Gymnastics is my favorite category of events during the Summer Olympic Games. I marvel at the incredible strength of the athletes, and I'm amazed at how an activity so physically demanding becomes graceful and artistic at the highest levels.
Gymnastics also helps athletes learn about the value of persistence and commitment, traits that anyone can apply to achieve more.
From a young age, I realized that I was blessed with the ability to learn new skills quickly. Reading, writing and problem-solving were areas in which I excelled naturally. Math and science, however, were more of a challenge. I struggled with my interest level in both, simply because I couldn't fall back on my natural gifts.
I had to work hard to really understand them.
Although I maintained a high GPA throughout high school, I still didn't have a good grasp on math and science. I performed poorly my first two years of college in those subjects and even had to drop out of a chemistry class halfway through.
I was 20 years old and still relying on my natural gifts to "get by." I hadn't yet learned the value of hard work, persistence and commitment.
But then I decided to make a change. I committed myself to understanding the most difficult subjects by sitting in the front row, asking lots of questions and studying for hours on end.
I woke up early, began exercising and changed my lifestyle.
The last two years of college were a success, and I cruised through my master's and doctoral programs using the work ethic I'd developed when I was 20. Even today, I take on new challenges with the same commitment and persistence that I learned could help me overcome my fear of math and science.
I share this story because many people are not naturally gifted at physical fitness, exercise or understanding nutrition.
The fear of the unknown can prevent anyone from reaching their potential, and I want everyone to know that living a physically active lifestyle is something anyone can achieve — through persistence and commitment.
This week's exercise focuses on flexibility, another area where I am not naturally blessed. The Cobra With Quad Stretch helps to stretch the abdominals, lower back and quadriceps with one awesome move.
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1. Lie face down on an exercise mat with both arms extended overhead and both legs fully extended.
2. Bring your palms down by your underarms and press your chest up while keeping your hips on the floor. This is the cobra position.
3. Point both toes and slowly raise your left heel toward your left gluteal by bending the left knee.
4. Hold just before it touches your backside.
5. Take a deep breath in and let it out.
6. Allow the left foot to return to the starting position.
7. Do the same thing with the right leg.
8. Allow the chest to return to the floor. This is all one rep.
Flexibility training, as with many fitness pursuits, requires a dedication and a commitment. Performing this exercise once or twice might feel good, but it won't change your long-term flexibility.
So, this week's lesson is really about committing to a specific goal and doing the little things necessary to achieve it.
When I think back on achievements I'm most proud of, they almost always coincide with the amount of work involved. Let's begin your success story today. As the famous Chinese proverb states: "A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step."
Matt Parrott is glad to hear from readers. Send him questions or share a story about your pandemic workouts at