Robert-Schafer2As a triathlete and co-founder of The Tricredibles, I always considered myself to be “healthy” and in good physical condition as a steward of the sport. Over the past 10 years, I have always found time to squeeze in workouts nearly 7 days a week regardless of my travel schedule. In 2010, my life as a triathlete changed because I moved to Boston late that fall. From November through March of 2012, Boston was the recipient of over 100 inches of snow which meant I was restricted to training indoors with limited access to a swimming pool. This created a new set of mental and physical challenges for my busy 2012 racing season.

Thankfully, I was blessed to meet Stephan and Tiffany Esser during an evening boot camp in our Condo building. As a personal trainer and nutritionist, Tiffany developed and led many training sessions in the Boston area. I was focused on improving my flexibility and strength for an upcoming ski trip and Tiffany developed a series of training sessions focused on working key leg muscles specific to the sport.

As the winter “snowed on” I found myself eating most every night in the North End gaining weight but maintaining muscular and skeletal strength. I supplemented my indoor cycling with some regular intervals of stair climbing (10 flights, 10 times) so I figured I was ready to take on the Boston Marathon thanks to a charitable entry from a friend.

Halfway through the race, I pulled what I thought was my groin but continued to finish in severe pain. At the time, I did not realize the chain reaction that injury would have with the rest of my body. After a few days of rest, I was back to training outdoors preparing for the Leadman 250 sponsored by Lifetime Fitness in Las Vegas, NV. The Leadman Triathlon race series was born from the Leadville 100 deemed to be the world’s toughest running race. Since I was injured, I opted for the easier 2 mile swim, 80 mile bike, and 13 mile run up to the Hoover dam. During the bike leg of my race, my groin injury resurfaced along with other problems in the hip flexors which lead to multiple lower back issues during my run. By the time I finished the race, I had little confidence that I could recover to ride along with TREK travel during the mountain stages of the Tour de France. And yes, I got lapped by Jordan Rapp at the finish line stating, “the Leadman 250 was the toughest race he had ever completed.”

Realizing I could not fix the injuries myself, I went to a chiropractor and physical therapist for some relief. Ironically, the treatments only exacerbated the issue so I reached out to Stephan Esser. I was initially surprised by his unassuming spirit and overall commitment to ensure I return to a healthier state before my ride in the Alps. He worked with me to develop a critical stretching and strengthening plan and then asked if I were opposed to trying acupuncture. I found it odd that a Harvard doctor would use acupuncture as a means for treatment, but Stephan is highly dedicated to natural healing methods and in his “spare time” took up the skill to help his athletic clientele. Stephan warned me that some folks are more receptive to the treatments than others; fortunately I experienced significant benefits after 2 treatments. Most important, the treatments helped create a sense of overall relaxation which is what I needed after the past few months of racing and stress at work. My ride in the Alps turned out to be painless and quite frankly, Alp Duez is not as tough as I thought it would be (thanks to Stephan). I highly recommend riding the back balconies instead of the famed main route, but I am now digressing.

Working with Stephan and Tiffany Esser made me realize that you can never be too healthy; opportunities abound for continuous improvement and they are role models committed to helping others seek health. They just don’t talk about being healthy; they live the lifestyle every minute of each day treating their bodies as a temple to be used for the strengthening of others. I miss the training sessions and fellowship with the Essers and recommend that you seek them out to seek health.