagued by violent thoughts — and how psychologists dealt with him.
4. The Jillian Michaels Show
If you’ve ever watched The Biggest Loser, you’re used to seeing “America’s Toughest Trainer” giving the contestants her signature tough love approach. But her free, weekly podcast sheds light on a more vulnerable side of the brash fitness superstar, showing how she deals with underlying causes of behaviors like emotional eating to push through her own barriers.
Running blogger and coach Laura Skladzinski tunes in to Jillian Michaels because her episodes usually have a big mental component to them. “It’s like therapy while you run!”
5. Dear Sugar Radio
Loved reading the story of author Cheryl Strayed’s 1,100-mile soul-searching Pacific Crest Trail hike in her book Wild? (Or watching the movie version, featuring Reese Witherspoon?) Strayed was once the voice behind a cult-hit advice column called “Dear Sugar” on the website The Rumpus. Well, now the column is back — in podcast form. Listen to Strayed tackle people’s problems with her token on-point, poetic advice in this brand new once-weekly show. Perhaps, with Strayed’s voice in your ear, you’ll be inspired to push yourself harder than ever.
6. Greater Good Live
The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley studies the psychology, sociology and neuroscience of well-being. Their thought-provoking podcast explores themes like the neuroscience of happiness with experts in the field.
Pro runner Deena Kastor — who recently shattered the World Masters Half-Marathon record — is a huge fan. “I love anything that has to do with optimism and progress,” she says. You’ll learn everything from the power of self-compassion to how to be happier at work.
7. The Tim Ferriss Show
In his perpetual quest for knowledge, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef uses his weekly podcast to interview experts in various fields, picking their brains on what they know about their specialties. If you’re in the mood to listen to something workout-related, you’ll find episodes about ultra-endurance races. Want to brush up on the latest health hot topics? Queue up the episode about the microbiome. Just need a laugh? He’s got an interview with Margaret Cho, too.
Like to geek out while you log miles? Tune in to Radiolab, an award-winning podcast that explores the intersection of science and philosophy with an approachable and light-hearted tone. Thought-provoking topics run the gamut. You’ll hear the hosts discuss the first patient who had Ebola, how people determine the “worth” of experiences, the economics of buttons and more. The dialogue-style show, peppered with notable guests and interviews, will keep you entertained for every mile. If you’re heading out for a shorter run, download one of their “Shorts,” which are usually under 30 minutes instead of the standard hour.
9. Another Mother Runner Radio
If you are a mother and a runner, you’ve probably heard of Another Mother Runner. Hosted by irreverent and witty bloggers Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell, the podcast is “like listening to a hysterical conversation between friends,” says run coach Gia Alvarez. The show includes guests like Magdalena Boulet, a former Olympic marathoner, who now does research and development for energy gel company GU Energy Labs. The long-time friends and business partners share insights on fitting in training time, demystifying track workouts and their upcoming races. (McDowell is currently preparing for an Ironman 70.3 race!)
RELATED: Should You Press Pause on Your Running Music?
10. Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!
While this NPR quiz-show format podcast rarely discusses running or fitness (though its host, Peter Sagal, is a 3:20 marathoner himself), it’s still popular among runners. Its devotees say that the format keeps them thinking as they follow along. The show tests its guests on current events and trivia. A popular segment, “Not My Job” quizzes guests on topics completely and utterly out of their wheelhouse — like asking Arizona Senator Jeff Lake about winter sports. “I’ve been known to answer the questions out loud on occasion,” says blogger Mindy Nienhouse from Just a One Girl Revolution.
11. The Rich Roll Podcast
If your training plan is calling for six miles or more, you’ll want to fire up this podcast on your phone. The episodes are typically at least an hour long, giving you plenty of material as you tick off the miles. Rich Roll, a vegan ultra-endurance athlete (he’s done five Ironman-distance triathlons in less than a week!) covers everything from the “spiritual road to athletic supremacy” to meditation for kids. “He’s kind of a hippie, other-worldly ultrarunner, but his voice just brings such peace to my own spirit!” says blogger Katy Widrick.
12. Ben Greenfield Fitness
Triathlete Ben Greenfield may be a top-ranked triathlete and five-time Kona Ironman World Championships competitor, but his show is still accessible to newbies and seasoned athletes alike. Touching on topics ranging from how bad beer really is for you to how to mitigate damage from endurance sports, this podcast will teach you a thing or two while you check another run off your training plan. He’s known for explaining new training strategies, like the Maffetone Method, so listen up if you’ve got a new PR on the brain!
13. The Marathon Show
If you’re not ready to commit several months of your life to training for the big distance, you can live vicariously through this podcast. Host Joe Taricani is known for interviewing guests during marathons to give a true on-the-ground look inside a race. He talks to everyone from race directors to medical professionals and suppliers about what it takes to put on — and get through — 26.2 miles of fun. While not updated since May 2014, this podcast’s archive is worth looking into if you do get bitten by the marathon bug, but aren’t sure which race to sign up for first.
What’s your favorite podcast to tune in to when you want to zone out on the run?
Originally posted on April 30, 2014. Updated January 2015.