Robert Grabel: Totum Client Since 2013

March, 2013 was one of the toughest periods I have gone through in my life. Heads up: nothing tragic here — my health, my family and the things that matter most to me were all intact. However, it was during this time I had a meeting with a physical therapist that changed my life — and not for the better. The conversation went something like this:

Physical Therapist: How old are you?
Me: 48 (wondering why he’s asking this)
Physical Therapist: Great, then you’re young enough to find a new sport – now go find it!

My “old sport,” long distance running, was the reason he was examining me. Plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and more….I had the complete list.

I caught the running bug at 41 and became your classic compulsive runner. I completed 11 marathons, 20 half marathons and many others. I typically ran 7 days a week and often twice a day. My work even involved running: Inspired by a program I saw while running the Philadelphia Marathon, I started Teens Run Westchester, a non-profit that utilizes distance running to teach teens about goal setting and healthy lifestyles. But now according to a top sports doctor, my running days were over. I didn’t have a counter-argument. My days alternated between agonizing and miserable pain in both heels. And I had no one to blame but myself. Too much of a good thing is dangerous.

Fast forward to July 2013. I’ve moved from New York to Toronto as part of a work relocation with my wife. I’ve accepted my post-running life and even started to enjoy long bike rides. I had also taken up ice hockey (when in Canada…). And then I had the good fortune to tear my left ligament while playing hockey. Since we lived right across from Totum, I figured what could be easier than doing my recovery work close by? So I started working with Dr. Pete Kissel simply to strengthen my ankle post-injury.

running_shoes_QAWhile working with Pete, I shared my history and sadness over the end of my running. As both my feet started to get stronger from our work, he suggested that maybe my running days weren’t over. After about two months of sessions, which included lots of stretching and strengthening exercises, Dr. Kissel commented that while I might never “win a marathon,” he could definitely see me getting back to it. I was always a runner that enjoyed the scenery (I’m not speedy) so I was thrilled with the prospect.

I started off slowly. During those first few days of running I was fearful that the pain would return. It didn’t return and I was able to return to a much healthier three days per week of running, which I alternated with cycling or spinning. I ran in the Fort Lauderdale Half Marathon in February and in the Yonge Street 10-K this past April.

I’m incredibly thankful to be sharing this story in 2014. Thanks to Dr. Kissel, I am training for my twelfth marathon, which I will be running on my 50th birthday this December. I was lucky to learn so much from him, including the value of stretching and strengthening exercises (still doing it), moderation (something I struggle with!) and the simple appreciation for getting back something I love. I would also extend my thanks to the leaders at Totum. Part of my moderation approach includes trying for improvement in my cycling, and I loved participating in Amy’s Friday morning classes along with Tim Irvine. While we’ve moved back to NYC, I will always appreciate my time and experience at Totum.

Rob Graham: Totum Client Since 2005

Totum client Rob Graham is no stranger to physical activity: as a kid, he enjoyed football and rugby, karate and judo. By the 1990s he was a serious runner, even completing a marathon and a couple of half-marathons. But even though he enjoys running, he was conscious of the need to keep his body weight low to do it safely.

After the birth of his first child with his wife Julie, Rob became aware of the fact that he had allowed himself to gain some weight and get out of shape. The birth of his son near his 50th birthday made him realize his hope to be healthy and active for as long as he can. “When friends have gotten sick or died,” he says, “It has been a serious reminder of how precious our lives are. I try to better myself physically through Totum.”

Rob began coming to Totum in 2005, and has been training with Tom Toth for several years now. “Tom makes sure I am exercising my muscles correctly, he knows a great deal about nutrition and exercise physiology.” Rob’s weekly routine includes five workouts, typically twice with weights and three for cardio. Before coming to Totum, Rob had never touched a weight. He estimates that he has lost as much as 40 pounds in the past several years, and added between 20 and 25 pounds of muscle.

