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Escondido’s SlimGym Offers a Fresh Approach to Fitness

For many of us, the New Year is a time to make goals, start new routines, and attempt to better ourselves and our health. Vera Stepina, who owns and runs SlimGym on East Valley Parkway in Escondido, is here to help. “Small change is a big change,” is what Stepina tells her clients and she said, “You have to do something to start.” 

At SlimGym, Stepina helps women and men not only set their goals, but with her added accountability tools, she helps them reach their goals. “Accountability is a huge factor,” said Stepina who texts all of her clients every day to check in on them. She believes this personal touch helps her clients stay consistent in their training. “Ever since I added the accountability factor, I would say we have about 90 percent success in our programs.”

These programs start with metabolic conditioning style workouts, a type of exercise that involves moderate to high intensity workouts in a controlled time period, and increases caloric burn more efficiently. Stepina believes this method helps all body types reach their weight goals and more importantly, live in a physically healthy state. “I emphasize the importance of fitness to health.” 

SlimGym members and trainers

What Stepina wants her gym members to achieve is fitness based on healthy targets without putting the focus on weight loss. She added she doesn’t think that attention needs to be on the scale, rather “a tool to be healthier, to avoid certain diseases and conditions later in life. We can be fit and happy and we don’t have to rely on fitness to lose weight.”

Vera Stepina with 2018 Best Gym Award presented by the City of Escondido

Unlike big gyms where workout classes fill the room with virtual strangers sweating side-by-side, SlimGym’s programs are done in small groups and semi-private sessions. “We usually have about four people per session and the small group sessions are capped at twelve,” Stepina said.

All the trainers at SlimGym are certified personal trainers and all the physical training programs are designed by Stepina and her team. Sessions are usually 45 minutes long and most clients attend between three-to-five days a week. 

In addition to physical training, Stepina is a certified nutritionist. All of her training and nutrition programs are customized for the individual to consider not only at their physical training but their food intake as well. Members are given a 30-minute consultation when they join the gym; they discuss their fitness and nutrition goals with Stepina and create a plan to meet these goals. Fitness and nutrition programs can last anywhere from 12 to 56 weeks, depending on the goals.

“Sometimes it takes a really long time for a person to get accustomed to a new lifestyle or program and change their habits. But it’s very customized so everyone can find something that works for them, and it will work for the rest of their lives, too.”

While most of the gym members are women, men are welcome too. Stepina finds that husbands and couples often join together in hopes of reaching their goals. Being a mother herself, Stepina invites moms to bring their kids in during their workouts. She understands that moms don’t always have daycare options and she feels that they shouldn’t sacrifice their health because they don’t have anyone to watch their kids. She also thinks when women bring their children into the gym, they are giving their kids a positive outlook on staying fit and are hopefully passing that belief onto them. 

For many, joining a gym can be a daunting and intimidating venture. Stepina has created a warm and welcoming environment at her gym that fosters a results-oriented environment. “The whole “being intimidated factor” is huge, and being new at a gym is really scary; especially if you haven’t done it in a long time. We are very welcoming, very personable, we know every client, their kids, and it’s a comfortable environment here.” 

Stepina also understands the pressure many women have to look a certain way and is trying to combat that attitude at her gym. “I actually find it pretty common. As women we have so much pressure and find ourselves comparing ourselves to other women. We talk about it at the gym and I always emphasize the importance of your personal goals and what makes you feel good. We don’t focus on pounds, instead we set different goals that are challenging but not always tied to weight loss. Our goals are focused on positive body image, physical challenges such as signing up for a 5K, or Tough Mudder, or team building activities that improve body image.”

Before and after shots of a SlimGym member

This positive body image idea extends to women of all ages and Stepina offers specially designed workouts for women over 50 as well. She understands that the pressures of life often keep women from working out throughout their lives and by the time they reach 50, some have to reboot their bodies to get back into shape. Her STRONG OVER 50 program helps women focus on “core exercises, balance, strength, and stretching.” The goal is to help them first accomplish regular day-to-day activities without stressing their body, and then work into continuing to have active lives and maintain great health.

She feels the atmosphere in SlimGym is a reflection of the Escondido community - a community that supports each other’s growth. “I joined a couple of big gyms and what I found was there is no personal factor. Nobody cared about me. We want to be cared for as humans and we want to be part of a team. So that’s why I decided to open my own gym, To offer that to the local communities, especially Escondido.”

Not only does SlimGym help its members achieve success, the gym’s outreach into the community stretches far and wide as well. As an Escondido resident, Stepina feels passionate about helping everyone in her community succeed. “I have three children who go to the local schools and I am very active in the local school community.” 

SlimGym members participating in a local race

Growing up in Russia, Stepina realized the importance of community, being active outdoors, and eating right. “I think that had a great effect on my childhood,” Stepina said. As an active community member, Stepina personally-- and as part of SlimGym-- participates in community outreach and activities, including 5Ks, fun runs, school auctions, fitness challenges, and nutrition education forums. She sees it as an extension of her business and a way to give back. “We do a lot of volunteer work and give back to the community. I feel like it makes people feel good and that feels really great.”

SlimGym is located at 2435 E. Valley Pkwy, Escondido CA 92027. It can be found online at You can follow Slim Gym on Facebook and Instagram.

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