Conbody: Change Your Body, Shape Their Future

Those of us who are suckers for a crazy, sweaty workout know the meaning of motivation. So do those of us who have ever been moved to support a worthy cause or work in some way for social justice. It’s that sense of taking one small step (or burpee!) towards being better than the day before. That’s what seems to drive Coss Marte, founder of Conbody, which offers “prison-style” workouts in a Manhattan studio as well as online. Most of his adult life has been about that dedication to improvement: he went from changing his own body while in prison to helping other inmates do the same. From there he went on to change his whole life by building a business that breaks down barriers and gives others the chance to turn their lives around. 

“I Wasn’t Going to Die in There”

“I Wasn’t Going to Die in There”

You could say Conbody – and Coss Marte’s journey to where he is today – all started with a diagnosis from a prison doctor. 

When I spoke with Marte, he hinted that he wasn’t exactly the picture of health in his youth. He spent his time drinking and smoking, and was overweight with skyrocketing cholesterol and blood pressure. But that wasn’t the only risky business he was involved in. He was arrested for the first time at the age of 13 for a minor drug offense, which led him down the all too familiar path of kids who grow up struggling with poverty and lack of opportunity. He spent the next 10 years in and out of prison, and by the age of 19, he was something of a drug kingpin in his neighborhood. It all came to an end when he was arrested for the last time in 2009 at the age of 23. 

Marte was sentenced to 12 years in prison, which was later reduced to 7 years. When he entered prison, the doctor gave him a clear warning: because he was so overweight, and his cholesterol and blood pressure were so high, he was likely to suffer a fatal heart attack within 5 years. When he heard that, his mind raced to the 7 years he had been sentenced to. “I wasn’t going to die in there,” he said.

“We Didn’t Think Anything of It”

The doctor who had warned Marte told him to try and get some exercise and that’s what he did; after all, he had an infant son to think about. Marte started small, by walking the prison yard, but he eventually developed a whole bodyweight fitness routine and ended up shedding 70 pounds in 6 months. His routine – and his results – caught the eyes of other inmates, and he offered to train them, as well. He says that he helped his fellow inmates lose a collective (and impressive!) 1,000 pounds.

Marte decided to accelerate his plans to start his own fitness-related business.

While in prison, Marte says he thought of his fitness “classes” as just a “camaraderie builder,” not the seed for a successful business. “We didn’t think anything of it,” he said, “I didn’t think I was going to come up with a business.” But when an altercation with a prison guard landed him in solitary confinement, Marte had a lot of time alone with his thoughts. He thought about how he wanted to change his life, and how he wanted to continue helping people.  “And that’s when Conbody was born,” he said. 

After serving 4 years of his sentence, Marte was released from prison a changed man. He was fitter, healthier, and determined to stay out of prison. But opportunities for formerly incarcerated people can be few and far between. It’s no wonder that many end up back in prison: a study done in 2018 found that the unemployment rate among former inmates was 27% (approximately 1,350,000 people) compared with 4% for that of the general population at the time. 

Since he couldn’t find a job, Marte decided to accelerate his plans to start his own fitness-related business. He started offering personal training sessions and doing his intense routine in parks and in the streets. He was relentless about getting his name out there. He says he did everything from making announcements on NYC subway cars to flagging down runners in the street and handing them his card. Through his amazing dedication and hard work, he eventually saved enough money to rent a studio and get Conbody off the ground.

“It Was Numbing”

As his business started taking off, Marte decided that he would hire only formerly incarcerated people to lead his classes. He had seen first-hand the revolving door of the U.S. prison system, and, while he had found a sense of camaraderie in prison through his fitness classes, he also said that seeing the same people return to prison over and over again was depressing. “It was all a bit numbing,” he said, “guys would go out and come in again within weeks. I saw one guy in there who I’d been in juvie with. It was sad.” He knew that giving someone an opportunity would mean the difference between them reoffending and changing their lives. 

Marte also had first-hand experience of how hard it is to land on your feet when you get out of prison. What puts many on what has been called the “poverty path” of formerly incarcerated people is the discrimination they face and their inability to get a job because of it. In fact, only 55% of formerly incarcerated people report earnings in their first year after release, and those who are employed have a median annual income of only $10,000, according to the Brookings Institution.

