Press pause on your gym playlist and tune into a podcast during your next workout. The Manual spent countless hours on the treadmills and racks experimenting with the best podcasts for exercising.
The right podcast can distract your mind from your tired legs and the meathead hogging the machines (without distracting you enough to injure yourself). You’ll find yourself pushing harder, lasting longer, and walking out of the gym with a refreshed sense of productivity and personal fulfillment having learned something new. Here are our 16 favorites to listen to for recovery-day stretching, heavy lifting, and two-hour treadmill runs, featuring everyone from a Nike bigwig to a bunch of dudes who like to drink together.
Motivation and Fitness
Imagine going on a fun run with the senior director of performance at Nike, Ryan J. Flaherty. That’s Trained, the free Nike podcast that helps you run farther, eat better, and forget how badly your thighs are burning. The episodes tackle “holistic fitness,” including movement, recovery, sleep, nutrition, and mindset, with insights from everything between Shalane Flanagan to Arianna Huffington to Michael B. Jordan and his trainer. You’ll find yourself going another lap to finish the episode.
The Art of Charm
With more than 11,000 reviews and a five-star rating on iTunes, it’s safe to say The Art of Charm is a damn good motivational and self-improvement podcast. The archive of 300-plus episodes (and counting) taps into the secrets self-motivated people rely on to “master human dynamics, relationships, and [become] your best self.” Dig into the science of human behavior and reap the rewards of flexing your muscles and habits at the same time.
The world of lifting is split open and discussed by insanely smart exercise physiologists, competitive bodybuilders, strength coaches, and everyone between, but in a non-snooty, guys-grabbing-beers demeanor. Expect to learn a ton about the nutrition, training, coaching, and overall psychology of lifting a ton of weight and getting super buff.
Mind Pump: Raw Fitness Truths
It’s a little on the corny side, but with more than 40 years of fitness experience between the hosts, Mind Pump tackles fitness hype trends and strips them to science-based “truths” for the purpose of helping you increase your muscular development and performance (aka, the reason you’re running in the first place). Learn about Spartan vs CrossFit, how to eat to gain muscle, the best ab workouts, and more.
Music and Media
Insane true crimes, fire-starting antics, and drug benders of the most iconic musicians of all time — close your mouth or you’ll drool all over the bench press while listening to Disgracelend. Here are the derelict stories about music gods being bizarre, dangerous, and out-of-this-world, like Sid Vicious, Tupac Shakur, The Rolling Stones, and Rick James.
Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend
Conan O’Brien brings his uncanny ability to chit-chat with celebs to the audio space in his new (as of October 2018) podcast, where he talks to celebrity “friends” and figures to find out if they really are homies or just celebrity connections. With only 11 episodes so far, this podcast has mega star power, including guests Kristen Bell, Bill Burr, Dax Shepard, Nick Offerman, Wanda Sykes, and Will Ferrell.
Let’s agree that we all love good TV shows and movies, especially when they’re ripe for analysis. The Ringer’s weekly podcast, The Rewatchables, is our favorite TV show and movie break-down, featuring a rotating group of hosts that rewatch and report back on classics like Old School, Con Air, True Romance, Jaws, Point Break, and more. Did I mention Bill Simmons runs the discussion? Not only will your mind be engaged, but you’ll also be laughing and in a good mood, making the run better overall.
Only have 20 minutes for a quick sweat sesh? Queue up Dissect, the serialized music podcast from Spotify Studios that “forensically” dissects one song per episode, lyric by lyric, bar by bar, in a slow yet punchy way that will elevate your appreciation of music, whether it’s Bad Religion or Frank Ocean.
Still have 20 minutes but prefer hearing musicians talk about their own work? Swap Dissect for the Song Exploder podcast and learn how your favorite artists, like Fleetwood Mac and Big Boi, created their bangers. Here’s an interview with the founder for more details on the show.
Your #workoutwednesday would not complete without TigerBelly, a weekly podcast from comedian Bobby Lee. You’ll learn about ecstasy daddies, deforestation, prison bartering, pet lizards, shroom tripping, tamale festivals, haunted mazes… just go listen to an episode already. Your gym hours will fly by.
In The Rabbit Hole: Urban Survival
If there’s one thing that motivates us to add another 10 pounds to the press it’s the thought of post-apocalyptical survival and outrunning (or punching) brain-eating zombies. Get this motivation from In The Rabbit Hole, a fun survival podcast that covers both mundane and insane survival theories, experts, and believers. Episodes range in duration from 15 minutes to more than one hour.
My Favorite Murder
True crime meets comedy in this massively successful weekly podcast featuring fanatics and besties Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. If you’re like most of the population and love true crime, these local stories of murder and crime should satisfy your bizarre interest. If you leave the gym wanting more blood and mystery, get a penpal here.
The NoSleep Podcast
When every mile feels like an eternity, tune into The NoSleep Podcast and distract your mind with terrifying horror stories that could also raise your heart rate and burn more calories. From the first few seconds, the ominous mood is set. Before you know it an hour or two has passed and the elliptical is booting you off. This multi-award-winning series makes indoor workouts easier, but walking to your car in the desolate gym parking lot harder.
The Dave Portnoy Show
I could listen to El Pres talk for days, which is great because The Dave Portnoy Show is a long (two to three hours) weekly sports and culture podcast blending the “best of” Barstool Sports coverage with excerpts from Sirius XM segments. This podcast is hilarious, informed, conversational, and optimal for a long treadmill or stair-climber session.
Power through your workout knowing a post-flex beer and homie hangout is within reach. Drinkin’ Bros is like spending time with your outspoken friends while you’re at the gym. Gruff, funny, and testosterone-rich, hosts Ross Patterson, Mat Best, Jarred Taylor, and Evan Hafer post twice weekly, blending energetic yet chill conversation with a range of special guests from former Navy Seals to NFL players.
Beards, Booze, and Bacon
The name should tell you everything you need. Buff your man-skills while squatting and limp away sore with The Manual’s shared knowledge on cigars, homebrewing, racecar driving, leather working, and everything in between.