Whether you’re training for your first 5K or your zillionth marathon, one thing is undeniable: Your go-to running playlist is about to get really old, really fast. Don’t get me wrong—I love a good Justin Timberlake bop as much as the next girl. But after weeks of pounding the pavement to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” on repeat, I’m totally burned out.
Thank the heavens for podcasts. Nothing gets me motivated to tackle a long run like the promise of witty banter, inspirational life lessons, or nerve-racking murder trials. And because podcasts are best consumed fresh, I’ve been asking some of my favorite runners for their picks to add to my queue. Here are some of their tips for what to listen to the next time you lace up those sneakers.
There’s something about endurance athletes that seems superhuman, so it’s no wonder we can’t get enough of hearing about their day-to-day practices. Nike’s new podcast delves into the real lives of extraordinary athletes and wellness leaders, starting with 2017 NYC marathon champ Shalane Flanagan. It’s encouraging to hear the pros talk about how they have rough training days too (hey, don’t we all?) and how they push through. The episodes also have helpful nuggets of information about the science of endurance and tips for using your mindset to affect your performance, which definitely applies to life both inside and outside the gym.
Curious about the history of plastic straws? An obscure punctuation mark called the “interrobang”? This podcast covers it all in episodes that are around 30 minutes long, which is just enough time for a quick weekday jog. I’ve learned so much random information that I’ve gone on to share with friends or at parties—basically, you’ll feel like a straight-up genius, or at least first-picked for the team at trivia night. I also love the editing and pace of this one, and it keeps me interested from start to finish.
The premise is simple—entrepreneurs talk about how they built their companies from the ground up. My friend, Michelle, who has several marathons under her belt, loves this podcast because she says it’s a metaphor for running: There’s a specific goal each person sets out to achieve, and they (very literally) create something new by the end of it. It leaves you with that same sense of accomplishment you feel when you’ve finished a great training run.
Our associate fitness editor, Jamey, clued me into this one—it’s perfect for super-long runs as the episodes are usually around two hours long. Rich Roll, vegan endurance athlete and author, interviews wellness leaders about everything from meditation to gut health. Rich is insightful and really knows his stuff, and he’s a pro at getting his guests to share what makes life meaningful for them. You’ll come back from your run feeling enlightened and probably inspired to pick up a new healthy habit.
You may remember Kelly Roberts from her viral half-marathon selfies with hot guys during the New York City half-marathon in 2014. She’s since gone on to launch her own brand and start a podcast, where she shares her running journey and whatever goal she’s working toward (right now, it’s qualifying for the Boston Marathon). This podcast is my go-to because it’s the perfect mix of humor and serious motivational material—it’s like a personalized pep talk that will put you in a guaranteed good mood, no matter how tough your run.
This one’s for all you crime junkies out there. Criminal isn’t just about murders and mysteries, although that’s certainly an undercurrent. It dives into the dark depths of the criminal justice system, showing you a side you’d never expect. Host Phoebe Judge (yep, that’s her name, and she also has one of the best voices for audio I’ve ever heard) interviews everyone from trauma surgeons to prosecutors that were involved, directly or peripherally, in the justice system. The result is often chilling, sometimes disturbing, but definitely something you won’t be able to turn off.
If you’re a historian at heart, you’ll love this creative way to learn about people and events from the past. The stories range from informative to hilarious to just plain bizarre, but I geek out over them and often end up in a dark hole of random Google searches about little-known historical events. The two hosts, Holly and Tracy, play off each other in a way that keeps things fresh and new, without feeling like a chapter of your old high-school textbook. It’s so entertaining it almost feels like a work of fiction, perfect for when you’re trying to crank out that last mile.
Ever wonder what the CEO of Flywheel, Jennifer Lopez’s personal trainer, and the founder of a motorcycle shop have in common? They’ve all overcome what host Emily Abbate calls a “hurdle” by leaning into wellness as a source of strength. The episodes are awesome interviews with super-successful people, and they span a bunch of different industries. Each person’s “hurdle” moment is a great reminder that you never truly know what someone’s going through—even when it looks like they’ve got it all figured out. With a hefty dose of inspiration and relatability, who knows—you might even be convinced to start your own company by the end of your run.
Sarah Ellis is a grad student, runner, writer, and very bad dancer. Right this very second, she’s probably drinking kombucha and pretending chocolate is a health food (because it is, duh).