At Aflete we are committed to showing you that there is no limit to fitness so when we heard about James Sutliff and how he inspires people every day we had to bring his story to you.
James is a truly incredible young man, seemingly in the peak of fitness he developed Dystonia which changed his life forever. Dystonia effected James’s confidence, career and personal relationships but through his love of fitness James has been able to recover his confidence and has gained national recognition through his feature in Men’s Fitness this month.

James is inspiring people everywhere, disabled or not, by showing them when an obstacle is placed in front of you if you want it badly enough then you can make adjustments and carry on being who you want to be. James has also raised a huge amount of awareness of Dystonia, and you can get more information from him on his blog.

Q         Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do for anyone who hasn’t seen your feature in Men’s Fitness?

I am 30 years old and currently work as a labourer for a local construction company. I live at my home in Leicestershire with my wife, Sam and my two dogs. I am a fitness enthusiast and attend the gym 7 days a week. I used to be a keen rugby player, playing in the first team but since the deterioration of my hands due to my condition I have had to give this up, which is a shame. Fitness is a huge part of my day to day life, as well as eating well and keeping in good physical and mental shape. 

james sutliff dystonia

Q         For those who don’t know can you tell us how Dystonia has affected you personally?

Dystonia has changed my life dramatically. When I was first hit with the condition (without prior symptoms or warning) I must admit I wasn’t too great. I had lost all my confidence and self-esteem and it has taken the best part of 6 years to help rebuild my confidence and learn how to live with for me what was such a life altering circumstance. I was unable to do the things I would normally take for granted, like having a conversation, eating a meal in public, as the condition affects my ability to eat properly, I produce a lot of saliva so that can be quite embarrassing. I also had to give up my job as a full time plumber as my hands started to deteriorate, it made it increasingly difficult for me to do my job. This was very hard for me as I was earning great money, was financially comfortable and had trained for 10 years. It has had an effect on my social life, personal relationships and so much more. 

Q         What role did health and fitness play in rebuilding your confidence after being diagnosed with Dystonia?

At first I had no idea how to cope with my condition and the changes it had bought to my life. I fell into bad habits and it took some strength to get out of them, but no way was I going to let Dystonia defeat me. I have always been a fitness enthusiast and to be honest having a focus on keeping fit has been my saviour. It has helped me to keep me positive, focused, gain confidence and self-esteem and most of all raise awareness not only for Dystonia but also for people who may have other disabilities or obstructions in life that make life a little more challenging than what we would perhaps want to it to be . Life can be challenging for everyone and I feel fitness is a great way of relieving stresses from day to day life and unfortunate obstacles that we may have to overcome.

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 ‘Don’t Lose Hope’

Q         You are in amazing shape – how long have you been training?

I have been training since I was 18. I have been properly training and dieting right for about the last 4 years.

Q         What role did social media play for you? Were you able to find other people overcoming problems and share inspiration together?

Media has been a great way for me to raise awareness and the feedback has been amazing. It has definitely proved to me that I am not alone and there are 1000’s of people out there just like me. It is great to be able to inspire others and help give them strength and say “hey you know what… nothing is going to stop me”. I want to continue my journey through media and raise as much awareness as possible. It is very important to me, especially when I see how much I have helped others through sharing my story.

Q         How has the media attention from Men’s Fitness impacted you? Has it created any new opportunities for you?

It has most definitely created more opportunity and interest for me. It’s been great and I am very grateful for the opportunity that they gave me.

james sutliff dystonia interview

Q         People marvel at your incredible physique , especially as you have battled ‘against the odds’ so to speak – Are you happy for the recognition and publicity you can give to other Dystonia sufferers or do you prefer when people don’t know about your Dystonia and just appreciate your amazing physique for what it is without knowing of your struggles?

My whole aim in this journey is to create as much awareness as I can about Dystonia and disabilities in fitness. My physique is just the fruits of my loom and its displays my hard work and dedication to fighting my condition and I hope to provide a positive image to others with or without disabilities, who also want to achieve what I have done.

Q         As Dystonia affects your hands which exercises became difficult for you and which exercises do you use instead?

Most exercises that require the use of my hands are challenging. I have special grips that help me with things like pull downs, shrugs and any rows. I use lighter weights and also have a training buddy who helps spot me.

Q         Training is only half the battle – what kind of nutritional philosophy do you use? Do you count your macros?

I don’t count my macros. I do however follow a very strict diet that has been specifically designed for me. It generally consist of protein, protein and more protein and a lot of green veg and water.  If I am looking to get into real good shape, say for a photo shoot etc. I will generally carb overload and then you will carb deplete to help me cut.


Q         What kind of advice can you give to other Dystonia sufferers, or other people who may have some problem to overcome to achieve a good body?

Keep focused, stay positive. It will be very challenging at times and you will most certainly have periods of wanting to give up. Keep fighting through because the rewards are so worth both physically and mentally. Life is about challenges, so challenge yourself in a good way. Make fitness apart of your lifestyle, like taking a shower. Remember anything is truly possible if you put your mind to it. In the grand scheme of things, I see Dystonia as a small part of life, it does not control me nor defy me.

Q         What was the biggest fitness mistake you made after being diagnosed with Dystonia and what was the biggest fitness tip or secret you have discovered?

Biggest mistake: At times pushing myself too hard and putting strain on my hands and speech, not knowing when to take a rest.

Biggest secret: haha now that would be telling. My biggest tip would be you don’t have to necessarily lift heavy to get good results, a lot of my training consist of lighter weights and more reps.

james sutliff

Q         What is your impression of Aflete (a social platform exclusively for food, health and fitness), do you think it would have any advantages over the current platforms?

I feel that it is a good go to place for people looking for inspiration, guidelines and education on how to eat and train well. Yes, I feel that Aflete is very well detailed, easy to relate to and has a lot of images. I like the fact that it is also a safe community, which you don’t see much of.

Q         What features would you like to see Aflete introduce to cater to your needs?

I would like to see some more focus on disability and fitness.

Q         How can follow you and get more inspiration?

My main aim is to keep getting it out there, an opportunity to get it televised would be the ultimate goal. Keep active with photo shoots, articles and interviews. I provide information on all my developments in my blog and Facebook page and twitter.

We can’t thank James enough for his time and answers, please follow him, check out his blog and raise your awareness of Dystonia.

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