By Coss Marte, Founder of ConBody
"I was a kingpin, a highly successful drug dealer."
At the age of 19, I was worth $2 million. I had access to expensive cars, I dressed in suits, and I was busy passing out my business cards. So busy in fact that I went through about 10,000 business cards in a couple of months. I was so busy I needed seven phones because my success came before the iPhone, and the flip phones could hold only 1,500 contacts. I was a kingpin, a highly successful drug dealer. I had a lot of people working for me, and many of those people were in their forties and fifties, answering to this 20 something.
How did I get rich so fast? Well, I was motivated. I hated being poor.
My mom and I lived on the Lower East Side, and I was exposed to drugs very early. It was all around me. I thought it was something normal to see people shooting up in the stairwells when I’d come home from elementary school. But even as an ambitious kid I wasn’t involved with it. I was out collecting bottles to return them to the bodega and make a couple dollars.
"I thought it was something normal to see people shooting up in the stairwells when I’d come home from elementary school."
I hated being poor. Put another way, I wanted to be rich.
As I got to be 10 and 11, I was free to roam around because basically everybody was family. My whole family lived in my building. So one of my cousins who was involved in the drug trade asked me if I wanted to smoke weed. I didn’t want to, but I was curious and I took the first step.
Then I thought, “Why not buy some and sell it off?” I had worked the whole summer and I had a hundred bucks saved. I bought an ounce of weed. I took that and made $300 bucks off it, and from there it just kept growing and growing. I became the weed guy. In my busiest years from age 19-23, I had an operation that had 20+ employees.
At 23, I ended up in prison for running one of the largest drug delivery services in NYC, but this didn’t stop me from operating my business with the phone and letters from the inside. I even made hooch under my bed — 5 gallons a week, and sold $5 cups. I still had that demon, the drive to never be poor again. The hustle never stopped!
Even after getting examined by the prison doctors and having them tell me I had five years to live, and I probably wouldn't live out my term because my cholesterol levels were so high. I was facing a decade or more in prison, but I didn’t want to die.
I worked out a whole series of exercises that I began doing in my 9x6 cell, which helped me lose 70lbs in 6 months. (The moves that you see below are some of the ones that were done in my small constraint space.)
"I worked out a whole series of exercises that I began doing in my 9x6 cell, which helped me lose 70lbs in 6 months. "
After losing all the weight, I started helping other prisoners by using my exercises, and I helped 20 inmates lose 1,000 pounds combined. This motivated me to come up with an idea of starting a prison-style bootcamp.
While in my cell, I drafted a spreadsheet of each exercise that I was going to create for this boot camp and this fitness program that I had in my head. And I said, I’m going to make this happen. So I came home on March 21, 2013. I came right back to my neighborhood I once destroyed, and I began helping people work out for free in the park.
And then I bumped into Defy Ventures through another non-profit organization called Career Gear, and everything just kept falling into place. I had no idea how to start a legit business, but they connected me with professionals who mentored us to get through the MBA-style program, which helped us develop our business plans and launch our business. I did well, and won a competition pitching to investors.
After graduating from the program I found my co-founder, Jennifer Shaw, who helped me set up a really scalable business and raise extra capital from investors like Michael Mintz to fund our new location at 294 Broome St. in the Lower East Side.
"Today our goal and movement is to create more opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals, and smash the stereotypes: us human beings, not animals or ex-cons, deserve a second chance at life."
Today we have gained a following of over 5,000 people and have hired 7 individuals, 5 of who have been formerly incarcerated, to teach my fitness classes. Today our goal and movement is to create more opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals, and smash the stereotypes: us human beings, not animals or ex-cons, deserve a second chance at life.
UP & DOWNS
Start by standing neutral, lower the body utilizing a standard squat technique, contract the core (trunk), reach down with both hands until they are planted firmly on either side of the body, fully extend elbows. Extend legs, draw knees to the chest, plant feet flat beneath the body, and explosively thrust upward back into the upright neutral position. This is one repetition.
Begin by positioning hands on either side of the body horizontals, draw knees to chest, extend (lock) elbows, press palms down, elevate bottom & hold throughout exercise. Tighten core "trunk" (for duration of the activity) fully extend legs, widen legs, bring them back together, retract legs to chest. This is one repetition.
Begin by planting feet flat slightly narrower than shoulder width apart, palms flat on either side of the body, fingertips pointed outward, bottom elevated. Contract core (trunk), extend legs, toes pointed upward, extend/reach with opposite hand touching the tips of the toes. Alternate for one repetition.
An ex-convict who once oversaw a million-dollar drug empire, Coss Marte developed his own HIIT body-weight routine while serving time in a prison cell. You may have heard of ConBody already, or read about them in one of countless magazines. Now, the unlikely fitness guru has his own ConBody gym, where they hire formerly incarcerated individuals to train New Yorkers and millionaires alike with this effective, no-equipment workout.
Coss himself is proof of his program’s success. By combining cardiovascular, strength, and running exercises in prison, he lost over 70 pounds in just six months. Because he started his workouts in a 9’’ by 6’’ cell, he’s attuned to space constraints: his chiseling moves can be completed anywhere, even in the most despairingly cramped hotel rooms or your own small apartment in NYC using his ConBody Videos.