sweat - A chatty, distracting, and flexible workout timer.


Run through a seven-minute workout while your computer reads trivia from Wikipedia, reports on the weather, and tells dumb jokes:


Run through a seven-minute workout, but without any of that other stuff:

 sweat --no-entertainment

Run through a seven-minute workout with semi-randomized drills:

 sweat --shuffle

Read in a configuration file and apply its settings:

 sweat --config=/path/to/sweat.config

Force the program to not shuffle, overriding configuration-file settings:

 sweat --no-shuffle

Have the program read news headlines instead of clicking around Wikipedia:

 sweat --newsapi-key=MyNewsApiKey12345

See a quick reference of all command-line options:

 sweat --help


Sweat is a workout timer that helps distract you from the pain of exercise by chatting incessantly, using your computer's text-to-speech capabilities to read news headlines, crack strange old-man jokes, talk about the weather, and still manage to call out workout prompts when necessary.

Sweat is optimized for the so-called Seven-Minute Workout (7MW), which leads you through twelve 30-second drills, with 10-second rests in between. These focus on four types of exercise: aerobic, lower-body, upper-body, and core. While it has sensible and widely accepted defaults, you can change or expand its list of drills if you really want, or adjust how many drills each workout entails, or the timing involved.

Sweat features a friendly pause function, and a shuffle mode that will randomize the drills you receive within each type while keeping the types themselves in order, ensuring you get a varied and balanced workout.

Sweat assumes you already know how to perform the drills it calls out (see "The Seven-Minute Workout", below), and trusts you to get through them in whatever way works best for you. Sweat will never judge you.

Yes, Sweat is a command-line program. Get your butt off the chair once in a while and onto the floor, fellow hackers. It's good for you.

How Sweat is different from other timers

Sweat's major features that most other 7MW timers don't have:

A speech-centered UI

Sweat guides you through voice alone (with a simple text transcription in its terminal window).

Chatty entertainment while you struggle

Sweat will (unless you ask it not to) click through a randomly chosen thread of related Wikipedia articles while you work out and read aloud what it finds. The workout takes priority, so this intentionally distracting chatter will not make you miss any exercise cues.

With a little extra configuration, you can have Sweat instead read you current news headlines from a variety of sources.

Sweat will also tell you the local weather during certain drills, and end by reading aloud the output of the `fortune` program (if available).

Optional drill-shuffling

For variety's sake, you can shuffle the drills out of their standard order. While you still get three rounds of aerobic, lower-body, upper-body, and core drills in that order, Sweat will randomize the order of the three drills within each category.

Pause between side-switching

Halfway through the side-plank drill, Sweat gives you a few seconds to adjust yourself. (For some reason, few if any other timers seems to bother with this.)

No-chair and no-jumping modes

A no-chair mode substitutes other drills when you find yourself in a space (e.g. a hotel room) with no suitably stable chair to exercise with.

A no-jumping mode is also available when you want to avoid stomping around on your downstairs neighbor's ceiling.

Lots of configuration options

It's a command-line Unixish program, so of course it's far too configurable. Happily, its defaults should fit most needs...

The Seven-Minute Workout

If you're not already familiar with 7MW and its twelve drills, this New York Times article may serve as an excellent introduction.

As that article suggests, oodles of apps and websites exist for all your mobile and desktop devices to help guide you through 7MW. Some of them will work better than Sweat at making you familiar with the exercises involved; you may find it helpful to check them out first.

You may also wish to read thoughts by Sweat's author about 7MW.

Sweat is not a doctor

Please exercise responsibly. Sweat wants to challenge you, but please do not push yourself too hard. If you start feeling bad in any way while using Sweat, stop immediately. Consult an actual doctor and not a weird program you found on the internet with any questions or concerns you have about setting up an exercise regimen for yourself.


Pausing the workout

With the window running Sweat focused, hit any key (except for control keys) to pause Sweat; it will click off its timer and stop talking. Hit a key again to resume the workout.

Pause whenever you need to, or if you need Sweat to shut up for a second so you can pay attention to something else.

Ending the workout early

You can bail out of your workout early by just quitting the program in an ordinary way; Control-C will work on most systems.

Quit whenever you need to, for any reason. Sweat will never judge you. It will always greet you upon your return with unfeigned gladness.


Except where otherwise noted, you can set any of these options on the command line, or in a configuration file. See "SYNOPSIS", above, for a few examples on running sweat with command-line options, or see "Configuration file", below, for more information on that topic.

