For Cervio Cox, strength and conditioning is far more than just a passion — it is a way of life.
Cox has served time in prison — twice — but has refused to be defined by his past and channelled his energy into making a positive impact as a personal trainer.
It was during his second stint at Westgate when Cox decided it was time to start turning his life around.
He had already developed an interest in health and fitness after conversations with top local trainer Ross Caesar and began devouring books on exercise physiology to while away the hours behind bars.
Before long, Cox had become the go-to-trainer in his prison wing and was whipping several of his fellow inmates into tip-top shape.
“I’d started picking up some training after talking to Ross Caesar [from SeaView Ultimate Fitness Gym] and he was putting me in touch with a few people,” Cox said.
“A couple of months later I got caught up in the system and I just took all the books I had bought up to Westgate with me. I continued to just read, and read, and read. I was taking the knowledge I was getting from reading and expressing it through training a couple of the guys I was locked up with.
“I had the jail cracking! Everybody started looking to me for training advice. I was on it from there.”
After being acquitted of murder charges in November, 2014, Cox knew he had to make some major lifestyle changes. He immediately approached Melanie DeRosa and Percy Paynter, the owners of SeaView, about working there as a personal trainer.
“When I came out things had changed around me and I had to change lanes in order to not continue down that same path,” Cox said.
“I could definitely say the gym has helped me out. It’s given me an avenue to focus on.
“The gym means a lot more to me than just hitting weights; it’s the discipline, the dedication, the focus — it’s real life for me.”
Just four months after his release, and after some cajoling from his “SeaView family”, Cox found himself on stage in nothing but a pair of board shorts competing in his first bodybuilding competition.
“I came fresh out of jail where I had been training, so I was already conditioned,” said Cox, who is now based at Beast Gym on Dundonald Street under his “Made Movement” brand, which stands for Mental Attitude Determines Elevation — a motto he now lives by.
“It was just about putting some heavy metal behind the conditioning. I was encouraged by the family down at SeaView and they asked, ‘Why don’t you do the show?’ I jumped right in!”
Cox will join 29 of the leanest, toned and muscular bodies in Bermuda on stage at the Night of Champions at the Fairmont Southampton tomorrow night.
The 35-year-old will compete in the men’s physique — the competition’s largest class — and is hoping to improve on his run of three successive third-place finishes since his debut in 2015.
“I’d hate to place third again, although it’s hard to be too disappointed with a top three,” Cox said. “I aim to bless the stage with my confidence and see where it goes. It’s a sport where you can never really call it — it’s all up to the judges.”
Cox admits he feels far more at home in the gym than he does on stage.
“I actually don’t even like the stage. I’m more of an athletic person — I enjoy the jumping, pulling, crawling and pushing,” he says.
“This is a bit outside of the box for me. It’s all about the showing that package in the sexiest, most athletic and superhero-ish way possible. I live this life, though, and it means more to me that just getting up on stage,”
Regardless of the outcome, one things is for certain. Cox will be back in the gym on Sunday morning — the place where he feels most at home.