When Coss Marte entered prison, he says, his cholesterol and blood pressure were so high that doctors told him he could die before his seven-year term was through. This medical dilemma had a lot to do with the stresses of operating a New York City drug delivery service large enough to net him about $2 million a year by age 19. Hoping to extend his life expectancy past his sentence, he devised a workout routine tailored to his small prison cell and the prison yard, blending military exercises with some moves of his own creation. By his count, he lost 70 pounds and helped many fellow inmates do the same.
When Marte left prison, he had difficulty re-entering the workforce. This, too, had a lot to do with having operated a drug delivery service large enough to net him about $2 million a year. Employers were quick to dismiss him for his past—some even replied with letters detailing his criminal history—so he took menial jobs and spent his off-time working out at a park in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where he grew up. Eventually, curious passersby started paying him for his instruction. And later, blocks from where he used to “sit on a milk crate, selling nickels and dimes,” he opened a fitness studio called ConBody, which aims to acquaint students with Marte’s prison-style workouts and dissolve the social boundary between the incarcerated and everyone else. (Many of his trainers served time themselves.)
We visited Marte’s studio to understand his social vision and test out his regimen. It involves so many pull-ups. This man does all of the pull-ups.