Former New York Inmate Turned Fitness Entrepreneur Films at Lansing
Former New York inmate Coss Marte, now a New York City-based personal trainer, met with Lansing inmates Friday to help transform their bodies and minds.
Marte visited Lansing Correctional Facility (LCF) Friday with a film crew from Outpost Worldwide in Kansas City, Mo., to put LCF offenders through a workout, then to teach them how he built a successful fitness training business - ConBody. Marte has been featured on TED Talks and covered by the New York Times, National Public Radio and numerous other media outlets.
“We’re making a video that will demonstrate my vision for helping offenders get employment and succeed once they leave prison,” Marte said, who connected with LCF through Leigh Lynch, executive director of Arts in Prison. “They are featuring me and my trainers – all the people on my team who are facing their own struggles coming out of prison, searching for viable employment.”
Marte was a gifted student as well as athlete in high school, but after going to prison for selling drugs, he gained a great deal of weight, to the point doctors warned he didn’t have many more years ahead. It was then he learned physical training through a military-style program and shed 70 pounds. After leaving prison, he learned that he could make a living training others using the techniques he had developed.
LCF offenders who volunteered to participate in the 60-minute workout knew little of what to expect. They warmed up their muscles and joked with each other while waiting to begin.
“I’ve done about 40 pushups in the past year, combined, so I don’t know if I could do five minutes,” said one LCF offender who decided to sit it out.
The others were all engaged in regular workouts, some cross training, others running long distance, and others intensive weight lifting.
Marte didn’t even strip off his jacket, and barely engaged in introductions, before he had the participants on the floor grunting and sweating profusely.
“I signed up to do the class because I’m always looking for new ways to work out,” said one offender named Ronald. “I’m dedicated to picking up new habits. Anything that will help me to be a better person every day, better prepared for when I get released.”
Marte ran the group through a workout so strenuous none made it without cheating or resting at times. But the entire group stuck with the program and celebrated with high fives when it was over.
“It was tough, I cheated some, I admit it,” Ronald said after stripping his sweat-drenched shirt.
Marte departed, without sweating much, to speak to offenders in the maxium-security facility, then returned to the medium-security facility for an evening speech. He said that not everyone is into extreme fitness, but that everyone can apply some of the principles he teaches to succeed.
“So much of it is just showing up and delivering,” said Marte. “For someone who’s been ‘inside,’ it’s hard to see the future. But physical fitness is part of the ‘mind, body and soul’ that you have to daily build to become a better person.”
The offenders who completed the workout agreed that for them, physical training is part of their overall development and preparation for the future.
“When you find positive things to do, it helps you prepare for making positive choices on the outside,” said Edward, who is currently training to run a half-marathon later this year. “I want to show that I didn’t just lay around and waste time while I was in here. There are a lot of opportunities to do the right thing, and I want to take advantage of them.”
“Seeing someone who has been in my position who has gone on and succeeded shows that it’s possible,” added Samuel, who admitted he feels anxious when he thinks about life after LCF. “We know it’s going to be an uphill battle, but meeting people who have made it shows it can be done.”