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Best Interval Timers and Apps in 2022

 

Owing to its ability to help you work out more efficiently and see faster results, interval training has gained well-deserved popularity with runners at all levels of experience.

In addition, run/walk intervals have proven to be the best way for beginners to learn to run. This method, popularized by Jeff Galloway, is used in most Couch to 5k (C25k) beginner training programs, like this one!

Unfortunately, it can be challenging to keep track of when it’s time to switch between intervals while trying to focus on your run. That’s why we’ve reviewed the best interval timers and apps, which take care of the logistics, leaving you to reap the benefits of interval training with less pressure.

If you’re short on time, we recommend the Gymboss Minimax interval timer. It’s simple to use, you can save up to 20 different programs, and you can program complex intervals for just about any intervals you want.

Check them all out and choose yours if you’re into interval training!

collage of interval timers and apps

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Gymboss miniMAX

 

  • Numerous interval options
  • Inexpensive
  • Clip-on or use with wrist strap
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Seconds App

 

  • Pre-made intervals
  • Custom intervals
  • Easy interface
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Garmin Forerunner 55

 

  • Built-in GPS
  • Ideal for run/walk program
  • Small and lightweight
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Best Interval Timer

1. Gymboss Minimax

This handy little timer can be easily clipped onto your waistband or collar with the included belt clip. You can purchase a wristband or arm sleeve to keep it more secure if you’re worried about dropping it while you’re exercising.

What We Like

One of the best things about this nifty little interval timer is that you can set various interval lengths within one program.

That means that instead of having only 30-second intervals, for example, you can set 30-second intervals for the first 10 minutes, then switch to 45-second intervals for a bit, and go down to 20 seconds as you cool down.

Apart from having the ability to set up to 25 different intervals within one program, you can save up to 20 unique programs on the device, ready for use at any time.

Other features include a stopwatch function, a clock, and chime and vibration notifications for your intervals. You can also choose from 4 different notifications lengths (1 second, 2 seconds, 5 seconds, and 9 seconds). So you really can’t miss them!

Powered by an AAA battery and with a nice compact size, it’s really easy to wear and use. It’s also sweat and impact-resistant.

Be careful when you’re running or exercising on hard surfaces, though. If this timer falls off your waistband, there’s a chance of it breaking.

Why We Like It

This little device allows you to set completely customizable intervals, which is a huge pro. It’s also super convenient and easy to use.

PROS:

  • Ability to program your own complex intervals
  • Choose from 4 notification lengths
  • Can save up to 20 programs
  • Easy to use

CONS:

  • A little fragile, so be careful when running on hard surfaces
 

Top Watch Interval Timer

2. Garmin Forerunner 55

If you’re a Garmin fan, chances are you’re going to like this one. It’s a dedicated running watch with all the features you need for a great interval workout.

What We Like

This watch removes the need to carry a separate device for your interval training. It does a great job of doing the few things runners really need – tracking your run, monitoring heart rate – and keeping track of your intervals.

It’s great for newbies to interval training, as it comes with pre-programmed interval workouts. Once you’re used to it, you can design your own based on your preferences.

You can create interval workouts using either distance or time intervals, which is versatile and easy for anything you want to do. Basic workouts can be created directly on the watch, and if you want something a little more advanced, you can just create it on Garmin’s phone app.

You can also choose between audio and vibration notifications for your intervals, which is handy if you are wearing headphones or running in a noisy spot.

You should know up front that this isn’t one of Garmin’s fanciest offerings, but it does have a bunch of interesting and useful features on it, such as PacePro, Recovery Time, and women’s health tracking (amongst many others).

Why We Like It

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is a pretty feature-rich watch for its price, and it’s really nice and versatile in its interval settings. It gets a big thumbs-up for the ability to choose from time or distance intervals.

What’s New

Quite a few minor details related to training have been added to this model vs the Forerunner 45. But the most notable changes are the improved battery life and pool swim tracking, including distance, lap counting, and stroke count.

PROS:

  • Create or choose a pre-programmed interval session
  • Vibrating and audio cue for intervals
  • Intervals can be based on distance or time
  • Can create workouts from the watch

CONS:

  • Lower screen quality than many others
 

Best Heart Rate Monitor and Interval Timer

3. Polar Unite

Heart rate is a big and important part of interval training, and we recommend the Polar Unite if you want to do interval running and keep an eye on your heart rate at the same time.

