20 Podcast episodes to keep you company while you exercise

With lockdown restrictions tightening and the distance you can travel for exercise getting ever narrower, it might be that you are exercising alone a lot more at the moment. If, like me, you need a bit of extra motivation, a distraction, or just a bit of company while you are out on those solo stints, then read on.

Whether you are a walker, runner, cyclist on a turbo trainer, or former gym bunny swinging kettle bells at home alone, I’ve got your back for audio inspiration.

I’ve tried to select specific favourite episodes of podcasts for you sample to see if you like the style of the podcast and the hosts. For this reason I have gone for episodes that can be listened to in isolation (no pun intended), rather than full series such as the amazing S Town or Dolly Parton’s America (both worth a listen if you want something to sink your teeth into). In some cases I couldn’t resist recommending two episodes to try. There is a variety of styles and content here, so I have included a few lines about the episodes from the show notes so you know what you are letting yourself in for.

Enjoy and please do share your favourite podcast episodes with me, either in the comments below or on social media @lizzy_silverton

1. Mo Gawdat on How to Fail

This podcast episode got me through the first lockdown and I have recommended it to everyone since.

The discussion covers living with anxiety and isolation in a time of Coronavirus. Gawdat looks at how to handle negative thoughts and how to practise gratitude. He explores the concept of ‘committed acceptance’ which focuses on accepting the situation and, within that acceptance, working out what you can actively do to make life better.

It sounds intense, but I promise it is both comforting and thought provoking.

2. Glennon Doyle on Happy Place

Glennon Doyle is a name that has popped up in my podcast inbox a number of times lately. She is the author of New York Times bestsellers, Untamed, Love Warrior, and Carry On, Warrior. I haven’t yet read Untamed, but it has made it firmly onto my ‘to read’ list having listened to her talk about it in various interviews. It is described as ‘part memoir, part inspirational book’ and explores the joy and peace we discover when we stop striving to meet the expectations of the world, and instead listen to and trust in the voice deep inside us.

In this interview she covers everything from getting angry, to her battles with alcohol and body image as well as her personal journey of sexuality.

3. Phoebe Waller-Bridge on The Guilty Feminist

Listening to Phoebe Waller-Bridge always transports me to a happy place. She is such a compelling and thought provoking writer as well as being incredibly funny.

This episode of The Guilty Feminist was recorded at The Royal Albert Hall in December 2019. It is a great interview but does contain spoilers if you are yet to watch Fleabag season 2.

4. / 5. Plant Power with Dr Gemma Newman / Plastic Free Parenting with Emma Ross on Get Your Glow Back

Two episodes for you from the Get Your Glow Back podcast:

The first is an interview with Dr Gemma Newman aka the Plant Power Doctor. Gemma has been passionately bridging the gap between western medicine and holistic health for the past decade, educating both those in the medical field and her own patients. In this episode she offers her view on why eating a plant based diet might just be the best thing we can do for our health and how we can ensure we are getting the right nutrition from a vegan diet.

The second episode with Emma Ross is incredibly useful if you want to live sustainably, whether you a re parent or not. Ross is a London-based mum of 2. She is a sustainability guru and is incredibly passionate about low-waste, plastic free parenting. She strives to help, guide and inspire parents to a more sustainable life for our future generation.

The show notes also include inks to lots of sustainable products, clothes etc. some of which I’ve included below: reusable nappies by Bambino; fibre cloth Baby Wipes; food wraps (instead of clingfilm) by BeesWraps; Lucy & Yak; Jaggery; and for Kid’s clothes, rental: https://bundlee.co.uk; Monty and Co; Bulk food sources Suma and Riverfood.

6. Get A Spine! on This American Life

I love This American Life. It was the first podcast I listened to and I have subsequently listened to most episodes in their incredibly extensive archive. It was through This American Life that I discovered the incredible podcasts Serial and S Town (which are really worth investing time in if you haven’t already listened). I also love David Sedaris and he features regularly on the podcast with his life stories (enjoy a bonus one here).

I could have chosen any number of episodes from the archive, but have selected ‘Get a Spine!’, which tells stories of people standing up for themselves, shaking off their fear, bracing themselves, and doing what they’ve been scared to do.

