This content is brought to you in partnership with OrthoCarolina, one of the nation's leading orthopedic practices with offices across the Southeast.

As the New Year approaches, many Charlotteans will resolve to make 2018 the year they finally started running. If you're one of those people, chances are that you've wanted to start running before, but weren't sure where to begin. The idea of taking on a race of any kind, from a 5K to a marathon can be daunting for someone who's never run regularly before. 

So, we reached out to the experts at OrthoCarolina to find out the best way to get your body into the routine of running as a total beginner. Here's what Mary Jean McKinnon, a Physical Therapy Assistant at OrthoCarolina Eastover, had to say.

What Are The Health Benefits of Running?  

However fast or far you choose to go, the simple act of running offers a whole host of health benefits, both mental and physical. "Running as little as 5-10 minutes per day at slow speeds is associated with reduced risk from all causes of death, and also reduced risks of cardiovascular disease," said Mary Jean. 

But when you're considering endurance exercise, Mary Jean does have a recommendation for how long you should run, and how many times each week. "Endurance exercise for 40 minutes, three times a week is associated with reductions of blood pressure, body weight, body fat, waist circumference, blood lipids, and insulin sensitivity," Mary Jean said. "This meta- analysis suggests endurance exercise is great for the physique and for improvements in the body’s physiological functions."

What about mental and emotional benefits? You've probably heard of a 'runner's high' before. This boost in mood and energy encourages many people to run on a regular basis. "While the research pertaining to depression has been purported as low quality, the research does suggest that exercise can decrease the symptoms of depression," said Mary Jean. "​Honestly, considering the other health benefits, I’d say it’s worth a try."

What Should You Already Have Before You Begin Running?  

Mary Jean says there are a few things you should have before you start on your journey to become a runner, including ​equipment, goals, and a support system - and of course, you should consult a medical professional before you start running to make sure you're physically prepared.

When it comes to equipment, one of the first things you should consider is how to find the right pair of shoes. Thankfully for you, we've worked with Charlotte Running Co. to spell out the proper process for finding the right running shoes for you, which you can read about here. You should also make sure you've got socks that will prevent chafing. 

Next, consider your goals. "Realistic goals are pivotal to success and satisfaction. It is important to progress slowly to prevent injuries early in training. Novice runners do experience injuries more often than experienced runners," said Mary Jean. "If you do get injured, rehabilitate, and become a faster and better runner in the long run. Persistence is key. If you are starting to run, think about the fact that you want to make a long lasting health change to improve physical and emotional health."

And what about your support system? You may not think it's important to have people who are updated regularly on your progress, but having someone to cheer you on when you need motivation can make all the difference in your running journey. 

Most importantly, be sure to check in with a medical professional to make sure it's safe for you to start running. 

What's The Ideal Running Regimen For A Beginner?  

If you want to maintain the habit of running, the key is to start slow and be in it for the long haul. "Begin with a walk run progression," said Mary Jean. "Progress after a week or longer (when there is a lack of muscle soreness or pain after 24 hours.)"

Her suggested weekly or longer progression as you move forward: 

  • Walking 4 minutes / Running 1 minute 
  • Walking 3 minutes / Running 2 minutes 
  • Walking 2 minutes / Running 3 minutes 
  • Walking 1 minute / Running 4 minutes

Mary Jean recommends that you start out with a 20-30 minute routine with the goal of exercising for slightly over 30 minutes to get the best cardiovascular benefit. 

The Best Advice for New Runners to Follow  

As a PT assistant, Mary Jean has seen plenty of athletes get started on the road to running. Her advice? "Think long, stay positive, and have a good support system," said Mary Jean. "Have fun! Focus on small improvements and keep building." 

Click here to find a brewery run club near you, or check out all the other beer fitness activities that the Charlotte area has to offer. Be sure to tag @workforyourbeer and @orthocarolina on social media as you explore these opportunities to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle in the Queen City!