For boolean options (such as shuffle), simply name them on the command line to invoke them: --shuffle, for example. To negate on the command like, precede with "no-", e.g. --no-shuffle. To set them in a configuration file, set them to 0 or 1 with YAML syntax: shuffle: 1.

For other options, set them on the command line with an equals sign (--newsapi-key=MySecretKey), or in a config file with YAML syntax (newsapi_key: MySecretKey).

Note that you can try running Sweat without any options at all; most settings have sensible defaults, depending upon your operating system. If sweat requires settings or other resources that it can't find, it will tell you on startup.

Basic options


 # On the command line
 sweat --entertainment
 sweat --no-entertainment

 # In config
 entertainment: 0

Boolean. Allow Sweat to entertain you during the workout by reading articles fetched over the internet, the current weather, and other stuff.

See "Entertainment options" to fine-tune this behavior.

Default: 1


 # Example: Use the 'Victoria' voice with the Mac `say` program...
 # On the command line
 sweat --speech-program='say -v Victoria'

 # In config
 speech-program: say -v Victoria

A valid command-line invocation of your computer's text-to-speech program, including any command-line arguments you may wish to include. It must take an arbitrary string of text as its main argument. Sweat will invoke this program every time it wishes to say something.

Default: On Mac, it will default to using "say", a program that comes with the OS. On other systems, it will try "espeak", a free and open-source program that you may need to install first. You can find espeak in various package managers, or at

Drill options


 # On the command line
 sweat --drill-count=10

 # In config
 drill-count: 10

The number of drills to include in the workout.

If Sweat runs through every available drill before meeting this number, then it will start a new set, continuing until it meets this count.

Please consider not setting this above 12. I don't advise you to run through lots of drills without any periods of longer resting. Consider, instead, just running Sweat multiple times, if you want an extra-long workout, and taking a breather that lasts a full minute or two in between runs. Drink some water.

Default: 12

Please note that you should not work through a large number of drills without mixing in some longer rest periods. Consider simply running Sweat multiple times, resting in between, rather than setting this number to something unusually large. (And run in --no-news mode if you don't want to hear the same headlines over and over.)


 # On the command line
 sweat --drill-length=20

 # In config
 drill-length: 20

The length of each drill, in seconds.

Note that drills that involve side-switching (i.e. side plank in 7MW) will divide this in half for each side, with a short break in between.

Default: 30


 # On the command line
 sweat --no-chair

 # In config
 chair: 0

Boolean. Indicates the availability of a chair, for certain drills. You may wish to shut this off if you find yourself without a stable chair (or other weight- bearing chair-height surface) at hand.

If false, then drills requiring a chair will replace themselves with a random drill of the same style. (For example, a chairsome aerobic drill will get replaced with another, less chairish aerobic drill.)

Default: 1


 # On the command line
 sweat --no-jumping

 # In config
 jumping: 0

Boolean. Indicates the tolerability of jumping, for certain drills. You may wish to shut this off when working out during a very late or very early hour, so as not to disturb your downstairs neighbors.

If false, then drills involving jumping or stomping will replace themselves with a random drill of the same style. (For example, a jumpy aerobic drill will get replaced with another, less stompy aerobic drill.)

Default: 1


 # On the command line
 sweat --rest-length=20

 # In config
 rest-length: 20

The length of the rest period between drills, in seconds.

This includes the preparatory period before the first drill.

Default: 10


 # On the command line
 sweat --shuffle
 sweat --no-shuffle

 # In config
 shuffle: 1

Boolean. Shuffle the drills before presenting them. It will still present three sets of four drills in the same style-order (aerobic, then lower-body, then upper-body, and finally core).

Default: 0 (No shuffling)

Entertainment options

These options come into play only while running Sweat in entertainment mode (see "entertainment", above).


 # On the command line
 sweat --country=fr

 # In config
 country: fr

The two-letter code for the country that NewsAPI will fetch its headlines from.

Default: us


 # On the command line
 sweat --language=fr

 # In config
 language: fr

The two-letter code for the language that NewsAPI will use when fetching Wikipedia articles.

Default: en


 # Example: Run fortune in 'offensive-joke' mode
 # On the command line
 sweat --fortune-program='fortune -o'

 # In config
 fortune-program=fortune -o

A valid command-line invocation (including any desired options) for a program that will say something witty (according to a typical Unix system administrator in 1988). When in entertainment mode, Sweat will invoke this at the end of every workout, reading the results out loud.

Default: fortune


 # On the command line
 sweat --newsapi-key=MySecretNewsApiKey

 # In config
 drill-length: MySecretNewsApiKey

An application key for NewsAPI. If provided with a valid key, then Sweat will fetch, read, and display top news headlines from a variety of sources during your workout (unless run in no-news mode).

