Tag Archives: bodybuilding

“It doesn’t need to control you” – Dystonia Awareness Week

James Sutliff is a Personal Trainer and Disability Specialist who has a rare neurological disorder known as dystonia. To mark Dystonia Awareness Week, James talks to us about coming to terms with dystonia and how fitness has helped him focus on moving forwards.

It happened in 2008, pretty much overnight. It was bank holiday Monday, I’d gone to bed as normal and woke up feeling unwell. I felt a bit sick, so I went back to bed and when I woke up my speech was slurred. It worried me but I left it for a bit. I didn’t go to hospital straight away.

When I did go to the hospital they admitted me straight away. Initially, they thought I might have had a stroke but that wasn’t the case. I was in hospital for quite a few days before they discharged me. They couldn’t really find anything, a cause or contributing factor. For a few months I was being seen by a specialist. Then my hands started deteriorating.

So they transferred me to specialists in London who were supposed to be the top guys in neurological conditions. So we went and I did lots of tests and they came to the diagnosis that I have a form of dystonia. We did some research, found out a bit about it.

All this took place over two years. It was very frustrating, there were no answers as to why I was suddenly this way and that meant no treatment. I thought it might just go away, and the doctors did, but that hasn’t been the case.

James, a young bodybuilder with dystonia, smiles at the camera

The condition hasn’t got any worse. It’s just not got any better. I think I manage it better now, but at the start I found it very difficult to come to terms with it.

It’s hard to comprehend because physically to look at me, my disability is quite silent. I don’t generally look like a ‘disabled person’. I’m not in a wheelchair; I don’t have a missing limb. So people are often shocked. They think I’m taking the piss.

Using fitness as a focus

I had always kept in shape through rugby. I really found a focus with fitness. That’s what keeps me healthy – mentally and physically strong. I still do find it hard sometimes. But fitness has helped me to come to terms with dystonia. If I look good and I feel good I forget that I have dystonia.

I’m really passionate about fitness and I came across a scheme called Instructability which is aimed at people with disabilities who’d like to work in the fitness industry and help to train and rehabilitate people who also have disabilities.

Because of the situation and what happened to me, I want to help people who have disabilities and help them through fitness. Fitness has helped me to fight against my condition. It makes me feel better, look better and with that, sometimes when I’m training I forget I have a disability.

James, a bodybuilder, lifts weights in a gym

Dystonia and the future

It doesn’t need to control you. You can manage it and it’s just about finding the way to do that. Don’t let it stop you from doing anything. I’m not going to lay there feeling sorry for myself. I’m going to do something.

Dystonia does have an impact on things and it does make life a little bit difficult but I won’t let it beat me. If you let it beat you, it makes it worse.

Visit James’ Facebook page for brilliant training, dieting and day to day living tips. Scope’s online community also has a number of tips around fitness. Visit our community today and get involved.

Transforming perceptions of disabled people in the fitness industry

Guest post from Josh Goodfellow, a 21-year-old fitness professional and bodybuilder. Josh has cerebral palsy which affects his lower limbs. Through his work he aims to transform people’s perceptions of disabled people in the health and fitness industry.

Three men in the gym with JGFitness clothesHow did you get into bodybuilding?

As a former sprinter I was always heavily influenced in sport and the positive effects it had on me and my cerebral palsy growing up. After retiring from the track, I started working in a local gym as a Personal Trainer. I wanted to find something that would give me the same competitive “buzz” that athletics used to. I began casually weight-lifting and after six months of training I got the bug and began to explore bodybuilding.

In April 2014, I found out about a show called Hercules Olympia run by the legendary Scott Horton. The show took place in May 2014 and to my knowledge it was the first show to feature a disABILITY Class among a mainstream showcard in the UK.

Hercules Olympia opened the door for disABILITY bodybuilding.  It’s success allowed disABILITY bodybuilding to develop and people began to understand why it deserved a place in the industry.

What are the benefits of bodybuilding?

When people think of bodybuilding they may think of negative stereotypes such as performance enhancing drugs and aggression. When I think of bodybuilding I see it as something that gives you the opportunity to change your life.

Bodybuilding changed my life and allowed me to take control of my cerebral palsy. I no longer let it dictate my life. Through adaptive training methods it allowed me to physically develop to what I am today. Granted, I still trip over fresh air from time to time, but that’s all fun and games!

Bodybuilding has also been a fantastic social outlet. The people I meet and converse with on a daily basis are fantastic. I have met some of my best friends through the industry.

What’s the reaction been like at the bodybuilding shows?

So far it’s been a HUGE success. The reactions we’ve got from the crowds, competitors and social media have told me everything I needed to know.

We’ve had such a great reaction that it has allowed the sport to grow and develop.  So much so that in November 2014 a federation called Pure Elite committed to hosting a disABILITY Class too. It’s given the athletes personal exposure and it’s given the sport the exposure and awareness it needs.

How can someone get involved?

First of all – you don’t have to decide to become a bodybuilder to get involved with the growing number of people with disabilities heading to the gym.

Getting active is crucial. You don’t have to lift heavy weights and count every calorie to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Get to grips with your condition, establish your boundaries and then work towards developing those boundaries as you become fitter and stronger.

If you want to get involved with bodybuilding start by researching training procedures that will allow you to train safely. Look for a coach or experienced professional that can work with you towards your goals. Finding someone that can support you is crucial. Without my coach, Steve Winter, I’d have found it incredibly difficult to get into the shape required to contest a bodybuilding show. A coach is also there to keep you mentally on track when things get difficult, and trust me… they will!

What are your hopes for the future?

2015 promises to be the best year yet with nine disABILITY bodybuilding categories already confirmed for 2015. I’d love to see disABILITY bodybuilding continue to grow – more competitions, competitors, and opportunities.

It’s fantastic to be part of this flourishing movement. I and my business JGFitness will ALWAYS be there representing and fighting the corner for disABILITY bodybuilding.

For details on the 2015 calender, advice, and competitive opportunities like JGFitness on Facebook.

We currently have a health and fitness Q&A with a disabled sports specialist happening on our community, so please do get involved!