“There has certainly been an uptick in strength and endurance and my posture is better,” Rob says. “My reaction time seems quicker.” This has allowed Rob to pursue other interests outside of Totum: he’s a serious scuba diver, and a lover of the outdoors, trekking as far as Nepal, Vietnam, Peru, Indonesia, Thailand and New Zealand. “Every year I go by seaplane somewhere remote and get dropped off in as isolated a location as I can find.” Rob also skis with his family in the winter.

Rob offers some advice for those looking to follow his example: “Don’t smoke. Start eating right and get into sports you can continue when you are older. Enjoy life to the fullest, and if something isn’t working, focus your energy on making it better. Life’s hurdles build our character and resolve. Don’t let setbacks deter you. Don’t over eat, spend less than you earn, and surround yourself with the greatest friends possessing the very best in character. Be kind, for in this life you and I could be next.”


Milena Braticevic: Totum Client Since 2010

Achieving a Black Belt

By Milena Braticevic

I have been doing martial arts for over 5 years. My motivation has always been to build physical discipline and mastery of body and mind to develop a consistent practice and a healthy way of life. I have always been fascinated by the determination of athletes to push themselves and show the beauty of what is possible to others – in ballet, gymnastics, tennis, or any other athletic discipline.

Throughout the years, each belt examination had been an exciting endeavor and a test of strength and character. But I knew that to prepare for my Black Belt test, I had to push myself much further and raise my game to the highest level possible.

As I increased my training, I noticed that I had weakness in my shoulders and upper body. I frequently had pain after intense punching drills, and I became afraid to use my hands in fear of further injuring my shoulders. Aware that this was going to cause a problem in my training, I went to see physiotherapist Mary Catherine at Totum. Mary Catherine located the problem in the specific shoulder muscles that I had been under-using. She developed a customized series of exercises to target these muscles and bring my shoulder strength back. With time, I was able to start using my shoulders again effectively and further build strength in my upper body.

At about a 3-month mark prior to my test date, I was wondering if my diet needed to change to improve my overall fitness and energy levels leading up to the test. Out of curiosity I decided to see Sarah Maughan, holistic nutritionist at Totum. Sarah suggested that I try her Clean Slate diet program, which was based on the gluten-free approach and intake of specific vitamins and herbal supplements. This would allow for the body to get rid of toxins, and ensure better absorption of nutrients. To my surprise, Sarah explained that most athletes eat gluten-free for best performance. The gluten-free approach worked miracles! My energy levels were more sustained, which allowed for intense 2 to 3 hour workouts up to 6 days per week. The suggested intake of protein, vitamins and minerals improved my recovery time. Over the three months leading up to my test date I lost approximately 10lbs just from eating right and training (and not dieting!).

I also started doing private boxing classes with Sanguebom on Sundays. For an hour each week, we worked on my conditioning, punching technique, foot work, and core strength. These sessions were powerful as well as motivational for me. Sanguebom showed me how I can use my energy efficiently for most effective sparring techniques without getting tired. With his humour and positive approach he kept me motivated and determined to succeed.

To increase my conditioning, I also did cycling and general boxing classes at Totum a few times per week. When my body was too sore to train, I would go for a massage therapy session to relieve tension and help with muscle recovery.

Two weeks before my test date, I got a cold and could not train at all. In my attempt to get back to the gym I saw Helene Lescoat and complained to her about my cold. She immediately set-up a quick appointment with Dr. Jen Newell who examined me and provided a list of herbal remedies I would use to fight my cold.

I reached my goal and completed my Black Belt Test on Sat, Nov 17, 2012. It was a 5-hour exam and a good demonstration of mental and physical endurance and technique. As a woman, achieving a Black Belt has taught me that I am much stronger than I thought. In the words of Bruce Lee “There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must go beyond them.” To all of you working on a specific fitness goal – you can do it! You have the strength in you, just go for it one day at a time. The talented team at Totum can provide much help if needed.