And there’s generally no help to be had unless you have a family to fall back on. “You’re released with $40 and a bus ticket,” said Marte. “You’re hungry once you do a long period of time! The first thing you’re going to do is enjoy a meal…so you spend $20 at McDonald’s, then where do you go? You have to deal with that.” 

The people who attend his classes are primarily young, professional women, who he believes are looking for businesses with more behind them than just a profit motive.

So now Marte gets tons of “jail mail” and requests to be involved with Conbody: “Finding employees is the easy part!” according to Marte. He’s now given jobs to dozens of former inmates. He vets them and gives them a 2-month paid internship, starting them off with janitorial or front desk work while they get their certification. He partners with nonprofits to help them with housing, f

ood, and clothes if they need it. And the recidivism rate of his employees? Zero. Yes, in a country that regularly sees recidivism rates of 40-64%, Marte has seen none of the people he has helped return to prison. If that isn’t an argument for expanding opportunities for – and overcoming discrimation against – formerly incarcerated people, then what is? 

“We Are Fighting, We Are Breaking that Cycle”

When asked if he sees himself as more than a business owner – as a community leader – Marte humbly replied, “I see myself as somebody who’s gonna put my head down and work and I get a lot of respect just for that. I just try to help anybody who wants help and is willing to work for it.” But what he’s doing goes beyond just helping one former inmate at a time, as important as that is. His business is successful because he is building a unique community, and breaking down barriers between people. 

The people who attend his classes are primarily young, professional women, who he believes are looking for businesses with more behind them than just a profit motive. “People really want to get back to a business with a positive social impact,” he said. “They’re scared of meeting someone that was in prison, they’ve neer met one before, but they see they’re just human beings, and this person had struggles, that’s why they ended up where they did. Breaking down barriers is part of our mission statement – it’s very special.” He brings together two very different groups of people, who end up learning from each other. 

“People are opening their eyes, they are seeing that black and brown people have been hugely impacted through the criminal justice system. Once [someone is] arrested we need to figure out that person’s story, they need to be understood and heard. We are headed in the right direction, but a lot of work needs to be done.”

How You Can Help

Marte’s new step forward is a job training program called Second Chance Studio that will teach former inmates to be more “tech savvy” so they can work in industries such as media production. While he has been working on this project for about a year, Marte recognizes that it is needed now more than ever: many formerly incarcerated people are manual laborers, and those positions have been drying up since the recent pandemic. If you’d like to help get this project off the ground, visit its kickstarter page here. You can also check out some of the nonprofits that Conbody partners with, such as Thrive for Life, Reform Alliance, Fortune Society, and Housing Works. And, of course, don’t forget to check out the workouts themselves! If you’re in NYC, you can attend a live class, or if you’re further afield, you can buy on-demand classes or even take part in live streaming classes! Coss Marte guarantees that these bodyweight-only workouts will be the hardest of your life.  And he knows a thing or two about tough.

Making The Most Of Daylight: 5 Ways To Spend Time Outside This Spring

Remember just a few short months ago when it was dark by 5pm? In the depths of winter, the days can seem to stretch on forever, and it sometimes feels like crawling into bed immediately after dinner is a great idea.

With the spring season comes longer days, warmer weather, and a sense of rebirth. It’s time to make the most of the beauty of springtime by enjoying time outside. 

sun shining through clouds outdoors in a green field.
People of all ages report decreased levels of stress and depression, increased energy levels, and an overall improvement in positive outlook with regular time in nature.

The Great Outdoors

Spending time outside can increase your physical fitness, positively impact your health, and change your whole mood. A study on the impact of therapeutic landscapes on wellbeing in seniors ages 65-86 found “how a relatively mundane experience, such as hearing the sound of water or a bee buzzing among flowers, can have a tremendous impact on overall health”. Indeed, people of all ages report decreased levels of stress and depression, increased energy levels, and an overall improvement in positive outlook with regular time in nature. However, this doesn’t mean you need to go scaling mountains or running marathons. Here are 5 delightful ways to enjoy the great outdoors this season.

