Earth to Body’s mantra is “green vibes, strong tribe, long lives”. This 100% plant-based gym and café in Croydon in Melbourne’s outer east breaks traditional training norms and promotes inspiring group-based training with an immersive community spirit.
Founders Chrissy and Adrian were free to chat about their vision for Earth to Body Gym and Café, and how they took the journey to create a game-changing fitness model. Plus, we talk about supporting everyday athletes and vegan food businesses, being a part of their tribe and where you can get you’re your protein if you’re vegan.
Chrissy and Adrian, how long have you both been vegan for? What made you both decide to go vegan?
“Our shift to a vegan diet occurred around six years ago now. It was when Netflix was a new thing, and we came across the documentary Cowspiracy. Given it had some credibility, being produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, we were intrigued! After watching, we were mind-blown simply by what we didn’t know. The impact of the animal agriculture industry on our natural environment was the most significant learning we took away from it.
From there, we instantly began our transition which took a good six to 12 months to get right. This involved navigating a healthy approach to consuming vegan food which eventually led us to embracing a wholefood-centred, plant-based diet with minimal processed foods and saturated fats. This was the approach which best aligned with our values, our health and fitness goals and made the most sense to us.”
How long have you both been in the fitness industry for? What drew you to the industry?
“Adrian has been in the fitness industry in a professional capacity for around seven years. Fitness was always something we both valued but it took a turn towards something more serious when discovering the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. Adrian wanted to use health and fitness as a vehicle to inspire others to lead a more sustainable lifestyle and lives by this mantra every day.
Chrissy’s background is from the public healthcare sector where, after 14 years nursing and management experience, she embraced nutrition studies and focused her energy into her own health and fitness whilst building Earth to Body with Adrian and everything behind the scenes.”
Earth to Body opened during one of the first COVID lockdowns here in Melbourne and opened in Croydon. Why did you open your gym in Melbourne’s outer east?
“In all honesty, it wasn’t the suburb itself that attracted us to our Croydon location. We were familiar with the area as we grew up in the eastern burbs. But our premises hunt was very much around finding a space that would facilitate our vision of a cafe to complement the gym and our plant-based approach to nutrition.
And Croydon provided the goods, and we couldn’t be happier with our amazing and vibing space. Yes, COVID struck Melbourne just as we finished our fit-out here which threw the most unimaginable spanner in the works! It tested us incredibly in our first years of business, and makes for a pretty crazy start-up story!”
Many gyms focus on individual training. Earth to Body is more group-based training. Why is it important for a gym to focus on this collaborative format?
“The prospect of training is challenging. It’s hard. And so it should be. If we don’t challenge ourselves, get uncomfortable we don’t change.
Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone in an environment where you are lifted up by an immersive atmosphere, engaging and purposeful coaching and others around you feeling the same stimulus on the body as you are makes the experience so much more than just training. You are inspired by others around you. You help and cheer on those next to you. You might even challenge yourself by darting those sideways eyes at the rower speed of your buddy and trying to beat it up.
Not only does group training provide us the push that we need and want we benefit from human connection where we are all vulnerable. Pushing through together, and egos are left at the door.”
Being a part of the Earth to Body community means that members are part of a ‘tribe’. Explain what a tribe mentality means for those who attend?
“We are like the wolfpack. We stick it out together -train together, celebrate together, and enter the pain cave together! And being a part of the Earth to Body tribe goes beyond the training. Through the essence of human connection, friendships are formed, support networks build and before you know it you have a whole new family that you’re a part of.
Our strong focus on tribe events – both inside and outside the gym – including our Spartan Race events, Bali retreats, Earth to Body Games, Run Club (and plenty more) offer members of our tribe multiple opportunities to connect with like-minded people who thrive through a sense of community and belonging.”
Earth to Body has a number of classes that run on a daily basis. Describe a typical Earth to Body class and what can attendees expect?
“Assuming the attendee has had a meet + greet, orientation of the facility and equipment, every session starts with an introduction of the class by the head coach into a purposeful warm up that complements the workout of the day.
The workouts usually involve some compound lifting on barbells into running and rowing efforts and exercises using kettlebells, dumbbells, battle ropes or weighted balls. These are designed to challenge our key movement patterns and improve our movement capability.
Regular trainers on our program can expect tangible strength and fitness gains as we follow a progressive program that cycles every three weeks with a de-load week followed by a final test week in week 11.”
You both strive for positive change. Can you describe a particular example in your own lives where you were able to push boundaries and make a positive change?
“We do strive for positive change – within ourselves, for those whom we provide a service for and also for the world that we live in! We can’t deny that our decision to shift to a conscious, plant-based lifestyle was a huge game-changer.
On a larger scale, our business itself is a protest against the norm. Our approach to nutrition, being wholefood plant-based in nature is a rarity to see in our industry. Sure, there are many fitness facilities/services that offer vegan meal plans as options within programs. However, by dedicating our ascension programs to a 100% plant-based focus, as well as our onsite cafe – we provide clients the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the experience with support and guidance. This then leaves them with the knowledge and experience to then choose how plant-focused their lifestyle is after trying.”
