The 13 Best Podcast Episodes for Distracting Yourself During a Long Run
On cabin porn, the future of the NFL, Dax Shepard's mom and more
Welcome to The Workout From Home Diaries. Throughout our national self-isolation period, we’ll be sharing single-exercise deep dives, offbeat belly-busters and general get-off-the-couch inspiration that doesn’t require a visit to your (now-shuttered) local gym.
I don’t watch Westworld, but I’m a fan of its music. The show’s score is composed by 46-year-old German Ramin Djawadi, who kept Game of Thrones sounding spectacular even as plot holes and Starbucks cups mounted. He’s also got credits on Prison Break, Person of Interest and Jack Ryan. For Westworld, he has a habit of reimagining old hits from Guns N’ Roses and Radiohead as bombastic, gently crescendoing orchestral sets. Last week, he upcycled The Weekend’s 2011-hit “Wicked Games.”
As a general rule, I listen to music on runs four miles or less. Short-distance runs are the ideal arena for surges, hill workouts and “tempo runs” (which are as close as runners get to simulating their race pace in everyday training). In other words, they’re fast, and quick miles thrive on musical motivation. I will unashamedly admit that I listened to Djawadi’s “Wicked Games” rendition back-to-back-to-back over a punchy three-and-half-miler last Wednesday. I was a mess by the end of the run, but for a few minutes during the middle miles there, I felt like Simba returning to the The Pride Lands.
When I’m running longer, slower miles, though — which is most of the time; overloading on speedwork invariably means a trip to the orthopedist — I turn to podcasts. As runs lengthen, the focus shifts from gutted-out, damned-if-I-don’t warfare to measured efficiency, to acceptance and rhythm. Music can still work in that context, obviously; there are countless albums out there with tracks well-suited for putting one step in front of another. But I prefer to pair long runs with podcasts. I like how the length — 30 minutes to well over an hour — can overlay the entire experience. I like how it keeps me from searching for songs at a stop light, and the way those little, familiar voices in my head, debating mundane government policy or rowdy cinematic hypotheticals, distract me from the pain in my legs, the gasp in my throat, the knowledge that running is an elaborate construct and really, I can stop whenever I like.
Runners and non-runners often like to discuss the fabled “runner’s high.” Is it real? What does it feel like? How far would I have to run to experience it? I’ve felt sensations of euphoria a couple rare times on Sunday morning 12-milers, running through leafy, hilly towns without sidewalks. But I’ve also felt like utter crap on those same roads. Instead of chasing a high, I’d argue, runners should embrace runs that feel like nothing at all. Distraction is a valuable tool in any realm of fitness; the ability to float through work, and even learn (or laugh — just be prepared for a few sputtered breaths in the moments just after) during a run is invaluable. The catch, of course, is knowing what to hit play on in the first place.
To that end, InsideHook’s editorial team offers our favorite podcasts. You can listen to these anywhere, of course — we’ll be none the wiser if you crank them while cooking or from the couch. But in the spirit of (safely and responsibly) getting some fresh air over the next couple weeks, try streaming one on a patiently-paced jog. From ruminations on cabin porn and the future of the NFL to discussions with Robin Williams and Dax Shepard’s mom, see our picks below.
“The world has no shortage of true crime podcasts, but for my money, Casefile — hosted by an anonymous Aussie with an excellent Down Under drawl who longtime listeners affectionately refer to as “Casey” — is the best. And while Casefile‘s focus on grisly crimes in Australia and the UK that never received much publicity stateside are what drew me to it in the first place, I’d still suggest the tale of Amy Allwine (episode 86) as an ideal jumping off point — religion, affairs, murder-for-hire and bitcoin in Minnesota’s Twin Cities for the win.” — Danny Agnew, Creative Director
“The premise is strange, I’ll admit: The Intercept (the news site known for the Snowden leaks) used its podcast to release an audio version of Wallace Shawn’s dystopian play (yes, Wallace “Inconceivable!” Shawn). But audio dramas are back in a big way, and this was my personal gateway into them. It’s addicting, eerie and features grade-A voice actors including Matthew Broderick, Larry Pine, Claudia Shear and Shawn himself. It’s one show but split into three parts, so feel free to do it all in one go or use each segment for shorter runs.” — Alex Lauer, Senior Editor
“Ologies is a fantastic podcast. I’d recommend it to literally anyone. It’s hosted by Allie ‘Dad’ Ward, who interviews all types of -ologists about any and every study one could conceive. My personal favorite is her interview with Dale Mulfinger on Cabinology, or, the science of Cabin Porn.” — Mike Falco, Art Director
“Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert typically features interviews with celebrities, comedians, journalists and authors, but for a two-and-a-half-hour episode in 2018, the host sat down with his own mother to talk about her life and reflect on his childhood. It’s a surprisingly moving episode, and Labo is remarkably frank about her experiences with domestic violence, life as a single mom, struggles with depression and the recent death of her husband. It sounds dark, but Shepard and Labo have a shared sense of humor, and they bring moments of levity — including a conversation of just how ugly a baby Shepard was — to the episode as well.” — Bonnie Stiernberg, Senior Editor
“Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend is the probably only podcast on the planet where the advertisements are required listening. No brand is safe. During a paid spot for Bombas compression socks, Conan told a story about personally sweat-disintegrating gray athletic socks in the 1980s, then chuckled at the brand’s strategic zone-cushioning technology: ‘Thank god, I was about to leave the country.’ The show — full of delightfully loose, useless improv and searing conversations with special guests — stands in sharp contrast to Conan’s late night slot on TBS; he gets to wear a T-shirt (as he reminds listeners once in a while) and he’s actually happy at work (as he reminds listeners constantly). A recent episode with Jim Gaffigan was my personal favorite. It starts with Gaffigan making fun of grown men who still claim to have best friends, devolves into underrepresented It’s a Wonderful Life impressions (‘You do Mr. Martini? Nobody does Mr. Martini!’) and concludes with a discussion on whether college kids drink as much as they used to.” — Tanner Garrity, Associate Editor
