Sultan, Ray, Derek, Shane, and Coss may seem like the names of the last group of tweens, but they’re actually five former inmates who together run a groundbreaking fitness business.
New York-based Conbody sees prisoners use their fitness skills to avoid jail and get stable employment. And by using workouts that can be done anywhere – from a tiny jail cell to a living room – the group hopes to make fitness accessible to everyone and fight obesity in their local communities.
CEO and founder Coss Marte began training locals on New York’s Lower East Side in 2013 after being released from prison after spending seven years on marijuana trafficking charges. When he entered prison, Marte was told he had high cholesterol and high blood pressure and would die within five years if he didn’t change his ways. By training in prison, he was able to lose 70 pounds in six months.
Sultan Malik spent 14 years in prison – many in solitary confinement – while Shane Ennover battled drug addiction and alcoholism.
If they can get fit in a 9×6 foot jail cell, anyone can.
The workouts do not require any equipment and are designed to be performed in tight spaces, including small apartments in the city. Online workout subscriptions cost $ 5 per month with a 30-day free trial, while studio classes in New York City cost $ 25.
Over the past 12 months, the ConBody team has grown to include eight trainers and was named Social Entrepreneurship Inc. of the Year 2016.
Thanks to media exposure this year, the brand has followers in Turkey, New Zealand, Korea, Indonesia, France, Sweden and South Africa.
“First and foremost, ConBody wants to give former incarcerated people real employment opportunities where they can earn a living wage without judgment.” said ConCorps spokesperson Kate Clark.
“Consistency is the key to staying motivated,” says Clark. “Little and often.”
Being united by their past rather than their training style, each instructor offers a unique approach to fitness and is happy to joke about their checkered past with their clients. You can sometimes hear coaches telling students to run harder in place as if they were running away from the police.
Sultan takes a scientific approach to fitness, Ray incorporates salsa music into his diets, while Shane specializes in helping former addicts. Derek focuses on ghost boxing, and Coss blasts hip-hop beats by yelling “in a friendly way of course,” Clark assures us.
Those who are a little nervous about training with ex-inmates shouldn’t be, as the reviews speak for themselves, she adds.
Next year, Conbody hopes to expand its two gyms in the United States.