Nautilus Gyms Kettering

Antony Lucchesi - Profile

Antony Lucchesi - Profile

 Profile: (updated: reproduced from recent magazine article).

One of the UK’s longest serving Independent gym owners has sold his club and announced his retirement as a Gym operator after 30 years in the business. Antony Lucchesi of the Nautilus Natural Fitness Centre took the decision with Fiancee’ Karen Paterson to sell their club so they could spend quality time with their newborn son Tino and promote the membership marketing systems they have recently developed for independent gyms. Tony is well known for his enthusiastic promotion of Natural bodybuilding, Nautilus equipment and high intensity training (HIT). The World’s foremost H.I.T. author & former head of Nautilus R&D Dr. Ellington Darden recently noted Tony’s contribution in the acknowledgements section of his latest book: ‘The New Bodybuilding for Old school Results’.

Of Anglo-Italian origin Tony is descended on his mother’s side from the Glaswegian Scots-Italian community originally hailing from Northern Italy and on his father’s side from a Northumbrian family with a long and distinguished history of military service. Tony is a third generation physical culturist and exercise instructor. His grandfather was the noted strongman and stone lifter Jack Coxon, one of only three men in History to have lifted the Hartley Bluestone which rests outside the Deleval Arms pub on the Northumberland coast (ref. Health & Strength Feb. 1931). Jack was a pupil of the great Eugene Sandow as was his cousin the Boer war hero William Coxon who has 3 separate memorials erected in his honour within walking distance of the famous Bluestone. Tony’s father George was an RN SBS diver and Navy boxing champion and his mother Anne as a young woman was a local beauty renowned for her figure and fitness. Tony’s strength and courage and his willingness to help others were evident from an early age when at only 11 years old he saved his 2 year old cousin John Clark from drowning in a mud pond on a family camping holiday in Scotland sinking up to his waist to keep John’s head above water until Tony’s father arrived in the nick of time to pull them both out. He was raised mainly by his Italian grandmother Beatrice Lucchesi whose love of watching wrestling and strength sports inspired him to begin Bodybuilding at the age of 14. Tony was named after Beatrice’s eldest son, his uncle Tony Cosimini a flying instructor who in the 1950’s trained and sparred with many famous boxers and wrestlers of the day, most notably exhibition matches with wrestling legend Jackie Pallo and 1951 World middleweight Boxing champion Randolph Turpin. The Pilot's Training program that Tony Cosimini designed is still used by Carlisle flying club Today.

After studying as a PT instructor after leaving school and finding no fitness career opportunities in the few gyms around in those days Tony took employment as a coal miner, the NCB rate of pay enabling him to join Newcastle’s Nautilus Fitness Centre in 1979 aged 19. There he studied the High-intensity training philosophy of Arthur Jones under the guidance of some of the region’s top bodybuilders and instructors, quickly winning the club’s ‘Mr.Nautilus’ Bodybuilding competition. Following this initial success and after several unsuccessful attempts to achieve a top 3 placing in regional bodybuilding competition as a drug-free athlete Tony decided to retire from competitive Bodybuilding rather than risk his health. While competing Tony’s style of physique was often compared to Bodybuilder and actor Steve Reeves of Hercules movie fame, a man Tony has always admired and viewed as the ultimate role model for natural bodybuilders. A shy man and a reluctant movie star, Reeves preferred to be known for his healthy lifestyle and love of animals, especially Morgan horses which he bred and won many awards for.

Tony who is 53 opened his first Gym in his native North-east when he was only 23 years old in a small Church Hall. The popularity of the club quickly necessitated a move to the 1st floor of a small factory premises nearby as the membership grew. In 1985 Tony moved to a 3000 sq ft premises and became one of the first Gyms in the UK to install the ground breaking cam-assisted Panatta Sport exercise equipment then being imported from Italy and distributed by the multi-title winning Bodybuilder and entrepreneur John Citrone who had befriended Tony during his time at Nautilus Newcastle. Naming his Gym ‘The Panatta Health Club’ to help showcase the equipment the brand rapidly became a household name throughout Northumberland when Tony allowed the striking coal miners both locally and from surrounding Towns to train at his gym for free throughout the whole duration of the strike. Three former members of his club went on to open gyms of their own equipped with Panatta Sport equipment. In 1986 after the Director wrote a posing routine into the script Tony’s appearance at the Wallaw Theatre along with 3 other Bodybuilder friends in a stage production of the musical ‘South Pacific’ caused such a stir that it broke the box office attendance record that had stood since 1936! 

