Photograph from an old magazine ad featuring muscleman-entrepreneur Charles Atlas in his leopard-pattern briefs, pointing at you the reader.
YOU won’t look like Charles Atlas from using Sweat, but I like to think he’d approve of it anyway

With pride and pleasure I announce Sweat, a new workout timer for Unix-ish operating systems. Sweat is a open-source program that escorts you through the pain of exercise — in particular, the effective but unpleasant intensity of the seven-minute workout — by reading aloud some mildly interesting novelties to distract you from your struggle. This includes cultural trivia, headline news, weather reports, and sad old jokes.

It is easy to install — as far as weird open-source command-line programs go, anyway — highly configurable, and simple to run. I have for the past several weeks used Sweat every day on macOS, running through all twelve of the seven-minute workout’s drills in a semi-random order. I aim to make sure that Sweat works on Linux as well (though it may require a bit more setup there).

Allow me to present an abbreviated demonstration of Sweat running on my own Mac. Watch as it guides you through the first four drills of the seven-minute workout, and with every drill opens up a new Wikipedia page and reads aloud its first paragraph, giving you something to think about while you struggle nearby. (Please do play this video with sound on!)

A few things to note, all demonstrated by this video:

  • You can control Sweat’s behavior through command-line options (such as --drill-count, seen here) as well as a separate configuration file. Sweat uses sensible defaults for everything, so you can use it right away before fine-tuning it suit your specific needs better.

  • In the “trivia mode” shown here, Sweat visits a randomly chosen Wikipedia article with its first drill, and then follows a random link from its current page for every drill thereafter. Pondering the connections between these articles gives your mind another thing to play with, distracting its attention away from your complaining body.

  • Sweat finishes up by reading the output of fortune, if available on your system. While lying on the floor and catching your breath after that last ab-crunch, enjoy a context-free joke (or probably-misattributed quote) that some Unix system administrator circa 1988 found profound enough to preserve forever.

  • Sweat doesn’t have to open the articles it reads in a web browser. It does this mainly to give you something vaguely interesting to look at while you grunt through your lunges. If you’d rather have Sweat keep itself to a terminal window but still read article text, it can.

Another short demonstration, this time showing off Sweat’s ability to fetch and read news and weather headlines from a variety of sources (and please accept my apologies for the by-definition extremely dated and political content herein):

  • All the headlines come courtesy of NewsAPI (and indeed, via my own NewsAPI programming library, which — now it can be told — I wrote with this nascent project in mind).

  • I use ad blockers, resulting in the large blank areas in my browser window after loading news sites. Admittedly, this behavior probably makes for a more appropriate environment for running Sweat without unrequested distraction.

  • Note the --no-chair command-line flag, which tells Sweat not to run any exercises requiring a chair; it will substitute another drills of the same kind, instead. This option can be useful when you’re in a hotel room or some other location without a stable chair to exercise with.

    Sweat offers a similar --no-jumping mode, as well, for when you might otherwise disturb downstairs neighbors.

  • Sweat provides you with a few seconds to switch sides in the middle of the side-plank drill — which appears in this demonstration thanks to a configuration-file change I made between these two clips.

    Furthermore, because of the side-plank drill’s peculiar timing, it reads a short, local weather report instead of a news headline. (And, yes, I was in Providence when recording this.)

Sweat is the followup to Brickfielder, and indeed represents the implementation of the “fun and extremely opinionated fetaures” mentioned at the end of the blog post that announced it. It’s got all the features Brickfielder had, all the ones demonstrated here, and more besides, as its documentation shows.

I consider the project unfinished but useful enough for a public release, and I plan to continue improving it for a while yet. I feel very pleased with this work, my attempt to share my enthusiasm for the seven-minute workout’s rewarding discomfort. I hope that Sweat encourages more people like me — lazy, but roused into motion by the promise of novelty — to exercise regularly.

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