It’s time for a post about winter running.

Plus some general stuff for beginners. I was going to cover winter running in my first review, but I’ve had some questions and request that I don’t think can wait. I was happy to learn yesterday that my blog has inspired a few people to start running. These tips are for those of you who are beginning right now:

1. The first thing I always say to everyone who even remotely considers starting: Get yourself proper running shoes immediately.

I know some of you are trying this Hispanic-style and you can’t understand the difference between the shoes you wear to buy tortillas and a proper running shoe. You will understand the difference after you buy the right shoes. This is not the time to cheap out. This is the time to suck up to your knees and your ankles. Be nice to them and they will be nice to you.

You can get a free running shoe assessment at any Running Room store. Just walk in, tell them you want an assessment, and somebody will help you. They’ll make you take your tortilla shoes off (clean your toenails and ladies shave your legs), then you’ll have to walk around a bit and jog/run a little while someone stares at your feet. Bring pants you can roll up a little.

Bring or wear your own sport socks or you may have to wear a borrowed pair that somebody else wore (ew). When it’s all over, they will explain to you about pronation, etc. They’ll set you up and help you pick a shoe that will compliment the way you run. Even if you don’t buy your shoes there, you can still get the assessment. You can always compare shoe prices afterwards, but the assessment is important. Don’t skip it!

2. Get yourself a running program right away. I didn’t have one until later so I was running aimlessly like an idiot. Don’t be an idiot like me.

A running program will give you a schedule. It will tell you how much to run and for how long. It will give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It will let you get a feel for running and see if it’s even something you want to continue. A program also reduces your risk of injury dramatically. It’s easy to get high off the feeling of running the first few times, and then end up hurting yourself because you pushed too hard. Listen to your body. Eventually if you continue, you should learn to tell the difference between good pain and bad pain.

If you’re starting out, you can find a good program in The Beginning Runner’s Handbook. You read my book review about it here. John Stanton, the Running Room’s founder, also has a whole bunch of great books and resources for sale in any Running Room store. Take a look while you’re there getting your assessment.

If you don’t want to buy anything, go to the library and pick something up. That’s where I got my first copy of The Beginning Runner’s Handbook. If you happen to know my sister Elizabeth, she has this program. If you’re nice to her she may share. Or search for online resources (from reliable sources). There’s a ton of stuff out there.

If you’re really serious, the Running Room also offers Learn to Run clinics. They even have free drop-in group runs every Wednesday at 6pm and Sundays at 8:30am. A lot of people benefit from not starting this alone. Even if you don’t register for a clinic, you may find it easier to hook yourself up with a running buddy. The great thing about running buddies is that you always have someone handy to race.

3. Dress for the weather. If you’re starting right now, wear layers. I learned about layers through trial and error, so hopefully this will reduce your learning curve a little. You’ll still have to experiment with what specifically feels most comfortable, but the general idea during winter is that you want to stay dry. Find material that will help you accomplish this. If your clothes are soaking wet, STOP running and go home! Here is a good resource with more winter running info.

4. When you start running, especially if you’re on a street, you may actually feel stupid. Like you should be walking with everyone else. You’re not stupid. Those people are staring at you because they’re jealous of your new shoes.

5. People experience winter in different ways. You may find that you want grips for your shoes. They sell these at the Running Room stores, but I bought mine at Shoppers Drug Mart. They’re very convenient and they slip on right over your shoe. Grips tend to work best in heavier snow, which we haven’t had that much of this year. If you wear them on pavement, they will just click awkwardly and you’ll wear them out.

Don’t be afraid of the snow, but always be careful. Try to keep a firm steady pace. Watch for ice (duh). Snow running provides added resistance plus you’re also working to keep your balance, so you may really feel your leg muscles afterwards. Eat protein to help your recovery!

6. Some people hate breathing icy air (I don’t mind at all) or don’t like the “recycled air” concept of your standard scarf. You should consider a face mask. A face mask is awesome because it will keep you warm and you get to run around looking like Hannibal.

For general winter gear like face masks, gloves, earmuffs, hats, I say go to Mark’s Work Wearhouse. Anything decent I’ve ever owned has come from there. Keep in mind though – it’s almost spring! You may also need a pair of sunglasses. You’d be surprised at how brightly the sun reflects off the snow.

7. Stretch. Ideally before AND after you run. Even if you feel like you don’t really need to stretch, you do.

8. Don’t feel bad if you decide that running isn’t for you. It’s not for everyone. The injury rate is high. It’s easy to get discouraged. It can be time consuming. It can be boring. It’s awkward with the weather changes. You accumulate more laundry. Random dogs chase you.

If you do continue, congratulations! You’ve just discovered the greatest sport on earth.

Bonus: This Woman’s Health article will answer most of your start-up running questions.