These D.C. women hit the streets of the Capital city for a weekly run to see the sights and stay fit. Here's how to start a group in your neighborhood too.
Fitness Buddies: Run Like a Girl!
(from left) Graham Smith, 31, loves having a stronger core; Heidi Black, 31, says she feels less stressed and more balanced; Shelley Webb, 29, says she has more energy; Sara Tucker, 32, has lost pregnancy weight and toned her arms.
| Credit: Photo by: Ralph Anderson, Styling by: Halle Von Kessler/Zenobia, Hair and Makeup by: Laurie Baldwin/Zenobia

Running is one of the most accessible forms of exercise there is. And while the treadmill is fine for calorie burn, you'll get even more from exploring your neighborhood with friends. "There's nothing like the exhilaration you get when your body works to peak performance, and running is a great way to do that," says Bobby Morrow, national spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. "Plus, jogging outside gives a whole new perspective on a place that's much different than what we see from a car window." Bobby, a certified personal trainer in Lexington, North Carolina, recommends your group start running on soft surfaces (like those in a park) because they're easier on the joints. In the process, you'll burn calories, strengthen your heart, and reduce stress. But before lacing up those running shoes, consult your doctor and follow our tips.

Invest in Proper Running Gear
That means you shouldn't run in the sneakers you use to go grocery shopping. It's worth it to find a running shoe with the proper fit. In general, avoid anything too small or tight—you should be able to slip a few fingers in between your heel and the back of the shoe. Flexibility in the toes and support for your entire foot is also key. Be sure to wear clothing that breathes, especially during the heat of summer.

Be Realistic
If you haven't exercised in a while, start by walking, and then alternate with jogging. Gradually conditioning with a combination of walking and running allows your body time to adapt to impact on the joints and muscles. You should be able to carry on a conversation. "Listen to your body, and slow down if you need to," Bobby says. "If you overdo it too soon, you can get hurt."

Take it Easy
When getting started, allow at least one day between sessions to allow your body to recover. If you're in pain during any point of your jogging session, it's okay to take a break and give your body time to rest. Make sure you're eating enough—don't skip meals or you may easily get fatigued. Drink 8 to 12 ounces of water about a half hour before you run, and carry water with you.

Find a Group with Similar Goals
Look for friends with similar fitness levels and objectives. Pick a regular spot to meet and consider working toward a goal, such as running a charity race. Check out online tools, like The Couch To 5K, a free program that helps you train for a 5K in nine weeks ( Or go the old-fashioned route and check with your local running shop—many help organize groups of all levels. Instant community!