” I Don’t Care If This Ruins My Life hosts Patrick Kindlon and Ian Shelton each have family members in the prison system. On Traumarama, both speak on how that fact influenced their lives and creative careers, from the difficulty of having a frequent-flier father, to spending thousands of dollars just so a brother could hear new music. The episode is at times sobering and funny, but it never stops being real.” — John Hill, Social Media Manager
“Whether you’re a football fan or hate the game with a passion, you should care at least a little bit about where the game is going in the future because, if for no other reason, the return of the NFL this fall may be representative of a return to normalcy for the country in general. This excellent Radiolab podcast from 2015 examines where football may be going by breaking down — not with Xs and Os — where it’s been. As it turns out, the origin story of football in the U.S. is about as American as you can get — Native American to be specific.” — Evan Bleier, Senior Editor
“One of my less popular opinions is that, while I ride hard for Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, I always found Robin Williams’s comedy to be, at best, kind of annoying and, at worst, weirdly dated and homophobic? Am I the only person who thinks it was super weird that his go-to schtick was basically … gay voice? His standup felt try-hardy, and his appearances on talk shows just seemed like a nightmare for everyone involved. But then after he died in 2014, Marc Maron re-aired this interview with him from 2010, and I was shocked by what I heard: Williams was quiet, speaking barely above a whisper, as he detailed his struggles with addiction and depression with such openness and so much self-awareness that it was chilling. Over the course of the hourlong conversation, his considerable intellect is evident, but so is his kindness and generosity of spirit. Granted, not a whole lot of people needed to have their eyes opened about the comedian the way I did, but I imagine even the biggest fan would walk away from this with a greater understanding of him.” — Mike Conklin, Executive Editor
“More of a ‘shodcast’ than a podcast, in the creator’s own words, Eating Alone in My Car is pretty much what it sounds like. Host, writer and reigning queen of internet sadness Melissa Broder eats alone in her car and offers her signature reflections on life, death, romantic obsession and the void. In this particularly pivotal episode, Broder is actually eating alone in a hotel room in Paris, where she grapples with the inherent sadness of the passage of time, the fact that fantasy isn’t reality, and the ephemeral nature of beauty — but not like a college professor teaching ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ to a freshman English class. Like the best of Broder’s work, it’s funny, it’s sad and it captures a profound universal truth in a way that feels unassuming and almost accidental. A more polished version of the events Broder recounts in the episode later appeared in this New York Times essay, immortalizing the episode as a rare, behind-the-scenes look into the mind of an artist (and her smoked salmon) at work.” — Kayla Kibbe, Associate Editor
“For those familiar with ‘The Only Podcast That Matters,’ you know the guys have a rapid-fire way of spitting out hilarious questions that might throw their guests that want to talk about style. In this case, the dudes talk to Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig for 111 minutes (there’s even more to hear for the show’s Patreon subscribers), and it’s one of the funniest, but also most illuminating and engaging conversations on style that you’ll probably ever hear on a podcast.” — Jason Diamond, Features Editor
“A bad movie takedown by actor/comedians Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas, the show is fine when the trio (and usually a special guest or two) records it from a home studio. But the live version brings out the best in the show, particularly the crowd participation — which is either great or cringeworthy — and heightens the role of each host. Scheer becomes the oddball, Raphael the voice of reason (and yet complete ignoramus on all things genre-related) and Mantzoukas amps up the R-rated banter. We like the August 2019 episode taped in Los Angeles with guest Casey Wilson because it presents the first real conflict on the series, where two of the hosts and half the audience end up loving the film (Drop Dead Fred) and others, correctly, find it incredibly disturbing.” — Kirk Miller, Managing Editor
“If you wanted to listen to three bros talk in depth about The OC, aka the greatest show in the world, by some miracle there is a podcast for you. The three bros in question — Cameo co-founder Devon Spinnler, Youtuber Cody Ko and Sam Shots — watch and discuss every episode of the iconic 2003 teen drama. The podcast actually started back in 2017 under a different name, but was rebooted just last week, making it the only piece of good news I’ve received in a month. It’s silly and gets insanely off topic, but gives me a well-needed laugh and reminds us all what a fucking GOAT Sandy Cohen was.” — Logan Mahan, Editorial Assistant
“I listen almost exclusively to talking-head podcasts about the Premier League — Totally Football, Football Weekly and Arsecast, if you’re into that kind of thing — but those are all terrible answers to this question. Then I was gonna name my favorite episode of This American Life (No. 575: ‘The Poetry of Propaganda’), but that would’ve been the most basic shit of all time. So instead I will leave you with an episode of A24’s highly occasional podcast, which typically features filmmakers and writers in conversation with one another. Their most recent episode, released in December (like I said, highly occasional), features my favorite current American director, Paul Thomas Anderson, talking to my favorite up-and-coming American directors, Josh and Benny Safdie. The greatest thing about it is that the trio are completely untethered from a moderator, and thus free to digress into maddeningly dense and inscrutable back-and-forths about things like sound mixing, Robert Altman’s title sequences and shooting Adam Sandler with an anamorphic lens. It’s essential listening for any film nerd.” – Walker Loetscher, Editor in Chief
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.
Suggested for you