What We Like

This watch uses optical heart rate monitoring and is known to be pretty accurate. It has a pretty decent interval timer function, which you can set based on either distance or time and you can set two different timers.

There are 100 different sport modes built into the watch, each using a specific algorithm to keep up with their reputation of accuracy. It also has a built-in fitness test which uses the HRM to estimate your VO2 max.

One of the best features is Fitspark, a workout recommendation tool that uses your training strain and recovery to suggest daily exercise across cardio, strength, and mobility sectors.

Note that there’s a basic GPS function, but it’s not built into the watch and requires a smartphone and the accompanying app to work.

Why We Like It

Polar is known for quality products, and the Unite is an excellent continuous heart rate monitor that also includes interval training, recovery and training effort metrics, and workout recommendations.

PROS:

  • Optical heart rate monitoring
  • Can set two timers for your interval workouts
  • Fitspark workout recommendation tool
  • Features 100 sport modes

CONS:

  • GPS needs phone to work
 

Top Fitness Tracker

4. Fitbit Charge 5

There’s a difference between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker. If you’re a fitness tracker kind of person, we recommend the Fitbit Charge 5 for interval workouts.

What We Like

While not as feature-rich as a smartwatch, the Fitbit Charge 5 works really nicely for intervals and has a couple of nice functions on the side.

Although it’s not fancy, you can customize your Move and Rest intervals to suit you, and create an interval workout. It’s basic but does the job pretty well.

A feature we like is the Daily Readiness Score, which is a measure of how well-recovered you are for the day. This is based on your sleep quality, heart rate variability, and recent activity and effort.

Based on your readiness score, you’ll get personalized recommendations for how much exercise to do on any given day. Or perhaps, a light yoga day and some sleep tips, if your recovery is low!

Another feature that has the potential for health tracking is the ECG measurement. Its accuracy is not certain, but this kind of tech in smartwatches is fairly new and still has a long way to go.

A nice touch is the automatic ambient light sensor, which adjusts the brightness of the screen for you depending on the conditions.

Why We Like It

Fitbit fans will find all they need to do effective interval training on this fitness tracker. It has a couple of handy other features too.

What’s New

The Charge 5 has got a major screen update, moving from the Charge 4’s low-re monochrome screen to a bright, attractive AMOLED display.

The shape has been updated to be a bit sleeker, and there are a few new features, including the popular Daily Readiness Score.

PROS:

  • Customize Move and Rest intervals
  • Features Daily Readiness Score
  • Ambient light sensor automatically brightens or dims the screen
  • Takes an ECG measurement

CONS:

  • You need to buy the premium version of the app for advanced metrics
 

Best Chrono Watch

5. Timex Ironman T200 42mm Silicone Strap Watch

This is a simple watch but it’ll help with your interval training if you’re a beginner. Advanced athletes probably won’t find it helpful, but those who want an uncomplicated, straightforward timer will find it handy.

What We Like

The interval timer is super simple and easy. It has 4 distinct segments: warm-up, interval 1, interval 2, and cool down. With a 200-lap storage space, off-road and track modes, and 100-meter waterproofing, it’s a great choice for those who want something lighter and simpler.

To indicate your change of interval, the watch delivers beeping noises and a night-light option. It comes with a coin cell battery that lasts for up to 2 years before needing to be replaced.

Why We Like It

It’s simple, lightweight, and very easy to use. You can’t go wrong with this kind of watch if you’re new to intervals or want a very plain watch.

PROS:

  • Night-light flashes with beeping sound between intervals
  • Intervals have 4 segments
  • 200-lap history storage
  • Lightweight and easy to use

CONS:

  • May be too simple for some athletes
  • Only comes in black
 

Best Overall Timer App

6. Seconds App

If you’d prefer to use a smartphone app instead of a device, we highly recommend the Seconds App. It’s available for both iPhone and Android, and allows you to build both simple and complicated interval timers easily.

What We Like

This app is super straightforward and easy to use. It comes with onboard templates that you can choose from. Or, if you want something more specific, you can customize the templates to your own liking, from simple to advanced.

A compound timer allows you to cycle through multiple different times at once and even loop timers for longer, more advanced workouts.

