In my opinion, and I'm sure there's other trainers out there that would agree with me, RECOVERY within a training plan is perhaps one of the most important parts to consider.
Sometimes it's simply being able to find the balance of when to recover, without it becoming a full-on holiday!
Recovery can mean anything from the time you take in-between sets or reps whilst at the gym completing your session, to actually taking full rest days between sessions in the week.
To achieve a healthy balanced lifestyle, I've always preached about eating well (with a little bit of what you fancy every now and then) and weighing it out equally with a thorough, overall personalised training plan. This means including recovery days within your plan.
However, one of the most important points I'd like to make is that training plans are not "one size fits all", so what works for me in my weekly plan is not something that may work for you. You must also know your body and the way it works, which can take time to discover, especially if you are new to a training plan. Alternatively, it is up to you to realise if you are still on your way to achieving you fitness goals, and if not, is it because you've hit a training plateau taking a little too much recovery time?!
Some days you will get up and feel energised and ready to take on an intense workout, but other days you may need a more gentle workout, or perhaps, complete rest. The thing you have to work out is whether you actually need the rest, or if perhaps you are just putting your workout to the end of you to-do list. With the best will in the world you can tell yourself that you will workout for an hour everyday for the next month straight; the reality however will not be like that.
Being a Personal Trainer and Dance Teacher, I am on my feet most days for the majority of the day. I cannot expect myself therefore to include an hour's workout every single day of the week because I know I would burn out. My muscles would start to ache, I may experience a lack of sleep, and this would start to show in my performance both at work, and at the gym. Instead, I tend to set myself a goal of working out for 45-60 minutes four or five times per week, with two or three days rest - all dependent on the volume of work that I am doing each week. More often than not, one of my workouts within the week will be active recovery - I'm not pushing myself to the full limits of lifting a certain weight, or running a certain distance, but instead just enjoying the fact that I am able and grateful to be able to move, and so I'll take a gentle walk and perhaps a few core strengthening exercises just to keep the motivation rolling along.
I'll be the first to admit when I've had a bad week of workouts- which believe it or not, does happen! I've had days where I've felt snowed under with things to sort so have pushed a workout aside, but found in doing so that my body has had time to replenish, making the next weeks workouts much more efficient and energised! The key here is that the missed workout didn't become habit... I listened to my mind and body telling me it needed a little extra rest, and made strong comeback in the next session.
So what about recovery between sets or reps?
Again, this is not a "one size fits all". There are guides as to what rest time you should be taking, depending on what sort of exercise you are doing and for how many reps, but you, at the end of the day, are the only person who knows the way your body works.
From experience with clients I could do the exact same workout two weeks in a row, yet the two workouts may feel completely different. This could come down to sleep pattern, food intake, hydration levels, or even the time of day that you are training, amongst many other factors. Some days they feel like they can speed through sets and the weights will barely feel like anything; other days will feel tough, like they've never done the exercise at all before! For this reason I always get to know my clients - I know when they can be slightly pushed because they are lacking the motivation, or when they are needing a little extra recovery time, so you'll always hear me say "take the time you need and as soon as you're ready we'll get going with the next set"- a little encouragement is sometimes all that is needed.
To conclude this post, I'll reiterate the idea that recovery in your workouts is vital, but it must be you that knows when and how much recovery time to take between reps/sets/sessions, with a little help from your trainer. Results don't come from what happens every now and then, but instead what happens consistently. You must give yourself time to allow the muscles and mind to replenish in order to achieve more each time. Too much working out can be just as dangerous as too little working out, so now it is time to ask yourself, "Have I achieved the work/rest balance, and if not, how can I do so?"