Published on November 09, 2020

Free State High School boys cross country team lifts 6A state championship trophy

RunStrong helps athletes of all ages and abilities reach their goals

Autumn Bishop, LMH Health

When the COVID pandemic caused high school soccer to cancel practice in the spring, Christopher Stone had a realization. It wasn’t the technical skills of soccer that motivated him, it was the contact portion of the game. With that piece missing, Christopher decided to focus on his running performance and used LMH Health’s RunStrong program for help.

“I used the strength and conditioning program for high school runners,” he said. “I learned that you can’t just have leg strength and endurance to be a good runner. You need to focus on the whole body – core and full-body strengthening as well as the mechanics of running.”

Runners of all ages and abilities, from casual to competitive, can trust the RunStrong team to keep them moving, improve their performance and recover from injury. The program provides athletes, from casual to competitive, tools to get them on their feet and running.

Nami Stone, rehabilitation manager for LMH Health Therapy & Wellness, has always had a passion for running and treating runners. Attending a session at the American Physical Therapy Association CSM (Combined Sections Meeting) a few years ago reignited Nami’s passion for this area of care, from both treatment and performance perspectives.

“Jaye Cole (LMH Health senior director for physical therapy/rehab) and I started brainstorming how to incorporate our ideas into a ‘program’ that would help us become the regional leader in running care and performance,” she said. “Once we identified other key players for the program, we started attending educational courses and conferences to make sure we built a program that would meet the needs of all runners – regardless of age, ability and goals.”

Meet the Team

When identifying those players, it was important to consider disciplines that provided knowledge at the various stages of injury and performance. That led to the team lineup, including an athletic trainer, physical therapists, strength & conditioning coach and a physician champion.

“We were lucky to have four physical therapists (myself, Andrea Rector, Mitchell Montgomery and Jacob Loucks) with not only a passion for treating the runner, but also experience in the area of orthopedics and athletics,” Nami said. “We’re very lucky to have Zach Sanchez, a prior Division 1 cross country trainer, who was willing and excited to join our team.”

While exercise is a large part of physical therapy, performance training also plays a key role. Joe DeLeo, LMH Health strength & conditioning specialist, uses his passion for empowering students to improve their health to bring the next level of training to RunStrong.

Joe offers strength and conditioning classes for adults at the LMH Sports Performance Center, as well as an additional class for athletes under age 19.

The team works with individuals of all ages and ability levels to design programs to meet the athlete at their current performance level. We strive to provide a fun, safe training environment that people are excited to participate in.

Dr. Stephan Prô, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with OrthoKansas, serves as the physician champion for the RunStrong program. Dr. Prô has worked with professional soccer teams, assisted the U.S. men’s national team in preparing for the 2010 World Cup and currently serves as team physician for student-athletes at the University of Kansas. He also competed in cross country/track & field for Wake Forest University and continues to make running part of his daily lifestyle.

“The oversight of a respected orthopedic surgeon such as Dr. Prô helps to ensure that any injury needs beyond what a physical therapist can care for will be treated in a timely manner,” said Nami.

Run retraining

One new aspect of the RunStrong program is the 16-week Run Retraining program at the new LMH Health movement analysis lab. The retraining program is designed to help runners improve overall running performance and reduce running-related injuries.

The program includes:

  • One-on-one comprehensive running assessment with a certified physical trainer and/or an athletic trainer during an interview, muscle, joint and foot assessment
  • Personalized exercise program to address areas of weakness and improve running mechanics
  • One-on-one follow up appointments every two weeks
  • Video analysis to track progress
  • Final one-on-one comprehensive running reassessment and video analysis

“We started a very basic run analysis in summer 2019 with a few runners,” Nami said. “Andrea (Rector) and I attended a conference in September 2019 that really formed the shell of our current analysis. Our pilot study in January 2020 was cut short by COVID, but it provided valuable information to develop the program.”

Runners considering signing up for the program should be able to run up to 7 minutes continuously in order to complete the analysis. The team works with runners at any stage of training and at all levels, from recreational to competitive.

When Christopher was approached to be a test subject in developing the video analysis for run retraining, he jumped at the chance.

“I thought it would be helpful, especially since I’d already put time into the strength and conditioning program. I wanted to see how that paid off and where I needed to put in more work for improvement,” he said.

And that hard work has paid off. Christopher placed in the top ten at this year’s 6A boys cross country championship and help the Free State High School team capture its first state title in the program’s history.

So what advice does Christopher have for anyone thinking about signing up for one of the RunStrong programs?

“Just do it!”


Autumn Bishop is the marketing communications manager at LMH Health.


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Phone: 785-505-2931
Email: Amy.Northrop@lmh.org

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RunStrong helps athletes of all ages and abilities reach their goals