You can fetch a free key for personal use at

If not set, then Sweat will read and display Wikipedia articles instead.

Default: none


 # On the command line
 sweat --refocus

 # In config

Boolean. Try to return focus back to the terminal window running Sweat after opening a new browser tab (via "url-program"). This is useful mainly to make Sweat's handful of interactive features (e.g. the pause function) more convenient, obviating the need to switch back to the terminal from the browser before taking the desired action.

This feature requires pstree to be installed on Mac, or xdotool on Linux.

Default: 0 (don't try to refocus)


 # Example: On Mac, always open URLs with Firefox:
 # On the command line
 sweat --url-program='open -a Firefox'

 # In config
 url-program: open -a Firefox

A valid command-line invocation (including any desired options) for a program that opens a URL (provided as a main argument) in a browser.

Default: On Mac, it will default to "open", a program that comes with the OS. On other systems it has no default (and thus will not open any URLs.)

Non-Mac systems running Sweat may wish to try "xdg-open", a free and open-source program that you may need to install first. You can find xdg-open as part of "xdg-utils" in various package managers, or at Be aware that Sweat currently does not work well if it opens a terminal-based browser such as Lynx.

Command-line-only options

These options work only on the command line (and have no effect in a config file).


 sweat --config=/path/to/sweat.config

Full path to a Sweat configuration file, in YAML format.

Default: .sweat, in your home directory. (i.e. $HOME/.sweat)


 sweat --help

Prints a quick reference to Sweat's command-line options, then exits.


 sweat --interactive
 sweat -i

Sweat will ask a couple of questions at launch about how many drills you'd like, and whether to activate its entertainment features. Answers you provide will override values otherwise set by config or default.


 sweat --no-news

Forces Sweat to use Wikipedia articles as its main source of workout chatter, even if a valid NewsAPI key has been provided (via "newsapi_key").


 sweat --version

Prints version and authorship information about Sweat, then exits.

Configuration file

You can optionally provide Sweat with a configuration file in YAML format. Sweat will load this on startup, and apply all its settings before applying any settings provided on the command line (thus letting you override config-file settings that way).

You can provide a path to such a file via the "config" command-line option. If you don't, Sweat will look for a config file at $HOME/.sweat. If it doesn't find one there either, it will continue without loading a config file.

If the config file exists but Sweat's YAML parser can't work with it, Sweat will complain and then exit.

In the config file, you can set any of the options listed under "Basic options" or "Entertainment options", using YAML syntax.

The configuration file also gives you the opportunity to redefine Sweat's drill-list. You can accomplish this by defining a groups attribute, which contains several groups of related drills.

Please allow me to explain further by simply showing the definition for Sweat's default drills, which demonstrate all the special attributes meaningful to individual drill definitions.

  - name: aerobic
      - name: jumping jacks
        requires_jumping: 1
      - name: high knees
        requires_jumping: 1
      - name: step-ups
        requires_a_chair: 1
  - name: lower-body
      - name: wall sit
      - name: squats
      - name: knee lunges
  - name: upper-body
      - name: push-ups
      - name: tricep dips
        requires_a_chair: 1
      - name: rotational push-ups
  - name: core
      - name: abdominal crunches
      - name: plank
      - name: side plank
        requires_side_switching: 1

Please note that the groups attribute is not additive; if you define it at all, then you must define all the drills and drill-groups that Sweat will use. If you do not define it, then Sweat will use the four groups and twelve drills listed above.

Sweat will let you give groups uneven numbers of drills, if you want. If Sweat needs to run a drill from a group whose available drills have already all been run during the current workout, it will clear them all for running again.


Known issues

Sweat doesn't play well with terminal-based browsers, such as Lynx.

Other notes

While the author wishes Sweat to work well on any Unix-like OS, the circumstances of its development mean that it will likely work best on Mac, at least for now. Consider me eager to receive reports of how well it works on any system, and welcoming patches and other suggestions for improving it anywhere.

The default drills specify "knee lunges" and "abdominal crunches" because the words "lunges" and "crunches" otherwise sound too similar, when spoken by a speech synthesizer.

If a news story claims a YouTube video as its URL, Sweat will instead create and open a temporary HTML file that embeds that video, thus preventing it from noisily auto-playing. (To the best of my knowledge, there exists no way to visit a video via and not have it start playing at full volume.)


Jason McIntosh <>


This software is Copyright (c) 2019-2020 by Jason McIntosh.

This is free software, licensed under:

  The MIT (X11) License


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