Take Your Rest Day, Gertrude.

see ya later. Gotta run.

I can’t tell you the last time I had a rest day. And I mean, a true day of rest with zero exercise or anything that gets my heart pumping. Bertha and her litany of excuses is not my problem. I’ve trained myself to ignore Bertha as I get out of bed without hitting snooze, throw my gear on and hit the road without a second thought. Instead, my problem is Gertrude.

I bet you’ve met her. Gertrude is the voice that fills your head with guilt if you don’t run. It doesn’t matter how full your schedule is, how foul the weather, how much pain you’re in, or even if your schedule tells you not to run, Gertrude tells you you’re a wuss. 

I don’t like taking days off from running or working out. I definitely do not run every day, but if I am not running I will strength train, go to a rowing class, or do some sort of home workout. I wish I could say that my passion is totally responsible for my packed workout schedule, but in all honesty, when my alarm goes off on most early mornings at 4:00, I would love to roll over and sleep. Cue Gertrude: “You’ll regret this and hate yourself later.”

Is it the rush for endorphins? Perhaps, I mean who doesn’t love the rush from a hard workout nailed? For me, though, not every run produces that magical release, but most of the time the feeling of accomplishment that comes from a good workout is all I’m craving. I’m Type-A; I thrive on a routine and savor predictability and structure. I am ashamed to admit this, but before I became a parent, I wrote out my running plans for weeks in advance, thinking that if they were set in stone, I’d get the miles in no matter what. Hell hath no fury if I had to skip a workout back then — and I might still feel this way now. Sigh.

I think, for me, Gertrude was born years ago. After being active in high school, I went to college and let’s just say the freshman 15 was more like the freshman 30 for me. After graduation I decided I didn’t want to be unhealthy and overweight, and I committed to being fit and I haven’t looked back. And by fit, I partially meant healthy, but I also meant the way I looked.

Even when I had my pelvic stress fracture three years ago and couldn’t run for four months, my first question to the doctor was: what exercise can I do? Rest did not seem like a viable option.

Yes, I have taken days off. I have even taken a full week off when I felt like death and had the flu a few years ago. I laugh at myself when I am racing with full effort, and I bargain with myself that tomorrow I’ll get to take a day off. It’s as if I have to convince Gertrude that a rest day is actually deserved. Then, despite my still-throbbing legs later that night, Gertrude says, “Come on, three easy miles will help you recover.”

I certainly would agree with anyone who analyzes this and says I am fearful of gaining back that freshman 30. I have nightmares of waking up one morning without the desire to run or exercise. For me, I think this is the fear that gives rise to Gertrude and knowing it is what can help me learn to ignore her.

And I know I must. Rest days are part of training. I know they help repair and rebuild muscles, so that you perform better on race day. I want to train for a half-marathon PR in the fall. I have even tossed back and forth the idea of hiring a coach, and if I do, I’ll have to chuck Gertrude off a bridge and rest when my coach tells me to.

In the meantime, before training starts again, I am going to practice not listening to her. I will enjoy the extra hours of sleep and allow my muscles to recover and rebuild.

I am going to be ok. I am going to be ok. I am going to be ok.

Shut up, Gertrude. 

Do you have an inner Gertrude? Are rest days not part of your vocabulary, too? Do you ever feel guilty if you miss a run?

I am a mom of five kids ages 10 and under in her early 40's who is passionate about running and my job as a teacher. I am a dedicated morning person who balances my days with a lot of coffee, love, and wine. I am currently training for my second Boston Marathon.

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  1. I’m not sure which one is worse for me: Bertha or Gertrude. Definitely used to be Gertrude, but now it’s a head to head battle. I wish I could say I’ve learned to deal better with Gertrude over the years, but it’s a constant struggle. Thanks for giving it a name so we can yell at her together 🙂

  2. I have a Gertrude. I feel like I might be starting a constant injury cycle and I’m stressing and I need to be rid of her. Rest days to me mean not running, lol. And I’ve found my self looking at the weather and saying, I’ll rest tomorrow, and then tomorrow comes and I say, I’ll rest tomorrow. I need to change that 🙂

  3. I struggle with both those B!t$&es everyday! I know resting is what will make me strong and injury free. But man, I love sweets like a fat kid loves cake- so a girl needs to burn that off at my age or suffer the consequences of love handles in spots where there shouldn’t be love handles.

  4. OMG YES! The guilt. You name it, I can create guilt for it. Read a great quote something like “unless you’ve violated a law or commandment or hurt someone, guilt is overdoing it”. (ex: food is food, not something to guilt over…but I digress)

    I HAVE gotten better at Gertrude-wrangling (health issues, fatigue and being over 50 probably helps…I actually took a full rest day, okay maybe a walk with DH, one Sunday while I was on a training plan)

    Sitting here with a slightly strained quad I’ve been told to rest or at least do nothing that causes pain (strained getting out of the car, 2 days ago….seriously?!) after having run Boston last week – and walked 15 miles the next day, 7 the day after. I did bike/walk F/S/Sun. Yesterday I meant to completely rest (aside from work), but had to walk 25min before dinner. HAD TO. I pool ran today to make myself feel better about myself (not enough endorphins tho), will walk tomorrow, debating a walk now, planning other pool runs for rest week so as not to go insane, feel worthless and weak, lose conditioning – I can justify that as I have a race in 2.5 weeks, right? (I’ll bag it if this doesn’t heal quickly though, bummed even thinking that.) etc.

    And the fear of “if I miss a day, will I ever do it again” – the lazy me. (but I love my treadmill, so there’s that)

    Gertrude and Bertha battle (and I’m so guilty of pre-run web surfing, I actually wake up earlier so I can do that and try not to screw up my run timing), and they both make me feel bad. I just want to feel good about myself and my running! Trying to give myself credit for when I do the right thing – whether it’s running or taking a rest day. Thinking long-term is sometimes more badass than it looks. And it’s not super IG worthy – though I’m sure you’re familiar with the new IG/Twitter @restdaybrags ? If not, check them out, fun.

  5. I struggle with Gertrude big time. Race day taper and recovery periods make me antsy! I’ve now gotten into a good routine of running long on Saturdays and taking Sundays off – since I’m busy with my family, I don’t get as twitchy, and I feel satisfied by a good run the day before. I found that when I ran long Sundays, I really wanted to still do something on Saturday too.