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If you regularly run interval workouts, chances are good you’ve already got a Timex or Garmin wrist watch that’ll not only remind you to change pace but also monitor your heart rate, the distances you cover via GPS, and a host of other relevant bells and whistles.
But for people who are only just discovering the joys (and pains) of interval training, the Runners Interval Timer app, priced at just $1.99, is an awesome alternative to the aforementioned gizmos, which typically run between $50 and $350.
The app is very rudimentary, and that’s a good thing, because it’s not like you’re gonna be playing with fancy features while immersed in a tough run. There are only three tabs on the main interface -- two interval tabs and a start button -- which can be customized in several simple ways: choose one of eight different colors for the buttons; customize titles for your interval tabs (I changed “Sprint” to “I am Ironman!” for a little positive reinforcement); choose and set countdown durations in intervals of five seconds; and, finally, choose between a host of interval shift prompts that range from digital voices to bells, ocean waves, and even a brief rock ’n’ roll ditty.
And, because it’s made for iOS devices (4.3 or later), the developers wisely allow multitasking integration with your music players. When I tested Runner’s Interval Timer with my iPhone’s iPod app, the interval reminders fully cut out the music to remind me to shift gears from jogging to sprinting and vice versa. I found, however, that I preferred how the app integrated with Pandora, which played steady music as the interval prompts softly chimed in over the music instead of cutting it out for a split second before resuming.
After getting the app dialed in the way I felt it’d be most effective for me, it was time for a practical test. I organized a red-green color scheme, jog-sprint intervals, and tapped the “Jog (Male) / Sprint (Male)” digital-dude-voice to remind me to shift gears (he sounds a little like a cross between 3-CPO and Darth Vader). Kickin’ a little Jane’s Addiction Radio on Pandora, I suffered a three-mile stretch of steep road -- four minutes jogging, a minute sprinting, repeat, etc. -- with smooth sailing.
The bottom line. When I finished my workout, wondering why I subjected myself to such early morning torture in the name of an app review, I looked out from California’s Donner Summit and snapped an iPhone photo to record my reward -- a gorgeous sunrise in the mountains. Take that expensive, camera-less Garmin runners’ watches.
iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Assuming you already have an iOS device, it's an affordable alternative to expensive wrist watch interval timers. Clean, efficient interface lets you customize interval durations and prompts.
For a serious athlete or runner, the app simply can’t match the many helpful features of more expensive alternatives.