A special shoutout to my Ronin Kai Karate family:


Alex James Totum Client Since 2012

How I cut my body fat in half last summer
By Alex James

I didn’t really subsist on a diet of Bermuda grass and alfalfa sprouts all through the summer of 2012. All I did was turn away – permanently, I hope – from my much-loved cheeseburgers, fries and caramel sundaes, and exercise regularly. The bathroom scales had told me that I was gaining weight, and I was still this side of 30. If I didn’t change my eating habits now, I would be chubby at 40, and the mountain of weight-loss would be harder to climb. I resolved, therefore, to lose weight or more importantly, to reduce my body-fat percentage. Visually, I was still quite trim, weighing 160 pounds at six-feet-two, but a trip to the Bod Pod indicated that I had excess fat lurking inside. I was on my way to becoming a well-rounded person, but not in the way I would like.

I began my new life with one considerable advantage: my mother is a health nut. Recently retired from teaching, she takes daily walks, attends a twice-weekly dance class, keeps a food journal, eats whole wheat everything, drinks almond milk, buys probiotic yogurt, records her blood pressure in Excel, and even powers down her iPad at night so that the wireless waves won’t affect her brain – a case, my father says, of locking the barn door after the horse has bolted.

But she was my initial go-to person and, last May, taking her advice, I started exercising and carefully watching my diet. With the help of some cooking lessons, I also started to cook for myself, and I hired a personal trainer to keep me going back to the gym. This would be a three-month project, beginning May 24 and ending September 1: 101 days of healthy living or “energetic hay-eating,” as a friend of mine dubbed it.

To begin, I signed up with Totum Life Science in Toronto. Until then, I knew nothing about Totum, but I liked their website, and totum means ‘whole’ in Latin, which promised just the kind of holistic approach to health that I wanted. After discussing my goals with Sarah Maughan, a nutritionist affiliated with Totum, I agreed to follow a balanced food plan. There were certainly no burgers or fries on the list, but I was pleased to see that neither was hay. Sarah explained how to read the nutrition labels on the back of products, and told me to shop for myself, following her recommended guidelines.

My first stop, then, was a grocery store, where I loaded up on nuts, Greek yogurt, lean meats, and nine-grain bread. Buying healthy groceries was one thing, but I badly needed some kitchen skills, so I enrolled at Calphalon Culinary Centre next door to Totum. Calphalon offers courses in basic to advanced food preparation and cuisine, but I was realistic to know that I needed something really basic, so I began by learning to chop, slice, and dice vegetables, and to make such things as soup stock from scratch.

I was certainly nervous about cooking for myself. Since leaving home, more than a decade ago, I’ve lived entirely on fast food, and I mean entirely. I never cooked for myself, not once. Fast food may be cheap and convenient, but it is often loaded with unnecessary calories and additives, particularly salt, as my mother warned, and if I was going to take better care of myself, I would need to prepare my own meals – without a side order of salmonella.

This was a more ambitious task than I expected. We’re talking here of somebody who barely knew how to turn on a stove, much less cook a soufflé. I didn’t even know that a garlic clove is one part of the bulb and not the whole thing – something worth knowing when you entertain friends in the evening. I also discovered, not unreasonably, that while food preparation can be fun, cleaning up afterwards is a chore – and the two inevitably go together.

Stu Goldie was my personal trainer at Totum, and for 13 weeks, three times a week, he made sure that I exercised regularly and safely. In every respect, Stu was a professional, and under his guidance I learned a lot about pacing myself at the gym.

Before I began with Stu, however, I went to see Dr. Shannon Lee, a Chiropractor and fitness and lifestyle specialist at Totum’s Performance location in Rosedale. To measure my body fat percentage, Dr. Lee used a Bod Pod, a cutting edge machine out of Ridley Scott’s Alien and shaped exactly as its name implies. Using air dispersion technology, the Bod Pod separates your weight into two components – fat and the rest of you (that is, your lean body mass) – and is considered the most accurate way to measure body fat, to within +/- 2%. After a few minutes with me inside, the machine printed out my stats, and Shannon’s right eyebrow rose quizzically. I weigh 160 pounds, of which, apparently, 49 were fat – that is, I was 30% body fat or ‘skinny fat’ as Jane Lynch would say, not the worst result by any means but not a good one, either. Inside, my arteries were narrowing and some of my organs had worrying deposits of fat. It was indeed time to change my eating habits before my eating habits changed me.