Take a walk

Call up a friend, lace up your shoes, and hit the pavement. Many specialists recommend 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day – with 2,000 to 3,000 at a brisk pace – to achieve the maximum benefits of walking. Many cities and towns have designated green spaces with lovely walking paths, but you can also take a stroll around your neighborhood or to your local coffee shop. It’s a great time of year to look at your neighbor’s gardens and say hello!

caucasian hand holding a plan with the root with a woman in the background smiling.
Gardens take less than an hour of maintenance a day but create a calm and beautiful environment.

Start a garden

Speaking of gardens, you can always start your own. If you have the outdoor space, having a vegetable garden right in your own backyard can encourage plant-based healthy eating, mindfulness, and a newfound appreciation for the farm-to-table experience. Some easy vegetables for new gardeners include cucumbers, zucchini, greens like spinach, and a wide variety of herbs such as basil, chives, or rosemary. Gardens take less than an hour of maintenance a day but create a calm and beautiful environment for reading, writing, or just basking in the sun. If you don’t have your own outdoor space you can look into community gardens nearby or offer to help a neighbor care for theirs. 

Explore your neighborhood

Many neighborhood parks offer recreational programming in the spring and summer seasons. These might include outdoor concerts, fairs and festivals, and fitness programs like tai chi or yoga. Any of these would be wonderful reasons to get outdoors and support the local government’s efforts. You can check out your city or town’s Department of Recreation website or social media pages for more information. 

Go bird watching 

There are many Audubon Society approved bird-watching parks and sanctuaries across the country. You don’t need expensive equipment to enjoy this hobby, just take a walk through the park and listen for the chirps and chatter of avian friends. If you’re interested in learning more, you can always pick up one of the many birding guides available at local libraries. Bird watching is a perfect way to spend an afternoon – pack up a picnic and invite family or friends to enjoy the sun with you! 

farmer's market with people walking around.
Browsing the farmer’s market supports the local economy, gets you a breath of fresh air, and can fill your home with delicious goodies. 

Browse a farmer’s market

Farmer’s markets happen throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Generally the farmers will have more produce to sell in the summer and fall, as spring is primarily a planting season. Your local farmer’s market will still have things for purchasing, though: you might see honey, fresh baked goods, homemade beauty products, pickled goods, or handmade arts. Browsing the farmer’s market supports the local economy, gets you a breath of fresh air, and can fill your home with delicious homemade goodies

There are so many great ways to spend time outdoors during this beautiful season! Enjoy every last minute of it. 

Men’s Health: Where to Begin


It’s Men’s Health Awareness Month, and guess what–a majority of men don’t prioritize their health. As a man working on this, I’ve found this problem stems from a low prioritization of our own bodies. We take care of our careers, our family members, and our relationships first, but we place our own physical health last. This even extends to gym-goers and bodybuilders. Sure, we have Crossfit and a mountain of protein supplements, but many people get critically injured with Crossfit, and many of those vitamin supplements are still full of sugar or dairy–things that contribute to poor health.

jogger running for men's health down a street
Jogging is a great way to stay fit. If you don’t like this, swimming, cycling, or rowing are great cardio substitutes.

Statistics show that on average, men die five years earlier than women. This has to mean something, if not a warning sign to take care of ourselves. (Or it’s evidence that women are truly the strong ones, but we won’t get into that here.)

People are dying in droves because of poor health; we just aren’t aware of how bad our habits are. First, we have to look at what exactly is killing us, then we can take steps to prevent it.

What Is Killing Us?

Modern technology has eliminated many threats that killed us even 50 years ago. Unfortunately, these are the main issues that we still have to worry about:

  • Diabetes
  • Suicide from depression
  • Prostate cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease

Not the sexiest list, is it? When men talk about how they want to die, it usually doesn’t involve taking their own life or a sudden heart attack. However, we don’t have threats in contemporary life like wars or fighting off bears. (If we must look at traditional “masculine” ways of dying) Our new enemies are food and mental illness.

doctor doing blood pressure for men's health
It’s better to take preventative measures than to visit a doctor when it’s too late.

Do you know which on this list is killing one-entire-third of Americans? It’s not diabetes, which is what all of our commercials seem to talk about. It’s heart disease. However, we don’t see that on the news. While cardiovascular health is an issue for both men and women, for now, we’ll focus on what men can do to stave off this incredible killer.