7. / 8. The Power of Sport with Joshua Landmann / How to be you with Bryony Gordon on Fit and Fearless

Fit and Fearless is a great series to exercise to. Every episode is motivational and informative, while also being really easy to listen to. Again, there were many episodes I could have chosen.

In the first episode, para-triathlete Joshua Landmann shares his inspirational story of how sport and exercise helped him to overcome a life changing injury.

Landmann was left in a wheelchair after an accident in a swimming pool on holiday. In this uplifting and inspirational episode, he talks about his sporting career, what it was like to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres show and how he hoped to be selected for this Summer’s Paralympics in Tokyo.

In the second episode, best-selling author and journalist Bryony Gordon joins Tally, Zanna and Vic to discuss her new book, You Got This and shares her tips for how we can be ourselves, whether you’re a floodlight or a bedside lamp!

9. Prue Leith on Fortunately…with Fi and Jane

Fortunately is a funny kind of a podcast. I’d describe it more of a ramble than a sprint; if you listen you will know what I mean. However, it never fails to make me smile and always offers a cosy escape from the real world.

I loved this episode with Great British Bake Off judge, Prue Leith. Prue offers her insight on restaurants, fashion, trainers, leftovers and much more. It’s like a big hug in a podcast and a great episode to keep you company on a long solo walk in the park.

10. Philippa Perry on The Scummy Mummies Podcast

As a parent, a number of my recommendations do include parenting podcasts. But with many of these, the content has value beyond the mumming audience.

Philippa Perry is a brilliant psychotherapist and her book The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (And Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did), is useful in assessing both our own parenting styles, as well as the reasons we are the way we are.

In this episode she discusses why our childhood experiences are so important when it comes to bringing up our own kids and offers advice on managing screen time, giving praise, dealing with lying and helping kids when parents separate.

11. Michaela Coel on Grounded with Louis Theroux

Louis kicked off his Grounded podcast during the first lockdown and he has recently started the second series. All of the interviews are incredibly interesting, at times funny, insightful and thought provoking in different ways.

In the first episode of the new series, Louis interviews the incredible actor, writer and producer Michaela Coel. Their conversation covers everything from religion and speaking in tongues to sexual consent and suffering from ‘post-writum depression’ after the success of I May Destroy You.

12. Pandemic friendships and how to mend a broken heart on The High Low

Sadly The High Low drew to a close in December 2020. However, the archive is available to explore if you enjoy this episode. The concept is a mix of high and low culture, covering current affairs, TV, podcasts, books and more. Conversational episodes are interspersed with author specials and ‘back to school’ episodes, which offer amazing reading lists of fiction and non-fiction both recently published and old classics.

I really struggled to choose which episode to share, but I thought that this episode on pandemic friendships and how to mend a broken heart might strike a chord in the current climate.

13. Dr Susan David on The Rich Roll Podcast

Rich Roll is the master of the long form podcast. If you have a long run lined up, he is the guy for you. Episodes run upwards of 2 hours in many cases, so get ready for a deep dive.

I used to listen to every episode religiously, but I find now I prefer to dip in and out. When you find an episode that chimes with you, it is like stumbling on a goldmine of wisdom. Roll describes the podcast as a ‘master class in personal and professional development’. He is a plant-based ultra athlete, wellness evangelist and author.

I’ve dipped into the archive for this episode with Dr Susan David on emotional agility. This episode explores our ability to acknowledge and embrace the full spectrum of our emotions (be they joyful or sorrowful) and to approach them with ‘courage, compassion and curiosity’. It looks at our ability to manage these inner experiences and rather than allowing them to ‘hold us hostage’, so that we are able to ‘learn from them, evaluate the situations we face, be clear-sighted about our options’ and act in a way that is intentional, mindful and true to our values.

14. Adam Kay on Love Stories

Love Stories was a lovely self contained series of interviews, hosted by Dolly Alderton to tie in with the release of her book Everything I Know About Love. In these interviews Alderton talks to guests about their most defining relationships: the passion, heartbreak, longing, familiarity and fondness that have formed who they are.

I found her interview with author and former doctor Adam Kay incredibly insightful, funny and moving.

