Basically, shallow and irregular breathing through your upper chest can cause that uncomfortable muscle tightness I was talking about, as SELF previously reported. That’s why experts usually recommend setting a more steady inhale-exhale rhythm that involves breathing with your belly, not just your chest. Being intentional about this has been one of the easiest—and most worthwhile—changes I’ve made to make running a little less grueling on my very unathletic body.

3. Invest in even just one pair of comfy sneakers.

Turns out, running in chunky, everyday Filas or cute-ass lifestyle Nikes not only made me pretty slow, but also gave me toe blisters and hot spots behind my heels—injuries that are pretty common when you wear ill-fitting shoes. So pounding the pavement became way less painful (and much more enjoyable) after I swapped my old kicks for some supportive Hoka Mach X’s instead.

Finding your “perfect” sneaker depends on a lot of things, like whether you have flat feet or high arches, need a standard or wide toe box—the list goes on. This all might sound complicated, especially if you’re a newbie, so I suggest doing what I did: Go to a nearby running specialty store (like Fleet Feet, DICK’s Sporting Goods, or Road Runner Sports) and ask for help from a staff member who’s trained to know this stuff. They can take a look at your feet and recommend a few pairs to try on IRL. (You can also turn to SELF’s complete running shoe guide for more pointers.)

Checking out all the different brands and styles can get overwhelming (and potentially expensive), though. For now, just start with finding one pair that fits really well and makes you feel confident. Because let’s be honest: Post-work jogs will never be fun if your toes are smushed or your heels are screaming at you with every step.

4. Share your wins with fellow runners who are in your corner.

The beauty of running for yours truly (a proud introvert) is that it can be a solo thing—unlike group classes, say, or team sports. That said, having personal cheerleaders to root for me (and vice versa) made a huge difference in my motivation.

When I first started running (and almost quit immediately), for instance, my track star of a best friend pumped me up with pep talks (and some helpful recs about the best sports bras and pre-workout snacks). Signing up for a 5K was also intimidating for a rookie like me—but having a couple of fellow-beginner pals join me made my first race an exciting milestone (and bonding sessions) to look forward to.

The point is, even though running is known as a loner sport, there are plenty of ways to turn it into a shared experience, which can make it more fun. Maybe you text your triathlete cousin about your sore calves or bond with a coworker over sneaker recs. You can also share your PRs on an interactive app like Nike Run Club or Strava—these platforms let you connect with friends, track each other’s runs, and offer kudos with virtual high-fives so that you can build camaraderie every step (heh) of the way.

5. Reserve that special playlist or podcast episode only for your runs, so you have something to look forward to.

Getting into a running groove is a bit of an art form—and for me, the secret lies in syncing up with the perfect workout playlist or podcast that takes my mind off the effort of running.

Your go-to energy booster might be a creepy true crime podcast that gets your adrenaline pumping. Or maybe it’s Ariana Grande’s new (and might I add, perfect) album Eternal Sunshine that helps the miles fly by. But here’s the trick: Whatever you choose—listen to it only when you’re running. In other words, not when you’re commuting to work or singing in the shower.

I’ve found that my brain gets excited for that special little treat when I hold off on the newest episode of Call Her Daddy, say, or my favorite Nicki Minaj bops until my Sunday jog. Especially on days when the weather is gloomy or my motivation is low, just wanting to get some miles in isn’t always enough to get me out there. But my favorite playlist? Or the next episode of Crime Junkie? Now those are some rewards that’ll have me lacing up my Hokas with anticipation.