If your workout is a complicated one, you don’t need to rely on the screen to keep track of what you’re doing. A text-to-speech function speaks the interval name out loud, so you can hear what’s coming up next.

Another excellent feature is the ability to customize your notifications. When you’re sprinting, jumping rope, or doing something hardcore, a loud beep or voice commnd may be appropriate.

But if you’re doing a spot of meditation or yoga, you’d probably want something a little more relaxed and not as intrusive. Choose from sounds like gongs, bells, or just vibrations instead.

You can also play through your own playlist through the interval set, or assign songs to each interval for something different! Shuffle through an album, silence during your breaks, or simply playing your own music in the background give you plenty of options.

You should take note, though, that not all of these features are available on Android devices. iPhone users should have no issue, but Android users will still find plenty of value in this app.

With 10 bright colors to choose from, even the cheerfulness of the app seems to spur you on. You can use the screen vertically or horizontally, and you can even export and share timers with friends!

Why We Like It

This app is extremely customizable and we absolutely love the music features. A huge bonus for those who enjoy music during their workouts!

PROS:

  • Features text-to-speech
  • Fully customizable intervals
  • Can add music to your intervals
  • Comes with pre-programmed intervals

CONS:

  • Some features may not work with Android
  • Free version is much more limited
 

Top App for Running and Workouts

7. Adidas Runtastic

If you’re serious about your running, the Adidas Runtastic app is a great choice for monitoring both your everyday running and your interval training. Available on Android and iOS.

What We Like

For interval training, the Runtastic app is excellent for both beginners and more experienced athletes. It includes both preset interval sessions and customizable intervals.

If you choose to customize, you can choose your own warm-up and cool-down times, number of intervals, length and intensity of intervals, and decide if you want the Voice Coach to push you through the workout.

The free version of the app uses real-time GPS and provides data like pace, distance, time, and calories burned. You’ll be able to join challenges and interact with those in the community.

However, the paid version offers much more for $9.99 per month (or $49.99 per year). You’ll get advanced running metrics, goal-specific training plans, and full access to Adidas’ Story Runs.

Why We Like It

It’s easy to use and gives you all the running metrics you need. It’s also pretty affordable, so you can get access to advanced metrics for a decent price compared to others.

PROS:

  • Includes preset sessions
  • Create your own intervals
  • Voice Coach guides you through your workout
  • Allows you to join different challenges

CONS:

  • Restricted features in the free version
 

Best Interval Timer App

8. Interval Timer

Interval Timer may look like a simple app, but it’s got some handy features that make it a superb choice for those who like their HIIT workouts!

What We Like

It’s super simple to use, easy to follow, and free (if you don’t mind pop-up ads). It can run in the foreground or the background of your phone, even when the screen is locked. So you can do other things like watch a video or listen to music while it’s going without interruption.

It’s really straightforward and easy to customize interval times, both your high-intensity sessions and the recovery sessions. Repeat them as many times as you like for your full workout.

It records idling time and is easy to pause if you need a moment or two to catch your breath. Choose from a vibrating alert or an audio alert between intervals. Take note that there’s only one sound – none to choose from!

Why We Like It

It’s straightforward but super easy to use. There’s nothing fancy about it, but nothing complicated either. Does a great job!

PROS:

  • Runs in the foreground or background
  • Easy to customize intervals
  • Color coded timer sessions
  • Easy to use

CONS:

  • Pop-up ads can be annoying
  • Only one sound alert
 

Simplest Interval Timer App

9. Bit Timer

Known as “the world’s simplest interval timer ever”, Bit Timer accomplishes just one thing, but it does it well. It’s currently only available on iOS, for $1.99. Sorry Android users!

What We Like

It’s sleek, simple, and fast. With a click-and-drag design, it’s easy to set your work and rest intervals in increments between 5 seconds and 12 minutes, depending on your preference.

A 10-second counter warns you that your working interval is approaching. If you’re playing music, the app will auto-fade the song so you don’t miss your count-in. 3 built-in sounds help you know exactly where you are in your workout.

The downsides? It’s an iOS app only and you can’t save workouts, although it’s super quick to set up a daily workout.

Why We Like It

It’s extremely simple and quick to go from start to HIIT. No fluff, no complications!

