Fitness is Life – Evgenia Petukhova’s #StrongWomen Story


Evgenia Pethukhova left her home country, Russia, to move to South Africa. The move, and everything that came with it, triggered a bout of depression which lasted 3 years. In time, slowly but surely, Evgenia found herself again in the one thing she’s always loved; fitness. Here is her #StrongWomen story.

Tell us more about yourself and your journey.

I was born in Moscow, Russia and now live in Cape Town. I am incredibly passionate about fitness. I grew up in a family where fitness was a priority and it is an integral part of my life. I’ve participated in horse riding and athletics as well as having danced professionally, my life has always been an active one and I simply cannot imagine it any other way. I am currently training for a fitness bikini competition.

I had many ups and downs throughout my journey; I left professional dancing at 16, when I initially relocated to Worcester, South Africa. Since I was very unhappy leaving home  – I hardly spoke the language and didn’t know anyone – my move to South Africa triggered a bout of depression, which lasted approximately 3 years. This resulted in me not wanting to leave the house, socialize or to be involved in any sort of extramural activities. At this stage, I decided that a drastic change was needed and at the age of 19, preceded to move out of my parents’ home to tackle the Mother City, Cape Town.

Only later after adapting to the Cape Town environment and meeting soul-fulfilling people along the way did I slowly start making the necessary changes that I needed. I started to religiously attend the gym, and before I knew it, I was fully involved and immersed in the fitness lifestyle. This newfound love of fitness triggered a much-needed change and brought with it a feeling of content and restored my zest for life; something I could never put my finger on before yet everything in that moment just made sense.

To be honest, it was not particularly an easy journey. This beautiful “sport” comes with its ugly sides. Not everyone will understand the sacrifices you make and why these sacrifices are so imperative in a sport where every micro decision has the potential to effect desired results.

I can recall incidents of friends asking me to come out partying until 4am.  Added to this, were girl’s nights – where the staple food would be take-away pizza and milkshakes. As much as I craved the social element, I had to say no as my desire to be up early, fresh and ready to have my oats and do my HIIT cardio in the morning and weight training later that evening trumped any need for a non productive, hangover induced day.

It’s a lonely sport and what I mean by that is unless you have people on the same road to fitness with you the journey can be a lonely one. This is why I constantly remind myself and live by the mantra “surround yourself with those on the same mission as you”. My advice to anyone looking to enter the industry would be to join a personal training team/stable, make friends in the industry and actively engage with and draw inspiration from local and international fitness athletes.

Training at the gym twice a day and maintaining a steady workout has never seemed to be problem for me – in fact, this is my primary outlet for frustration and a place where I can mentally and physically push myself to my limits – it’s liberating! The difficult part and many fail to understand this is to maintain a balanced nutrition plan. Owing to my love for food this is definitely one of my biggest challenges, so when it comes to cutting out carbs and dropping my calories that is where the value of strong mental attitude cannot be understated.

The correlation between a strong mind and healthy body should be evident by now – the two are mutually beneficial and essential to the progression of an individual in their pursuit of their ideal physique. One cannot exist without the other.

As Ashley Horner says – “A well built physique is a status symbol. It reflects the hard work you’ve put in. You can’t steal it, you can`t borrow it & cannot hold on to it without constant work. It`s from dedication, discipline, self-respect and dignity.”

Regardless of all the challenges one might face along the way in the fitness industry, I find myself falling more and more in love with this industry each day. Every part of it makes me want to do better and keep improving. From the way it feeds me mentally, emotionally and spiritually to the positive rush it brings into my life; coupled with the excitement of the day to day experiences – I don’t think I will ever be able to give it up.

I have experienced first hand what living a life of health and wellness can do for an individual – no matter their class, race or gender. In saying this, I believe my path is to inspire and educate people around me on the benefits of the awe-inspiring industry of Fitness.

What does being strong mean to you?

Being strong is a combination of physical, mental and emotional fortitude. I believe that you first and foremost, need to be combining the mental and emotional strength and naturally the physical strength will follow. It is often underestimated how much influence the mind has over your physical

You have to have a strong mind – this comes with self-belief and the ability to motivate yourself. Set goals – crush them! Know how to carry yourself – you never know who is watching – and help out where you can. Learn how to be happy for others and their successes. Even when you may be going through a rough patch knowing how to be happy and be there for a person when she/he may need you and your support – strength through being selfless. Being strong effectively to me, means the ability to employ empathy, sympathy while inspiring and motivating not just yourself, but everyone around you.

Who motivates you to be strong?

My father is definitely my biggest inspiration. At 53 years of age and officially 25 years out of the bodybuilding game – he still maintains a strict nutrition and training regimen. As far as my memory can recall, the one characteristic, which stands out the most for me and to which my father has employed with precision, would have to be dedication. From his days as a competitive bodybuilder in Soviet Russia – where he was one of the biggest names in his era – to the hegemonic masculine way he provided for his family without fail. I admire his ability to never give up no matter the card dealt to him. He had the amazing ability to dedicate himself to a necessary cause and always ensured that success would come out of it. His indomitable will and never surrendering attitude has taught me characteristics required and to which I have managed to use to help me for difficult decisions I have had to make. My father is testament to the adage “fall down seven times, stand up eight”. I am beyond proud of him and everything he has accomplished in his life – my ultimate inspiration, the bodybuilder/father/friend/mentor/businessman/entrepreneur and all round genuine gent.

Who do you nominate as #StrongWomen?

@livinglifeabundantly1 – my best friend Abby, who at her age has achieved so much already. Every goal she set she has taken on and concluded with absolute rigor. She is a workaholic and will always find an opportunity and benefits in anything no matter what life may through at her.

@jaimelizamore – my spirit “animal”  and housemate Jaime, who’s always gives me the best advice. This young woman has so much courage and faith not only in herself but also in everyone around her. She always sees the best in people and her successes is confirmation of the strong character she exemplifies.

@laurarobynrussell – my fitness partner Laura, it still surprises me how much adherence she has to her health and wellness. This is a woman who after a long day of work and an intense evening workout, diligently is up and ready at 6am every morning to take on her fasted cardio.

What is your favourite #StrongWomen quote?

“When you focus on problems, you’ll have more problems. When you focus on possibilities, you will have more opportunities.” – Unknown

Follow Evgenia’s inspirational journey on Instagram.

Share your #StrongWomen moment!

Nominate your candidate to feature in our new #StrongWomen series. Tell us how she inspires and/or motivates you through her actions and passion, and we’ll share her story with the world.

  1. Daily #Strongwomen. Your #StrongWomen nomination can be featured in our daily post.
  2. 5 of the #StrongWomen candidates will go on to have their full features published in Fitness magazine
  3. You too can win, with a Caribbean Tan & Boost Gymwear hamper worth R2,660 up for grabs to those who nominate their #StrongWomen

Nominate them now!

Share your #strongwomen moment with us. Nominate your #StrongWomen by posting a photo, magazine cover moment or strong moment on social media and tagging us. You can also email your nomination to strongwomen@fitnessmag.co.za

1. Who inspires you to be strong?

2. Who do you nominate as a #strongwomen and why?

3. What’s your favourite #strongwomen quote?

We’re giving away a pamper hamper to the nomination of the best #strongwomen story. Hamper contains Caribbean Tan products and Boost Gymwear goodies worth R2,660.

Author: Tanja Schmitz

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.