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Train Like an Olympian by Starting Small

by Maggie Rotermund on 07/20/2021


Olympic athletes will take the stage this week in Tokyo, dazzling the world with feats of athletic prowess and inspiring spectators to challenge themselves by starting their own fitness regime.

Whether you are a weekend workout warrior whose routine got upended by the COVID-19 pandemic or someone who has decided to start a workout regime, it’s important to think small and work your way up.

Jamil Neme
Jamil Neme, M.D. SLUCare photo.

Jamil Neme, M.D., a SLUCare primary care sports medicine physician, says in his experience, Olympic athletes achieve big things by remembering to do the small things well. Neme served on the medical team for the U.S. Gymnastic trials held in St. Louis this summer.

“It is great to see elite athletes at the peak of what they can do,” Neme said. “But I was struck by how they all focused on the little things that we can all do to improve our health.”

Neme was part of a team which included SLUCare physicians and SSM Health athletic trainers and physical therapists on site at The Dome June 24-27 for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

Neme said the team was on-hand to support the U.S. Gymnastics medical team and coordinate local support. He said Olympic athletes start by eating right, keeping hydrated and getting enough sleep.

“The small things really matter,” Neme said.

Neme said for those who have slowed or stopped their physical, starting back slow is the best way to go.

“Anyone who is starting physical activity again or for the first time should build themselves up – don’t try to push yourself the first few times out,” Neme said. “Those who are unsure where to start can schedule an appointment with a sports medicine doctor or a physical therapist who can help formulate a safe plan for physical activity based on where you are now. No one can jump into working out again and be at competition level.”

Neme said many times people who try to resume their favorite activity after a long break can push themselves into an injury because they haven’t worked back up to their previous fitness level.

“You know your body better than anyone else,” Neme said. “If it doesn’t feel right, roll it back a little bit. Slow down. See if you can tell where you are going wrong.”

Tips for resuming a workout:

SLUCare Physician Group

SLUCare Physician Group is the academic medical practice of Saint Louis University, with more than 500 health care providers and 1,200 staff members in hospitals and medical offices throughout the St. Louis region. SLUCare physicians are among the most highly trained in their fields – more than 50 specialties in all – and are national and international experts, renowned for research and innovations in medicine. For more information, visit us at