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?