15. Careers Crossroads and Guilt on The Motherkind Podcast

Again, a mummy podcast nut just for mums. This episode of The Motherkind is with founders of the Step Up Club, Alice Olins and Phanella Mayall Fine. The Step Up Club is a modern voice in the women’s career conversation, in fact, Stylist Magazine said ‘it’s the only voice to listen to in the women’s career sphere’.

This wide-ranging conversation covers everything from career stories, working mum guilt, career crossroads, confidence and validation. So if you’re working and it isn’t working or you want to be working (something which applies to many of us at the moment I’m sure) then this episode is for you.

16. /17. David Epstein: Find your grit with the right fit and Lauren Fleshman: Can you feel satisfied and sill get better? on Running For Real

Again two episodes to choose from the Running for Real podcast:

The first episode is with writer and researcher David Epstein who explores specialisation in both sport and life in general. He asks, do the best athletes become the best because they specialise at an early age? Or do they become the best because they choose not to specialise? And what does this means for us and they way we approach sports, our careers and the way we raise our families?

In a specialised world, should we be concerned with spreading ourselves too thin over a variety of interests? Or do we find by specialising we invest so much time and energy into one thing that we leave ourselves tied to it forever for fear that in giving up we have a debt of sunk costs to repay to ourselves?

The second episode is with Lauren Fleshman, former American Champion in track and field, long-distance runner, violinist, activist, blogger, mum, coach and businesswoman.

It looks at how we can marry our long terms goals with living in the present. How can we set goals and push ourselves to the limit while also embracing the now? The conversations covers Fleshman’s career as an athlete, her stances on social media, equality, and motherhood. These life lessons will prepare you for life, both as a runner and as a human.

18. The new abnormal on I’m Absolutely Fine

A short and sweet taste of I’m Absolutely Fine, which is currently my favourite podcast. This podcast is the antidote to lockdown fatigue and positivity overload.

If you think you are going crazy during this pandemic and you need cheering up while you lift your weights or go out for a little trot, this episode is for you.

19. Sarah Davidson on the Sam Gash Podcast

I’ve only recently discovered the Sam Gash Podcast, but having listened to a couple of episodes I can tell that I’m going to dig back into the archive.

I really enjoyed this episode with Sarah Davidson ‘lawyer turned funtrepreneur’. This conversation is a reflection of the 12 year relationship between Sarah and Sam and reflects how they have supported and challenged each other in their careers.

Sarah and her husband Nic Davidson started Matcha Maiden – an organic matcha green tea company. The brand sky rocketed through the use of social media and Sarah’s amazing ability and connection. Within 6 months it gained the attention of US retailed Urban Outfitters – which was the trigger for Sarah to leave her job in law to jumped head and feet first into the business. She is the co-founder of Matcha Mylkbar – a vegan inspired café. The host of globally renowned podcast Seize the Yay and most recently an author to Seize the Yay.

This conversation discusses how Sarah revamped her metric of ‘success’, creating a brand as a reflection of her most authentic self, learning how to create milestones and celebrate the small successes, her mantras of ‘Dreaming Big but Planning Small’, ‘Done is better than perfect’ and how to change your default settings.

20. Emma Gannon on Cast Away: The Podcast About Podcasts

I wanted to bring this post about podcast recommendations to a close with Cast Away, which is a new podcast discovery for me. Hosted by broadcaster, performer and podcast lover Laura Whitmore, it is aimed at uncovering the best podcasts by interviewing a celebrity guest every week about what they’re listening to. Whether you’re looking for podcasts about mental health, comedy, love, crime or your next fictional series to binge listen to, Laura’s guests have got you covered.

I was tempted to include the Dolly Alderton episode here (not least as she mentions Soul Music which is one of my favourite Radio 4 shows), but for fear that she has already had two mentions already – as host of The High Low and Love Stories – I’ve gone with Emma Gannon.

Emma started out the hugely popular Ctrl Alt Delete podcast back in 2016 and has been interviewing guests such as Elizabeth Gilbert, Ava DuVernay and Gillian Anderson on their careers and the choices they have made ever since. From the wonderfully warm and conversational shows like Nobody Panic to the thought provoking like Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us and In Writing with Hattie Crisell, Emma shares the podcasts that saw her through this very strange year.

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