As I entered the nondescript door on Broome Street for my first class at ConBody, I immediately heard the drill-sergeant-like count bubbling up through the stairwell. I could only imagine the blood pumping, muscle-burning exercises that were accompanying the “one-two-three-four-ONE-one-two-three-four-TWO” being shouted by multiple voices.
As the doors of the elevator opened to the basement fitness studio, the voices were louder and more intimidating. I stepped into the waiting room and immediately noticed the jail cell door separating me from the studio where ex-con Shane Ennover was leading a small class.
BEHIND THE BARS
The story behind ConBody is perhaps its most intriguing quality. It doesn’t promise any advanced equipment, crazy class formats, team competitions or fancy metrics. Instead, it promises results based on a method developed by creator Coss Marte while he served his prison sentence.
That’s right, the founder of ConBody was in prison for 7 years after running a drug ring in New York City starting at the age of 13. Overweight and out of shape, doctors warned Coss that he wouldn’t last much longer in prison if he didn’t do something about his health.
He used his time incarcerated to drop 70+ pounds and when he got out, he beat the recidivism odds by creating a business out of his workout plans.
Coss’ workouts involve no equipment other than your body and require minimal space as well – they were created in a 9x6 prison cell after all.
The genius in ConBody is the fact that they offer not only in-person boot-camp classes in their studio in Manhattan, but they stream workouts to customers all over the world – and those customers can perform the entire workout using the space of a solitary yoga mat!
Founder Coss isn’t the only ConBody instructor who has served time. In fact, all of the studios’ trainers have spent time in prison, or have close family members who have been to jail.
The class takes place in a small room with a matted floor – no shoes allowed! The only equipment are the four walls (used for wall sits and wall walks) and bars for pull ups.
The class size is small, with around 10 people in my morning class. There’s nowhere to hide and our instructor, Shane, didn’t let us half-ass anything!
Shane kept the class moving in an extremely organized way, explained everything, and kept great count (with the classes help). There was a huge variety of bodyweight exercises – both cardio and strength focused and it was a great reminder that you don’t always need a ton of fancy equipment to get in a great workout.
Jump lunges, bear crawls, pushups, mountain climbers, wall sits, burpee broad jumps and more kept the class moving and interesting. The 45+ minutes flew by with a killer ab sequence at the end that had me clutching my stomach!
As I mentioned, the studio isn’t huge. There aren’t a ton of bells and whistles but that’s to be expected from a studio that’s “prison-style.”
Though there aren’t locker rooms – there is one shower that you can sign up for when you get to the studio. But it could end up being quite a wait despite the 5 minute time limit.
The story behind behind ConBody is inspiring, interesting and unique. I think my favorite part of my experience at ConBody was speaking to Shane after class and hearing about the garden he now has at his house on Long Island. He took vocational classes during his incarceration focusing on horticulture.
It’s inspiring to see fitness giving people hope, community, health and a second chance. I think fitness provides that to many people – not only ex-prisoners – and time and time again it’s a great way of connecting people from all walks of life.
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