What is an Interval Timer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An interval timer is a device designed to assist people with the timing of interval workouts. There are a number of types of workouts that involve bursts of exercise followed by rest periods at set intervals for which an interval timer can be a useful tool. Athletic suppliers usually sell these devices and they are also available through catalogs and hardware stores. Some enterprising companies have also designed cell phone applications that can be used to turn a mobile phone into a timer.

Swimmers might engage in interval training.
Swimmers might engage in interval training.

The interval approach to athletic training requires the athlete to sustain an activity for a set period of time, rather than basing the workout on number of repetitions or completion of a given distance. A common example is sprinting, where people use interval training to develop the strength for short bursts of explosive power. Likewise, interval training can be used for swimming, boxing, weight lifting, and many other forms of workouts.

Interval timers are frequently used by sprinters who use interval training to develop the strength needed for short but intense bursts of energy.
Interval timers are frequently used by sprinters who use interval training to develop the strength needed for short but intense bursts of energy.

In interval training, people exercise for a period of time, rest for a set period, and resume exercising. The rest and interval periods can vary in length depending on the type of workout. While people can keep track with a clock or stopwatch, an interval timer is much easier to use, and can help people avoid mistakes.

Interval timers are easier to use than clocks or stopwatches.
Interval timers are easier to use than clocks or stopwatches.

A basic interval timer allows people to program two different time settings for intervals and rests. It may allow people to program the number of intervals so they can program in an entire workout and change what they are doing every time the device flashes or beeps. More sophisticated versions allow users to program in three or more time settings.

Interval timers are commonly used in boxing.
Interval timers are commonly used in boxing.

People can wear or carry interval timers, strap them to workout equipment, or mount them on the wall so they are highly visible. The devices are usually designed to be durable and sweat resistant so they can be used safely during a workout. Coaches and personal trainers can find interval timers very useful for working with clients.

The cost of an interval timer varies, depending on the manufacturer and the number of options. Some manufacturers offer bulk discounts to people buying in volume, an option that people taking classes together may want to consider. People interested in reviewing ratings for interval timers can find write-ups in many athletic publications. Websites that sell such products also usually carry customer ratings and reviews. These can be useful to review as they provide information about how well the device performs under working conditions.

Personal trainers may use interval timers when working with clients.
Personal trainers may use interval timers when working with clients.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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