After taking on a commercial mortgage in 1987 to buy a two storey factory to convert into a multi-function fitness facility, Tony became a victim of the infamous property crash of that period when the project was only half complete. After losing everything including his home he left the economically depressed North-East to stay with family in Northamptonshire where shortly after he met partner Karen. After witnessing Tony break up a fight between 2 men in a local nightclub the door security manager offered Tony immediate employment and he found himself working for former World’s strongest man Geoff Capes’ company as part of a door security team composed of top strongmen and bodybuilders sent out to various hotspots throughout the Midlands. It was during this period while living in Corby that Tony made headlines in the local newspapers for rescuing a baby from a violent offender armed with a hammer that had kidnapped and threatened to kill the child. Sprinting from his nearby home after receiving a call from a distressed neighbour and tackling the man Tony’s quick intervention came just in time leading to the recovery of the child unharmed and arrest of the offender who after Hospital treatment was charged and imprisoned. Tony was presented with a community service award in recognition of his actions at Wootton Hall by Sir Chris Fox, the former head of A.C.P.O.

After going to watch the ANB’s Natural Bodybuilding finals in Corby in 1996 with partner Karen and seeing that stringent drug testing was now both affordable and being strictly applied by the association Tony decided to compete again along with Karen. The couple went on to win several titles with the ANB including the British couple’s championship in 1998. Their final show before opening their own Gym in Kettering was Scott Horton’s Mr & Miss Millennium show in 2000 where Tony took a 5th place in his class and Karen won the Miss Millennium figure title, both also taking 1st place in the best presentation categories. The posing routine Tony performed at this competition was a tribute to Steve Reeves who had died only a few months before. It can be viewed in 2 versions on YouTube under ‘Steve Reeves Tribute’ where it has received thousands of hits. Tony was one of the first independent gym owners in the UK to herald the superiority of Gaspari nutrition products as a new benchmark in the industry and the first independent supplement shop owner in the Midlands to stock the product line, earning Tony personal thanks from Rich Gaspari himself.

In 2000 the couple found premises at the Corn Exchange in Kettering Northants and transformed and restored the semi-derelict former Cinema, doing most of the refurbishment work themselves over a 7 month period, including the restoration of the original theatre plasterwork features. Starting off with a bank loan and a mixture of used equipment that they refurbished themselves they began searching for rare vintage 1970’s Nautilus machines, a firm favourite with H.I.T. experts and enthusiasts around the World. In the following 9 years they accumulated one of the finest collections of vintage Nautilus machines in the World shipping in units from as far away as Germany and Nevada USA and re-launching the club upon completion of the collection as a Nautilus Centre, the fulfilment of a lifetime ambition for Tony. As well as maintaining their natural bodybuilding links and a non-admittance policy toward steroid/drug users, the couple achieved a 12 yr perfect health & Safety record and a zero theft record despite never having had any lockers installed. These and many other positive factors led to the gym reaching the finals of the NFA 'Regional Gym of the Year' category on three consecutive occasions in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Karen said: “Tony has always been recognised as a top instructor but with the closure of our gym it is the unseen and unrecognised work that he does behind the scenes that will be the greatest loss to the community. For years he has devoted many hours every week to research and assisting cancer sufferers with advice on nutrition and natural cancer treatments, something he decided to do after losing both parents to the disease. He has also regularly given free memberships to underprivileged and disadvantaged young men, often providing them with the paternal advice and encouragement missing in their home life and even going so far as to interact on their behalf with their school teachers and welfare workers. It is in these areas of achievement that I am most proud of Tony and where I feel he will be most missed. This caring aspect is common in independent gyms however it seems to be sadly missing in the proliferation of Chain gyms and budget gyms that are causing the decline and closure of so many independent clubs. It is this trend that Tony and I are hoping to address with the marketing systems we have developed for the independent sector.”

Tony and Karen have developed two separate marketing systems which after undergoing trials at several select clubs will be available on license to gyms in the near future. They are hoping that the systems will work well enough for independent Gyms to be able to help them compete successfully with the Budget Gym and chain gym operators.

Karen added: “Tony attended last year’s National Fitness Awards with very mixed feelings and a heavy heart as it was the anniversary of his Mother’s death and he had just shut down the Gym that morning. He didn’t tell the staff until the end of the evening as he wanted them to enjoy the event.  He almost didn’t attend at all as our baby was poorly but he wanted to be there to support the NFA’s, especially the independent sector. Our Gym members and staff were devastated with our decision to retire but fully understand our reasons for doing so and have been very supportive. We have received so many emails from friends in the industry both in the UK and abroad congratulating us on the birth of our son and wishing us well for the future, Tony and I would like to thank everyone for their kind wishes and tributes”. 

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For Gyms in Kettering: Nautilus Natural Fitness Centre Ltd. Corn Exchange, 1 Market Place, Kettering, Northants NN16 0AL. T: 01536 522 005
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