Back in 2008, a user on a popular bodybuilding forum had a question. He wanted to know if it was too much to do a full-body workout every other day, or, as he put it "four to five times a week." While the safety factor was addressed almost immediately, the query spawned five pages of heated debate over that "four or five times a week" bit. How many days, the bodybuilders collectively tried to figure out, are really in a week?
Unlike other online math-related debacles that are quickly resolved, the hashing-out of this one wasn't pretty. There was debate over whether or not Sunday is a day and arguments about how to count days that verged on the philosophical. Eventually it devolved into the bros calling each other fat and just giving up.
So how many days are in a week? How does one really work out every other day, when, like, two is an even number and seven is odd? Are there a bunch of dudes out there trying to squeeze in .5 of a workout? Who is looking out for them?
To settle the matter, we decided to call a bunch of renowned mathematicians to get their takes. Our hope was to put to rest a debate that had been raging in the minds of roid-ragers since 2008.
Unfortunately, though, it didn't work out as well as we thought. Turns out people who have spent decades researching things like hyperbolic geometry don't like to be cold-called and asked if Sunday is a "real day." Lots of mathematicians didn't pick up. Others, probably assuming it was some sort of prank, hung up. Here's a sample interaction from a nice woman who at least listened politely to our spiel before declining to be helpful whatsoever. She actually sounded kind of scared:
VICE: If you were to tell someone a workout plan that involved working out every other day, how many days per week is that?
Maureen Armstrong, mathematics professor at Harvard University: I'm sorry, we can't help you. I have to go. Bye-bye.
Another professor at an Ivy League school claimed she was busy and in a meeting (a likely story). Although these professors like to sit around and talk all day about things like string theory, they seem averse to answer the questions that plague the common man. What good is becoming an expert when you'll only converse with other experts? That's like scoffing at an adult illiterate who's struggling with Hop on Pop because someone gave you PhD funding to write a dissertation on Anna Karenina that no one will ever look at again. What happened to giving back to the less fortunate? Damn.
Regardless, we were committed to getting the bros an answer, so we linked up with Joanna Nelson, a post-doc student at Columbia who specializes in symplectic and contact topology. I have no idea what that means for her, but for our purposes it meant she's a really smart math lady who could settle this argument once and for all.
"It would make sense to talk about working out in two week intervals, because you can't evenly divide a week by two," she told me. "So I would say over two weeks you'd want to exercise seven times. You'd have to look at it in two-week chunks to make the schedule." She also added, for the record, that a full week goes Monday through Sunday. So there you have it, meatheads. You're fucking welcome.
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