In your view, what makes a good coach? On the flipside, what makes a good student?
“A good coach understands the client’s capabilities. Everyone in the weight room is at a different point in their training journey so that’s important to recognise. In a group setting, awareness and understanding that energy is everything! And what attitude you bring to the session can set the tone for the entire room.
On the flipside, the same can be said about a good student. We are here to lift each other as much as we are here to lift weights. Lastly, it’s all about attitude. If you attend with a willingness to learn, to step a little outside your comfort zone and give your training your personal best effort, we couldn’t ask for any more.”
The fitness industry is renowned for focusing on an intake of protein. How can a vegan diet help athletes stay fit and healthy while they achieve their fitness goals?
“Protein is an essential macronutrient for our bodily function and absolutely has its place within the diet of a healthy, everyday athlete. Protein serves a purpose for repair and growth of muscle cells and plays a role in cellular function, hormone production and enzyme reactions amongst other functions.
Within a well-planned, wholefood plant-based diet you can expect to see a diverse range of plant protein sources, amongst a myriad of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. All of these play a role in providing a broad range of nutrients, antioxidants, polyphenols and fibres. If we strive to consume a wholefood plant-based diet where plant diversity is heroed, we can be confident that we are flooding the body with nutrient-dense foods. These foods will provide a clean energy source as well as aid recovery, improve gut health and reduce your risk of lifestyle disease in the long term.
Portions of the above mentioned food groups would depend on physique goals. However, generally speaking, it’s quite difficult to ‘over eat’ if you are prioritising whole, plant foods as your primary source of nutritional energy.”
Attached to Earth to Body’s studio is the Earth to Body Café where you sell vegan coffees, smoothies, lunch bowls, breakfast jars and snacks made by local businesses. Why did you decide to open a café, too?
“Opening a café was always part of the vision for us. Plant-based nutrition plays a significant role in not only our lifestyle but also our desire to have as minimal impact on our environment as possible.
Consuming a plant-based/vegan diet is by no means a prerequisite to train with us or visit our café. It’s important to us that we have a platform to educate and share incredible and flavoursome food and drink offerings for clients. It provides a positive experience for trying plant-based products!
Additionally, we wanted a space to allow our community to connect in a more intimate environment, outside the training classes. It has provided just that, and we couldn’t be happier with the energising post-class vibes and smoothie parties enjoyed every morning!”
What are other ways that Earth to Body promotes a positive, healthy and sustainable lifestyle? (e.g. programs, meal plans, etc).
“We believe we have a lot to offer in terms of knowledge, experience, support and skill when it comes to strength and performance training. But also the 23 hours of the day we spend outside the gym.
All Earth to Body Gym members have access to join our ascension programs from which they can choose depending on their individual goals; fat loss, muscle building or a balanced, healthy lifestyle. All three ascension programs hero plant-based nutrition at their core, with accountability and education tools to ensure the best possible experience and results for the committed client.”
Earth to Body is also a HalfCut Alliance Partner. Can you tell me about that and what have you achieved by being a partner?
“We set out with the goal to achieve positive change through community as we knew this would have a more significant impact than us two alone. Utilising our small business as a vehicle to contribute to a more sustainable future made sense to us. After discovering HalfCut and the rainforest protection work they were doing locally (far north Queensland) we were excited by the opportunity to connect with a tangible option to offsetting some of our carbon footprint as a business.
From our contributions as a collective thus far, we have saved 645 acres of rainforest from deforestation and through a 30 day fitness challenge with HalfCut, we raised enough funds to establish over 1000 rainforest trees in areas in need of reforestation.”
What would you say to someone who is not vegan and who wants to start a fitness schedule but doesn’t know where to start?
“Start with small goals that are challenging, but doable. Build your fitness routine by starting with three sessions per week, which is a good amount to develop some consistency with the goal to have no more than two days off in between sessions. Build on that as your fitness improves and we can continue adding to the stimulus as your body adapts.
If that same person wants to incorporate a plant-based/vegan diet to complement their new fitness schedule/regime, we would recommend seeking a supportive professional for guidance to ensure adequate energy intake and incorporation of essential nutrients. Transitioning to a 100% plant-based diet requires and deserves close attention and research to achieve optimal health outcomes.
Often, the amount of information available can be overwhelming. Transitioning with the guidance of a professional in this space can make that transition a lot easier. Our members’ ascension programs provide this, including tasty recipes that make the transition enjoyable, exciting and smooth-sailing.”
Do you have any final thoughts or comments you’d like to make?
“We are incredibly grateful that we have successfully built a strong, vibrant community of inspiring humans who are committed to their health, training and contribution through the power of a tribe.
We know our business is somewhat ‘against the grain’. We’ve challenged the norms and stayed true to our values to create a one-of-a-kind service for the community. The level that the people in Croydon and surrounds have embraced this continues to blow our minds every day and we cannot wait to help optimise and expand the lives of many more amazing humans to come. Bring on more green vibes, strong tribe, long lives.”