Why You Should Start Listening To Podcasts While Running

Running is prime ‘me’ time. You can forget about the world and focus on you, your feet and the pavement in front of you. But have you ever thought of swapping out the motivational Spotify playlist for something a little more educational? Maybe you should – if you want to be more creative, productive and mindful, that is.

Music can be a great tool for distraction, especially when you’re exercising – it can even go as far as to improve your performance. But there’s a new kid on the audio block that might just blow listening to music out of the water.

The Washington Post recently spoke to Chris Friesen, an author and clinical psychologist specialising in sport and performance psychology, about how listening to podcasts and audiobooks while running could increase creativity and mindfulness.

Here’s a few reasons why you should be incorporating podcasts into your regular running routine.

How the brain works when running

When you’re learning a new skill, like swimming or skating, you’re activating the conscious part of your brain that allows information to function and be processed. Once you get the hang of this new routine (like running, for instance) the more non-conscious or automatic aspects of the brain take over.


In other words, you’ve effectively created all this space in your brain for processing ideas and thoughts. So with the added healthy dose of dopamine and seratonin to your bloodstream (i.e. a symptom of running) you’re primed for creative thinking.

“When you run, you create space in your brain for processing ideas, either your own ideas or the ideas of others,” says Friesen. So if your brain is primed to absorb and process new information, you can knock two birds out with one stone: get your exercise in while improving your knowledge and creative thinking. Who has time to do both separately?

Podcasts > music

People listen to music while running for a number of reasons – whether that be for motivation, as a mood enhancer or even as a distracting tool. Even without music, Friesen says, running can put you in the right state of mind to solve problems and think creatively. “Your brain is going to have lots of cognitive space available,” he says. “You can use the cognitive space to learn something new, or to plan out your days, or just wait for that great idea or solution to pop into your head.”

So if we capitalise on this trend by listening to podcasts and audiobooks, we’re actively encouraging creative thinking, new ideas and new attitudes. Hooray!


Sidebar: Repetitive movements such as running and swimming can also put your mind into a meditative state, wherein negative thoughts or worries can come to the forefront, so it’s often good to acknowledge those feelings for what they are and then take control. Practicing mindfulness while running is effectively like taking part in two of the most natural anti-anxiety and antidepressant practices at once, Friesen says.

It’s multitasking at its best

Many people have a hard time fitting in activities like exercise or reading, so it’s great when you can knock two things out at once. Friesen says listening to podcasts or audiobooks is a great way to be doubly productive.

Pro-tip: Friesen listens to his podcasts and audiobooks on a higher speed, not only to absorb as much information as possible, but also to motivate himself to pick up the pace. When information is being broadcast at a glacial pace, you’re more inclined to take your time and not push yourself. But if your audiobook is being played back at a higher speed, you’re soaking up information fast and you have the ability to find a pace with the narrator. Genius.

9 podcasts to keep your brain and your body moving

If you’re keen but not sure where to start, here are nine podcasts to get those brain juices flowing:


We’ve waxed lyrical about this podcast before (and even got a shout out from the girls) but the brilliance of Invisibilia lies in its subject matter. NPR’s Invisibilia podcast analyses those ‘invisible’ things within ourselves that govern our behaviour – like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. This podcast is like one long journey to self-discovery, with fascinating, emotional and surprising results.

This American Life

Arguably the series that put podcasts on the map, This American Life is about relationships, experiences, emotions and everything in between. Flipping between storytelling, journalism, comedy and oral essays, This American Life is a captivating journey into the life of someone else. Hosted by cult hero Ira Glass and running for over two decades now, the series remains a mainstay in contemporary cultural commentary.


Radiolab is for curious people. It masterfully weaves stories about science and philosophy with sound and music-rich audio-spheres. The boundaries blur between both storytelling and human experience and it’s just a wonderful way to engross yourself in another world.

Reply All

Hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, Reply All is a show about the Internet. But more specifically, it’s a podcast that tells captivating and beautiful stories about the human existence, that just so happen to have bits of technology sprinkled in. It’s baffling, interesting but most of all, a lot of fun.

You Must Remember This

If you’ve ever wanted to know the secret history of old-world Hollywood, this is for you. You Must Remember This dived deep (and I mean deep) into Hollywood’s early years, traversing topics as wide reaching as the post-war Blacklist to Charles Manson. Host Karina Longworth has a background in film criticism and it shows – this is like one big trip down memory lane, accented by old clips, music and stories of debauchery and scandal.

Stuff You Should Know

With topics as diverse as ‘How gossip works’ and ‘Why do lefties exist?’ the Stuff You Should Know podcast is made for inquisitive minds. Alongside it’s excellent companion podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You, listeners get a fascinating look at the science and history behind trends, ideas and more. Expect a few ‘Aha!’ moments with this one.


Stephen J. Dubner hosts this weekly podcast that dives into the hidden side of everything. From surprising conversations that explore the madness of everyday life to the weird riddles of human nature – everything from crime to parenting, aeroplanes to sports. Choose your pick from over a decade of podcasts and get lost in your imagination.

You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes

If you’ve ever been fed up with celebrity interviews being too brief, then this is the perfect antidote. You Made It Weird is a semi-weekly interview podcast hosted by comedian Pete Holmes where guests can get up close and personal about complex topics like comedy, religion and sexuality. With episodes usually spanning over two hours, Pete has an uncanny ability to form loose conversation with anyone, and there’s something remarkably cool about hearing your favourite comedians talk about their personal lives and their time in the industry.

Optimize With Brian Johnson: More Wisdom in Less Time

These episodes — including two- to three-minute ‘Micro Classes’ — are definitely in the category of self-help. There’s an array of selections and topics you can scroll through – pick one to get in-depth discussions with professionals that include strategies you can use. His guests include authors, New York Times columnists, psychologists, scientists and other great thinkers. The longer episodes can be broken up into chunks and saved for long runs or even car rides to races to get you in a creative mind-set.

h/t The Washington Post

Rebecca Russo is a freelance writer, editor, community radio dabbler, occasional hiker and celebrity autobiography enthusiast. She has written for online publications including Junkee, AWOL, Fashion Journal and Tone Deaf. Find her online here.