Luckily for overall men’s health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression are connected. Scientists are finding that our gut flora, the bacteria living inside our digestive system, has a role to play in our mental health. So, taking care of what we eat can influence our mental wellbeing. This will simultaneously solve most of these issues except for prostate cancer.

Besides the digestive issues, we really need to start talking about our feelings and teaching these habits in our male children. It’s no longer okay to brush off serious mental illness as stoicism. Masculinity can be just as powerful when we take our emotions in hand and learn to deal with them in healthy ways. 

For the prostate problem, we have another solution here that we think you’ll like.  

So, we know now that the fight for our lives resides on our dinner plates. What’s next?

What Can We Do?

It’s not just our diets; we must get involved with overall well-being. This means not only watching our diets and exercising regularly but also taking our mental health and emotional intelligence in hand. It’s no longer excusable to blame others for our vices. 

This means scheduling doctor visits, both to a physician and a therapist. It also means not eating all those wings and drinking 70 beers (At least not every week, you can keep Superbowl Sunday. We’re not heartless.) While your buddies may look at you funny for ordering a salad every other party, your heart health is more important than fitting in. If they are truly your friends, they’ll support your healthy habits.

man squatting heavy weight and straining for men's health
Lifting weights teaches a good lesson: strive for failure for that is how you improve.

And you should get them involved too! Maybe schedule gym visits all together and work out with fitness in mind, not just huge biceps and washboard abs. While they are nice to look at, your external muscles need to be built well. With so many exercise and men’s health programs out there, you can afford to be choosy. Look into which ones support a whole-body experience and not just getting you ripped as soon as possible. Look for workouts like this one here.

The bottom line for men’s health is this: get to a doctor and ask for a no-nonsense laundry list for what you need to improve your health. Most likely, this is going to involve throwing some green stuff onto your plate and generating a sustainable workout routine at the gym. You can do Crossfit if you want, but seriously be careful with that program. After that, read some books over emotional intelligence, you’ll be surprised at what you can learn. Involve a therapist if you believe professional help is necessary, but most likely, just understanding how you think can make a huge difference. We can make our society a healthier place, as smarter, more aware individuals, and as men.


The Face Pull – Your Fresh Workout

A New Fitness Workout (That’s not gonna actually pull your face.)

building muscle with weights
Working out is good for more than just your physique.

Most of us work out to look good. No? You’re doing it for health reasons? Okay–well, I work out to look good, and this is an easy workout to slip into the regimen that’ll improve more than just “gettin’ you them gunz”. This isn’t just one of the fitness trends.

I know that it’s easier nowadays to just get a personal trainer when it comes to your fitness. Why learn workouts online when someone can teach you? Personal training gets expensive though, but don’t worry. For the most part, as long as you do your research and take caution, you can build workouts yourself. The “Face Pull” workout is recommended as a good ending for every fitness routine whether HIIT(high-intensity interval) classes or indoor cycling because it improves posture, streamlines muscle balance, and prevents injuries.

Why it Works

Weight lifting does so much for your body and health. It’s important to maintain a balance with the muscle groups you work on. The Face Pull is special in this case.

It hits important muscles that don’t normally get trained. With a lot of fitness routines, you’re pushing against a bar or a dumbbell, or you’re pulling, but it’s with the major muscles in your back. These small muscles(the rotator cuffs in your shoulders) need to be trained too so that they can all work together. Your body should be one smooth, well-oiled machine working toward one goal. And that’s some free advice you can take out of the gym.

How to Do It

working out with cables and pulleys
The cables and pulleys machine uses leverage to build strength.

Alright, so you know what happens on the inside now. But what to do on the outside? The last thing I want you to do is head to your gym and not know what to do. I hate standing around confused, personally. So, let’s take a look at what equipment you’ll need, the movement you’ll use, and specifically what form to take.

First, you’re going to get yourself into a gym with cables and pulleys set up. If you’re lucky enough to have this (or resistance bands) in your own home, then great! The cables and pulleys machine is the nifty looking apparatus with all the ropes in it. The above picture is of this machine. Most likely, you’ll see some swole dude (or dudette, we’re equal opportunity here) pulling them into his/her chest and grimacing at the mirror. Me one day, hopefully.

