LifeBridge Health Will Keep You Running the Right Way

We've been running for hundreds of thousands of years: We've fled prehistoric predators and we've led our canine companions through winding trails; we've crossed the finish line for a good cause and we've joined morning run meet-ups (for more than the doughnut breakfast afterward). You'd think we'd be old hat (or old athletic shoe) at it. However, many of us lack proper running form.

Billy Wunderlich knows the telltale signs of improper running form better than anyone. As a personal trainer at LifeBridge Health & Fitness and a speed coach at the gym's Parisi Speed School, he gets everyone from amateur athletes to polished professionals running right. He says that it's all in the heels: “Landing on their heels is the most common mistake runners can make.”

"Heel" has also become a catchall term for moustache-twirling Snidely Whiplashes or professional wrestling's most venerated baddies, and it's easy to see why: If we step incorrectly on our heels, the painful effects rocket up the body and can contribute to injuries. However, our heels aren't mean, they're just misunderstood. They weren't meant to trod on the hard surfaces most runners pound upon day after day.running shoe

“The human body wasn’t meant to run on man-made surfaces,” explains Wunderlich. “If I were to take you out on the pavement without your shoes and I told you to run from point A to point B, I guarantee you wouldn’t land on your heel for long. It hurts.”

Proper form, he says, is a “controlled falling. You want to lean forward as you run. A neutral spine is very important. Instead of landing on the heels of your feet, you want to land on the forefoot. Keep your feet nice and light.”

Mary Campbell, a physical therapist at Sinai Hospital, adds that poor running form is also rooted in weaknesses within the body. “A common problem is that people are not strengthening their hips properly,” she explains. “If someone has weak hips, this can cause them to collapse in as they run. This can often lead to knee pain.”

Though many of us wish we could jump from the couch to a 5k with the simplicity of a finger-snap, that simply isn't possible. In fact, you may want to complement your running routine with muscle-building and toning workouts. Novice runners who push themselves too far, too fast are subject to muscle fatigue. “The farther you go, the more tired your muscles are going to become,” Campbell says. “You need to increase your mileage gradually to help keep proper form. I’d advise for a runner to focus on exercises that strengthen the core. If you have a strong core, you won’t fatigue as much.”

Helping people with their running form is a passion of Campbell’s. She conducts a quarterly running screen clinic at the hospital that is free and open to the community. Here’s how it works:

Each participant runs on a treadmill for a few minutes while Campbell videotapes him or her from different angles. Afterward, she shares the video with the participant and discusses his or her running technique. Based on Campbell's observations, she offers advice on proper running form and what kind of footwear would work best for that particular person.

Wunderlich does the same for his clients at the Parisi Speed School (minus the video camera).

“I observe how they walk and their body movement,” he says. “From this, we get a rundown of what is going on with them and how we can help them develop proper running form.”

He trains his clients by having them run at an incline on a treadmill; this controlled uphill motion pushes the body forward, reducing the inclination for the runner to land on his or her heels.

Though we may groan at the idea of tackling a formidable hill, Wunderlich insists that it's a great way to develop a proper running form. If you're a city dweller without easy access to the sloping countryside, you should use a treadmill with a steep incline.

There are a few easy ways to ensure that you're running to your best potential. The first may seem head-slappingly simple, but it's incredibly important: Make sure you have good shoes that fit your feet.

If you want to heighten your running form, just remember what your mother always told you: work on your posture. You don't have to worry about balancing a book on your head. Keep your chest up, your shoulders relaxed and your head in a neutral position. Above all else, push forward through your hips. “The more you push from your hips, the faster you’ll go,” Wunderlich says.

Wunderlich reminds us that all terrains aren't created equal, and we need to adjust our runs accordingly. "You have to adjust gait and angle your knee flexes depending on what kind of surface you are running on,” he notes. “For instance, on a trail, you'll be jumping over logs, so your pace will be slower and you’ll want to be more cautious. Other times you might be sprinting. In this case, you’ll want to lower yourself as close to the ground as you can and let your feet catch up with you.”

Whether you're running through a vibrant cityscape or up a verdant hill, sweating on a treadmill or evading a saber-toothed tiger (hey, if Doc Brown could turn an old DeLorean into a time machine, who knows what your wacky neighbor can do with the Buick LaSabre in his garage), running properly will make sure that you're running for a long time.

To schedule an appointment with one of our highly trained physicians and find out why LifeBridge Health is Baltimore's premier health care organization, call 410-601-WELL.