My goal, then, was simple: to erase 10 years of fast food consumption in thirteen weeks. I was lucky I had Stu for an instructor, because the exercise regime was no walk in the park. I needed every word of encouragement Stu gave me: crunches, push-ups, twists, squats, weights – you name it, I did it, and not always willingly.

Stu is a master of his craft, and he gave me just the right mix of encouragement and exertion to see me through my 13 weeks. Training, Stu told me, is all about addressing the bottleneck, or weakest part, of the body. If we focus on increasing body strength there, we can move on to the next weakest link, gradually improving our overall condition over time.

Despite a lifelong allergy to exercise, I made it through my 13 weeks without missing a single session, thanks largely to Stu’s encouragement. Midway into those weeks, however, I went back to Shannon and the Bod Pod. Stripped to my boxers and wearing a head cap to keep my hair from influencing the measurements, I waited for the machine to do its thing. “You’re gonna be happy with this,” Shannon said, showing me the results. I’d lost 9 pounds of fat but gained 9 pounds of muscle. I looked and felt the same, but my body fat had decreased by 5 percent within six weeks!

Encouraged by this result, I was determined to finish what I had started. By this point, I was consuming more food in a week than before and was always hungry, so Sarah tweaked my food plan, adding just enough to sate my appetite but not enough that I would squirrel away fat.

Stu had warned me that there would be a point of diminishing returns – that is, I shouldn’t expect ever-better results. But my final test in the Bod Pod was even better than I expected. By the beginning of the thirteenth week, I had lost another 13 pounds of fat and gained 11 pounds of muscle. Overall, I had lost two pounds. The really important figure, though, was 17, the percentage of body fat. I had dropped from 30 to 17, almost halving my body fat.

The hardest part of weight loss is finding the motivation to see it through. I needed Stu, Shannon and Sarah not just for their expertise but for the encouragement and discipline they provided. Because I experienced almost no weight loss, I would never have known the progress I was making by stepping on the scales or looking in the mirror. The changes in my body were hidden but they were important nonetheless. What is more, I learned that a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and sensible eating doesn’t have to be dull or boring. It was – and, I’m sure, will continue to be – enjoyable and challenging, and not at all like living on fifty shades of hay.

My thanks to:
Sarah Maughan, Registered Holistic Nutritionist.

Stu Goldie, Personal Trainer, Totum Life Science, 445 King Street West, Suite 101, Toronto Street West, Suite 101

Dr. Shannon Lee – Totum Performance Director / Chiropractor / Personal Trainer

Laura White, my boss – for giving me the flexibility at work to pursue the new me

And my mother – who uses her iPad, sensibly


Jennifer Ingram Totum Client Since 2003

Jennifer is a long time client of Totum’s. She has a long history in health and fitness as her background included sports participation from a young age. So successful was her time as a young athlete that she earned an NCAA basketball scholarship to attend university in her home state of Kansas. This was a tremendous accomplishment and it was at this point that health and fitness became part of her “job.” Obviously she was required to be in top physical condition as a member of the team.

As a result of these years of consistent physical activity, Jennifer feels her best when she is physically fit. This includes the obvious physical benefits, but also the psychological ones. In short, working out is part of who she is.

Since leaving her career at Kansas, she has never had a specific fitness goal. Instead, her focus has always just been to try and maintain her fitness levels to what they were at her peak – or at least close! She can honestly say, though, that she is physically stronger than she has ever been. Jennifer works with Colin Francis at Totum and feels he has done a fantastic job of keeping her body guessing, thereby increasing her strength. Jennifer augments her training sessions by playing tennis for recreation.

Jennifer and her husband David also feel it is important to set good examples for their two boys. Being fit and active makes all the difference in keeping up with them AND her very busy husband who also works extremely hard in the gym. By extension their entire family enjoys activities together. Jennifer is proud of this…and the fact she can still take any Dad at the Parent/Son basketball game at her boys’ school!

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