Here’s how to perform this exercise:

good posture for good health
Keeping the right posture is very important for the Face Pull Workout.
  • Set one pulley to a higher placement than your face. Your posture for this exercise is the same as the photo to the left.
  • Insert the dual-ended rope at the end.
  • Grasp each end firmly (like an airline seat belt), thumbs pointed behind you, and arms stretched out in front.
  • Pull it backward and rotate your arms out, elbows at a 90-degree angle and below the shoulder. This should feel good and bad at the same time because these muscles aren’t hit a lot.
  • Make sure your posture is good, and that you can breathe easily while doing this. Two of the most important rules in weight-lifting besides deodorant.

Ten reps should be good. Most personal trainers won’t hit this rotator cuff.

If you’re at home, secure your resistance bands so that you’re in the same position as the cables and pulleys machine. This could be around a pillar, a sturdy bookcase, or your roommate if they’ll hold still long enough. After setup, continue to do the aforementioned movement.

The second part of this set is about the same. You’ll just go straight up overhead with your arms stiff but not locked. Keep your thumbs pointed behind you, where everyone is looking because you’re doing a hip new workout.

Whether taking a yoga class, full body gym workouts, or just light calisthenics in your living room, this workout hits lesser-used muscle groups that you need to function well overall. If aesthetics are your goal, you’ll get better posture. For overall strength, this will build up those weaker muscles, providing more support in the long run. Need a little more? Here’s an instructional video that can help.

Get In Shape Without The Stress

Working out is recommended at least 3-4 times a week by doctors to stay fit. It takes some discipline to go to the gym, and current fitness trends can influence how you work out. Every year there are new fads and fitness trends that people follow to get fit and stay fit. For example, have you ever heard of prancercise? Yes it is a real thing where you prance around like a horse. You might also remember the thighmaster, where you squeeze a contraption between your thighs to reduce inner thigh fat, & we all have heard the shake-weight which promises to tone your arms faster and effectively. Some of these fads come and go, or are just a gimmick that promises results, but some trends are exciting and give you a new reason to WANT to go to the gym.

To see real results, you have to put in the work– hard work. There are fun ways to exercise and get a workout in other than just going to the gym and lifting weights or running the treadmill. There are workouts and classes such as aerial workouts that work your muscles while you have fun at the same time.

So What Is An Aerial Workout?
Aerial exercise is a workout that is also a form of art, kind of like dancing in the air. People often describe an aerial workout as flying, which to be honest we all wanted to do when we were a kid. Even though it is a fun pastime, it’s also a great workout. You work out your arms, back, and core muscles. When trying to describe these workouts you might think of Cirque Du Soleil, where people are hanging on ropes from the ceiling floating around. Just like them, you hang in the air using an apparatus.

Aerial exercise is a workout that is also a form of art, kind of like dancing in the air. People often describe an aerial workout as flying.

There are different variations of aerial classes, from aerial acrobatics to aerial yoga and bungee fitness, all focusing on your core muscles. Aerial yoga uses hammocks hung from the ceiling where you do different yoga poses and stretches. Aerial art/acrobatics is when you use the trapeze, silks or a hoops (lyra) and learn to perfect different tricks. If you try bungee fitness you are strapped to a bungee cord from the ceiling and jump around, kick, floor dive, and work your core muscles without even knowing it.. You can expect to break a sweat with bungee fitness because it is similar to a cardio workout with music, and more bounce. Your arms will definitely be sore after the first time you try this exercise, as you will be using your rhomboids,your back muscles used during pull ups.

It is not as easy at it looks and it may take some practice to perfect, but once you have it down, people often claim to be addicted. This fun and adventurous exercise will require more muscle strength to keep yourself up in the air. But like anything, practice and time will make it easier to do.

Over time, these workouts provide you with the balance of strength and flexibility that is needed to perform them. Your teacher will make sure you are safe and you should always voice any concerns you have with them. They are there to make sure you are comfortable and get a good workout in. You should always consult with your doctor if you have prior injuries to find out if this type of exercise will be best for you.