This post has been updated for 2018! Check out the updated list here!
When you work out, do you listen to music? Zone out? Watch TV or read a magazine from your machine at the gym? I do believe in the restorative power of tuning in to your own thoughts or listening to your body when you work out, but I have to admit that I do it very rarely*. Without a “distraction,” I find myself constantly checking the distance on my Garmin (I know, I should leave that at home, too!), repeating a single line of a song over and over … and over, or re-hashing my to-do list mentally. None of these are very restorative! However, when I have a form of distraction or stimulation, I find that I’m better able to really process my thoughts and work through anything that’s bugging me. As strange as it sounds, I really do believe I multi-task my thoughts while running! I always feel better about any nagging problems after a run.
So what is my favorite form of distraction? Podcasts! I have many favorites, and I want to share them with you all, too! So here you go … my top 7 list of free, exciting podcasts to listen to while you work out. I’m providing links to the iTunes sites below (and picture sources are all from the same link), or you can just search for the title in iTunes and subscribe (for free!) to get updates automatically downloaded to your device.
- Marathon Training Academy: I save this one for my long runs because it gives me something to look forward to. Angie and Trevor, the hosts, are so relatable yet so inspirational, so funny but also so informative. They talk about their own races, conduct interviews with running “celebrities,” and give tips to improve your own running. Topic: running. Length: <1 hour. Frequency: every 2-3 weeks.
- Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast: By far, the one from which I learn the most, and the one that challenges “traditional” thinking. Ben and Brock, the hosts, are informative but still keep it interesting and fun. I secretly want to be (the female version of) Ben – he’s sharing his knowledge with so many people through so many different forums, and is also an awesome athlete and family man. Topic: fitness, nutrition, health. Length: 1-2 hours, with special episodes as short as 20 minutes. Frequency: regular podcast weekly (or so), special episodes 5+ times per month.
- The Jillian Michaels Show: The one that makes me think about my own life, laugh, cry, and sometimes learn. I adore Jillian, and you really feel like you’re listening to a friend or a mentor when you’re listening to her show. She talks about everything from weight loss to marital problems, from building your self-confidence to fueling your workouts. Topic: fitness, nutrition, self-improvement. Length: <1 hour. Frequency: weekly.
- Endurance Planet Podcasts: EP offers several varieties, my favorite of which is “Sports Nutrition” (because obviously, I love that stuff!). “Ask the Coaches” has good running and triathlon information, and “Ask the Ultrarunner” and “Ask the Doctor” are just like they sound. Tawnee, the host, is knowledgeable and fun, and makes it feel like a three-part conversation (with her, the expert, and you). Topic: training for endurance sports. Length: 20-60 minutes. Frequency: probably 3-4 per week across all varieties.
- (*May 2014 update: since I initially published this, the initial #5 podcasts, For the Love of Food, seems to have discontinued. So I’m including a new favorite here!) The Wellness Wonderland! If you want to be inspired by amazing people sharing their top tips on how to motivate yourself, accomplish your dreams, and feel inspired, then listen up! Wellness Wonderland host Katie’s genuine enthusiasm for sharing inspiration never fails to make me smile and leave feeling ready to take on the world! Topic: inspiration for life, health, and entrepreneurship. Length: about an hour. Frequency: weekly
- Nutrition Diva’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Eating Well and Feeling Fabulous: This podcast is the smart version of a Shape, Fitness, or Self magazine (no hate – I read all of those, although sometimes I disagree with their approach!) in that it covers trendy, obscure, eye-catching topics … but in an educated and informed way. I always turn to the Nutrition Diva when another podcast ends and I still have a little ways to go on my run. Topic: nutrition. Length: <10 minutes. Frequency: about every week.
- Slate Political Gabfest: Well, this is clearly the outlier! I have no intention of turning this into a political blog (or discussion), just keeping it real! I like listening to this on Monday mornings because it gives me informed, logical thoughts on three important current events each week. Emily, John, and David are fun to listen to and keep the mood light-hearted (and try to be relatively balanced). They do a good job of helping me flesh out my own thoughts by agreeing or disagreeing with theirs. Topic: politics, current events. Length: just <1 hour. Frequency: weekly, usually on Fridays.
*Side note: this post came about as my iPod died in my last few miles of my Saturday long run (which was cut a bit short, as you may have seen on Instagram). I was sure it was just out of batteries, but it died again in the first mile of my Monday morning run. Now I’m stuck out of town for work, dealing with (gasp!) a full week of workouts with no distractions. It’s a challenge, but it’s definitely good for me! And after you try out my list of podcasts, you should give a distraction-free work out a go, too! So tell me in the comments … do you use “distractions” when you work out? Do you have any great podcasts to add to my list?