Dr. Rob Lavoie takes to the trails
Raised in Aroostook Country, Dr. Rob Lavoie has wanted to be a Chiropractor ever since high school -he listed the profession as his career goal in the yearbook. These days, patients at Chiropractic Clinic of Gorham experience holistic care in a refurbished 1890 Maine house situated in the center of town. When not with patients or family, Dr. Lavoie pursues his own therapy -mountain biking -and can be found riding the trails of Southern Maine on his Santa Cruz Tallboy bike or volunteering to extend new trails.
Illustration by Mali Welch
The Path toward Chiropractic
My parents were laborers and both came from very poor families in Aroostook County. When my father was a child, he was stacking hay bales on a trailer and he fell off, landed on a hay bale, and messed up his back. There were just a handful of chiropractors in the whole state of Maine, and one of them happened to be in the town where my father lived. Fast-forward: I’m in high school playing basketball, and I throw out my back and can’t walk. My dad says, “Let’s go to the chiropractor.” After two visits, I’m up and playing basketball again. I loved healthcare, and I knew I wanted to do something with the body. When the chiropractor who had treated me came to my class to do a presentation and explained how chiropractic works, and how the body was meant to heal itself if you give it the chance, a light bulb went off.
The Preventative Approach
About 60 percent of my patients who have never experienced chiropractic come in for symptom-based treatment, but they usually stay because they realize the benefits on a wellness basis. The other 40 percent come because they know it helps them; they know it keeps their bodies healthy just like going to the dentist and working out at the gym.
A Doctor’s Own Therapy
The thing about biking is that most people learned it as children, and it was the first experience of freedom. I don’t think you ever lose that association. You can’t help but smile when you’re on a bicycle. You just can’t. I ride at lunchtime mostly, or after work. I try to ride five times a week. When I’m out in nature, me and my bike, and sometimes my dog Otis— that is my therapy.
The Maine Pace
In Maine, you get to choose the pace you want. You’re not forced to get into a mode
that you’re not comfortable with. In southern Maine, everything is at my fingertips—in 15 minutes, my toes could be in sand on a beach or I could be on top of a mountain overlooking Sebago Lake. In a couple hours, I can be in remote woods on dirt roads with no cell phone reception. But also in ten minutes, I can be in Portland at a concert, or eating at one of the wonderful restaurants.
Biking toward Health
Mountain biking at its core is health. It’s exercise. I got into biking while practicing medicine because I had gained a lot of weight in college. I was about 60 pounds heavier. I was lethargic. I bought a bike, started shedding pounds, and got back into shape. I tell patients, “I know what it’s like to struggle with weight and with the back,” I can relate to people who are in pain, because I’ve been there.
A Day in the Life
It starts with getting the baby ready in the morning. Then my short commute to work, just three minutes. Sometimes I bike to work. Once at my office, I typically do back-office stuff and paperwork before patients roll in. I see patients for a few hours in the morning. During lunch,
I usually ride or do trail work. The afternoon is busier. I am done at six, and if I didn’t ride during the day I’ll ride with some friends or a group, then head home to the family.
Volunteering for the Future
I’m on the board of the New England Mountain Bike Association’s Greater Portland chapter,
and we’re tasked with building trails for biking. I am also the chair of Gorham’s Conservation Committee, and we’re working on building a multiuse trail network in our town.
Dr. Lavoie’s Recommended Route
Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal is a 30-minute drive North of Portland, just West of Freeport. The East side has over ten miles of single-track mountain bike trails, ranging in skill level from beginner to advanced. one of Dr. Lavoie’s favorite trails is a little over six miles long. The route is “flow and technical but well-marked at each intersection.”