Conbody: Breaking Down Wellness Industry Barriers

After being in and out of the prison system for roughly 13 years, Coss Marte is now one of NYC’s most buzzed about fitness entrepreneurs after opening his prison style bootcamp, Conbody, in the Lower East Side. Across from the same corner where Marte once sold drugs, he is now inspiring a diverse group of fitness enthusiasts and newcomers alike, improving their lives through an active lifestyle.

Marte’s story is an inspiring one that can prove to any skeptic that fitness is transformative in ways that go beyond the physical realm. We sat down with Coss Marte after a challenging bootcamp class on Broome Street to hear more about his story.

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On the beginning of a fitness journey in the most unexpected place….

“When I went into prison at one point, I was told I could die there. I was sentenced to 7 years and told that I would have 5 to live due to high cholesterol. It woke me up, and I started to get fit in the prison yards and cells.”

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Making connections through fitness began in prison….

“It all started because I used to run the yard all the time. Then, there was a new inmate in the facility, saying that he wanted to start running with me – he was over 300 pounds. I told him I used to look like him and showed him my ID, which was my “before” proof prison photo ID. From there it started to catch on and people started running laps with me and we formed a circle of working out together.”

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Despite the wellness world stereotypes, Conbody proves fitness does not need to be an exclusive or elitist activity…

“I think this should be accessible for everyone, nobody should be excluded, we should be inclusive and have everybody participate. There shouldn’t be any barriers to entry due to wealth, so we came up with different models.”

Conbody sponsorships make fitness affordable and accessible….

“We have a scholarship process where a “wealthier” individual can contribute and sponsor somebody at the bootcamp so that we have an 80/20 split; the sponsor would pay 80% of the membership and the person being sponsored would pay 20%. Paying a smaller percentage encourages that individual to work harder than if they were being 100% sponsored, and to further encourage we send monthly progress reports to the sponsors to see the progress going on. They can see how often this individual is training, the weight they have lost, and more. It all started because people living in my network and neighborhood can’t afford an expensive membership. We started off with one person who lost 40 pounds and increased the program. We are very selective on who receives the sponsorships. We see CEOs and companies give back this way; people ask how they can help and I tell them they can sponsor someone. The best part is that no one knows if a person is being sponsored or not – we all work out in the same room and do the same workouts. It’s a no judgement zone.”

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Making fitness instruction possible for everyone, even at home…

“We started online workouts to reach a broader community, sharing our workouts for no more than $5 per month. You choose whichever formerly incarcerated trainer you want to work with, and go from there. A lot of people only go to planet fitness because that’s all they can afford, but we make it accessible so that people can learn the workouts  right in their living room, and with limited resources. You don’t need any equipment to do what we do.”

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Continuing to empower the community with fitness instructors who have served time and changed their life around through unique fitness styles…

“I just want people to be themselves. The way we train is totally different. We tell trainers to come up their own style. Most other studios you’re expected to follow the same specific routine. Here every trainer has their own style and focuses on a certain body type depending on the day of the week.”

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The method’s don’t require equipment, but they’re not easy….

“Our classes are natural movements that you do with your body. Various squat thrusts, push-ups and we mess around with the pull up bars sometimes – it’s different every day. Our workouts are fast pace, we will push you to your limit. On top of that, it’s inspiring – we all went through different circumstances and worked out in prison cells. Basically, we share our experiences while we teach the classes. Our whole message is that we worked out in the worst possible circumstances and found ways to keep moving and do what we have to do to stay healthy and be well, anyone can. It’s for everyone, my mom is 63 years old and she comes four times a week. It’s all about trying to keep up with the trainer and pushing you to the next level to do more.”

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No frills, no judgements, it’s family…

“People see it as a second family and a second home. There is no vanity, no frills, and no fancy lockers. People are trusting  ex-cons with their stuff, you don’t have to lock anything up – it’s all open. There is no competition with others or judgement. It’s about people meeting each other, it’s a community in and of itself.”  

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