Chief works with the best, from regen farmers to distributors. We choose to stock our products in stores from people who share our vision and wish to positively impact you and the ones around you. Our stockists are an integral part of our mission. Without them, the fight for the planet’s health and yours, will be even more difficult. We invite you to get to know them and visit their stores.
This week, we sat down with Matt Hoo, cofounder of 5th Element Wellness, to dive into his passion for holistic health, habit change and the wellbeing of not just his team and clients, but generations to come.
Tell us a bit about you and your business
5th Element Wellness, or 5EW as we call it, is a holistic health and fitness space in Fitzroy, Melbourne.
We have a gym and yoga studio in our spacious ex-panel beater warehouse where we run private personal training, group training sessions and yoga classes. We’ve also got an infrared sauna, cold tub, small cafe, supplement and superfood store and offer nutrition guidance and lifestyle coaching.
5EW is a bit of a wellness sanctuary that many of our members think of as their ‘third space’—home and work being their first and second spaces. We’re a facility where people can connect with their body, destress and prioritise their wellbeing.
Our big passion is creating deep and transformative lifestyle change for our members. Which sounds like a mouthful, but what this means is we teach people how to build habits that will improve their health and wellbeing for life—not just for short term weight loss or aesthetics.
What’s the deal with the name?
This might disappoint some people but the name 5th Element is not actually inspired by the ‘97 film with Bruce Willis!
Our five elements are nourishment, movement, stress management, fulfilment and connection—these are the pillars by which many people find a more balanced approach to life and wellbeing and form the foundation of what we do here at 5EW.
I think of it as a wheel. If there’s a section of the wheel that’s in a bit of a deficit, say we’re struggling with an all-or-nothing approach to exercise that means we over train or go through long slumps of inactivity, the wheel can’t turn smoothly.
We help identify which area(s) people are struggling with. From there, we make some suitable goals and coach people to help them create a more balanced lifestyle.
When did you start 5EW?
The concept for 5th Element came to mind in 2010 when I was overseas. I was working for a large commercial chain of gyms that, in my opinion, didn’t prioritise the wellbeing of their members enough.
Commercial gyms are often based on accumulating members who won't necessarily attend the gym consistently: however this does provide a consistent stream of revenue via their membership fees. But there’s little to no contact with clients. This really clashed with my values and I felt there had to be a better way to help people.
I thought, ‘wouldn't it be great to open a space where client wellbeing was actually the number one priority… and what would it take to make that work?’
In the next couple of years, I quit my job, moved back to Australia and put plans into place to open 5th Element Wellness in 2013.
Why do you enjoy 5EW?
There are a lot of things I enjoy about this place… Mostly the people, in fact, definitely the people!
There’s so much alignment with the crew I work with every day and the members we attract—they care for each other and for one another's health in a really genuine way.
We’re a space that’s based on wellbeing, and not just that of our members. Our team of staff are genuinely invested in one another’s health, passions and goals and it’s incredible that I get to come here each day and call it work.
This focus in the team really helps me to stay in touch with my own health goals and personal development. I’ve managed to create a nest of accountability and support that I am a part of and beholden to in the best way possible!
It's been a tricky few years. How did you adapt to the challenges and what aspect of your business has come out stronger?
It’s been a big few years. Imagine your gym is closed in the Australian city that had the most rigorous lockdowns for 2 years.
50% of your staff and members have moved away (mainly to sunny QLD), you've accrued a huge debt, and your business partner has left smack bang in the middle of this period... Well, that was 5th Element Wellness in 2020!
The remaining team are tenacious to say the least, so we innovated and supported our members with training programs, group coaching and livestream classes through our recently launched app.
We’ve always carried a small range of supplements in our gym cafe and the stock we had was sitting gathering dust while we were closed. So we put all our effort into learning how to sell products online.
We built an online store to support Melbournites’ health and wellbeing at home… and in what seemed like a split second, things blew up.
Our online store grew into a fully fledged business that has literally SAVED our gym.
It's allowed me to continue to pay staff wages, afford marketing to rebuild our membership base, and given us the opportunity to connect with incredible health coaches around the country through our affiliate program.
It’s been profoundly strengthening for the business, my team and me.
One of our core values is living your Chief—best—life. How do you live your Chief life? What gets you motivated day to day and where do we find you when you’re not at 5EW?
5EW is my second home and I’m so grateful that I get to work somewhere that motivates me everyday.
I love hearing when our members, after a year or two of training with us, are making significant changes in their life from the skills they’ve learned at 5EW.
Often this crops up in unexpected ways: they’ve changed jobs, left relationships that weren’t healthy, or have begun to raise their children in a more enlightened and health-conscious environment than the one they were raised in. I love the fact we’re having a generational impact! And what’s cool is that this cascade of big life adjustments stems from seemingly small lifestyle changes. Through more mindful approaches to eating nourishing foods, exercising in a way that doesn’t burn them out, and being aware of stress and how to better manage it. It tends to amplify how they take inventory of their life.
And we’ve seen how this has helped clients to make changes to otherwise unconscious routines that weren't working for their long term health anymore.
There have been moments where members turn around and tell me that joining 5EW has been one of the best decisions they’ve made. This inspires the crap out of me.
The fact that me and my team can hold a space that fosters this kind of self discovery for people is phenomenal.
When I’m not at 5EW, I’m with my wife and kids, playing in the garden, going for bike rides and cooking.
Best advice for people trying to learn about supplements and training?
My best advice would be to chase progress over perfection. It’s important to note that supplements are different to training and like anything, they both exist on a spectrum and need to be applied responsibly to our personal situation.
So often we’re tempted to begin with things at an advanced level, but nailing the basics is essential. Which sounds boring, but it is actually way more difficult than we realise! Think about how challenging it can be to drink more water each day, or try to get more consistent sleep. It’s tricky.
There are so many ways to supplement and train. If you’re highly stressed, you’ll need a different approach working out that doesn’t spike your cortisol levels; if you're having a lot of issues with your gut health, you’ll need different supplements to someone who wants to improve their sports performance.
So, make sure you have support. If you can, find an experienced coach who knows a lot more than you to assess and support you in creating a tailored training, nutrition and supplement plan.
Look for someone who will listen to you, understand your health history and current goals, and will take into account what you need to thrive.
It can be tempting to try the latest fitness, diet or supplement trends, but this often sets us on the path of yo-yo dieting and erratic supplement use. But if you can block out the noise and get personalised support, it will serve you well.
If you get good advice once, you can carry it for a long time.