Our lovely collaborator Hannah the Runner talks podcasts to us…

Over the past year I have occasionally mentioned podcasts on Facebook and I always get someone asking “so how do you listen to podcasts?”. Now, I’m not an expert, and I can’t claim to have been an early adopter, but I do love a podcast, so if it’s something you’ve heard of or never tried, read on!

I was introduced to podcasts by my running buddy who is much trendier than me, possibly because she has teenagers, but more probably because she’s just naturally cool whereas I’m not. Cool or not, I quickly decided that podcasts was one trend I could happily embrace and that’s because they’re the perfect companion for a solo run. I know some people love music when they run, but not me. The rhythm of the music overrides the rhythm of my legs and I end up feeling all out of time and off-beat. Having someone chat to me, make me laugh or tell me a story is sooooooo much better.

Perhaps we should start by going back to basics and defining a podcast:

podcast

/ˈpɒdkɑːst/

noun

noun: podcast; plural noun: podcasts

  1. a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

Thank you, Google.

Podcasts range from the sublime to the ridiculous and all points in between. There are squillions of them! There are interviews and panel shows, dramas and documentaries, comedies and true crime. Some are slick, professionally produced or presented by famous voices; others are more low-budget productions dreamt up by enthusiastic amateurs. And be warned, some are not suitable for listening to in front of children, though there are usually warnings at the start.

To listen to a podcast you need a device like a smartphone or iPad and a connection to the internet. Start by downloading a podcast app. If you’ve got an iPhone the Apple Podcast app will probably be pre-installed. This is the app I use and it works fine as far as I can see. There’s also acast, Stitcher, Pocket Cast, Downcast, Spotify (yes, it does podcasts as well as music). The BBC have recently launched BBC Sounds – reviews are mixed at the moment, but watch this space. As with other apps there’s a range of free and paid.

The apps are simple to get started with. Search for the podcast you want (see below for some recommendations to get you started) and you’ll have a few options: you can play the latest episode, download it for later, subscribe to that podcast (so each time there’s a new episode you’ll get it automatically), see “best of” episodes or all available episodes.

Different apps have different features, of course. Some to look out for are:

  • Sleep timer so you can nod off while listening;
  • Ability to build a playlist or queue of different podcasts and episodes;
  • Recommendations based on what you listen and subscribe to;
  • Automatic downloads of new episodes when you’re connected to wifi;
  • Extra media alongside the podcast like photos, links and notes about things mentioned in the episode.

So, when you can’t run with a friend or a group, and you need something to distract you from tired legs or wandering thoughts, why not pick one of these to take with you. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and in a month’s time I’d probably select a totally different bunch, but here are a few of my favourites (most of them are people having a chat because that’s what I like!):

The Scummy Mummies Podcast

This is Kids of Bath, so let’s start with something parenting-related. Ellie and Helen are two mums trying to survive parenthood in any way they can. They have a range of different guests from Matthew Ashton (the bloke off Lego Masters) to Didi Conn (Frenchy from Grease), Ed Miliband to Jenny Eclair. Recent episodes have covered how to drink less and why swearing is good for you. This podcast is for mums whose lives don’t belong on Pinterest. That’s my tribe!

Griefcast

Cariad Lloyd’s award winning podcast has been a surprise hit. In each episode she talks to a celebrity or public figure who has lost someone close to them about death and grief. Every episode is different. Some are quietly thought provoking, others will have you laughing out loud and crying hot tears within the same minute. An absolutely brilliant approach to a taboo topic that we could all benefit from discussing more openly, but not one to binge on unless you need a deep wallow in your sad place.

The Guilty Feminist

As host Deborah Frances White says at the start of every show The Guilty Feminist is “a podcast in which we explore our noble goals as twenty-first-century feminists and the hypocrisies and insecurities which undermine them”. Every show begins with the panel sharing their guilty confessions which always begin “I’m a feminist, but…”

If you’re concerned that a podcast with “feminist” in the title will be too worthy, fear not. It’s top-notch comedy! Give it a try.

Bryony Gordon’s Mad World

We all have mental health just as we all have physical health, so in the same way that we get physical ill health any of us can get mental ill health. In a series of fascinating interviews Bryony Gordon explores different conditions with someone who has lived experience of it – from anxiety to depression, PTSD to OCD, bipolar disorder to psychosis. Her guest span all walks of life, backgrounds and ages. Thought provoking and life affirming stuff!

Happy Place

In this podcast Fearne Cotton talks to people about what they do to stay happy. Spoiler alert: running features quite a bit!

RHLSTP

If you’re of a certain age Richard Herring may well have featured in your youth. His podcast is recorded in front of a live audience and his guests are a mix of comedians and well-known characters. If you enjoy surreal and meandering conversations then give this a listen. I particularly recommend the Brian Blessed episode from April 2018. It’s AMAZING!

So, have a dabble and see what you think, and if you stumble across something you’d recommend then I’d love to hear about it. Now I’m off to catch up on The Archers. Told you I wasn’t very cool.