PROS:

  • Superfast setup
  • 10-second countdown before interval begins
  • Easy-to-distinguish tones for each part of your interval
  • Will work in the background even if your phone is locked

CONS:

  • Not available for Android
  • Can’t save workouts
 

Best Interval App for Running

10. Intervals Pro

Designed for runners with iPhones or Apple watches, Intervals Pro will help to turn you from a casual runner to an advanced one! Only available on iOS at this stage.

What We Like

Interval Pro offers a great combo of built-in, basic interval training workouts and fully-fledged running training programs. Whatever your running goals, you’ll get closer to them with the use of this handy app.

Set up basic intervals or create custom, in-depth interval circuits. Or, use their built-in templates if you aren’t sure how to structure your own.

It integrates perfectly with Siri for convenience and Apple Health for storing all your important info. You can also upload workouts to an Apple Watch if you want to leave your phone behind while you’re working out.

You may need to play around with the notification sounds to find something that suits you, especially if you listen to music or podcasts in the background while you work out.

A feature we like is the haptic nudging, which vibrates to alert you of an interval change as well as (or instead of) an audio alert.

Why We Like It

It syncs effortlessly with all things Apple, keeping data in one place and allowing Apple users to create and use both basic and complex intervals. What more do you need?

PROS:

  • Intervals can be synced to Siri or your Apple watch
  • Saves workout data to Apple Health
  • Haptic nudging during your intervals
  • Tracks your speed via your watch or iPhone

CONS:

  • Not available on Android devices
 

Buyers Guide – Interval Timers and Apps

What Can You Use to Track Intervals?

There are multiple ways you can track your intervals, and the one that really works best depends on you.

If you already have a smartwatch that does interval timing, it’s obviously going to be the easiest way to do it. You can also get a small interval timer to clip to your waistband or hold as you run, but that may be uncomfortable for some.

Alternatively, download an app onto your smartphone which can do the interval timing for you.

Features to Look For:

Time vs Distance Intervals

Most interval timers only measure intervals in time. This means that you can do 30-second, 1-minute, etc intervals, but you can’t do them in distance, for example ¼-mile or ½-mile intervals.

If you prefer distance over time intervals, we highly recommend double-checking whatever interval timer you like to make sure it can do distance tracking too.

Timer Duration

Also, check what time directions the timer can set. Some only include 30-second intervals (30 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, etc). If you plan on doing in-between intervals, like 45 seconds, make sure you choose a timer that can do that.

Alerts

Audible alerts are the norm, but depending on where you’re doing your training, you may not be able to hear it very well. You can also find interval timers with vibrating alerts, which may be helpful in noisy conditions or if you’re listening to music.

Other Watch and App Features

If you want a more feature-heavy interval timer, you can go for a watch-type device. Otherwise, you also get very basic timers that really only have that one function.

FAQs

Wondering about the uses and features of the best interval timers and apps? Here are some of the most common questions.

What Is Interval Training?

Interval training is a particular way of training that involves alternating bursts of high-intensity, heart-rate-boosting exercise and periods of low-intensity activity that allow the heart rate to stabilize.

For example, an exercise session that alternates between running and walking could be considered interval training. Experienced athletes may do something like 1 minute of all-out intensity sprinting, and then a minute of chilled, easy running.

What Are the Benefits of Intervals?

Interval training has many benefits, including being able to get an excellent workout in much less time than a regular cardio workout. Interval training is typically completed in 20 to 30 minutes, whereas normal cardio workouts can take 40 to 60 minutes.

Also, interval training is a fantastic way to lose weight, as you can burn a ton of calories in a short period of time.

Is Interval Training Good for Losing Weight?

Any type of exercise burns calories. The biggest key is that you burn more calories than you consume – that’s how you burn fat!

With that in mind, both high-intensity interval training and low-intensity steady-state training can help you lose weight, as long as you’re moderating your calorie intake and making sure you burn enough calories.

But there is evidence to suggest that high-intensity interval training is more effective for weight loss. This could be due to the ability to burn more calories in less time as the heart rate rises and falls.

What is Tabata?

Tabata is a specific type of high-intensity interval training. It’s just 4 minutes of exercise, and only includes one particular exercise.

You’ll pick your exercise and do it at full intensity for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Do this for 8 rounds, and you’ve got 4 minutes.

You can add more exercises to round out the workout. For example, choosing 5 exercises means you’ll work out for 20 minutes in total.

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