The other night I stepped up on the treadmill and started my first Couch to 5K session on my iPhone app. I like those apps – they make the choice of what to do and for how long for me. I get too bored running at a consistent speed for a full workout. So the C25K is a perfect start for me.

As I got about 15 minutes in, I was breathing much harder than I’d like to admit. What the heck is wrong with me? I kept asking myself that question as sweat poured down my face (and arms and… well… everywhere) and my legs started burning. I can’t run/walk a 5k… it’s worse than I thought! I started filling my head with negative talk. A negative word flew out of my brain with every step I took.

Fifteen minutes later I made it through the workout and looked closer at the display to see my stats. To my surprise, I had done the entire workout at an incline of 4, and hadn’t even noticed. I’m ashamed that I’m the person that doesn’t notice they’re walking uphill but I am also a little proud to say I did a full C25K session at an incline of 4.

It’s funny how we don’t give ourselves enough credit sometimes, whether it is life generally, a job, a relationship, or a workout. And by not giving ourselves enough credit, we don’t give ourselves enough chances and opportunities. We definitely don’t push ourselves enough to take those chances, and if we do take them, our ugly little negative insults are there to put us down. When we truly push ourselves in life, a job, or a workout, I believe our performance can be significantly higher than the bar we originally set for ourselves.

I unwittingly pushed myself that day (against all odds and negative talk), and would never have given myself the opportunity otherwise. So now that I know, I don’t drop the incline past 3 for the first 15 minutes of my C25K sessions.

The other push I give myself at the end of some treadmill workouts lately is 20 – 30 second sprints. I like the idea of emptying my tank and burning off anything that I have left in me. I do 20 – 30 seconds at a speed where I am slightly slower than falling off the machine. In between the sprints I (carefully) stand on the edge of the treadmill and take 20 – 30 second breaks. When I can’t do 20 seconds anymore (typically reaching the 45 – 50 minute mark on the treadmill, after finishing my C25K), I drop down to 10 second sprints and 10 – 20 seconds off. It is exhilarating and fun. And I do it until my legs start failing me or I feel like I’m going to throw up.

Tonight, I did about 7 minutes of sprinting. The takeaway? I didn’t push myself hard enough the other 45 minutes.

Of course pushing that hard isn’t good for every exercise session… or maybe it is. I know it puts me in a very good state of mind and I have the best sleep ever afterwards.

So next time, whether you’re working out, looking at that new promotion opportunity or job, or thinking you deserve more from the person you’re dating, push yourself a little into the unknown, past that restrictive expectation you’ve set for yourself. And whatever you do, don’t listen to all those negative goblins in your head.