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Meet Vera Stepina of SlimGym in Escondido

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vera Stepina.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Vera. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I came to the United States from Russia in 2004. I was 21, didn’t have a stable job (as a matter of fact I barely spoke English which didn’t help with finding a job), didn’t know anyone in this country and didn’t have rich parents who would send me money to live here. I went through some really rough times, I got kicked out of hostels for not being able to pay, I slept on a bench at parks more than once, people took advantage of me and made fun of my accent. But not everything was so sad, during my first few years as an immigrant I made quite a few friends, and we are still very good friends.

I have a bachelor degree in finance, and never thought I would be doing anything fitness related. I hated running and didn’t know a thing about working out with dumbbells. It is ironic that my fitness journey started with becoming very overweight, according to the numbers I was considered obese. That was the turning point.

I decided that enough was enough and I need to change my lifestyle. I had a two-year-old son, and I needed to be his role model. I didn’t want him to see me overweight and depressed, I wanted to do fun activities with him, ride bikes and run around, and I couldn’t do it weighing at 220 lbs. I started to look for ways to lose weight and tried different diets, and we all know that diets only work while you are on them… so it was a long journey until I found a way of eating that worked for me and allowed me to enjoy the foods I love while still losing weight.

After losing about 60 lbs., I noticed that I really enjoy working with nutrition, doing research and helping friends with advice so I decided to get certified in personal training. It took me about a year, and then I also got certified in fitness nutrition.

I worked as an independent personal trainer for a while but I really wasn’t enjoying it too much. I felt like one important piece was missing, and that piece is a supportive community of likeminded people.

It is what helped me stay on track and keep going, and I strongly believe that with support you can reach any goal and get anywhere you like.

When my second baby was about 9-month-old I started working for an online fitness coaching company. That job taught me a lot and I gained a lot of experience in coaching, specifically in helping people overcome mental roadblocks and staying on track with their goals. However, after about 3 years I went a different direction and decided to open my own business.

That is how SlimGym was born. I had a clear vision on how it should look and what I will be doing. I created a small fitness studio for locals, mostly women of all ages. I specialize in working with women and I believe that women have better understanding of how female bodies work (not saying that male trainers don’t know or understand but just anatomically it is easier for us to understand each other).

My fitness studio is very fun, and our clients all know each other, They become friends outside of the gym, and that gives them extra accountability. We run races together – running and obstacle courses, and training for something like that creates special relationships as well.

So this is a VERY short version of how I went from being a 21 years old immigrant to a mom of three little kids and a gym owner

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There were a lot of roadblocks and struggles I had to overcome. I think every small business owner has struggles, and it is the matter of how much you REALLY love your job and what you do in order to be successful.

In the past year of being a gym owner, I had maybe 20 days off. I work 6 days a week, most days I work up to 14 hours. I had to learn accounting and advertising, I had to learn how to delegate and ask for help.

I have my kids with me at the gym every day, from morning till evening. Our gym is very kids friendly, and most of our clients have children so we always have a lot of kids here. Sometimes it can be distracting and they of course get in the way but for a lot of women this is the only way to get their exercise in and having my gym open to kids is something that makes SlimGym stand out

SlimGym – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
SlimGym is a small fitness studio for locals, we are located quite far from the freeway but this location is very convenient for surrounding communities.

We offer personal training and classes as well as nutrition plans. We specialize in functional training and training for life. We also have a running club (also we are partners with Ragnar, so our running club is an official facility for training for Ragnar trail races).

We (I, specifically) love obstacle races and we have elements of obstacle course training in a lot of our workouts. I encourage all of the clients to set a challenging goal and work towards it, and the goal not being a weight loss goal.

We work mostly with women all ages, our youngest client is 14 and our oldest is 74. We help women of all ages become stronger in every aspect of their fitness. We focus on “training for life” which basically means that no matter of your size and weight you can be fit and strong. You can run after your kids and not get tired, you can carry 10 shopping bags and not throw your back out. And if your goal is to lose weight we can help with that too of course by adjusting you diet and creating a custom meal plan that fits your lifestyle and food preferences.

I am a Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Fitness Nutritionist and Certified Pre and Postnatal Fitness specialist, and that definitely sets me apart from other trainers. I have a lot of knowledge of female anatomy and physiology before, during and after pregnancy (even if the pregnancy was many years ago, if the mom never trained accordingly she might have some side effects from pregnancy that have never been diagnosed or treated).

I am most proud of creating the community of supportive people who learn that fitness is fun and needs to be an essential part of everyone’s life as fitness is that miracle pill that doctors and scientist keep looking for while it has always been right in front of them, and it is very cheap

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment of my career so far was being featured on the CW tv show called The Challenge Within, Our Tough Mudder team is being featured on that show, and I am very proud to share our story and how training for an obstacle course help us overcome everyday obstacles in life.


  • 10 classes for $100
  • Nutrition consultation and creating a custom nutrition plan, one hour $80
  • 10 personal training sessions $350

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Irina Ovchinnikova
Spartan Race
Genevieve Kim

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