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ConBody, New York’s prison-cell boot camp workout, is taking off


ConBodyYou’d think after four years in prison, the last place Coss Marte would want to be is behind bars. Instead, he installed a cell door attached to a cinder block wall inside his new Lower East Side studio. “How’d you get out?” he asked a woman who went to grab water during a recent class, smirking. “Am I gonna have to search you?”

ConBody is the realization of Marte’s vision to build a themed space in which to bring the workout he developed in jail (and led him to lose 70 pounds in six months) to more New Yorkers.

After teaching his classes (formerly called Coss Athletics) in rented spaces over the past year, he debuted the new digs on January 1, and since then, the workout has been generating tons of buzz. There are waitlists for classes at popular times, and he’s already on the hunt for a few more locations, with the goal of finishing the year with two to three more.

On January 30, he won Foundermade’s Future of Wellness challenge, which will provide him with even more resources to expand. (Well+Good was a media partner for the event and hosted the initial voting on this site, but was not involved in the selection of the winner.)

So what’s it all about—and should you wear an orange tank to go sweat?

Cell Doors and Mugshots

The studio is a small basement space on Broome and Eldridge on the Lower East Side, and it’s outfitted in a bare bones style that is meant to evoke prison. Metal lockers, for example, the aforementioned cell door, and a workout studio outfitted only with pull-up bars, a front mirror, and a mural depicting prisoners cutting through a barbed wire fence (you may envy their escape during push-ups). There’s also a mugshot backdrop for photos (#dothetime).

ConBodyBodyweight Training

Like the space, the workout is about doing more with less, starting with the fact that you take class barefoot (or in socks). Each day features classes with a slightly different focus, like Lock-Down Wednesday (lower body) and Hard Core Thursday (core), but the basic class, 30-Minute Sweat, is the most distilled version of the method and is offered daily.

Essentially, you use your bodyweight in surprisingly brutal, basic ways. We started off right away with 100 jumping jacks, for instance, except the way Marte counts we really did double that number, and he makes you speed up at the end and count out loud, which makes it harder (since you’re out of breath). He’s skilled at using repetition and intensity to supercharge simple things, like sitting down and standing up over and over, which sounds ludicrous but was actually insanely challenging.

ConBody

Of course, he learned to work out in this way because he had no other option, so it’s a little bizarre to bring the method to a boutique fitness market known for bells, whistles, and amenities. Not to mention the fact that the theme can feel inappropriate, like you’re making light of being locked up and the social and economic issues that can lead to it.

And yet, it all seems to work because of Marte’s genuine personal transformation story, demeanor, and mission. Plus, he’s not just trying to help people with disposable income find flat abs. Five of the seven trainers he’s hired were formerly incarcerated, and he’s hosting workshops to help others get back on their feet, on topics like using email and social media. “That’s a big thing that I’m doing, and I’m working on community things, too,” he says. Out on good behavior indeed. —Lisa Elaine Held

Intrigued? Read about Marte’s back-story and how he developed the workout, here.

294 Broome St., at Eldridge, Lower East Side, conbody.com