We asked our community member, Malik Stevens, to share his experience serving in the D.C. Army National Guard, and tell his story about how it has impacted his life. Here's what he had to say:

Can you tell us a little bit about where you're from? How did your life growing up influence your career?

I am from the United States Virgin Islands. I was always very active growing up. There aren't as many malls, social gathering spots, and other places kids and teens congregate so we spend a lot of our time doing activities and playing games. Being from the VI also helped me sharpen my people skills and customer service skills which are important when the main source of income is hospitality and tourism. I also think being from the VI and being from a larger family helped me to feel comfortable in large team settings and with striving hard to stand out while being creative, resourceful and hardworking.

Can you tell us about your experience training to become a part of the military?

It’s pretty simple— you go to basic training, you listen, follow the rules, you work hard and you can become a soldier. Prior to basic training I was already working as a personal trainer so the physical aspect of it was easy. The toughest part was learning land navigation, dealing with such an eclectic group of rebels at times, and being away from friends and family for the extended time.

What can you share about your experience in the military?

The military teaches you patience. You sometimes need a lot of that to be successful. Additionally, the military is filled with some of the most outstanding people you’ll ever meet; people that really live by the value of selfless service. I’ve met many people in the military that are there solely to support their families, to give back to their communities, and to serve the country and these stories always inspire me. Lastly, the military is what you make of it. You can be a career military person, you can be a weekend warrior, you can serve 20 years or you can serve 3, but whatever you decide- knowing why you’re there and what you aim to get out of the experience is key. It helps you navigate your time serving and keeps you motivated when you know what your end goal is.

How long have you been a CPT? What made you decide to become a CPT?

I’ve been a CPT for about a decade now. I got my certification right after I graduated college. I was bored with my office job at the time and the only thing that was making me happy was the gym and working out. A mentor of mine told me why not give personal training a try. I gave it a try and here I am today still training clients and passionate about health and fitness.

How has training been valuable to you in your career and your personal life?

Physical fitness is an integral pillar to being a great soldier. Thus, being passionate about fitness and personal training make it easier for me to be a good soldier as well. Additionally, training teaches you discipline. Discipline is important in all walks of life. Lastly, training builds confidence, improves leadership ability, and allows us to sharpen our sales, customer service and people skills, which are necessary to be successful in any professional realm.

How does having the right performance apparel impact your training?

If you look good you feel good. If you feel good, you perform even better. There’s a certain confidence that comes with clothes that fits you just right and looks amazing. Fitness and training is a mental game. Having the right apparel increases that confidence and makes it easier to perform, especially if the clothes fit and move in the right way. You would not show up to a football game in swimming trunks and goggles. I think you have to dress for the game you’re playing and for success.

How do you overcome adversity and challenges?

I think every situation requires a different game plan and maybe even a different version of me. That said, what I have learned in the past is that adversity and challenge can sometimes be a good thing. We learn, we get stronger, we grow. The thing I do most regularly is mapping out solutions. It might be the little bit of anxiety in me, but I ask myself what the problem or challenge is and then I map out different solutions and ways to overcome it. I choose the one that makes the most sense.

Who has inspired you the most in your life?

If a person wakes up each day, engages in activities they love, works hard, and goes to bed happy, they inspire me. I’m a simple man.

What advice would you give to someone who is pursuing a career as a professional athlete?

Stretch, foam roll, and prioritize rest and recovery. The typical athlete is always on the go, putting their bodies through tough workouts and damage, and always prioritizing activity. Balance is key, as well as taking care of your body after it performs on the field, court, or in the gym.

Anything else you would like to add or share with the community?

Mental fortitude is a lot more important than physical fortitude, but the physical will also help with the mental. While each day presents us with new challenges and obstacles, we have to take them head on, adapt and overcome them. Strengthening your mind, strengthening your body and becoming strong overall should always be a priority. Not only should we want that for ourselves, but for those around us as well. We can influence, inspire and motivate those around us to become stronger and healthier. Don’t take that responsibility lightly.