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  • In this week's #TeamLifeBridge spotlight, meet the eight providers and 20 support staff members of the Carroll Medical Group. This large team is big enough that our patients can easily find a provider whose personality fits well with theirs, but small enough to have a warm, family-oriented atmosphere. #Maryland #LifeBridgeHealth #Employee #EmployeeSpotlight #EmployeeAppreciation #Healthcare

    lifebridgehealth: "In this week's #TeamLifeBridge spotlight, meet the eight providers and 20 support staff members of the Carroll Medical Group. This large team is big enough that our patients can easily find a provider whose personality fits well with theirs, but small enough to have a warm, family-oriented atmosphere. #Maryland #LifeBridgeHealth #Employee #EmployeeSpotlight #EmployeeAppreciation #Healthcare"
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    lifebridgehealth: "#TBT Did you know there’s a mini-museum inside #SinaiHospital? Located behind the cafeteria near the tray return, “Sinai Pride” provides a look back in time, displaying notable medical instruments, historic photos and more. Stop in and check it out!"
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    lifebridgehealth: "Lavish #holiday feasts can interfere with important daily routines for people with diabetes. This holiday season, manage your blood sugars by balancing your choices. Desserts with sugar can still be part of special occasions when you have diabetes. But remember that they count toward your total carbohydrates. You shouldn’t just add holiday desserts to what you would usually eat. Instead, cut carbohydrates elsewhere in your meal so that you can have dessert without adding to your total carbohydrates. #WednesdayWisdom #NDAM"
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  • Ready for some #Thanksgiving leftovers? Here are some pictures from the #TurkeyTrot, which supported The Y in Central Maryland. #LifeBridgeHealth was a proud sponsor of this year's event, and our CEO Neil Meltzer was one of the starters for the race in Towson along with the Y CEO John Hoey. Thanks to everyone who participated, including many of our LifeBridge Health employees and their families. #Maryland #community #supportlocal #communityevent #run #exercise

    lifebridgehealth: "Ready for some #Thanksgiving leftovers? Here are some pictures from the #TurkeyTrot, which supported The Y in Central Maryland. #LifeBridgeHealth was a proud sponsor of this year's event, and our CEO Neil Meltzer was one of the starters for the race in Towson along with the Y CEO John Hoey. Thanks to everyone who participated, including many of our LifeBridge Health employees and their families. #Maryland #community #supportlocal #communityevent #run #exercise"
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  • Patients, families and staff enjoyed meeting #Maryland's First Lady, Yumi Hogan, who stopped by to help out at the annual #Thanksgiving lunch at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children's Hospital at Sinai. #SinaiHospital #LifeBridgeHealth #Healthcare

    lifebridgehealth: "Patients, families and staff enjoyed meeting #Maryland's First Lady, Yumi Hogan, who stopped by to help out at the annual #Thanksgiving lunch at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children's Hospital at Sinai.
#SinaiHospital #LifeBridgeHealth #Healthcare"
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    lifebridgehealth: "In this week's #TeamLifeBridge spotlight, meet the dedicated team members of Total Women's Health of #Baltimore. This team, led by Dionne D. Oliver, M.D., works hard to communicate and collaborate with each other, not only to do their jobs effectively but to provide superb patient care. We thank you for all that you do!"
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  • #NorthwestHospital is proud to partner with Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) on a health care magnet school, the Northwest Academy of Health Sciences. We look forward to working with these amazing students who are truly the future of health care!

    lifebridgehealth: "#NorthwestHospital is proud to partner with Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) on a health care magnet school, the Northwest Academy of Health Sciences. We look forward to working with these amazing students who are truly the future of health care!"
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    lifebridgehealth: "Thanks to the #AmericanHeartAssociation for sending us this photo of #TeamLifeBridge who participated in this fall's #HeartWalk. Thanks to everyone who came out to #supportthefight against #heartdisease and #stroke. #MDHeartWalk"
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  • #DYK In 1895, #SinaiHospital became one of the first medical facilities to devote an entire ward to treating children. We continue to offer exceptional pediatric care to thousands of #children in and around #Baltimore.

    lifebridgehealth: "#DYK In 1895, #SinaiHospital became one of the first medical facilities to devote an entire ward to treating children. We continue to offer exceptional pediatric care to thousands of #children in and around #Baltimore."
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    lifebridgehealth: "Nearly two dozen kids from Ohr Chadash Academy and Beth Tfiloh came to #Levindale last month to decorate the #sukkah, a temporary shelter constructed for the #Jewish festival of #Sukkot. We are so appreciative of the colorful and festive #art they created as well as for their time and enthusiasm #LifeBridgeHealth"
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