Some people are just born with an overload of charisma and tons of personality. Tony Diamond is one of those people. Luckily, he’s turned his charm and skills to mindful exercise, not a car dealership, and today he heads up the Pilates department at the Third Space gym in Soho. Here he’s on a mission to explain Pilates to ‘the people’, how it helps with both our mind and body, and what the difference is between Pilates and yoga…
How long have you been at Third Space? What do you like the most about your job?
I started as a freelancer when it opened, but over the years I’ve become more central to the development here, and now I’m basically running the show for Pilates. I’m very fortunate as I’m basically in charge of my own destiny. I’m constantly looking for ways to increase and improve what I’m doing in my job and change my role. I have a vision that I can increase the know-how and knowledge of Pilates through the whole country - I want everyone to know what it is. I’m trying to demystify it. A lot of men think it’s for women. They look in the studio and see lots of women. That is also why I think the fact that I’m male is a very important thing.
So, what is it like working just off Regent Street? What kind of people come to here, as opposed your other branches?
You get all sorts. You get the super-fit types who are in the gym every day and they think Third Space is the place to be, you get celebrities… it’s a cross section of people, but many of them work in the creative industry.
How would you describe Pilates?
Pilates is a mind and body experience. It’s about the definition of strength through length. In the gym you lift weights and you contract the muscle, but in Pilates you lengthen the muscle by stretching it. We use resistance through length rather than through shortening the muscle. With some types of movement, you end up with that definition that women don't even particularly like: they don’t want to look chunky, they want to look lean and mean. Men are getting towards that. The Arnold Schwarzenegger look is out!
So, with Pilates you’re never going to get overly muscled?
No, I wouldn't say ‘Come to Pilates to change your body shape’. It’s more of a process, anyone who tells you that just discipline will change your body is lying: you need to put that in conjunction with diet and lifestyle changes. So, if you do weight training it’s going to give you more range and mobility.
So, if you do loads of weights you’re contracting the muscles, and should really be doing the Pilates in order to lengthen the muscles?
Yes, if you do any kind of sport Pilates increases your functional movement. I can improve your swing and running technique, for example. As a result, we have triathletes, tennis players, runners, cyclists, swimmers and climbers coming here.
Can you tell me the difference between yoga and Pilates?
Yoga is an ancient discipline that was brought about by holy men in India, they used to meditate for hours to try and find the higher power. They used to come out of meditation and look at how animals stretched. Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates, after WW2. He was a German Jew who was persecuted out of Germany. Living in a refugee camp in England, as a bodybuilder, he was looking for ways to stay fit. He started using his bed and its springs, creating a system of movement. It’s based on yoga, weight training and moving your body, but it’s only 70, 80 years old, whereas yoga is 1000s of years old.
What is your personal regime?
Normally I get up at 5am. I always start by drinking water with lemon juice that I have by my bed. Then I go downstairs and I do 30, 40 minutes of yoga just to warm my body up and to get things going – and then I jump in the shower.
What’s your approach to food and drink?
Everything in moderation, don’t deny yourself anything. I’m a chocoholic, I love my wine as well. I have a healthy state of mind, I’m not like ‘My body is my temple’. I’m a 50-year-old guy who is trying to stay fit. At weekends I let myself go, eat what I like, drink what I like, go crazy … you have to have the Ying and the Yang. I was once in a bar and I saw someone point at me and go ‘Oh my god that’s my yoga teacher’. She didn’t even talk to me and then walked off. I don’t know if they think I go home and meditate all day long after class, but I’m actually human!
Let’s talk about you background; you used to be a DJ?
I started DJing in 82/83. I played punk, gothic and new romantic stuff, and that was quite a buzzy scene in London. I ended up DJing at a place called Buzzbees on the Charing Cross Road, then Centre Point, which is where Apple is in Covent Garden now, then the Gardening Club. I also did a night called Debouch, which was at the Embassy club, opposite the Ritz. Gary Glitter and Siouxsie from Siouxsie and the Banshees would come down and get really drunk. Suddenly garage music took off, literally overnight, and so punk was out. I was never very good at mixing, I used to throw a record on and then go down and dance… I would finish and go back up and change it. Then I ended up doing raves. Everyone would get a message on their phones saying where it was going to be and they’d just turn up to dance. That was fun!
How did you move on from playing records to Pilates?
I didn’t really want be in the nightlife business forever so I went back to school to study dance. I went to Larben, a prolific dance school where I did ballet and modern dance, and then I worked in a dance company for 8,10 years until I left at the age of 28. I danced all over the world but I had loads of injuries. I dislocated my shoulder by jumping in the air. That sort of thing had been happening all the time and I had been seeing physios all over the world about my body… I was just in pain everywhere and I was exhausted. I ended up back in London and started going to Pilates.
So, you knew about it?
A friend of mine was going to India and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll come with you’ and I went to an Ashram for six months. I even did a month’s silent meditation. Back in London I went to go to this Yoga class in Wapping and the teacher didn’t show up and I just said, ‘I can just teach something?’ And I’ve been teaching it ever since!
Third Space is a fitness sanctuary stretching beyond Pilates, into dance, cycling, strength and combat. So, whatever your beat may be, you can find them at 67 Brewer Street, W1F 9US.