RALEIGH — More women are ditching the neighborhood jog for a bigger goal.They are entering the sport of running -- finding that long-distance races tame stress and boost self-esteem.
Kim Miller enjoys going out to Shelley Lake and for a six-mile run. For years, the 40-year-old Raleigh mother of two walked for fitness. But as walking got easy, it got boring.
"I was maintaining my weight, but I didn't feel I was gaining anything from my effort," Miller says.
Miller will set her sights on this June's 5KNorth Carolina Triangle Race for the Cure. She will run the three-mile race in Raleigh to rev up her fitness routine.
"I knew I had to run a 5K, it kept me accountable," Miller says.
Whether you are ready to race, starting to run or only willing to commit to walking, it is important to start with the right shoe.
"When you're running, every time you're going up and down, when your body touches the ground, your joints, your bones are absorbing about three times your body weight," says Sid Cardozo, manager of Inside Out Sports.
Walkers' feet can take a pounding too. It is important to find a store that fits runner to shoe. The salesperson should check your arches, foot shape and your stride.
Miller hired trainer Brenna Crowson to help prepare her for the 5K. Miller runs with Crowson once a week to work on the fine points of her technique.
"The general rule of thumb is, wherever you are in running, you try to add about ten percent a week," Crowson says.
If you cannot afford a personal trainer or a membership at a gym, you can create your own walking or running program that suits your current fitness level.
The most important step in starting a program is to walk. As you feel able, increase the jog time as you decrease the walk time.
Miller also jumped into a weight training program.
"We've got to keep the core area of our body very strong which includes the abdominals and the back, because that's what keeps us upright, helps us maintain good running position," says trainer Cindy Bross.
Well-developed muscles also burn more fat -- a plus for weight watchers.
Whether it is a fun walk or a marathon, Crowson's advice is to be clear about what you want from a race.
"Is it to complete it? To complete it within a certain time? To complete it standing," Crowson says.
With your goal in hand, the best thing to do is to get out and run.
"Once you feel the physical and psychological benefits of it, it just feeds it and you don't ever want to stop," Miller says.
TheKomen National Race for the Cure, the world's largest 5 kilometer run/walk, will be held June 3 in Washington, D.C. The Triangle race is on June 10 and starts from Meredith College.
The race raises funds for breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment programs.