I started running with my dad by my side about eight years ago, and thanks to a lot of coaching—not to mention a lot of early wake-up calls—I’ve since run many 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons, and two full marathons. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything, and while I don’t know exactly how many hours I’ve logged, I do know I’ve learned a lot about running through trial and error.

Am I the fastest runner in the world? No. Have I given birth three times (… most recently to twins)? Oh, yes. But I’m still running, and I want to help other women jump on the running bandwagon, whether they’re training for their first 5K or just lacing up those sneakers post-pregnancy. Here are my top six tips for new moms wanting to hit the pavement:

1. Start slow.

Whether you’re running on your own, with a friend, or with your kids in your jogging stroller, don’t push yourself too hard. Find a training plan that will work for you and remember to listen to your body—you know your limits better than anyone. Slow and steady wins the race!

2. Find a running buddy.

Chances are high that you either have friends who also love to run or friends who are trying to get back into exercise after having babies—so find those friends and hold each other accountable. Even if you don’t run together daily, report back to each other and share your progress. Having a post-baby confidant can be a huge game changer.

3. Invest in good running socks and shoes.

Your body can go through some weird changes with pregnancy, and sometimes those changes just don’t… go away. These can include your shoe size and width, so after your pregnancy, get fitted at your local running store to make sure you’re getting the right shoe for you.

My personal favorites are these Feetures! socks and the Saucony Kinvara 9 Running Shoe. The right pair of running shoes and socks will make for a more comfortable run and lower your risk of injury. Plus, you’ll feel like you’re spoiling yourself—I mean, you made a person, you deserve it.

4. Begin with the end in mind.

Working out is always so much more fun when you have an end goal to work toward. Maybe you sign up for that color run you’ve always wanted to do, or maybe you commit to running one block farther than yesterday without stopping. Whatever your goal is, be kind to yourself and make sure it’s realistic for you to chase down with your schedule. Then get after it—the payoff will feel incredible.

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Photo: theivorylane.com

5. Track your progress.

Apps like RunKeeper and MapMyRun use GPS to automatically store your running route, along with your distance and your pace. Try to track every run so you can see your progress and make notes about your workouts—seeing yourself run farther and faster will only fuel your fire to keep going. I also like to take progress photos of my body in my full-length mirror. I don’t notice changes on a daily basis, but when I check out weekly or monthly photos side-by-side, the difference is definitely there.

6. Recognize that mom guilt is a real thing but don’t hold onto it.

My babies are usually asleep when I run or right next to me when I do my BBG workouts, but sometimes I leave them for an hour to go to a group fitness class, and that’s OK! I used to constantly have mom guilt, but I’ve realized that it’s so important to have an outlet outside of your kids. When I work out or run, I’m a happier, nicer, and less-stressed mom. Plus, when my children see me working out and doing something challenging, I’m setting a good example of how to lead a healthy life and take care of your body.

Emily Jackson runs the lifestyle blog The Ivory Lane, where she has developed a running guide for beginners and new moms. Follow her on Instagram @emilyijackson.