This cheap, wearable interval timer may be all the fitness tracker you need

Late last year I joined a new gym and got a Samsung Gear Sport to optimize my time doing all the things — running, jumping, picking stuff up, putting stuff down.

It was a mistake.

Not the gym membership and, generally speaking, not the watch, which is fine. But between using my phone to track things like weight and reps and fiddling with the watch’s timer and other features, the tech was definitely getting in the way.

Judging by some of the other gym members’ behavior — from the guy FaceTiming on a weight bench in the middle of the room to another stuck in some sort of infinite notification loop between his watch and phone — I wasn’t alone.


So I ditched the watch, locked my phone and looked for better options to help hit my goals. For the most part, my tracking needs could be met with pen and paper and a simple interval timer, which lets you set timed periods for work and for rest and repeat those periods over and over again.

Though not a fitness tracker in the Fitbit sense, the timer allows me to easily track my set and rest times without having to look at anything, as it beeps or vibrates when time is up. It can also be used in a number of other ways, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or interval running, where you change your pace for different periods.

Sure, there are interval timer apps for your phone, Apple Watch and WearOS watch, and Fitbit’s exercise app has an interval timer. But frankly, fitness trackers don’t excel at tracking many activities beyond running and other cardio anyway. Plus trackers work best if you put in the effort to find and maximize their apps and data, so you should commit to that as well.


For me, my watch and phone proved to be more of a distraction than helpful. Again, while it might not be gathering data on me, the interval timer does keep my workout on track, so there’s no question how long I’ve exercised. It also means I don’t have to worry about breaking or losing an expensive device.

The Gymboss Classic I use is simple, and at $16 it’s cheap, but there are others out there. You can program one or two intervals and repeat them up to 99 times, and there’s also a built-in stopwatch and clock. If you want more intervals and the option to save programs, there’s a $28 miniMax model. Both run on a single AAA-size battery and have four buttons for changing settings and starting, pausing and stopping the timer. A waistband clip is included, but you can buy a wrist strap (I typically clip it to my watch strap).

I still carry my phone with me for music and if I need a refresher on proper form for a particular lift, but I keep it set to ‘do not disturb’ to kill all notifications. Otherwise it’s just me and the timer, helping me push for one last rep before the buzzer.

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