Rest - whether it's too much or not enough, it seems pretty tricky to get the balance just right.
Rest is a vital part of a fitness routine - our muscles require it in order for them to strengthen and grow. The amount of rest needed differs from person to person and depends on loads of different factors - everything from what activity you're doing, how often you're doing it, to what kind of food you're eating.
When we strength train, our muscles become damaged (which is what leads to the dreaded DOMS). Repairing this damage (the tiny tears in our muscle fibers caused by the exercise) is what allows the muscles to grow and become stronger.
So far, so good. But how often should we be taking a rest day? The general consensus seems to be that, at least when it comes to strength training you should give yourself between 24-48 hours off before training that same muscle group again. That's not to say you have to take a complete break from any type of exercise, you can always train a different muscle group or take part in a different form of activity such as yoga, cycling or swimming.
You know what it's like, you finish your set, take a break and before you know it your chatting to someone and it's been 10 minutes since you did anything. Surely in order to get the best out of our workouts we should be taking the minimum rest periods, right?
Maybe not. A recent study produced by the University of Birmingham, has found that extended rest intervals between sets of weight-lifting could actually help with muscle growth. The study which looked at a small group of males found that those who experienced an extended rest period saw an 152% increase in myofibrillar protein synthesis compared to a 76% increase in those who took a shorter rest period. When you think about it, it makes sense - the heavier the weight, the longer the time you'll need to recover before the next set.
This doesn't give the green light for slacking though. If you do want to experiment with longer resting periods during your workouts then ensure when you are working out it's to maximum intensity!
When it comes to strength training, there's no tried and tested formula about how much rest your body needs. Some days you'll find yourself able to bounce straight back into training and some you'll just have to take it easy. Listen to your body - it will usually give you pretty clear signals that it wants to take a break (prolonged muscle soreness, extreme tiredness and loss of motivation being a few).