So you have decided to join the millions of women who run. Great! Whether you want to keep up with your fit friend or just need an excuse to rock that workout tank, you are ready for a new adventure. But if you have not seen a track since high school gym class, figuring out how to start running can be intimidating. Do you have the right shoes? Are you drinking enough water? What should your arms be doing? The questions are as endless as the metaphorical miles you’re about to endure. abound.

And then there’s the whole intimidation factor. The first time you take to the streets, you’re bound to come in contact with people who make a living out of logging miles. But don’t let these self-appointed pros deter you from your fitness dreams. After all, runners come in all shapes, sizes, and skills. You don’t need any special background to become a runner, just a little initiative (and perhaps a sense of humor). Whether you are angling to run the Boston Marathon, or you just want to make it around the block without becoming winded, nothing should stop you from lacing your shoes and joining the legions of runners in your town. Still need a little motivation? Here are seven tricks to get you started off on the right foot – pun absolutely intended.

1. Start Slow

If you are new to running, slow is the way to go. Setting a world-record your first time out could not only lead to an injury, but a future hatred of running. Not sure if you’re hitting the pavement too hard? Runner’s World has a good trick to determine your pace: If you can sing, you’re likely going too slow. If you are huffing and puffing, you’re going too fast. Take your time, build up your mileage slowly, and do not try to tackle too much distance or speed too soon.

2. Be Adventurous

Explore your options, and be open to trying something new. From race walking to trail running to track sprints, there are endless ways to get into running. Even clean freaks might enjoy a muddy trail run now and again. You can invest in a jogging stroller and take your kid along, or leash up your dog for an instant four-legged running buddy. There are many ways to make running fit your lifestyle.

3. Gear Up

While running requires much less equipment than most sports, you will want to invest in the best of the basics. This may mean tossing those beat-up kicks you’ve worn for years and heading to a specialty story to find the perfect fit.. Having the proper footwear not only makes you feel more comfortable as the miles add up, but it is the key to injury prevention.

But a good runner needs more than shoes. When it comes to clothes, your shorts, shirt, and even socks can help or hurt your run. Avoid cotton clothes, as the fabric tends to hold sweat and leave you feeling less than fresh during the workout. Instead, Runner’s World suggests investing in technical materials like nylon and Lycra, which pull the sweat away from your skin.

4. Use the Buddy System

Because women are running more than ever, chances are you have a friend or two who is already into the sport. Ask them to take you under the winged-foot and join them for their weekly jogs. Not only this keep you committed to the sport (let’s be honest, you’re less likely to flake on a 6 a.m. session if you know someone is waiting for you), but running with a friend comes with a myriad of benefits.

5. Join a Group

None of your friends run? No worries.Although packs of runners can look pretty intimidating with their neon gear and GPS watches, most of them are aggressively friendly and welcoming to newbies. As with running buddies, running groups are a great way to stay motivated as you start your jogging journey. Not to mention the more experienced members can provide some much-needed knowledge that you;ll need as the miles add up. Ask around and you will probably find a local running group that welcomes all paces and experience levels.

6. Sign Up for a Race

You don’t have to be the next Usain Bolt to run a race. A looming competition can be a great motivational tool to not only stick to your running schedule, but to push yourself a little harder. And there are plenty of training programs that will get you ready for the starting line – the Couch to 5K program is a popular one. To keep the intimidation factor down, sign up for a themed-race like the The Color Run or the Glow Run 5K, where the race’s main purpose is fun. But be forewarned: The cheering crowds, creative signs, and swag are enough to turn anyone into a race addict. Once you cross the finish line of your first race, the Saturday morning 5K will likely become a way of life.

7. Stay Safe

Injuries happen in running, but they can easily be prevented. Take a few minutes to cool down and stretch in order to prevent muscle soreness and strain. But your muscles aren’t the only thing to worry about when you head out on a run. To avoid any car-on-person collisions, keep the distractions to a minimum. This means keeping your music volume low enough to hear passing cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. Also, wear bright clothing to ensure that drivers can see you when running in the dark.

8. Have Fun

This is the most important running trick of them all, as it will keep you going when times (and the terrain) get tough. Try not to look at your run as a workout but rather a release. Maybe you use your run to listen to your guilty pleasure playlist. Or your buddy run becomes the best time of day to let loose and make light of all your daily stresses. Whatever the case, use this to take on the roads with confidence and passion. And who knows. Maybe someday you’ll be introducing a new runner to the joys of this challenging and rewarding sport.

Images: Nathan Rupert; Giphy (8)