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How a Former Drug Dealer Turned His Prison Workout Routine Into a Fitness Start-Up

<a href="">Coss Athletics</a>
Coss Athletics

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If Jay Z taught us anything, it's that it's totally possible to go from being a drug dealer to a business, man. But Coss Marte isn't using his checkered past as inspiration for rap lyrics. The Lower East Side native is building a successful fitness business, dubbed Coss Athletics, based on the workouts he did in his prison cell—the workouts that had him drop 70 pounds in six months, Well + Good reports. And after spending the past few years holding classes in parks and rented dance studios, the 29-year-old is gearing up to open a studio of his own.

"A physician told me I could die in jail because of my health issues," Marte, who was sentenced to seven years of prison for drug dealing at the age of 23, told the wellness site (he ended up serving four). So he got to work doing the basics—jumping jacks, squats, mountain climbers—and adjusting the speed and form of each depending on the results he saw in his own body.

Once released, Marte secured an investment from Defy Ventures, a non-profit that helps former inmates create their own businesses, to start Coss Athletics after holding free outdoor workouts to get the word out. And now with a $100,000 investment from Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran, Marte is returning to his old stomping grounds—he'll open his own studio at 38 Delancey Street next week.

Because Marte wanted to open as quickly as possible, the space is sparse: just a single room with mirrored walls and mats. But eventually, Coss Athletics could come to resemble a prison (gulp). "I want people to work out with a jumpsuit, have a gate in the front instead of a regular door," he laughed to the site, with students calling the number of reps for moves like push-ups out loud with him. "You know, make it an experience."

Coss Athletics

38 Delancey Street, New York, NY 10002, USA