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The awesome way this ex-con transformed his body—and life

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We’re on a mission to recognize the fitness instructors who don’t just look great on Instagram—but actually inspire us to be better. So together with Reebok, we asked you to nominate trainers for the first-ever America’s Most Inspiring Trainer title. After nearly 5,000 entries, we’ve narrowed down the pool to 12 amazing finalists—and now it’s time for you to choose a winner! Learn more about Sultan Malik below, and cast your vote by December 23. 

Sultan Malik, Brooklyn, NY

Vice President & Senior Trainer at ConBody and Featured Trainer at YG Studios 

His Mantra

“Mind over matter.”

His Power Jam

“All the Way Up” – Fat Joe, Remy Ma

His Story

Sultan Malik was halfway into a 14-year prison sentence for robbery when he started working out. Before long, he was obsessed, reading books on the science behind fitness and training other inmates. “I started feeling more positive, and thinking that maybe I have something here.”

The jobless rate for people with a prison sentence is up to 60 percent—but Malik beat the odds within days of his release. “Within the first week, I was able to develop a network of 8-10 people I was training consistently,” he says. Soon after, he started at ConBody, a prison-style boot camp taught by trainers who’ve served time, as well as YG Studios.

“I didn’t know it was going to take off like this,” Malik says. “But I think people relate to the general struggle, and to going past it through fitness.”

His past makes it easier for Malik to connect with his clients’ hardships. “When I step into a session, I’m able to tune in and see that whole transformation right before my eyes—and that’s what motivates me to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and rock out through the rest of the day,” he says. “That emotional, mental, psychological transformation during a session—that’s it for me.”

His Biggest Inspiration

“My mom always said go and do what you love to do,” Malik says. “She’s the one who pushes me. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, my mom is the one who reminds me, ‘What is it that you tell your clients? Live the way you encourage them to live.’”

His Inspiring Mission

“My mission is to inspire people, to get people active, and to inform people about the benefits of working out,” says Malik. “The body is made to move, it’s made to be active. Keep moving forward—every day is an opportunity to do just that.”

The winner of America’s Most Inspiring Trainer will score an exclusive one-year contract with Reebok and major coverage on Well+Good. Cast your vote now!

Photo: Erik Tanner